The State of HP, As Told by Meg Whitman

Hewlett-Packard is in the midst of a very public turnaround. This week, CEO Meg Whitman spoke to analysts about it. Her message -- and the way she delivered it -- should inspire HP customers and consumers at large.

By Rob Enderle
Fri, October 11, 2013

CIO — HP CEO Meg Whitman provided a financial update this week during the firm's securities analyst meeting. It's a pleasure to see someone like Whitman speak; she prepares properly, articulates her points clearly and has been trained to pace a talk.

Often the folks giving financial statements seem ill-prepared. One, they don't rehearse enough. Two, edits are being made right up to show time. These are bad practices that distract significantly from the presentation and from the appearance of capability for both the CEO and the firm.

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Luckily, Whitman didn't reflect either of these problems. As a result, we could focus on the message without struggling to understand the message (or the speaker). Since this was one of the better CEO talks that I've seen, let's look at both its content and the art of delivering a message from a CEO.

Warhol Was Right — You Only Get 15 Minutes

Years ago, when I was doing research for Dataquest, we studied the attention span of analysts. It turned out to be 15 minutes. If you don't get the core message across in that time, you'll never get it across. People will start checking email or distracting themselves in other ways.

Whitman used her first 15 minutes to explain why HP is ahead of its debt reduction schedule, why the people she put in place are best suited for their new roles, and how she was "instrumenting" the business so management had the information it needed to right the ship.

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As the 15 minutes end, the presentation moved to a high-energy video showcasing HP products — personal technology, printers, enterprise storage and analytics — interspersed with customer testimonials. It then moved to big bets, such as Moonshot, which set HP apart. The video did its job, as folks looked up from their small screens to the big screen.

IT Adopting 'New Style' in Changing World

From there, Whitman moved to the bigger message. First up was her new strategy: "To Provide Solutions for the New Style of IT." She argues that there are major changes in the way technology is used and how users connect to it. From the beginning of time until 2003, mankind created 5 Exabytes of information; today, it creates that much information in 12 hours. Only HP, Whitman says, has the breadth to provide solutions that span the device to the data center at scale — to take IT from where it is to where it needs to be in this new world order.

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