HP Restructuring Looks Ahead to CompeteBy John G. Spooner | Print
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Company executives say cost cuts will pave the way to a better future for Hewlett-Packard, with a focus on software, services and storage.Hewlett-Packard says that by making cuts now, it's investing in its future. But some analysts are still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The Palo Alto, Calif., computer giant, as expected on Tuesday, enacted a major restructuring plan it says will get its finances in order and ultimately make it more competitive in the cutthroat computer marketplace.
The company, in a move that leaves its product groups intact, will cut about 14,500 jobs, or roughly 10 percent of its worldwide workforce.
But the company left out numerous details about the rest of its future planssome of which might not be final as of nowincluding how it might adjust its product lines, such as PCs, storage, software and services.
Thus, despite largely viewing HP's restructuring in positive light, analysts said they were still waiting to hear more.
HP has a long list of issues to address, ranging from better sorting out the relationship between its indirect and direct sales channelsan issue the restructuring touches on by disbanding the HP Customer Solutions Group, which was responsible for sales to businesses, and moving the group's salespeople into its product groupsto differentiating its products from competitors and clearing up the confusion that having two PC brands creates, several analysts said.
"No one wants to see HP fail, because it's one of the few remaining global PC companies and one of the few remaining systems companies that can do end-to-end solutions," which involves selling and servicing products ranging from back-end servers and software to desktop PCs, said Leslie Fiering, an analyst with Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn. "And, at the end of the day, it makes good products."
But good products only go so far. HP could make a useful start by addressing customers' complaints about its large business account teams, which Fiering said have been known to set high expectations and not follow through.
"At the end of the day, the salespeople must return phone calls. It's account management 101," Fiering said. "I can't tar every team with the same brush, but fact that there are so many [complaints] leads one to think it's structural."
Next Page: How HP can differentiate itself.
Aside from sorting out its sales channels, HP must work to make sure its products stand out, said Chris Foster, analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H.
"Other than the printing business, [Hewlett-Packard] doesn't have a strong differentiation in any of its products. It's obvious on the PC side, in industry standard servers and it has pretty much eliminated the differentiation in business critical systems" by moving to Intel Corp.'s Itanium chip from its own HP PA-RISC and Compaq Alpha processors, Foster said.
"I think the decisions [HP's management team] have made are great for the operational part or the business," Foster said, but added, "The next step is to figure out how you're going to grow, how you're going to get into high-margin businesses. That part is going to be more difficult."
Those high-margin businesses, all of which HP is either in now or capable of entering in some way, include offering consulting services, software and differentiated hardware, Foster said.
HP is already plotting its next steps in areas such as software and services. However, it kept discussions of its product plans to a minimum on Tuesday so as to avoid creating any confusion, said Shane Robison, HP's executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer.
Robison said, in an interview with Ziff Davis Internet News, that HP is reviewing its product plans. Not surprisingly, making advancements in software, storage and services are among its goals.
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