HP users weigh in with advice for Hurd

Hewlett-Packard's new CEO, Mark Hurd, doesn't officially begin work until Friday, but HP customers already have some advice for him. And their advice is as diverse as the company itself, ranging from recommendations about shortcomings that need to be fixed and successes that need to be encouraged.

Hurd spent part of Wednesday's meeting with analysts and media representatives, fielding questions he's not ready to answer. He didn't touch platform and systems issues, and the only technology reference he made today was recognition of a shift to "industry-standard" platforms. But what that means for HP's future direction, he didn't say.

But users are more than willing to share their opinions. Asked what they would tell Hurd if they could, they offered a litany of ideas.

For instance, Tom Freeman, CIO of the city of Roseville, hopes Hurd will keep the focus on his customers and continue to invest in new technologies. That's important because Roseville is now piloting HP's digital pen technology, which takes handwritten reports such as those prepared by firefighters and converts them to electronic forms.

Freeman believes HP's decision to acquire Compaq Computer changed company's culture to a more customer-centric one. "We saw a big change in HP that, to me, was positive."

But he also believes that HP was "whittled down" during ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina's six-year tenure and he hopes that doesn't continue. "I don't know if this is an organisation that needs more operational constraints," he said.

Ashok Bakhshi, IT director at Schindler Elevator, wants HP to add value to its products and differentiate itself in the market by bundling services with its hardware. He said one thing HP can do to help him is sell PCs with SAP preconfigured, "and have them provide it in any country we want."

Tyler Best, CIO at Vanguard Car Rental USA, a firm that operates the National and Alamo car rental brands, urged Hurd to "engage" customers and "know what the businesses are expecting" from HP. HP's concentration over the past several years has all too often been focused inward. "It is imperative not to lose touch with what is important to the customer," said Best. "Too many times executives shield themselves from this direct interaction."

Users also have specific tactical needs. For instance, Ron Horner, an HP e3000 user and the legacy systems supervisor at Lady Remington Jewelry in Bensenville, said Fiorina -- who was ousted last month -- did a lot to alienate the client base. Hurd has an opportunity to change that.

"HP has got to formally decide what they are ultimately going to do with MPE," said Horner, referring to the e3000 operating system discontinued during Fiorina's six-year tenure. The decision has miffed users, particularly since companies such as IBM are keeping their midrange systems, the iSeries, in their product mix.

Hurd can change that, Horner said. Ideally, HP would reverse course, continue the e3000 line "and make it better," he said.

Todd Acheson, Internet systems manager at Ohio University in Athen, is a Tru64 Unix operating system user who counts on that system to run enterprise systems at the 25,000-student school. Acheson isn't happy about HP's decision to discontinue Tru64 and its server platform, the AlphaServer.

But he's more pleased with the company's investment in Linux, a direction he wants Hurd to continue on.

"They've applied hundreds of engineers to Linux inside HP and they are clearly investing many, many millions of dollars in Linux," said Acheson. "They are doing a lot of quality assurance testing when new releases (from) Red Hat and SUSE are coming out. They beat the tar out of them, they find problems, they find solutions, they feed it all back to the open-source stream."

Acheson's overall advice to Hurd is pretty simple: "I guess words of advice would be, don't screw it up ... stay on course and stick with it for a while."

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