Capellas: IT workers will dominate boardroom

Tech-savvy leaders that can deal with customers and their company's IT infrastructure will replace the sales and marketing types that dominate executive ranks today, according to Michael Capellas, president of Hewlett-Packard Co.

Capellas took the stage here on Wednesday at the HP World user conference to describe how his work guiding the technology strategies of Oracle Corp., SAP America Inc., Schlumberger Ltd., and Compaq Computer Corp. has helped him combine product knowledge with business acumen.

"The good news for you is there is a great future for all of us technologists," he said. "The bad news is be careful what you ask for."

Capellas was joined on stage by Mattel Inc. Chief Information Officer Joe Eckroth, and Starbucks Corp. Chief Information Officer Brian Crynes. The two CIOs presented Capellas with several questions, including a query into how his past work as a CIO made him a better chief executive officer at Compaq.

With technology issues creeping into every aspect of running a business, Capellas said that IT workers will be the most likely candidates for top corporate positions. This bucks past trends where "accountants" and sales and marketing professionals topped the corporate hierarchy.

"I do think that is a mega-trend," he said. "If you think of where technology is today, there is no question that anybody who achieves a very senior position is because they are balanced."

Capellas' leadership skills and technical know-how will play an important role in HP's efforts to make the largest IT merger in history pay off for customers. HP is working to combine two broad product lines that stretch from handheld devices to large servers and storage systems. Since HP completed its acquisition of Compaq in May, Capellas has been travelling around the world to convince customers and employees of the deal's merits.

"It's been road warrior time," he said. "In time like these, you can never communicate enough."

HP has positioned itself as the main rival of IBM Corp., with Capellas saying only these two companies have the broad set of hardware, software and services that customers are looking for. Companies such as Dell Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are lacking key bits of technology that customers are looking for in a consolidating IT world, he said.

"There are two companies now that can pull the pieces together," he said.

Linking all of the different businesses within HP and Compaq will require Capellas to use the lessons he has learned in past leadership positions and during Compaq's acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp.

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