HP/COMPAQ: Wheels of integration already turning

The Hewlett-Packard/Compaq Computer merger may not have been finalized last week, but the planning on how to integrate the two companies has been under way since last year.

The two technology giants realizing the enormous challenge of integrating their product lines and operations began using Web-based collaboration software in September 2001 to allow more than 600 people from both companies to team up and start planning the future as a single entity. Now the proposed merged company is likely to involve thousands more people using the same technology to carry out the secretive integration plans.

When the proposed merger was announced six months ago, HP and Compaq were quick to establish an Integration Office and appoint its leaders: Webb McKinney president of HP's business customer organization, and Jeff Clarke, chief financial officer of Compaq. The two were charged with breaking down each company and deciding the best elements from each to use in creating the foundation of a new company.

The first decision was to use eRoom, a Web-based collaboration tool from eRoom Technology Inc. The eRoom software provides secure online workspaces for sharing documents and organizing projects.

McKinney told a group of financial analysts before last week's vote that "eRoom is the nerve center of all of the [integration] information. Everyone involved with the integration keeps the information and accesses the information" from there.

The eRooms cover everything from branding, IT systems, labs, human resources and sales team management.

The integration team created more than 10,000 files and 2,600 folders concerning the merger during a total of 500,000 man-hours spent in eRooms, according to eRoom officials.

"The objective was to ensure the success of the merger," says Jeffrey Beir, chief executive officer and president of eRoom. "This is a classic use of eRoom. A big project with people distributed all over the country but needing to work together. Putting people on airplanes, e-mail and conference calls is not a way to bring together a staff to plan a merger of this magnitude."

Now it's time to see if all that planning can overcome the challenges of such a historic merger.

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