Picture the scene in the HP boardroom when the board members decide the company needs (another) new CEO. They had trouble just last fall finding outside candidates and don’t seem satisfied with internal candidates. I can imagine a New Yorker cartoon–like scene, where they all agree to draw straws, and the board member drawing the short straw gets the CEO job!
But it was not like that. The board realized something that Forrester felt for some time — that HP needs better communications to customers, markets, and employees. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, is a not an obvious choice, especially given her primarily consumer and web business experience. But she brings strong Silicon Valley roots, something lacking in HP’s recent CEOs, which should help a lot with injecting new energy into HP. And she starts with a strong business reputation for growing eBay, being a good leader, and communicating well. Plus she’s got a nine-month head start as board member on understanding HP over any outside candidate.
As the new HP CEO, Whitman faces a difficult situation. HP has a strong set of products and customer brand that are being damaged by the uncertain directions of the board and the repeated CEO turmoil. Meanwhile, the Wall Street traders and technology press are overreacting, as they often do — HP has solid product and service offerings that are just as good as they were last week, before the latest leadership turmoil. So what should she do?
We at Forrester have written a lot about the “empowered era” in the past year. We’re talking about the empowerment of customers and employees, the consumerization of technology, and grass-roots-based, tech-enabled innovation. There are lots of great case studies around illustrating these forces and how they can benefit the enterprise, but those success stories are only part of the picture. Behind the scenes, there is disruption and confusion about who’s planning the road ahead regarding the technology in our organizations’ future. It used to be that the CIO made sure that happened by making it the exclusive domain of strategic planners and enterprise architects. But isn’t centralized — and IT-based — tech planning the opposite of empowerment? Wouldn’t sticking with the old approach result in missing out on all this employee innovation that’s supposed to be so powerful? Should the CIO no longer establish the technology the enterprise will use? Does the empowerment era mean the end of tech planning as we know it?