HP Needs Whitman to Provide Renewed Leadership and Vision

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Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

This week HP is back in the news again, this time because they’ve fired CEO Leo Apotheker and hired board member and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. As I have watched HP over the last few months, it’s felt as though the company is struggling with an identity crisis. It’s clear that HP has a handle on where they are now as a company but I’m not sure it’s clear they know where they want to go.

HP needs renewed leadership at the helm. They have taken a step forward by appointing Whitman as CEO. Whether it is ultimately the right choice for HP as a whole, only time will tell.

(MORE: If HP Undoes Apotheker, Might WebOS Make a Comeback?)

Executive Chairman Ray Lane, on the company conference call announcing the news yesterday afternoon, pointed out that after August 18th, he got an earful from investors and customers alike—and from that point on, he and the board began to realize that they had to make changes at the top.

In the end, they fired former CEO Leo Apotheker for lack of execution and poor communications skills. They determined they needed not only a proven business leader but one that was a great communicator as well. HP needs to inspire investors, employees and partners and they hope Whitman’s communication skills will help in those key areas.

Lane pointed out that they had fresh CEO research material from the last search—Apotheker only lasted 11 months—and even with the prospects that were on that list still in their sights, they determined that someone from within, specifically Meg Whitman who had only eight months of being a board member under her belt, was the right choice.

The other key point HP had to consider as it related to finding a new CEO was that there weren’t really any great outside candidates available, and the company needs to right this ship immediately. They don’t have the luxury to go through an extensive CEO search, which could take six to nine months. They need to get moving in the right direction right now.

The challenge for HP and for Meg Whitman is to now develop and articulate the right vision for HP. Whitman is a solid communicator, but now her ability to create and craft a vision for HP will be tested. The task at hand is to craft a vision of what the future should look like with HP hardware, software and services in it, and then relentlessly innovate.

In this analyst’s opinion, I still believe that spinning of the PC group is the wrong strategy. I truly hope that Meg and team evaluate this decision from every angle. My concern is that if the PC group gets spun off, it could not adequately compete as a hardware-only business.

(MORE: Why HP Is Getting Out of the Consumer Game)

On the conference call, Ray Lane was clear that their ultimate goal with regards to the PC business is to make the best decision for investors and customers.

I still believe keeping the PC group and developing a hardware, software and services strategy gives HP the best chance to compete going forward. The success or failure of HP’s PC strategy going forward will be one of the defining points of Whitman’s leadership as CEO.

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

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