New HP chief a Fiorina foil?

Call him the antithesis of Carly Fiorina.

That is how one analyst is portraying Mark Hurd, the recently named CEO and president of Hewlett-Packard Company (HP).

Gordon Haff, senior analyst and IT advisor with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata said the executive search committee tasked with looking for HP’s new CEO and president focused on finding an executive that would “not necessarily be hogging the limelight and perhaps be less abrasive” than former CEO Carly Fiorina. (The search committee was headed by Patricia Dunn, HP interim chair).

Carly Fiorina, who headed HP for six years and helped push through the company’s controversial merger with Compaq Computer Corp., left after an apparent dispute with the HP board.

Haff suggested the board was likely taken with Hurd because of his experience at NCR Corp., a computer services company that operates ATMs and data warehouses. Before Hurd became NCR’s president in 2001, he headed the company’s Teradata warehouse division, and helped prevent the division from being spun-off by NCR.

“His background suggests the HP board is looking for someone with a long-term vision and the skills to work within the organization,” Haff added. “He has the enterprise, IT skills which HP seems to want to build on.”

Certainly that was the experience that HP’s Dunn suggested tipped the scales in Hurd’s favour after a seven-week search.

“Although NCR is smaller than HP, it is a complex global organization with multiple business segments,” Dunn said. “(Hurd) built a strong leadership team, bolstered the product line and improved operating efficiency.”

Hurd himself would not go into any details about his strategy for the company during a March 30 press conference , but suggested HP was not performing to its full potential.

“My immediate focus,” he said, “will be improving operations, creating demand for our technology and driving profitable growth. What you will expect from me is a relentless focus on the customer. Everything we do must be for the customer and if not, we have to reconsider why we are doing it.”

Charles King, principle analyst with Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif. said if Hurd is serious about focusing on the customer, he must direct his attention to the operational aspects of HP. King said HP has been poor at executing and following-through on its business strategies for the past few years.

He said the problems began when Michael Capellas, former CEO of Compaq, left HP. Capellas had been in charge of the operational aspects of the company. “After Capellas left and Fiorina took over his role the company’s problems really seemed to start.”

King noted that a grand vision without an effective strategy to follow through on (that vision) or to communicate that strategy amounts to nothing.

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