Here’s hoping HP’s circus act is finished

You have to give the board of directors at HP a hand for the sheer entertainment value of their recent scandal and game of musical boardroom chairs. After all, it’s not every day that the citizens of the computing world get to read a story about their industry that’s as full of dirt as this one.

It has all the elements of a classic Bogie pic: Vicious infighting amongst a band of multi-millionaires; shady (and no doubt fedora-wearing) private investigators whispering into phones, posing as journalists, hoping to dig up some seedy information for their clients; press leaks and headlines rife with tales of scandal; and powerful egomaniacs eventually falling on their swords of greed.

While this titillating tale of corporate espionage (see our story, page 1) has provided observers with a good piece of ribaldry, its actual impact on the day-to-day lives of IT managers has been, and probably will continue to be, minute.

For the most part, as long as users of HP equipment continue to be satisfied with the wares that are rolling off the lines and into their organizations, the ever-remote HP board members can do whatever they please — whether it’s all getting along over a multiple-martini lunch or whether it’s hiring a bunch of Jim Rockfords to investigate one another.

The story, however, is the latest in a string of high-profile airings of dirty laundry within the upper echelons of one of the industry’s most well-respected stalwarts. The walls of HP’s headquarters are still reverberating from the yelling that went down when the company bought Compaq, and the messy split with controversial CEO Carly Fiorina remains fresh in the minds of HP staffers and customers.

Fiorina’s replacement, Mark Hurd, has done a solid job to date of attempting to steer the focus back to the idea of HP being a technology company and not a three-ring corporate circus. This little scandal was the last thing he needed, but fortunately for him, user reaction in the wake of the affair seems to be a mix of indifference and forgiveness. HP is just too entrenched in the day-to-day operations of most enterprises for users to be shaken by this news.

But Hurd and the HP board should not take such a reaction for granted. Too many of these incidents, like too many chops to a tree, could eventually bring the whole thing crashing down. Users will only have so much patience.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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