What HP’s software team needs to succeed

Strange as it might sound, consulting may be the ultimate key to success for Hewlett-Packard Co.’s newly reasserted software business.

No doubt there are many challenges for the company whose bread and butter business has been computing hardware and peripherals, but HP probably won’t get too far in the enterprise software game without an experienced consulting army to lead the charge. Despite a proclaimed status as the sixth-largest software company in the world, HP needs a selling organization that can speak the language of business consulting. It needs consultants who can comprehensively assess and scope customer engagements, while parlaying the unique and desired value proposition of its enterprise-scale software products.

That’s the key to becoming a viable option — and a profitable and growing business.

The good news for HP is that, judging by what senior vice-president of HP Software Tom Hogan said during an interview in Toronto recently, he understands the need for consulting support and has been thinking long and hard about getting it.

“It is definitely a big deal,” Hogan said. “Strategically, we think we have a unique position with our customers. When we call on a CIO, we tell them, we’re not here to compete with SAP and Oracle…or to provide core infrastructure. We’re here to help a CIO drive better business outcomes from the total investment in IT and information.”

That’s an important point in the HP Software strategy. It’s not so much about building “greenfield” engagements from the ground up, but rather by augmenting and improving upon the enterprise software applications in which a company may have already invested.

“Nobody that has the wherewithal to make the enterprise software decisions has a clean sheet of paper. Most customers have bits and pieces deployed,” Hogan said. “We want to be the experts in optimizing it.”

The approach in customer engagements will, among other things, be to present the HP software portfolio and vision then look to customers to identify their pain points, according to Hogan.

“The reality is they have spent a lot of money deploying stuff…and need help in going to areas (where) they haven’t been,” Hogan said. “We want to be the poster children of service-oriented (software) architecture. Everything we built is modular…so you can take our portfolio (pieces) and snap them in.”

It’s the sort of software selling approach that requires knowledgeable professionals who can meet with enterprise customers to assess needs, scope and create a solution plan, outline and execute an implementation project, and manage it through to completion. Enterprise software is a sophisticated sort of sale that adheres to the adage of “seek first to understand” — in this case, the customer challenge.

The next step is to be understood, in terms of your value proposition. Truth be told, HP could use a lot more consulting help in order to drive its software business. HP will reach out to its major strategic partner consulting organizations for about 75 per cent of the work. That would include the likes of Accenture and Deloitte, among many others. “We’re also building strategic arrangements with global systems integrators,” Hogan said.

Hogan explained that, when he arrived at HP some 24 months ago, there was not a dedicated consulting organization tied directly to the software business. He has since been building an internal consulting team, culling experts from Mercury Interactive, the management software company acquired by HP in 2006, and Opsware Inc., the data centre automation software company acquired last year. Hogan says there are now approximately 1,000 professionals within the HP Software group, as well as others within HP Consulting.

Going forward, the re-education of HP Software’s selling organization will need to happen. And soon.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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