Friday, December 13, 2013

HP's Evolving Cloud Approach

In anticipation of its HP Discover 2013 user conference, HP pre-briefed industry analysts about their upcoming Cloud announcements. As expected, HP is announcing several new solutions in its Cloud lineup. And, although the announcements were the focus of the pre-briefing, what I found most interesting was the change in HP’s strategy and approach. (For those interested in the announcements, look for my colleague, Bill Moran’s blog.) Much of HP’s overall cloud strategy had not changed. However, I detected a subtle change in approach, which is noteworthy for HP customers and watchers.

HP is sharpening its focus on Cloud. They now have a dedicated HP Cloud business unit, a core cloud R&D and product team, a centralized solutions sales organization, alignment of partner programs, and aligned marketing.  For their Cloud business unit, they’ve brought in personnel from outside HP (for example, Microsoft) as well as from other parts of HP. Also of note, HP has made a “significant increase” in investment across all functions. (Note that Meg Whitman mentioned HP’s need for investment about a year ago.) 

HP also discussed its approach for this year’s HP Discover. One aspect of its approach is speaking to customers in terms of their challenges and solution needs, instead of how HP is organized internally. In the past, HP typically spoke about products, features and functions. (As vendors, they were not alone in this practice.) If they are successful in communicating with customers in a customer-centric way, it represents a welcome change for HP.

In its overall approach, HP is aligning its cloud solutions around key customer workloads. These workloads are: Dev/Test and Run, Cloud application delivery and hosting, business analytics, business continuity and compliance, technical computing, and IT infrastructure. Coalescing around typical customer workloads will make their solutions more relevant and actionable for customers running those workloads. 

In addition, their Cloud messaging this year is tighter, with a single cloud theme and sub-themes. In contrast to their Cloud briefings in the past, which sometimes seemed like a litany of product announcements cobbled together into a presentation, with a high level marketecture to tie them together. In the past, there was a missing layer in the middle that could have connected the high level messages and the product details into a coherent message that addressed customer needs. It seems that HP has now found that missing intermediary layer. Perhaps I’m reading too much in-between the lines. But, the improved alignment in messaging likely results from HP’s more centered focus on Cloud and its Cloud-focused business unit, in contrast to its previous loosely connected cross-company initiative.
In general, HP’s approach, which includes its cloud messaging and focus on the customer, is not necessarily new in the industry. But, what is significant is that it is new for HP -- shifting focus from speaking about technology to focusing on customer needs. The focus on the customer and what the customer wants is a welcome and much needed change for HP. However, making this change is easier said than done. It requires a change in perspective as well as approach. Only time will tell if HP will be successful in making this transition, not just at the top of their organization and messages, but it must be deeply absorbed by all sales teams and partners. If they are successful, the payoff will be significant not just for HP, but their customers and potential customers as well.