HP pledges to connect better with customers

HP pledges to connect better with customers

HP's Hurd promises a more efficient company, better responsiveness to enterprise customers, in a Houston speech.

HP president and CEO, Mark Hurd, has told customers at a user conference the company's goal is to listen to them more and respond to needs more quickly.

In a keynote address at the HP Technology Forum, which made only passing reference to the scandal that has rocked the company for the last two weeks, Hurd said HP had made a lot of progress but admitted there was plenty more to do.

HP was on track to record about $US91 billion in revenue and an operating profit of between $US8 billion and $US9 billion in fiscal year 2006, he said. That left $US83 billion in costs that the company still needed to scrutinise for efficiencies.

HP announced in July 2005 a restructuring that would result in the elimination of 15,300 jobs to save $US1.9 billion in operating costs by the end of its fiscal year ending October 31.

Hurd said that while cutting some jobs, HP was creating others and reinvesting in areas to develop new opportunities for growth.

"We want to spend money to realign our IT and make those investments so in the long term we save money," he said.

Randy Mott, HP's executive vice president and chief information officer, explained the progress of HP's consolidation of 85 of its own data centers into six centers in the U.S. HP projects that consolidation will save the company about US$1 billion in IT costs over the next few years. The company gave some of the 5,000 attendees a tour of one of the Houston centers to see how they might consolidate their own IT infrastructures.

Hurd's one applause line in his presentation was his admission that HP needs to be more responsive to customers during the sales cycle: "When we actually show up at the account, we get more business," he said. "We're working on that right now."

To be more responsive, HP has cut the length of contract terms and conditions by two-thirds to make them easier to understand, said Ann Livermore, executive vice president of the technology solutions group, in her keynote.

That was welcome news to Sam Ayers of the Information Technology User (ITUG) Group, representing users of HP's NonStop server line. Ayers chaired an ITUG Advocacy Committee which pushed for the streamlined contract terms. "It took a long time for that to be decided, but it's here," he said.

Ayers is an IT professional with Chase Paymentech Solutions, the largest credit, debit and gift card payment processor in the U.S.

Hurd took only a handful of pre-screened questions from the audience and after his speech was quickly escorted out of the convention center and into a waiting Lincoln sport utility vehicle. Aides and security guards prevented a reporter from approaching him with questions about the HP board scandal.

State, federal and congressional investigations are probing allegations that HP hired a private investigations firm to find out who was leaking news of HP board deliberations to the media. The private agency allegedly obtained private phone records of directors and reporters under false pretenses to find out who they were calling. Media reports Monday said investigative methods also included physical surveillance of people and an attempt to install surveillance software on a reporter's computer.

Hurd made only a brief reference to the scandal in his keynote. When he mentioned that Jack Novia, HP's managing director of the Americas region and senior vice president of the customer solutions group, was throwing out the first ball at a Houston Astros baseball game Tuesday evening, Hurd said: "I asked him not to embarrass the company, given the press coverage we've gotten over the last week."

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