HP calls it the Adaptive Enterprise, but in reality it's an elaborate strategy that's long on business process re-engineering vision and short on real-world experience.
The California-based company has found itself in the uncomfortable position of recasting technology strategies already articulated ad nauseam by competitors including IBM and Sun, critics observed.
When HP launched its Adaptive Enterprise strategy last week, it appeared to signal the company's attempt to overcome a situation where its technology-centered Adaptive Infrastructure vision had been superceded by IBM's On Demand, a broad-ranging, business-process-savvy vision.
"It's unfortunate and sad that HP has stretched to be a business process and business reorganization company," principal analyst at Illuminata, Jonathan Eunice, said. "There is an element of 'me too', which is unfortunate because on the product side HP has a petty slick story to tell."
Eunice said that HP's Services business, run by executive vice-president, Ann Livermore, did have high-level business-process re-engineering capabilities. "But that is a tiny, tiny sliver of the organisation as a whole," he said.
At the heart of HP's business-process enthusiasm is the "Darwin Reference Architecture", a collection of industry-standard technologies and processes gleaned from HP and its partners' experiences.
HP's CTO, Shane Robison, said that Darwin signals the company's intent to use its resource-optimisation technology to virtualise an enterprise's entire IT infrastructure. Specifically, HP will engage with customers at an "Agility Assessment" level. "CIOs are asking for discussions to take place at the business-process level," he said.
In this context, HP was attempting to map its domain expertise in integration technologies and its understanding of business processes to enterprise applications, such as CRM and ERP.
HP's enterprise-integration capabilities were known as the Adaptive Application Architecture, Robison said.
At the same time, HP's vision called for it to leverage its Utility Data Center, touted as among the first working examples of enterprise-class utility computing.
"This isn't slideware; we've done it," HP chairman and CEO, Carly Fiorina, said.
HP's own IT environment is managed by HP Services.
"We are now scaling our e-business operations dramatically," she said.
Yet CIO, Bob Napier, said most of HP's own business-process re-engineering was implemented by HP engineers rather than broad use of specific business-process-management toolsets.
Napier said HP did use Unified Modeling Language (UML) modelling tools, including Proforma's Provision, but most of the focus was on the skills within his business process management organisation.
HP's rivals were quick to call into question the company's strategy.
Sun executives labelled HP as copying IBM's one-stop-shopping mantra, while Computer Associates said HP was supporting its own operating system platform.
"We don't see any plans for their Virtual Server Environment to support any non-HP platforms," CA's vice-president of Unicenter marketing, David Hochhauser, said.
HP's plan was to eventually extend the Virtual Server Environment to the Windows and Linux operating systems, though no timeframe had been announced for when the extension would be available, an HP spokeswoman said.
Research vice-president Forrester Research, Bill Martorelli, likened the industry antics to an arms race.
"These things are long on vision," he said. "If you want to remain viable as a large-scale supplier of IT, you have to put together a road map first."
Eunice said that HP should stick more closely to its partnership strengths. Indeed, a host of partners had lined up to support Adaptive Enterprise, including Accenture, BEA Systems, BearingPoint, Cisco, Deloitte, Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP AG, and Siebel.
"They really shouldn't have chased this process re-engineering on their own account," Eunice said.
Stacy Cowley and Robert McMillan, correspondents for the IDG News Service, contributed to this report.