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What the man behind HP's new internal IT plan has in mind

Bob Brown | April 24, 2013
Longtime HP customer John Hinshaw embracing cloud and SDN as he calls shots for vendor's IT team

As someone who spent billions with HP over 20 years while in IT leadership roles at Boeing and Verizon Wireless, John Hinshaw knew the big hardware, software and services company from the outside as well as anyone. In the year and a half since becoming executive vice president of technology and operations at HP, he's been putting that knowledge to use on the inside.

Hinshaw, who I spoke with last month at an HP analyst meeting in Boston, became part of CEO Meg Whitman's team shortly after she was hired in the fall of 2011 to lead HP's latest and very challenging turnaround effort amid big changes in the PC and server markets. Her vision for HP internally was one with which Hinshaw agreed -- to marry the company's IT function better with other inside operations including sales, procurement, shared services, real estate and physical security. Technologies that HP is pushing as a vendor -- cloud computing, software-defined networking, Windows and Android tablet computers, etc. -- are already playing a big role in this internal IT strategy shift.

"What I'm tasked with doing for my organization is to make it easier to buy from HP, easier for our employees to sell HP products and easier to work for HP," Hinshaw says.

While Hinshaw's responsibilities are broad ("It keeps me out of trouble"), he spent two-thirds of his time during his first nine months on the job on the tech side and put a team in place that includes CIO Ramon Baez (from Kimberly-Clark), and reporting to Baez, CIOs for HP's various business units. Overall, Hinshaw's team includes 32,000 people and 15,000 contractors (including everyone from security guards to cafeteria workers), and about 9,000 of these people are in IT.

"These business unit CIOs wake up every morning, like the CIO for the enterprise group, and focus on how to make that business better ... whereas in the past, all requirements for IT would flow up into some big prioritization [list] and little would get done," says Hinshaw, who now spends about a quarter of his time on IT issues.

The company's IT strategy previously was focused too much on activities such as data center consolidations and application rationalization, "which save money but don't enable the business to be successful," Hinshaw says.

Not that cutting costs isn't a huge deal for HP, which is trying to slash up to $3.5 billion via a corporate restructuring/layoff plan outlined about a year ago. 

"Clearly, a lot of what we're doing is taking cost out -- not from IT ... my organization's budget is actually up year over year," Hinshaw says, "but taking costs out of inefficiencies within our business."


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