The decision to replace Hewlett Packard chairman Patricia Dunn with CEO and president Mark Hurd in January has met with a mixed reaction.
In interviews yesterday, HP users and analysts offered a wide range of opinions on what the revelations about a company probe of leaks from HP's board of directors means for HP and its customers.
"To be honest, it doesn't bother me at all," said Jose Martinez, director of information systems for the Pacific Maritime Association in San Francisco, which uses HP servers and SAN systems. "It's more of an internal, administrative issue" for HP, he said. "I don't think it affects their strategy. I don't see any impact in regard to how we do business with HP at this point."
But for another IT manager the news was more significant. Steve Dunlap, manager of network engineering at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union in Anchorage, said HP's board controversy reinforced a decision his firm made two years ago to move to Dell after being a predominately HP IT shop.
Until HP filed documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, admitting that it had spied on its own directors and on journalists covering the company, it seemed to be putting the management problems that led to the ouster of former CEO Carly Fiorina behind it, he said. But the recent news is a sign that "the internal turmoil is continuing," said Dunlap. "I think a lot of this turmoil has affected the way they provide service, and I think it's distracted them from providing quality service."
Not so, claims another sysadmin. James Hull, director of IT network and data centre services at the Harris County Hospital District in Houston, said he doesn't expect there to be much of an impact on HP's customers from Tuesday's move. His operation relies heavily on HP services and HP OpenView management software, he said.
"When a change in a chairman or a CEO of a vendor happens, it usually doesn't mean that much to us," Hull said. When Compaq was purchased by HP, technical service to Harris County slipped, he noted, but it has improved in recent years. Overall, Hurd and HP seem to be doing a good job, Hull summised.
Another doubted the real-world impact. "She overstepped her bounds, probably, and HP probably needed to get rid of her," said Robert Schramm, vice president of operations at Polo Ralph Lauren. "It makes for good headlines, but I doubt it will have any effect on the IT community."
Stephen Colbert, operations manager at Baptist Health Care in Louisville, said the board's problems won't undo his longtime relationship with HP. He said the vendor has consistently delivered good products and service. "It does not have any impact," said Colbert. "We have had such a good relationship with them for over 30 years."
But Kirk Jones, a senior systems engineer at BNSF Railway in Topeka, said the controversy does affect how a company is perceived and "shows the reliability of the company and management." He pointed out that getting telephone records "tells of distrust" in the company.
Industry analysts also had varied opinions. "I think the announcement by the Department of Justice and by the Congressional sub-committees that they're going to look into it probably hastened the decision" to replace Dunn as chairman, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "This was totally self-inflicted. Their actions to monitor reporters was totally inexcusable."
Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, said that by removing Dunn as chairman and giving that post to Hurd, HP hopes it can quiet the scandal and head off future related legal problems. "That's certainly what they're hoping. They're putting on a full-court press to get everything under their control. From Dunn's statements and others, it's pretty clear to me that people [at HP] don't necessarily feel that they did anything wrong."
Momin Khan, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he is surprised Hurd will take the chairman's post in addition to his other duties. "I thought he had enough on his plate already. I realise there were violations of people's privacy by a third party by people hired by [Dunn]. I basically see all these moves as a wider strategy of Hurd's to clean house."
Computerworld's Matthew Hamblen and Patrick Thibodeau contributed to this story.