HP is about to unveil a two-pronged effort to help enterprise customers reduce operational costs by rapidly synchronising business needs with IT purchasing.
As part of the effort, HP will launch its eBusiness, Customer, and Sales Operations (ECO) organisation, next week, with the aim of bringing under one roof activities such as pre- and post-sales support and product support.
The company will also unveil HP.com Business to Business, a revamped extranet site for enterprise customers.
Because HP offers diverse product lines across the enterprise - including servers, desktops, notebooks, handhelds, printer, and faxes - the need to synchronise buying information has become critical to HP customers interested in containing costs.
Senior vice-president, Olivier Kohler, has been announced as the leader of worldwide ECO at HP.
"We regrouped all the functions that touch customers in one organisation," Kohler said.
The goal was to help customers synchronise business and IT in order to capitalise on a changing business environment.
To that end, the HP.com Business to Business extranet will give HP enterprise customers global visibility into catalogues, purchasing, and order status, allowing them to procure products across multiple HP regions from a single site. Catalogue data will be personalised by industry and customer profile, as will the extranet, which will include account-specific content.
An opt-in component will also allow HP to monitor and analyse in real time customers' activities on the website, giving HP the ability to link what is happening in support with what is happening in terms of purchasing, for example.
Program director of the Site IQ Web best practices group at Summit Strategies, Marty Gruhn, called the new capabilities "e-commerce on steroids" and was impressed with what she saw of the new unified capabilities.
"It's more than just ordering online," Gruhn said. "HP will give its customers access to lots of relationship class assets like managing software licenses digitally, inventory and asset management, billing and invoice facilities online."
According to HP's Kohler, ECO will also reduce HP's operational costs by streamlining the company's ability to serve customers.
HP's efforts at consolidation would help normalise the number of calls into HP call centers by giving customers global consistency, Kohler said.
"When the Sasser virus hit, we were able to have a site that explained what our customers could expect across the world," he said. "It was translated and gave the enterprise the same capabilities in 69 languages and 102 counties."
This global consistency significantly reduced the number of support calls, Kohler said.
Perhaps stealing a page from Dell's knowledge management book, HP will also offer a central repository of information that can be accessed globally.
Kohler explained that HP's focus was not on the competition as much as it was on listening to customers at advisory councils, designing new processes in response to customer demand, and delivering changes in a short period of time.
However, he also said, "Everything we do is from a competitive perspective."
The changes at HP in part, at least, were being driven by changes in the marketplace, executive vice president and chief research officer of Aberdeen Group, Peter Kastner, said.
"While HP sells a lot of commodity products, the new organization comes from the realisation that commodity prices alone do not make a leadership company," he said. "It is how you service all of your customer needs."