Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) needs a leader with deep tech credentials. That’s the sentiment HPE’s long-time chief, Meg Whitman, left with investors on 21 November when she revealed she would be stepping down from the top job next year.
Whitman, who has been at the helm of the company since 2011, when she became president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and subsequently CEO of its HPE offshoot, will vacate her role from February 2018, with the company’s president, Antonio Neri, set to take up the reins.
The leadership shuffle was revealed along with the company’s latest quarterly financial on 21 November. During a call with investors and analysts, Whitman provided some insight into her reasons to step down and what was next for the company.
“I think it is absolutely the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins,” Whitman said, according to a transcript of the investor call by Seeking Alpha. “We have got a very good leadership bench. We have got a strategy that is crystal clear and focused. And Antonio is a deep technologist.
“And I think I have added a lot of value here in terms of shareholder value creation, financial restructuring, nice ignition of the innovation engine, but the next CEO of this company needs to be a deeper technologist and that’s exactly what Antonio is.
“He has been with the company 22 years. He is a trained computer engineer and has worked in almost every business of this company. So, I just think it’s the right thing,” she said.
At the same time, the Whitman confirmed that the HPE’s strategy going forward would remain “entirely consistent”, largely because it was crafted by herself and Neri, Whitman claimed.
Of particular note was the so-called HPE Next initiative, which is viewed as a reinvention of the company and aimed at enabling its team members to be more successful and to realise HPE’s full potential.
Broadly speaking, the HPE Next program sees the company optimise both its operating model and the organisational structure to simplify how its people work, including both business processes and operations.
In June, HPE promoted Neri, its former enterprise group executive vice president, to the role of president, in part to oversee the company’s efforts under the Next program to streamline and optimise its operations following the completion of the spin-mergers of its enterprise services and software divisions, in addition to leading the company’s four primary lines of business.
The HPE Next initiative has also been linked -- at least by some media outlets such as The Register -- to massive job cuts within the company, with some estimates citing figures as high as 5000 globally.
“He [Neri] has been leading HPE Next,” Whitman told investors during the latest earnings call. “And we are completely aligned on the strategy. As is the sales team, as is the entire organisation and by the way it’s working, you can see it working in the field. So, you can expect entirely consistent strategy from Antonio.
“HPE Next is all about simplifying the way we work, driving execution and investing in innovations that will differentiate our solutions in the years ahead,” she said.
Meanwhile, Whitman paid tribute to the founders of the Hewlett-Packard and talked up her years heading up the company, both as Hewlett-Packard CEO and then as HPE’s CEO.
“Let me say in closing that it has been the privilege of a lifetime to lead the company founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard,” Whitman said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished during the past six years. We have laid out a strong foundation for a prosperous future and now is the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins.
“I look forward to experiencing HPE’s progress as a board member and I am very confident that Antonio will enjoy tremendous success.
On the succession process, Whitman said she will work with Neri through the transition at the end of January and that she expects to remain a very active board member – a position she will not vacate following her departure as CEO.
“Actually, after a 35 year non-stop career, I have actually come to take a little downtime, but there is no chance, I am going to a competitor, no chance,” Whitman said. “Listen I have to say I become quite loyal to Hewlett-Packard and to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, I love this company and I would never go to a competitor.”