Users Advise HP on CEO Search

IT execs want Hurd's replacement to improve customer service and heed the needs of longtime customers.

Bill Schrier, the Seattle city government's chief technology officer, is in a good position to evaluate the tenure of former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd.

Seattle has about 10,000 HP desktop and laptop computers, and it runs HP servers in its data center.

The products are good, but the vendor's customer service is "continually challenged by communications," said Schrier. "A new CEO might want to refocus on the customer service and ordering part of it."

Improving customer service might be a long-term goal for the next HP CEO. In the short term, though, the company must deal with the reaction of employees, customers and investors to Hurd's abrupt and somewhat unseemly departure.

HP announced on Aug. 6 that Hurd had agreed to resign after settling a sexual harassment complaint. An internal investigation found that he had covered up a personal relationship with a marketing consultant. Hurd was cited for breaches of HP's business conduct policy, but not for sexual harassment.

Schrier said that Hurd's forced resignation probably won't affect Seattle's business relationship with HP, but he criticized Hurd's actions and his $12.2 million severance payment, which could soar to $30 million with stock benefits.

Les McCarter, director of IT infrastructure and operations at Hawaiian Electric Co., a big HP user, said he doesn't expect a change in leadership to affect the delivery of HP's products and services. He did say that the next CEO should work to maintain strong relationships with longtime customers. "Long-term continued revenue comes from existing customers," McCarter said. "Don't lose sight of us."

HP's former CEO instituted strong management discipline, but the company's brand image has become "dull," said Martin Reynolds, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "Nobody thinks of the company as producing stuff that's cool," he said.

"The board now has the opportunity to find someone who can build on that operational platform Mark built, but also build some flair into the company," Reynolds added.

Potential internal successors include Todd Bradley, head of the personal systems unit; Anne Livermore, executive vice president of HP's enterprise business; and Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the imaging and printing group. External candidates include Michael Capellas, former CEO of Compaq Computer; and Joe Tucci, CEO of EMC Corp.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first appeared on Computerworld.com.

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