Wednesday, 21 September 2011

PR Disaster to Recurring Nightmare - The HP Story Continues

It is fair to say that the whole manner and content of HP's recent announcements to a) kill its tablet business and associated operating system and b) announce it was withdrawing from the PC business by putting its entire PSG business up for sale was an utter PR catastrophe, considering only shortly before HP had acquired Palm and told the world it was galvanising around the new Web OS operating system.

It has been since compounded by various executives, some senior and some not, apparently taking on the mantle of spokespeople and either briefing contradictory information or just showing that their management doesn't seem to know what it is doing.

Partners and customer alike have sat and watched in some dismay as the once highly professional giant built around the values of its deceased founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, seems to have degenerated into a rudderless ship manned by disaffected employees fearful for their future.

Then things took the most bizarre of turns yesterday. In a series of Tweets from one of HP's Gold Partners at an event headlined by HP local managers, the Partner's executive told a massed online audience that the HP PSG sale was off because the tax issues were too large. Further, the partner Tweeted merrily that matters would be cleared up at the next Board meeting.

This contradicted what HP's own PSG Sales Director had said just a week ago which again had been pre-announced to a Distribution Partner who had gone public to say that a spin off was the favoured option.

The full unravelling of this drama is available at CRN's UK website.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of all this is that there are various, probably unauthorised, tactical briefings going on of just certain partners which are being given under non-embargo conditions. The mass of partners who might need this information let alone the poor customers who get it all in the form of speculation, gossip and innuendo don't seem to get anything official. It's a PR disaster which is spilling over into being an unprofessional management fiasco.

There is also a good article available on the Bloomberg US site which is related only by coincidence to competitive information being publicly posted online. Highly paid investigation companies like Nardello and others now scour the mass of publicly available information on Linked In, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and others to find competitive information freely shared between networkers. And it's big business.

In one case cited, an executive put up on his Linked In profile that he was looking for a job because his firm was suffering financial difficulties. Within six months the firm had gone bankrupt, not helped by a concerted effort by competitors to bring the company in question to a bitter end once they knew.

By coincidence, HP had been mentioned in the article but the link is obvious. In the Tweets of yesterday, apparently sensitive information being discussed in future Board Meetings was either being pre-released or speculated on by effectively mid level managers with Gold Partner staff in a single country.

HP is suffering enough at its own hands at Board Level not have its levels below muddying the water too. But it's the customers who I feel sorry for. If you are a current HP user or considering being one, you must be in two minds about the future. 

To know that you will be the last to know about what that maybe is the ultimate disrespect.

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