It's been almost three years since HP split into two companies: HP Inc and HP Enterprise, with HP Inc becoming the home of a portfolio that includes printers, laptops, tablets and desktop computers. ZDNet spoke with George Brasher MD of HP Inc for the United Kingdom and Ireland to obtain an update.
Can you tell me a little about your background and your role at HP?
HP: I started with HP 28 years ago and, for me, it has been a wonderful company to be part of it. I have lived in 20 different cities in 9 countries. I worked in product development, marketing and sales, I worked in PC and printing. I did this role as an MD for the United Kingdom and Ireland for four years. In terms of the company, I think we've gone from strength to strength.
We have a strategic framework that is based on central growth and the future. The main growth is most of our business and there you should focus on the pockets of growth and you must make sure you have a large portfolio, the correct cost structure, [HP CEO, Dion Weisler] calls it "small sparks of magic ": the differentiation. We differentiate ourselves according to security, design and collaboration.
Basically, the A3 copier market, where we believe we are market leaders. The second is the printing market for large format printers, which is moving from analog to digital, which means that it is moving towards us. And then, the third area is how our commercial clients want to transform their work spaces.
Essentially, that was our strategic framework that we established four years ago. It has not changed And we have been working on that and I think the way we are facing is the way it is displayed in the market. We have expanded our leadership position in both PC and printing. In our most recent quarter, we have had five quarters of double-digit growth in both. We are growing, we are increasing revenues, we are increasing profits.
You have three areas in which you are focusing, let's take the A3 impression as an example. How is that market developed?
If you go back 20 years, you have two very different markets. You had a printer-based market that was A4 and hung on the network. And it had a market based on copiers, which was largely A3 and was an independent market. Those two markets have come together.
Now, different people segment it in different ways, but I would say that there is a network printing market that has A4 and A3 characteristics. It depends on the user. If you try to satisfy someone's need on the desktop with desktop printing, then you have a number of needs.
So, if you are going to meet the needs of a department, they will have another set of needs. It's just another network device.
Now I think there are a couple of things that are happening there. One is that you have a lot of information in a physical form that is moving to the cloud. How are solutions created that make it easier for customers to take things to the cloud or send them via email? How do you take things that are in digital form and reduce them in an analogous way? For me, it's not just an independent printer or copier. Actually, it is a network device that you need to move from one to another, and we have created excellent products that IT decision makers and CEOs can rely on.
The second thing is, and this is something that people do not always realize, a printer is just another device that is on a network and if you have a device sitting on a network, you should think about the security that surrounds it . And it always surprises me when I talk to IT decision makers and CIOs, who do not talk about security anymore. They are so concerned with the administration of their servers and their PCs that security is something they do not always think about.
With a network IP you can send and receive emails, upload things to the cloud, you can download things from the cloud, so it's just another node in the network.
So, all the security that we put in our PC devices? We put the same level of security in our printers because they can be pirated like anything else.
HP Labs annually conducts a survey on the fate of technology. Now it is not so much a forecast of technology as a political forecast. We have people who go out and look at where the technology is going and within which they can identify key trends.
A trend in rapid urbanization. If you think about that, you have a world of more than nine billion people and there will be 41 megacities. A megacity has more than 10 million people. If you go back 10 years, there are only 10 of them. There will be 41 and most of them in developing countries.
The second is to change the demographics and you can use many different analogies here, but basically, you have two poles. A large population of over 60 years, many of them still in the workforce and with a large amount of discretionary spending. But you also have Generation Z coming up and you are the sons and daughters of the baby boomer workforce.
The third trend is hyperglobalization, just a flattening of the market and how connected we are.
We have to think about the implications for us of things like rapid urbanization and demographic changes.
To take a point, how do you see rapid urbanization impacting a company like HP?
I do not think you can see any of these things in isolation. You have to bring multiple megatrends.
If I think of a rapid urbanization, I have to think about how we can associate with people. In this case, they will be channel partners.
Therefore, you must take into account, not only how to obtain coverage from the customer's perspective in the customer segments, but how to ensure that you have adequate coverage in these megacities around the world.
Another thing is that, if you have all these people living in megacities, you should think about the size of the printers. Space and design become really important.
And we want to make sure that we have an excellent product that has good collaboration features. For example, we work with Bang & Olufsen to get the speakers and part of that is because what we are discovering from the customers is that the offices are changing.
This goes back to the rapid urbanization, which means that more people go to work in the offices, but they will no longer have the traditional desk. This is happening all over the world, but you will also see it in our offices. They will have original desks, but they are generally shared spaces with meeting rooms and other available spaces.
And do you see other changes in the way we live?
If you live in a city, you will travel mainly by bus or other public transport. When you do this, you will be aware of the people around you. Now, we've all seen that problem when someone is looking at what they're doing on their laptop and they're asking, "Is that person looking over my shoulder?" And then there's the case when you leave your laptop in the cafeteria.
To help, we have integrated a privacy screen, so that a button does not allow people to see your screen and creates an electronic privacy screen.
How about what you do in print?
Traditionally it has had inkjet printing that is mainly for the home, then printing by laser jet which is mainly for business. We created a third technology called PageWide, which is basically an ink-based technology designed for companies.
That's something we launched three or four years ago and it's a very popular technology. We take that same technology and use it to build our 3D printing technology.
In 3D printing, he worries about quality, worries about production speed and worries about the cost. PageWide can help you with all three because it's about quality, speed and cost.
We have made progress both in cost and speed, and that is because we were able to take advantage of our PageWide product legacy that, instead of creating impressions, creates plastic pieces.
How have things been since the split into two companies?
I think we are stronger now than ever. We have developed our innovation engine very well. Everyone knows the strategic framework. We are running against that. We have built more excellent products in the last 15 months that we have in any previous period of time.
Where does the impetus for innovation come from?
I would say two things. The number one is that we have a very clear strategic focus around solutions, products and services in both printers and PC.
The second is that we have become the masters of our own destiny. As a company, we must focus on the laser from the board downwards.
I think that if you are clear about the customer segments of your orientation, you have clear areas in which you play. I think the result will be two things. One is that the pipe of your product will increase, the second is that you will be focused on the execution at ground level every day.
Where are you with respect to diversity?
I am a great believer that the best teams are wide and diverse because that means that you bring different points of view and that means that you will debate and you will have many more possibilities to find the best decisions.
I think the second point is that, as an industry, technology in the UK has a problem. If you look at the data, women in the country in general are a little less than half of the UK workforce. If you look at technology, I have seen two different sets of statistics from two different studies and say that only 17 or 25 percent of the technology workforce is female.
Now we are an industry based on innovation and that means we have to have the best minds in our industry and if we are only attracting between 17 and 25 percent, then we are not doing a very good job as an industry.
I have been very eloquent in this and, like HP, we want to be the best employer but, frankly, as an industry, we have to intensify our game.
We have created a return program for women who return to the industry after a waiting period, possibly because they have children, we have a program for that.
I have ordered that 50 percent of our interns will be women, because the interns are next year's graduates or the next young employees join in time.
And the third thing is that we have signed a technology letter that basically is a document that says that, as an industry, we are working so that there is a woman in each short list.
Because I feel really passionate about this. As an industry, I want us to be the most attractive employer in general, and at HP I want us to be an attractive employer. For me, this is something that is really important to do.