This week's HP Industry Analyst Summit is IT's first company-wide, analyst-only event. That means it sets the bar that the others will attempt to beat this year.
Five areas define a good analyst event:
Analysts are a leveraged resource. If excited, they drive business to the vendor. If not, this value won't materialize. If alienated, they drive business from the vendor at a multiple based on the number of IT buyers or investors they touch.
Traditionally IBM leads the pack with executive preparation and customer voice. EMC leads in using its own products competitively, in loyalty to the CEO and in collaboration. Dell leads with analyst engagement, which starts with Michael Dell. When Meg Whitman took over at HP, the firm lagged in every category. This year, the gaps are closing sharply. But the year is young.
Executive Preparation: HP On Message, On Time
A few years ago, HP put on one of the worst analyst events. Folks weren't rehearsed and clearly didn't have the analysts, or the event, as a priority. This year, Whitman stumbled a couple times, though it may have been a teleprompter issue, and everyone was well-rehearsed, on message and on time. This demonstrates that the company takes the event and the audience seriously, which improves engagement and goes a long way to making an event a success. Here, HP set a reasonably high bar.
Loyalty: HP Looks Like a Company Again
Here, too, HP under Carly Fiorina set the bar low. I remember one event when a bunch of executives went off the reservation and the look on Fiorina's face likely made them glad assassination wasn't legal. (I've seen worse: At an event hosted by Micron, a defunct PC vendor, two executives actually came close to throwing punches.)
This year showed a marked improvement - and the progress Whitman has made with her team. Executives related nicely to each other on stage and appeared close off stage. They showed Whitman appropriate respect - a dramatic difference from earlier events, when a lack of respect and inability to cooperate seemed obvious. HP now looks like a company again.
Dogfooding: HP Neither Teacher's Pet nor Class Clown
This is one of the most critical aspects of an event such as this. I worked at IBM at a time when the company's own CIOs wouldn't touch IBM products. That experience stuck with me.
I firmly believe you should avoid like the plague any company that doesn't aggressively use its own products. Again, HP seemed to be avoiding its own products in the past, but this year the company showed aggressive use of HP technology internally.
Among major IT vendors, EMC most aggressively uses its own technology, largely for customer retention and loyalty. HP isn't yet executing at that level, but it isn't at the back of the pack anymore, either. In fact, had this event been last year, HP would be near the head of the class based on its services presentation. That's a solid improvement - and, since HP's financial performance has also improved, the company can argue that its technology helped improve its performance. That's a powerful argument.
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