Customer Content: Still a One-way Conversation
IBM and Dell push each other hard here. At my last IBM event, customer presentations (outside of one-on-ones) made up more than 70 percent of the content. Dell typically exceeds 50 percent.
Here HP lagged. There was customer content, with recognizable brands such as Facebook, but it was scarce and came late in the event. A few years back, we did an advocacy study and found that customers are the most powerful vendor advocates, due largely to their independence, and vendors themselves the least powerful.
This lack of customer content means that HP's effectiveness in an event like this, though improved, ranks below the other vendors - especially if those other vendors execute as well or better than they have in prior years. HP spoke about its customers a lot, but its customers didn't talk about HP at all. That must be fixed.
Entertainment: Slides Are No Match for Personality
It's difficult to keep anyone engaged at an event where attendees have crossed timelines, Wi-Fi and connected devices. The best events use panel discussions, videos, analyst Q&A sessions and even popular bands to wake up audiences up and keep them focused on the stage rather than their phones.
Microsoft (under Bill Gates, at least) did the best job with videos, IBM does the best with bands and entertainment and Dell with analyst engagement, largely because Michael Dell engages analysts individually and holds lots of panels, which tend to be more interesting (albeit lacking the conflict that would increase engagement even more).
This week, HP's content was pretty good, but, in watching the audience, folks dove into email within 10 minutes of the start of every presentation. Part of this is because analysts specialize and won't be interested in anything not in their area of expertise. Much of this is because, no matter the speech, no speaker will hold an audience with static slides against the fascination of personal messaging.
Here, too, HP lags behind the other vendors. I expect both IBM and Dell to easily jump this bar.
Still Room for HP to Improve
Year over year, HP's analyst event execution has improved - and HP's financial performance mirrors this. HP has set a high bar in three of the areas discussed here but still lags in the other two. As a result, I expect the analysts leaving this event to improve their opinions of HP - but not dramatically.
Those who look across the company will likely see the biggest improvement; the areas where HP executed best support that conclusion. Those who cover specific businesses won't see as much improvement, given the lack of customer validation and engagement, though this may correct itself following the one-on-one presentations that haven't yet occurred).
In the end, the event very much mirrors HP's overall turnaround: Sharply improved, but still leaving room for improvement.
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