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April 2002

Watch when spirit is being sold to serve profits

NewsWire Editorial

I sat in the Southwest Airlines seat while we approached the Bay Area, but the sight that caught my eye was not outside the 737’s window. I stared at an HP advertisement in my Sports Illustrated, then realized that after 20 years I didn’t recognize the company anymore. The new HP is high-spirited like the old Hewlett-Packard never was. HP 3000 owners will want to judge if HP’s spirits continue to serve them like their computers have.

But I get ahead of myself here, because maybe you haven’t seen the ad. It’s an image ad, meaning it doesn’t sell a product, but touts a concept. The ad is important to the 3000 owner because of the concept: HP’s Adaptive Enterprise. This is the future you will adopt if you remain an HP customer once the vendor leaves the 3000 market. Right now, the future feels out of step with so many of you in this community.

The ad copy is poetic, really, like a prayer perhaps. “Learn to love what you’ve been taught to fear. Act more quickly. Find more value. Always look for the upside.” Then, as if that weren’t charged enough, comes the closing mantra: “See that change is opportunity’s nickname.”

I can sit in the skin of an HP executive and understand how this works. "Customers welcome change. We have something new. They don’t resist, because we made the change less scary, less costly." The trouble: this kind of message co-opts spirit to sell something. In this case, what’s for sale is your trust in a vendor who’s surprised you with a recent change in its platform plans.

Co-opting spirit is all around us at my house. I was traveling to the Bay Area on a trip to the Solutions Symposium, alone, because my wife and partner Abby was on another trip. The house seemed empty without her, and I embraced the distraction. She was focused, however, learning more about yoga on the way to being a teacher. Lots of people in the 3000 market are becoming teachers of one kind or another, all while they keep up with the 3000’s steady pace.

Learning to become a yoga teacher is as much in vogue today as learning to build Web sites in 1998. Yoga has been discovered, after thousands of years, by our modern culture. Yoga has survived that long because it is simple and direct and inclusive and graceful. If that sounds like a certain computer you use, well, then we’re thinking alike. If it doesn’t sound like your 3000, you’re probably ready for the Adaptive Enterprise.

But like the poetry of the Adaptive Enterprise, yoga’s spirit is now serving many things that are well out of step with its image. Cars, watches and perfume carry the images of graceful bodies, all bent in shapes to arrest our eye. Bent like those words in the HP ad. Who wouldn’t want to love something they’d been taught to fear? It’s not change, it’s opportunity. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. (Sorry, got carried away there.)

For many 3000 customers, change is something they avoid, because they have learned its other name is mistakes. On the bad days, change’s other name is excess, as in excess expenditures when the planning hasn’t been perfect. The alternative is serenity, to some 3000 experts. “Life can be so good,” one consultant told me out at the Symposium, “when the operating system stops changing.”

She said that because she knew her clients, companies who think of their computer like a spade or a watering can. They don’t want it to adapt, they want it to last, and keep working like it always has. These are the customers who now will clamor for HP’s attention through OpenMPE. They are not going to migrate, ever. No amount of spirit will change what they know about change: it takes focus away from what they do well, like growing roses or producing pumps.

One company will see obvious benefit from embracing change: the one that will sell change for a profit. Nothing wrong with profits, not at all. But they should serve your welfare as a customer, by making the profiteer a stronger partner. If you haven’t thought of HP as a partner recently, that’s a relationship the vendor must be ready to earn from you, at some expense to the HP profits. A brighter future for MPE after 2006, with third-party access to source, would be a good way to earn that. At the moment, many still feel the sting of HP’s withdrawal from the 3000. When you’re angry, you can’t judge correctly. Spirited messages that tout change won’t do much to renew trust.

When Abby sees the perfume and car ads co-opting yoga, she tells me it troubles her heart, because she knows how powerful advertising can be. She’s made her career in it, and the combination of message and good placement in front of a rapt audience can shift things. That’s the power of spirit at work, a force that HP is using to explain what the Adaptive Enterprise is all about.

My trouble with the HP spirit is how far it flies from the perch 3000 customers call home. The examples HP gave at the Solutions Symposium of Adaptive Enterprise’s success hailed from companies the size of Continental Airlines, not D’Arrigo Brothers produce growers. There’s so much more of the 3000 market sized like farms than Fortune 500 companies. The Enterprise and its change won’t feel much like the computer that didn’t demand you invest in churn. Just like wearing that watch won’t make you look as graceful as that yoga pose that caught your eye.

Adaptive Enterprise, or Assured Homestead. Those are the choices still faced by about half of the customers. Those who say they’re leaving don’t have faith in the MPE future. OpenMPE can sing its own poem in that spirit, if what’s left of the 3000 division can act on its faith. In the meantime, you should be supporting that OpenMPE movement, whatever your direction. Extra time for this system is essential to nearly all of you. Like yoga, you can stretch yourself and your opportunity, no matter which prayer you offer up. Be sure that the fashion you follow fits your company’s true spirit.

— Ron Seybold

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