The Rewards
of the Wow

You’ve got to enjoy change to love a makeover. Not the type that lives for routine, you believe in possibilities. Hope springs up in you like Atlantic hurricanes after August. Believing feels fun, while security stagnates.

Baseball got a makeover this year, as two home run hitters led the fans on a merry chase to beat a 37-year-old record. Not just a record, but a race for it. Ace pitchers lined up to mow down playoff hopeful San Diego, which then beat those long odds. Then the Yankees cruised to crush everyone, setting a record for wins.

HP apparently gets a makeover this year, too. The first person to sit in the salon will be Harry Sterling’s CSY 3000 division, trying on the new do of transaction-based computer revenues. Some say that few have tried this in the modern computer era. Others point to IBM’s Global Services business and say only HP’s arrival is new.

It feels new from this seat, at least for HP and CSY. That part of the makeover delivers the motivation — the feeling different, a change. After any makeover, people want to see reaction. Sentiment on the order of “Wow” feels great, rewards the risk of change.

Watching the Open Skies acquisition, I say, “Wow.”

Makeovers impress us because people grow accustomed to a face. Unlike Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, most of us need a change to appreciate things which stand at hand a long time. Open Skies provides that for CSY, a take-off point to make us understand that the rules can be rolled over at any time.

We saw it in baseball’s run up to the World Series this year. Anybody who followed the game gave little hope to contender San Diego’s Padres gaining a spot in the Fall Classic. For the under-initiated in the game, I’ll explain: to get to the Series, San Diego faced beating four of the game’s toughest pitchers, called Cy Young winners. Such award-winners working in the playoffs usually assure wins.

The Padres didn’t seem to care about the odds. They were relaxed, happy to play. Their final hurdle to the World Series was a team with three of these Cy Young winners. Nobody expected the Padres to survive, even win more than one game.

Only one of those Cy Young Award winners won a game against the Padres. Wow.

CSY decided it would buy a company, then sell its 3000 solution one transaction at a time. The concept rejects all the rules — like the ones that figured four Cy Young opponents equals no World Series in San Diego.

Sterling’s team at the division feels like the Padres to me. Loose, confident, riding an unexpected string of successes. If you’re counting, we estimate the division has broken quotas and delivered healthy profit to HP for at least six quarters by now. Profit and success seemed assured in the course of selling systems to software suppliers for new sales, and the installed base for the rest of the revenue.

Instead, CSY gambles some of its top people and serious revenue to launch a completely new business model. Wow.

In the pinch of its playoff drive, San Diego turned to a pitcher with a season so mediocre he didn’t start in some games. The fellow rose to the occasion by responding to the confidence of his manager. His victories led to his own award — the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs.

In the turning point of its business drive, CSY has turned to transaction-based business in much the same way. People call it akin to service bureaus. If you missed computing in the 70s, such services made up the way most companies engaged computers: by the minute.

This feels different, mostly because CSY has changed the measure from minutes to transactions. If you made and sold the world’s greatest transaction engine, you could feel confident about selling computing by the transaction. In this, the HP 3000 group appears like the Yankees, the only team that could stop San Diego from improbably taking it all.

Imagine the confidence in that solution. CSY feels the 3000 performs so well they can turn a profit on selling it on a per-transaction fee to companies like Go Airlines.

You have that same fundamental business advantage, a crushing edge in processing. Such an edge is the reward of patience, the 26 years of development as persistent as Yankee batters slapping hits after waiting for the best pitch.

Success comes to those who stay confident of its arrival, then work to remake themselves ready for it. HP is apparently as deep in ideas and confidence as those Yankees were in outfielders and pitchers. Looking at the future shows the company needs new ideas like Open Skies. Thinking about business as usual makes a company stagnant. The lucky ones have divisions ready to risk makeovers, for the rewards of the Wow.

– Ron Seybold