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Bob Floyd

GM, Service Delivery

HP Services Americas

Customer Support


September, 2003

Leading HP’s Way to Not Fade Away

Bob Floyd has a mission over the next year for HP 3000 sites — to ensure the server’s users don’t want their link with HP to fade away. Floyd manages delivery of HP’s support services for North and South America, including HP 3000 support, and it’s his product that will remain HP’s primary deliverable to MPE shops after HP stops selling the 3000 on Oct. 31. He comes to the task with an intimate knowledge of how HP 3000 support used to work. Floyd started with HP as a Customer Engineer serving HP 3000 sites in the Cincinnati, Ohio region since 1977, serving nine years in all as a CE before moving into more executive posts with the company, moving from district to area to regional services manager.

Floyd now directs more than 7,000 HP Services personnel in the Americas, from staff in the IT Response Center to the field engineers who still visit HP 3000 shops that remain on HP support. He is responsible for operational excellence in HP’s delivery capabilities, and ensuring customer satisfaction and delivery expense goals are met and exceeded. Last year we spotted him on an HP 3000 roundtable addressing the future of HP’s support schedule, and noted a frank comment that support might remain available after 2006 on a case by case basis. This year Floyd returned to HP World on the new e3000 Customer Needs panel. We wanted to ask him how he expects to keep up levels of support to satisfy 3000 customers, and whether HP support might offer a goodwill bridge to an installed base still smarting from HP’s exit from the market.

What steps is HP taking to retain the MPE expertise in its support centers? How is the company encouraging the veterans who know the operating environment to stay in a part of HP’s business that’s not growing anymore? Will HP protect these experts from layoffs?

We do several things around benefits and rewards for our employees. Employees with MPE expertise participate in stock options. Even though they are supporting MPE, we also give them opportunities to increase their career path, map out training requirements to achieve that. That’s so they don’t come up to 2006 and are left without something to support. We want to migrate those individuals, because they have a lot of HP experience.

Does HP have a plan to reduce the cost of system support for 3000 customers over the next two years? Will HP continue to provide as many MPE enhancements as it has in the past?

We’re in a very cost-competitive environment these days. Within the Services organization of HP we are doing some dramatic steps to reduce our costs so we can become more cost-competitive. Any reductions we make would be reflected on the e3000 as well our other platforms.

Regarding MPE enhancements, HP will continue to leverage the advocacy groups and processes such as Interex, the SIGs, and the SIB process to get input from our installed based of their prioritized needs. HP will then review and inform the SIB group of our decision. HP will continue to proactively monitor both customers’ needs and HP’s future peripheral roadmap offerings.

Will HP 3000 customers see onsite support that knows about the system? At HP World you mentioned that the customer is likely to be visited by an HP Services staff member who knows less about the 3000 than the HP-UX servers.

We are seeing less services activity in the support centers, as well as on-site. The on-site delivery is a distributed factor, so we can’t build a unique group of engineers there like we can in the support centers. The expertise of the on-site resources might decrease over time. However, we continue to invest heavily in retaining the highest level of expertise in our remote centers. They become more involved in directing the actions of the on site engineer who may not be as skilled.

We have a higher level of expertise that is available to go on-site, our escalation engineers. We have retained this highly skilled expertise to go on-site for critical or complex situations. This has been a model that has been extremely successful for other HP products as they have reached end of support life.

And what level of support must a customer buy to get access to that HP escalation engineer?

It’s actually any level of support. If we cannot solve the problem in a timely manner, we will escalate that problem through our technical resources. A customer who has a higher level of support we have more knowledge of them and a better relationship with them. We can anticipate problems and react quicker to them.

As third party support options continue to emerge for 3000 sites, can HP get more cost-competitive against these options?

We are in the best position to provide support due to our access to the source code, support and lab personnel. HP has provided high quality, cost competitive support services on the e3000 and we will continue this practice until the end of support date.

About half of the HP 3000 customers are using a version of MPE/iX that is going off support at the end of 2004. Do you think HP should extend the support life of this 6.5 release?

We should do what’s best for the customers. If we are able to support the extension at the same customer experience level that we have been, I think we need to take that into consideration.

Will your group work with any authorized HP resellers who want to establish an independent 3000 support practice after 2006?

We will evaluate those resellers and partners out there. And if we feel they can deliver the same customer experience that our customers demand from HP, and that will make them successful going forward, we’ll certainly look to work with them to make them successful.

We believe that HP is in the best position to provide customers with quality support, and that it will be very challenging for a reseller to provide quality software support beyond HP’s end of support date. We may be open to working with HP resellers that have the right business model and support capabilities to potentially provide HP e3000 support after HP’s end of support date. It’s going to reflect on HP even after 2006 if a customer gets a bad service experience.

Last year you mentioned that some customers might be able to buy HP support after 2006 for their 3000s, so long as parts are available. What has the last year shown you about HP’s ability to extend 3000 support on a case by case basis? How is the parts supply holding up?

It’s going about as we expected. We have enough stock and parts in place to definitely support to the end of 2006. As parts get older, they tend to experience a higher failure rate. We’re going to have to continue monitor this. I think we’ll be able to add some clarity in a year or so. The supply of parts to support the e3000 server families continues to be manageable.

What will you do to put 3000 administrators in quicker contact with MPE specialists on a support call? At HP World several customers said at the Customer Needs Panel that it was taking too long to reach a 3000-trained support staffer.

Based on the feedback we received from HP World we were able to resolve that customer’s particular issue. Additionally we are implementing a direct connect program for our customers to more easily connect them with our technical MPE resources. We went and followed up with the customer from Long’s Drug who was having the problem, and it was a problem we had with the entitlement system. Direct connect means when an e3000 customer calls us and comes through the voice recognition tree system, we understand what their entitlement is: high-level support, basic support, and we’ll connect them with a service engineer at that time instead of having to go through a separate entitlement process. It should mean an online connection, instead of a call-back connection.

Do you forecast that you’ll offer the current range of support products for HP 3000 customers, both PSS and CSS, through 2006?

HP will continue to provide a comprehensive portfolio of support services, including PSS and CSS, until e3000 end of support.

What criteria will HP Services use to qualify third party firms that can take the place of HP Support after 2006?

We may be open to working with third parties that have the right business model and support capabilities to potentially provide HP e3000 support after HP’s end of support date. At this time, we have not developed any specific criteria. It’s parts, it’s technical expertise, quick resolution for the customer’s business needs.

Can you empower these people with source code to do this?

We have a lot of degrees of freedom in what we can do. It’s a matter of waiting for the right time to look at that. You don’t want to make that decision until you’re close to that event, because things change.

How can HP Services help 3000 customers remain loyal to the vendor as they change operating environments? Is there a business case to be made for making HP’s support a gateway into a new future with HP?

Absolutely. That’s our business intent, to give the customers the very best level of support. By building customer loyalty and a relationship with that customer, it will make that customer a repeat buyer of HP hardware, software and services. HP is working hard to ensure the transition off the e3000 platforms to other HP solutions is as smooth as possible. We will continue to listen and respond to needs brought to our attention, work to provide both HP managed services and HP education services as we are doing, along with strong partner programs, loaners, trade ins and conversion kits. It’s a matter of how the customer wants to transition, if they want to transition, and what we can do to help them as they go through that.

Can you make exceptions to extend support for customers who cannot finish a transition by HP’s end of support?

On a case by case basis, absolutely. We probably will not have the resources to do that on a worldwide basis. If a customer commits to us, and is 40 or 50 percent through a transition, we’re certainly not going to leave them out there on their own.

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