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Cathy Fitzgerald
Seeing the 3000 Market from a Customer's Eyes

NewsWire Q&A

Cathy Fitzgerald is the real thing, and yet she's in marketing. The paradox is one of several unique things about the new marketing manager for the Commercial System Division (CSY). For example, Fitzgerald was once an HP 3000 customer. She now holds what could be called one of the most interesting jobs inside HP -- keeping sales moving for a system with the most attentive and loyal customer base in the world. Those customers are a contained entity by now, but that doesn't keep Fitzgerald from keeping her spirits high about the HP 3000's future.

She's been in some of the best places to learn the HP 3000's strengths. Before coming to HP in 1988, Fitzgerald worked as an operations manager, managing an HP 3000 system used in direct marketing and selling profile studies to political campaigns and banks. She joined HP as a strategic account manager for partners like Oracle and Informix. That proved to be good experience for promoting a particular platform, because her job was to show customers why a multi-platform choice like Oracle would be better if run on HP's systems. Within a few years Fitzgerald was the software product manager for the HP 3000, having a hand in the fates of things like IMAGE, MPE/iX and networking tools -- the traditional advantages of the 3000.

Before she took her current job in the summer of 1996, Fitzgerald had trained the previous two people who'd held the CSY marketing manager post. After she trained her predecessors, she held down two other jobs in HP, channel and market development section manager for CSY as well as the marketing manager for HP's Direct Marketing Organization. Fitzgerald was charged with finding the VARs and software suppliers to help HP sell the 3000 into particular markets. Another CSY job involved teaching the rest of HP's Computer Systems Organization how to duplicate the Customer First success that CSY had demonstrated. As HP headed into another fiscal year, we asked Fitzgerald to tell us how its HP 3000 marketing message has changed during the last year and how CSY's customer lessons could help the rest of HP.

You recently spent time sending the CSY message of close customer relationships to the rest of HP. Why did HP want to spread the Customer First message out to groups where the market pace is faster?

It was a special project that was a real compliment to CSY as a division. We were looked on as being able to add a lot of value to the overall impression and effectiveness of HP -- especially in some of the divisions that were growing a lot faster [than CSY].

How does being a former HP 3000 customer help in your current job of marketing to them?

I can certainly relate to customers who feel like the heart of their business is around the 3000. That was the case for us, for sure. The other thing that was interesting about that was that HP's reputation of trying to meet a customer's needs was so true. We were making the transition from an IBM shop to a midrange shop, and HP won our business because they could get us the solutions fastest.

What do you see as the most significant change in the HP 3000 marketplace during the last year?

One of the most significant changes is the advent of NT and the hoopla around it. This has more clearly shown our 3000 customers that there is no operating system-centric right answer. There was a lot of pressure that Unix was the answer, and the quicker you could get to Unix the smarter you'd be perceived. NT has really changed that.

How has NT's arrival changed 3000 managers' mindsets?

It's allowed the customers to have more confidence in the 3000 and its merits -- as opposed to somehow having picked the wrong answer. There's a lot more comfort in focusing on what your platform is doing for your business, rather than in trying to get to the right answer.

What changes do you hope to accomplish in your term as marketing manager?

I'd like the message above -- it's not about picking the right answer, it's about making sure your information technology investment is paying off for you -- to get internalized by the customers for all it's goodness, and not as threat to the existence of the 3000. An operating-centric view of the world will probably not be the right answer for your company.

Do you understand how a customer might see the fall of MPE-centrics as a threat?

Yes, but this is a commitment to keeping customers a step ahead. We help them with what they'll need to grapple with in the future at the pace that makes business sense for them. If a 3000 customer feels like they're being pushed off the platform at HP's convenience, that would be a failure on our part. It would not be consistent with our intentions and the message.

For customers who like everything about the 3000 and wish that it was the flagship market leader for Hewlett-Packard, it's possible that accepting the fact there will be other platforms for HP is reducing the importance of the 3000. That's the part I'm hopeful we can assuage. The fact that NT will be very important, or that Unix is greater in numbers than the 3000, in no way detracts from the 3000's benefit to the customer.

Is there a possibility of customers being forced off the 3000 because applications become unavailable, or certain technical enhancements that don't arrive in time for the 3000?

That is a big challenge for the 3000. We're focusing on what the customer actually needs. It's like Mick Jagger singing "You can't always get what you want, but you'll get what you need." It doesn't always feel comfortable, because the reality is that we're not going to be able to afford to put all of those choices on the 3000. We're trying to boil it down to the business solution that will meet the customers' needs.

It creates some dissonance, because some of the choices the customers might want are going to be on other platforms, but may not be on the 3000. For a set of customers, they're going to really wish that wasn't the case.

Why do you suppose the 3000 customers are more willing to accept NT as a side-by-side player than Unix solutions?

If you think about the reasons the 3000 customers have found a lot of value in MPE and the 3000, it makes a lot of sense. Everything is integrated in the 3000; NT is very integrated. Ease of use is a primary benefit of NT; it's been a mainstay of the 3000. It doesn't surprise me.

What about the things holding NT back -- aren't they the things that the 3000 has already polished?

That's the great thing about the 3000 -- you can say you understand where the 3000 fits in your business, but the NT stuff is interesting. Where the customers want to get experience with NT, interoperating with another environment, they can. And when NT is ready to meet their business needs, they can stay with HP.

NT is bound to be on customers' minds because they believe it will be around a long time. What do you think an HP customer loses by picking the safe choice?

I'm not sure there's a consistent definition of safe. You just mentioned safe might mean long time, and if that's what they're interested in, that's another marketing message for the 3000. The 3000 is going to be around for a long time. For customers who think they finally won't have to deal with the question of what's the final solution, it isn't ever going to happen.

Everybody wants it to be settled, so they can get on with other choices. But if they thought about it a little longer, they really wouldn't want it to be so. In the mainframe era, there was only one choice, so customers would look to the midrange era and see the freedom it gave them to run their businesses.

What plans are you willing to consider to create an MPE evangelist in CSY, a person whose job it is to get developers to contemplate investing in the HP 3000?

You cannot ask an ISV to do something that for whatever reason they perceive as not in their long-term best interests. At first, we thought it just was a matter of effort on the 3000's part, because we weren't the most well known minicomputer or because we were a smaller division in our own company than our larger Unix brethren. We tried to take the onus upon ourselves to get the applications to be cognizant of the value of the 3000. That didn't solve the problem.

The ISVs and resellers were struggling with a much larger problem. It wasn't just a choice between 3000s and 9000s. It was the nature of what the ISV's company was going to define itself as. It was true for a lot of platforms. The ISVs decided they weren't going to continue to invest in the 3000. I can be among the customers in saying I wish it were not so, but it's not for lack of putting together a focused effort to educate, incent and promote the ISVs.

Well, the accepted wisdom is that applications are the lifeblood of any system. Is your challenge then to get the MIS managers, CIOs and others to believe that wisdom doesn't apply to the HP 3000?

What's important is that the 3000 has a very vibrant, large, loyal, important installed base. There are a lot of applications for it which companies have invested a lot of resources in to make sure they meet their business needs. For those customers, they have the applications. Yes, applications are the lifeblood of the platform, and yes, they have the applications, because they probably developed them themselves.

It is in the area of new customers, coming out with off-the-shelf applications, that it creates a dilemma or a reality. Our strategy there is to keep the investment you have on the 3000; it's working for you. Where the application isn't available on the 3000, our customers interoperate, they coexist. It doesn't diminish the value of the 3000 to them, it just changes the paradigm of solving the business problem.

Which market segment provides the best prospect for new applications on the HP 3000 today, and why is that so?

Our existing strengths in high availability and mission-critical applications continue. Hands down, the customers that have experience with the 3000 or are looking for solutions there find, by far, we're the best choice.

But those segments cover a lot more ground. Can you be more specific?

Healthcare continues to be a very strong vertical market for us, as well as the direct mail and the direct marketing segment. We are working with customers in those areas now to integrate new technologies around the Internet, to make sure their applications can take advantage of them. We're also strong in state and local governments in emergency dispatch, where the focus of the customer is running their business instead of running MIS.

So where is the 3000 winning new business?

It falls into the category of companies where someone in the company has already been successful with the 3000. We just sold 14 manufacturing systems to a company that didn't have 3000s, but the people making that decision had a very positive experience with the 3000s. Likewise, customers who are interested in the very market-dominant healthcare solutions and direct marketing solutions say they don't care what it runs on. They're not really making an operating system or platform decision, they're making it on how its going to fit my business needs.

What do you think about the future of managing manufacturing with an HP 3000?

A lot of the manufacturing customers have invested a lot. Everything's working well for them and nothing's broken. They're going to grow their business on the 3000, and there's nothing keeping them from doing that.

Another segment of manufacturing has the customer's application working just fine, but they have other business demands they can't solve with their 3000. Some of those demands are driven by applications that are not available on the 3000. We're successful in interoperating with the 3000. For other customers, the application is not meeting their needs anymore. When they look at what they want to do different, it's very possible that will be on a different platform. They're not migrating their applications -- they have a new application on a new platform.

You've spent a lot of time with Oracle issues. Do you think Oracle is an important conduit for new applications on the 3000?

The answer is yes. I hate to say "yes but," so I won't. For a lot of our customers Oracle offers the opportunity to put lots of applications running Oracle on their system. That's one of the reasons why it's very important for us to have Oracle. It also addresses a lot of the needs of customers to have Oracle pervasive in their enterprise.

There's three things around Oracle on the 3000: the people who need Oracle because they want the Oracle applications, or their company is running on Oracle. There's the people who believe they need to start understanding a more portable database, and want to make sure their 3000 investment is protected. Then there's the people who can put Oracle on their 3000 and whenever they choose, move it to a different platform. The groups are applications for applications' sake, unconscious multi-platform and conscious multi-platform.

Can CSY sell a developer's turnkey HP 3000, the kind of low-cost bundle that GSY designed for its workstation-class HP 9000s? Developers talk about getting a better deal in IBM or Digital Alpha markets for development systems.

I didn't get the sense that our lack of a developer's workstation is in any way connected with a lack of people's enthusiasm for developing on the 3000. The comments from developers are really addressed at our PA-RISC developer's program, that it's not competitive in the market. It's not trivial to make up a product structure for HP, and the two-user license on the HP 9000 is an existing product. It's not unique to the developer -- anybody can buy one. We'll obviously return to this issue.

What kind of plans do you have to get some of the long-standing HP 3000 application companies back in the MPE fold? Is this a resource that HP is trying to revitalize?

In looking under a lot of those rocks, there wasn't much there. We took a look at a long list of applications that had one time run on the 3000, and the reality was that a lot of those companies quit focusing on the applications or quit being in the business altogether.

What do you think is the biggest advantage the HP 3000 marketplace has -- one that a software company would be hard-pressed to duplicate by investing in another platform?

Those customers are willing to work with HP. We really have a partnership, in that we both have a lot of skin in the game.

Both Harry Sterling and Dick Watts talked at HP World about a new advertising presence for the HP 3000 in the near future. Without leaking any surprises, can the installed base customers expect to see significant changes in the 3000's share of voice?

I believe it's clearly my responsibility that at the next HP World conference customers feel they saw a difference in the 3000's presence. I wouldn't be surprised if I heard that question [about ads] at the next conference. What I want to be able to do is totally overwhelm the questioner with the actual evidence of what was produced.

How can you encourage the GSY managers and speakers to include the HP 3000 in their presentations to prospective customers? Or is talking about a complementary platform a class act that only CSY knows how to perform?

For the audiences that care about both platforms, HP doesn't speak about both. The reality is that for a lot of our communications we're targeting and talking to specific customers. When GSY is presenting to the IT market at large, the message is not about where specific HP 3000 customers have come from. The number of customers that have both 3000s and 9000s is a small percentage of GSY's overall customer base.

When their primary target is the market at large, it's kind of irrelevant to talk about the 3000. It's not energy very well spent to try and get them to change their marketing message to include the 3000. Where they go and talk to our users they're very appropriate. I'm much more concerned about making sure the 3000 customers hear the message that HP thinks it's important to get.

A customer called us recently to report his new parent company (they got acquired) wants to replace his 3000 with an AS/400, even though the 3000 is delivering better service. What can he tell his new parent about the AS/400 vs. 3000 choice to preserve his HP investment?

If the 3000 is providing more value and benefits and functionality, then the choice is almost from a point of ignorance. We need to understand what the CIO is trying to accomplish by insisting on what seems like a pretty silly thing to do. We're developing the meat now that makes up the specifics of the HP 3000's advantage in NT compatibility over the AS/400.

How could you sell HP 3000s in the event that Hewlett-Packard decides not to port MPE/iX to the Merced family of chips?

It's important for us to articulate what the plans for the 3000 are, regardless of the Merced decision. What we're dealing with right now are customers growing, interoperating or rethinking their entire IT strategy, including their existing applications. None of that changes with the Merced decision one way or the other. The customers who have a lot of investment in the 3000 need to know that the 3000 is going to be around to meet those growing business needs.

From the point of view of the customers, it doesn't matter how you do that, you'd better be able to grow systems as their business grows. If the answer to that is growing your applications on Merced, that's great. If the answer is seeing the growth route for five years, I think that's great as well. The customers will have to figure out what the answer means for their business today. I would be the first to argue to some degree, that availability and time frame of Merced is somewhat irrelevant.

Some customers prefer to believe the HP 3000 will have some kind of demise as HP acts on a P&L scenario. Is the HP 3000 a sure thing in Hewlett-Packard's plans for the next decade?

The 3000 is alive and well and will be so into the next decade. That's the message that's important for me and my team to get out to the customers. HP World was a step in that direction -- it was great to hear very high level executives like Dick Watts and Rich Sevcik say they understand how important the 3000 customers are to HP. We want to make sure they know we're here to meet their needs.

Copyright 1996, The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.