HP Shows Benefits from Successful Application Consolidation with own Global Supply Chain Project

Updated: May 19, 2010

This telling case-study, the Global Part Supply Chain project at HP, was initially undertaken in 2006 but typically became bogged down by sheer scale and complexity. After some changes in management approach and governance, however, the project quickly became hugely successful.

We learn how and why from Paul Evans, Worldwide Marketing Lead on Applications Transformation at HP. The interview is conducted by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Evans: We have always said that the experiences we gain from our own work we would share openly, and sometimes we're quite happy to say where we did go wrong. In this instance, we've written up a case study to give people an insight in more detail than I could possibly provide today. We're going to post that on our portal. If people want to go there, it's relatively simple: HP's Application Consolidation case study.

There are so many lessons learned here, addressing what people have in terms of portfolio and then also delivering new, contemporary, revised types of applications and/or infrastructure. They'll find videos and other materials of other customers who have embarked on these journeys, whether they've been driving that from the top down, from an application's nature, or whether it's people who are coming in from the infrastructure.

As you can imagine, HP is an extremely large organization. It makes products, as well as sells services, etc. In terms of product, just imagine your average PC, or your average server, and think of the number of components that are made up inside of that device. It runs into hundreds of thousands, whether it's memory chips, disk drives, screens, keyboards, or whatever.

For a company like HP, in the event that someone needs a spare part for whatever reason, they don't expect to wait a significant period of time for it to turn up. They want it delivered 24 hours later by whatever means that suits them.

So, it's essential for us to have that global supply chain of spare parts tailored toward the ones that we believe we need more -- rather than less -- and that we can supply those parts quickly and easily and, at the same time, cost effectively. That's important for any organization that is dealing in physical components or in the provision of a service. You want to maintain customer satisfaction or increased customer satisfaction.

Customer centric

For us, it was essential that a massive global supply chain organization was extremely customer-centric, but at the same time, very cost-effective. We were doing our utmost to reduce costs, increase the agility of the applications to service the customers, and fuel growth, as our organization and our business grows. The organization has got to respond to that.

So the primary reasoning here was that this is a large organization, dealing with multiple components with pressures on it both from the business and the IT sides.

One of the primary reasons we had to do this is that HP has been an amalgam of companies like Hewlett-Packard, originally, Compaq, Tandem, DEC. All of these organizations had their own bills of materials, their own skills, and basically this thing has just grown like Topsy.

What we were trying to do here was to say that we just couldn't continue to treat these systems as un-integrated. We had a lot of legacy environments that were expensive to run, a lot of redundancy, and a lot of overlap.

The whole notion of this coming about through mergers and acquisitions is very common in the marketplace. It's not unique just to HP.

The goal here clearly was to produce one integrated solution that treated the HP customer as an individual, and in the back-end consolidated the applications -- the ones we really needed to move forward. And also, a goal was to retire those applications that were no longer necessary to support the business processes.

The whole notion of this coming about through mergers and acquisitions is very common in the marketplace. It's not unique just to HP. The question of whether you just live with everybody's apps or you begin to consolidate and rationalize is a major question that customers are asking themselves.

From the IT side, there was clearly a view from the top down that said living with 300 applications in the supply-chain world was unacceptable. But also from the business side, the real push was that we had to improve certain metrics. We have this metric called Spend-to-Revenue ratio which is, in fact, what are we spending for parts as opposed to what we are getting in terms of revenue? We were clearly below par in those spaces.

We had some business imperatives that were driving this project that said we needed to save money, we needed to be able to deliver faster, and we needed to be able to do it more reliably. If we tell a customer they're going to get the part within 24 hours, we deliver in 24 hours -- not 36 or 48, because we weren't quite sure where it was. We had to maintain the business acumen.

The rationalization that has taken place inside HP around its IT organization and technology is that because we are human beings, most people think in a very siloed way.

They see their suite of applications supporting their business. They like them. They love them. They've grown up with them, and they want to continue using them. Their view is, "Mine is perfect to suit my business requirement. Why would I need anything else?"

That's okay, when you're very close to the coalface. You can always make decisions and always deem to the fact that the applications you use are strategic -- an interesting word that a lot of people use. But, as you zoom out from that environment and begin to get a more holistic view of the silos, you can begin to see that the duplication and replication is grossly inefficient and grossly expensive.

So, our whole goal here was to align business and IT in terms of a technological response to a business driver.

When we submitted the project, we were basically driving it by committee. Individual business units were saying, "I need applications x, y, z." Another group says, "Actually, we need a, b, c." There was virtually no ability to get to any consensus. The goal here is to go from 300 apps to 30 apps. We're never going to do it, if you could all self-justify the applications you need.

What we did was discard the committee approach. We took the approach, basically led by one person from the business side, who had supply chain experience, and one from the IT side who had supply chain experience, but both had their specialist areas. These two people were the drivers. The buck stopped with these people. They had to make the big decisions.

To support them, they had a sponsorship committee of senior executives, to which they could always escalate, if there was a problem making a final decision about what was necessary.

Randy Mott, the HP CIO, has the direct support of Mark Hurd, the HP chairman and CEO. In my experience, that's absolutely essential in any project a customer undertakes. They have to have executive sponsorship from the top.

If you don't, any time you get to an impasse, there's no way out. It just distills into argument and bickering. You need somebody who's going to make the decision and says, "We're going this way and we're not going that way."

Getting on track

So for us, setting up this whole governance team of two people to make the hard decisions, and their being supported by a project management team who are there to go off and enact the decisions that were made was the way we really began to move this project forward, get it on track, get it on time, and get it in on budget.

When we started by saying let's have a big committee to help my decisions, it was the wrong approach. We were going nowhere. We had to rationalize and say "no."
Two respected individuals, one from the IT side and one from the business side, who were totally aligned on what they were doing, shared the same vision in what they were trying to achieve. By virtue of that, we could enforce throughout decisions, sometimes unpopular.

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