Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

Summary: As Leo Apotheker departs HP, perhaps his lasting legacy is to give HP a truly global vision and a strategy of capturing the markets, rather than just the corporate treasury, to drive sustainable development.


Ten months is not long to turn around a business the size of HP and, though there's been a lot mud slinging in the board rooms of Palo Alto, one thing the HP top brass agree on is that Leo Apotheker's strategic direction remains the right course for HP tp continue to follow. And while HP has had its sustainability performance ratings knocked back in recent times, its worth trying to understand what direction Leo might have taken with sustainability at HP and where it might still be headed.

The HP CEO annual letter to shareholders always contains an impressive section on HP's vision of its role in society, but Leo's one and only was especially vivid:

Collectively, the right information at the right place at the right time can significantly increase the positive impact we have on our most vital issues, like improving healthcare, increasing access to education, and preserving the environment. ......We drive that innovation at an unmatched scale to advance human progress. ........A woman in Ghana can have a face to-face conversation with her daughter in France or authenticate her mother’s medication with a simple text message sent to the cloud. ....The role of technology is becoming increasingly fundamental to the workings of our global society, and we are harnessing the power of information to improve the way people live, businesses operate, and the world works.

And of these things, it can't be disputed, he knew what he was talking about not least because of his role in supporting the institutional development of micro-credit agencies as a non executive director of the non profit, PlaNet Finance.

Whilst HP's role as a leading corporate citizenship was in decline in terms of corporate hygiene issues such as direct operational environmental performance & human rights safeguards in the supply chain (and make no mistake this is critically important at point of departure), there is evidence that Leo had a vision of capturing the markets rather than just the corporate treasury to drive sustainability at HP like hadn't ever  been achieved before. And while some point to the fact that Leo was a virtual unknown entity in Silicon Valley, that very quality may just be vitally important to HP's future success in capturing fast growth markets in developing economies of the future. From Leo's 2010 report to shareholders:

Going forward, we are focused on moving beyond being a multinational company to being a truly global one with both deep local expertise and a comprehensive world view that brings the full value of HP to all customers.

In contrast, Meg Whitman's first email to employees raises the worrying prospect that HP might be retreating from a global vision and telescoping down rapidly from multinational, to what..., nation, state, valley?

We believe that HP matters. It matters to Silicon Valley, California, the United States and the world.

Communication matters, as HP's Executive Chairman Ray Lane pointed out very clearly on yesterday's announcement call though its inconceivable that the new top management would retreat from the firm's developing 'world view'.

So what might have been? A fitting tribute to Leo then comes in an HP press announcement coming just one day before his departure, the title of which says it all. Here are some select bits:

HP Invests for Growth in Africa

New operations in 10 countries bring transformative technology solutions to help drive sustainable, long term growth.

This month, HP announced openings in Angola, Botswana, Congo, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. The company expects to announce the opening of offices in Ethiopia, Mauritius and Mozambique by the end of the year. HP also appointed a new country manager in each country to lead local operations.  ......

Recognizing the importance of engaging multiple stakeholders to contribute to the long-term success of Africa’s IT industry, HP is investing in a series of collaborations and initiatives with governments, universities and local communities to achieve the shared goal of driving responsible, sustainable growth.  .......

Extending social innovation programs HP has built on its social innovation strategy in Africa, which seeks to deploy cloud-based and mobile technologies through collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce poverty, improve health care, and connect disparate communities and groups. The strategy has already supported significant work in Africa, such as a relationship with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to improve infant HIV testing in Kenya, and a collaboration with mothers2mothers in support of its mission of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. .......

HP is extending NGO relationships in five of the countries where new offices have opened:

  • In Botswana, HP is collaborating with Positive Innovation for the Next Generation and CHAI to expand the malaria pilot disease surveillance program to other infectious diseases as designated by the Ministry of Health. The program, first introduced in June 2011 mitigates disease outbreaks through a mobile/cloud disease surveillance solution.
  • In Senegal, HP and Tostanare deployinga technology platform to help bring education to adults and adolescents who are without access to formal schooling.
  • In Uganda, HP is working with CHAI to expand the HIV Early Infant Diagnosis Program, which was first launched in Kenya in November 2010.
  • In Tanzania, HP is working with SafePoint Trust to implement a safe injections program and monitor results
  • In Mozambique, HP and Mozambique Development in Motion are establishing a computer lab in a rural secondary school.
  • In Ghana, HP and mPedigree have deployed a drug authentication system that allows consumers to verify that medications they purchase are not counterfeit.

Of course much credit is due to the energy and enthusiasm of people like Jeannette Weisschuh and Gabi Zedlmayer & the rest of team at HP's Social Innovation Unit who truly personify the 'HP way'. But if Leo Apotheker's sustainability legacy to HP is to inspire a more global vision beyond Silicon Valley for the role of technology and markets functioning at scale for human development, then we should take a moment to say 'thank you Mr. Apotheker and God Speed'.

See also:

Will HP get greener with Meg Whitman at the helm?

Ethical investment revolt - HP and Microsoft deleted from Dow Jones Sustainability Index

HP 2010 sustainability performance report - a mixed bag

Can Leo Apotheker restore HP's reputation on sustainability?

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Emerging Tech

James Farrar

About James Farrar

James has more than 15 years of experience working on corporate sustainability issues from both the corporate and NGO campaigning perspective.

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  • Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    whatever the outgoing ceo's contribution to the well-being of hp will be attributed to the incoming ceo or ceos. had seen it many times....
  • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    HP's board of directors needed to disappear, not Apotheker.
  • They were both wrong. HP doesn't matter.

    If there was no HP, would we actually miss them? Dell and Lenovo could provide more PCs, and various companies including Brother and Canon could provide printers. Autonomy could re-float itself. I think the most likely outcome is for HP to fizzle out.
  • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    HP, throughout its history, has had an impressive "social conscience." Both Hewlett and Packard were philanthropists and their legacy continues through foundations that support health, education, the arts, etc.<br>For the most part, the programs mentioned were already in progress when Apotheker started at HP. To his credit, he did not end them. Hurd, his predecessor, did much more for the company than most CEOs, but, unfortunately, showed a huge lack of good judgement when it came to his personal activities. HP is still the biggest supplier of PCs and laptops in the world, as well as the biggest supplier of printers in the world - eclipsing all of the competition. The PSG division may be rolled out, but it will not stop building the most popular computers for consumer use in the world. The printer division will continue as it has.<br>Would the world miss HP if it were no longer here? -- Most definitely, and in ways that money can't measure.
    (Disclosure: I am a current HP employee)
  • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    In the spirit of full disclosure, what you didn't mention in your article is that you were an employee of SAP while Apotheker was there. Were you also a fan of Apotheker's while you were at SAP?
    • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

      @wmharris18 <br>Thanks for reading. You are right the social programmes have existed at HP for sometime. What I'm connecting though is Leo's social committment, his market based approach to citizenship (eg. PlaNet Finance), his vision of HP as a truly global company rather than a multinational. The Africa announcement seems to see all of this coming together. Deeper market committment together, competence sharing and philanthropy.
      In contrast, whereas Leo served on the board of an NGO, HP employees report that under Mark Hurd HP executives were instructed to leave or not join non profit boards. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/sustainability/can-lo-apotheker-restore-hps-reputation-on-sustainability/1480?tag=mantle_skin;content
    • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

      @wmharris18 <br>thanks. my disclosure is clear. BTW if you think I've been a fan you may want to read my earlier posts made during Leo's tenure. My allegiance on this site is to the reader and to sustainability.
  • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    I don't know about this global vision. I think they should stick to printers, PCs AND tablets.
  • I have to imagine some change would occur...

    While they appear to be sticking with the plan to acquire Autonomy, they seem to be a bit less certain about the fate of their PC division. I have to imagine that this plan would change at least slightly; otherwise, what was the point (apart from good old boardroom theatrics) of canning Apotheker if they're just going to keep his plans largely in place?

    In all honesty, I thought that the reason they were canning him, apart from his apparent failure to meet expectations, was more generally because his plans to fundamentally change the scope of the company freaked the shareholders out. But now that HP's plan for the foreseeable future appears to be keeping Apotheker's planned course of action largely intact, this just seems like he was a scapegoat of sorts.
    Third of Five
  • RE: Leo Apotheker's HP legacy: a global vision

    HP Continues to do the same mistake again and again by bringing someone from outside to head the company. I would look at it in a different way. Every organization has a DNA which is unique to itself. Changing people at lower levels can alter the DNA but then when you have a strong leader on top, the alteration will only happen slowly and for good. When you put people on the helm who is not homegrown or who is not in sync with the organization's DNA, the change can happen quickly and could be for good or bad and at times it could be irreversible. I believe that the one to lead an organization should be from within the system so that you have the passion to lead on something that you have been pursuing for long. this will give a sense of belonging to the rest of the folks in the organization. Until Bill and Dave were around, there was some sanity in the functioning of the organization, but the change started or the DNA alteration started from the time Carly was made CEO, followed by Mark, Leo, and the results are the same. Does it mean that HP does not have home grown talents to head the organization???? I cant bevel that...
    Being and Ex-HP, I surely believe that HP can still turn the table around if they insist on having homegrown talent on top.