HP's Livermore: Precision is a good thing

The president of Hewlett-Packard's business customer organization is no Martha Stewart. But she does think HP's rigor and discipline can be applied to the problem of attracting and keeping customers.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on
When you think of Hewlett-Packard Co., a number of adjectives might come to mind. Precise. Analytical. No-nonsense.

One HP executive thinks she can bring the positive side of these attributes to the way that HP deals with customers.

"We're trying to put the same rigor and discipline into managing total customer experience as we do in product development," said Ann Livermore, 41, president of HP's business customer organization.

Eighteen-year HP veteran Livermore has made customers her business for much of the past year. A year ago, many industry watchers were unsure whether Livermore would stay put after she was passed over for the HP CEO slot that ultimately went to former Lucent Technologies executive Carly Fiorina.

Livermore not only stayed, but has put her imprint on how HP is attempting to keep its existing customers and attract new ones.

She has spearheaded the HP (hwp) campaign to better internally measure its own performance in fulfilling customers' wishes by asking hard questions like "how long did it take us to make a customer's system operational?"

For the first time at HP, starting with the Superdome high-end Unix servers, the sales team will receive better compensation if users have good experiences. The servers are also the first HP products that the hardware, software and services teams at HP collaborated on across divisions to develop, launch and market.

Going forward, "every product at HP will be getting this kind of treatment," Livermore said.

Livermore isn't only charged with improving HP's relationship with its customers. She also oversees HP's formerly separate enterprise and commercial divisions. Her organization provides the integrated hardware, software, services, support and financing solutions for small, medium, large and dotcom customers.

"Internet startups have their own sales team. They have very heavy-duty IT requirements. We need to sell to them in a very different way," Livermore explained.

At the same time, Livermore has a vested interested in what happens with HP's consulting division, which, she said, currently stands at 6,000 people and is growing, revenue-wise, 40 percent to 50 percent per quarter.

Will the HP Consulting ranks be supplemented by PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting staff? HP confirmed yesterday that it has held talks with PwC on this very issue.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HWP) "This (PwC consulting) is one possible acquisition candidate we're considering," Livermore said. "The Internet is tightly linking business transformation with IT implementation to an extent never before seen. This demand is so vast that the demand for services is exceeding supply."

HP Consulting is focusing most of its efforts and expertise on delivering what the company is calling its "always-on infrastructure," meaning the planning, deployment and maintenance of backbone hardware, software and services, especially in the supply-chain, customer-relationship management and business-intelligence arenas.

In short, said Livermore, "We are positioning HP to be the leader in the next-generation Internet."

Additional reporting by Deborah Gage, Sm@rt Partner

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