When Hewlett-Packard Co. president and CEO Meg Whitman addressed channel partners at the vendor’s global partner conference in February, she delivered a “we’re rebuilding, stay the course” message short on new information. She did drop one new nugget though – while she’s in no hurry to leave, she would like HP’s next successor to come from within the company’s executive ranks.
It seems obvious Whitman is determined to give the board several strong internal candidates to choose from when the time comes. And one of them, Todd Bradley, got a boost to his fortunes Tuesday by taking on a new role with the company.
He’s held senior roles under past presidents Mark Hurd and Léo Apotheker as well as Whitman, and lasted through several prunings of the executive ranks. When Whitman merged HP’s PC and printing and imaging groups into one, one of the business leads had to go, and Bradley ended up running the new business group, printing and personal systems.
He’s probably getting out of the PC business while the getting is good – HP is still on top, but it’s under pressure from Lenovo and other rivals for market share with margins being squeezed ever thinner. His new role will give him a broader mandate – looking for startups to partner with, growing business in China, and building stronger ties with HP’s channel partners.
The last part of his position is interesting. In its last reorganization, HP eschewed the overall channel chief role, instead vesting responsibility for channel go to market within each of the business groups. It’s unclear if this will change and Bradley will take on a global channel chief role, or if his role will be more focused on strategic development – HP isn’t saying at this point.
Either way, while channel influence was previously diluted within the business units, with Bradley now holding direct channel responsibility partners again have an advocate at HP’s executive table, which can only be good for the channel. And for HP, given how important business partners are to the company’s bottom line.
It also helps better position Bradley to succeed Whitman down the road. His primary competition is likely former Microsoft executive Bill Veghte, who also has a strategic role as COO. Enterprise group boss Dave Donatelli (late of EMC) would also have to be on the list, with software boss George Kadifa as a darkhorse, if the board decides to re-embrace a software-first strategy, as it did with Apotheker.