HP President Talks of Lessons Learned

HP President Michael Capellas, formerly chariman of Compaq, reflects on how his varied IT background has prepared him to lead HP.

LOS ANGELES—Michael Capellas, ex-chairman of Compaq Computer Corp. who became president of Hewlett-Packard Co. after his company was bought out in May, on Wednesday asserted his credentials and sought to win over concerned customers in his first appearance at HP World.

Using a panel-discussion format rather than giving his scheduled keynote address, Capellas nonetheless became the center of attention as he answered guest panelists questions about his job skills and what hes been doing in his first few months as HPs chief operating officer.

Recalling various IT positions he has held, including stints as chief information officer for two companies, Capellas said he has gained a better perspective on what customers want and need, and that this enables him to more closely work with corporate clients IT departments.

"Ive been extremely fortunate to be at the right place at the right time for most … of the major technology shifts," he said.

Having seen how technology is developed as well as the challenges customers face in deploying it, Capellas said has given him a broader perspective that will ultimately benefit both HP as well as its customers.

Perhaps his most important skill set, he said, is "to know what is possible, and what is practical."

"Youve got to know both," Capellas said. "Youve got to set your R&D to do what is possible, youve got to deliver what is practical."

Capellas panel featured only two other executives, Mattel Inc. CIO Joe Eckroth, and Starbucks CIO Brian Crynes, both of whom, it was noted, have only been serving at those companies less than two years.

At one point, an executive asked Capellas what he had been doing since taking on his HP leadership role in May. Overall, Capellas said, he was traveling to meet with many of the companys 140,000 employees at facilities around the world, as well as meeting with HPs largest corporate customers to assure their needs are being met.

But the executive admitted that hes spent much of his time seeking to reassure HP employees and customers during the turbulent last few months that have seen stock markets plummet worldwide and U.S. corporate leaders tainted by several high-profile scandals.

"Its not only the merger, but the merger in unprecedented times from a macroeconomic point of view," Capellas said. "People dont know where the economy is going, whether you live inside the U.S. or outside the U.S. This whole accounting issue, and the credibility of leadership and the credibility of institutions."

With so many disconcerting issues occurring simultaneously, he said, he and HP Chairman Carly Fiorina are making an "enormous" effort to reach out to workers and customers.

In summary, Capellas said his priorities in first few months of leading the "new HP has been, "communications, communications, communications."

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