Embracing the New Reality — The Six Five Insider’s Edition with HP’s Alex Cho

Alex Cho
HP

On this special episode of The Six Five Insider Edition, hosts Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman welcomed Alex Cho, President of Personal Systems Business for HP, to discuss business continuity in the age of COVID-19, how HP is supporting partners, customers and employees, why this is the right time to innovate, and how we are all pushing the future of work forward.

Partner and Customer Needs Come First

As the majority of Americans are now under shelter in place orders, businesses are faced with the task of ensuring business continuity. Companies need to keep employees connected, productive, learning, and secure from home — which is where HP comes in. HP has expanded their concierge support to 24/7 to ensure that customers can find the answers to their questions when they need to.

Also, in the last week, it’s clear that a hierarchy of needs has emerged. HP is working to educate partners, customers, and employees on what they need to do to keep businesses up and running, including:

  1. Get Connected. Employees need to be able to be connected from home. Every individual in the household has a device, so how do they all connect safely and securely to a network?
  2. Be Productive. Everyone is working in a different environment. Whether it’s a home office, shared living space, or a garage, there is a learning curve to be productive in this new space.
  3. Managing Meetings and Events. Everything is digital now. One-on-one meetings, team meetings, and corporate events are all virtual now, so what does that look like? How can companies make sure that these things happen as seamlessly as possible?

Now is the Time to Innovate

HP has stepped up in other ways in the last few weeks to help the fight against COVID-19. They are using their 3D print capabilities to produce medical supplies for hospitals across the country. They are working with schools to produce downloadable materials for students to continue their education.

In the name of security, they’re offering HP Sure Click Security Suite for the next few months to help companies protect their now mobile employees. Working from home opens up a host of vulnerabilities and HP Sure Click can help companies shore up those vulnerabilities.

Also, for clients that need the high-computing power, HP is offering their ZCentral solution that allows employees to access workstations remotely so they can continue to work without any performance hits.

Right now, HP employees have become “agents of insights” as Alex put it. They are also working from home, schooling from home, taking care of the home, so they see firsthand the problems that need to be solved. This has become a rallying cry for innovation.

HP has been driven to think about priorities and to simplify what’s most important. Can something be sent in an email or is it easier to hop on a chat stream? Can you still have huddle meetings or do emails work better? Alex pointed out that we are all learning this, HP included, but that this is the time to think of the new solutions that can make this work more effective and productive.

Taking Care of HP Employees

Alex noted that there’s been a huge shift for leadership in the last few weeks to figure out how to take care of HP employees. The health and safety of employees has always been the first priority for HP leadership. In this time of crisis, it’s even more important. Is everyone getting the support that they need? Employees look to leaders to be a pillar of strength in the face of chaos.

The second part of the equation goes back to the hierarchy of needs. Are employees connected? Do they have the equipment that they need to be productive? What is their new working environment like? How can the company support them to be more productive?

HP leaders continue to keep a dialogue open between employees because communication has never been more important. They’ve set up virtual water cooler meetings — 15 minutes, no agenda, bring the kids and hang out. The goal is to make sure no employee feels isolated.

Moving Forward in the Future of Work

This crisis has given everyone an unprecedented opportunity to learn about working remotely and operating events remotely. People are turning toward technology now more than ever and it’s energizing to see resources being used and businesses still being able to work effectively, regardless of location. Alex surmised that this will likely continue once business returns to normal.

Want to learn more about how HP is helping enable meaningful connections or what they’re doing to help companies help in the fight against COVID-19? Listen to the full podcast here, and while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to The Six Five Podcast so that you never miss an episode.

Transcript: 

Click here to listen to The Six Five Insider’s Edition with HP’s Alex Cho.

Transcript: 

Patrick Moorhead: Welcome to The Six Five Podcast Insider Edition, I’m Patrick Moorhead with Moor Insights and Strategy and I’m joined by my ever present, everywhere co-host Daniel Newman with Futurum Research. Just as a reminder, this is The Six Five Insider Edition and we interview executives from the most relevant and influential tech companies around the globe. Daniel, how the heck you doing?

Daniel Newman: Yeah this ever present thing, and this ever, whatever you keep referring to when you need to do, shows that the only thing I feel like now is ever present in my office. For those of you that are out there. It’s March 20 and if you’ve been listening to our Interview Series you know Pat and I did a whole Blitz talk to some of the most fascinating companies’ executives. We have another one coming up here. We won’t tell you who it is yet but you’ll hear if you’ve read the title you might know this actually, but it’s the middle of March, it’s 2020 and it is the most interesting times. We are in the middle of a global pandemic right now and interesting is the only word I can use. It’s a balance somewhere between terrifying and fascinating, because we’ve literally gone from Pat, you and I spend weeks on the road. We would have been at tech event after tech event. And we’re grounded, we are completely grounded right now. We are ever present in our office. We are pretty much all on stay at home orders, yourself down in Austin, myself in Chicago. Most of America has been put into this new position. Suddenly working from home, everything’s a little different and it happened so fast. We went from, you know, kinda like thinking small distraction, maybe change the course, a little bit of our year, maybe some canceled events. And now we’re seeing this thing could play out for four to six weeks, 12 weeks or even longer, but I won’t, I won’t pontiff on this too much longer. Those of you that have listened to a few shows maybe even heard me say this before, but for those of you, it caught this for the first time, wants you to know these are really interesting times. But what’s even better is, it’s been a great opportunity to get with some really interesting guests. Pat, I’ll let you do the honor of introducing this one.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, so Daniel, you talked about work from home, I think it is the new normal. There were some companies doing it, before some others, and if there’s one company who knows about work from home, it’s HP and it’s my pleasure to introduce Alex Cho from HP, President of Personal Systems, Alex. Welcome to the show.

Alex Cho: Thank you. Great to be here with you guys.

Patrick Moorhead: There we go. Yeah Daniel’s everywhere. So, everybody knows who he is and what his company does and a lot of people know who you are, Alex. You’ve been in the industry, a long, long time, but for those who don’t can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it means to be President of HP Personal Systems.

Alex Cho: Sure. So, yeah, it’s funny when you start counting the years. They do add up. I was telling some people recently because now I’m reminded at times of old, that the first interview I did from college was with HP. In fact, after about 30 minutes I was told that I wasn’t a good fit.

But afterwards I had a chance to interview for some other roles at HP and since then I’ve been here, multiple roles in this company, whether it’s in printing, our services our PC business in our region. Now I get to do probably the best job, the greatest job ever when I, when I get to do here I love it, it’s leaving this business which it’s all about designing and innovating for the way people live, work and play in the future we just did another feature come so quickly.

Daniel Newman: Oh yeah, absolutely. And by the way, what a great story, just to tell people you know how you didn’t get that first job. It was probably a very junior job and compared to where you are now and getting turned away, and if we weren’t going to talk about what we’re going to talk about we could talk about perseverance, as the theme of this show. You know, we’re going to talk a little bit more about what’s going on out there in the world we set this up here. You know, we’re in the middle of this really interesting time and HP is a very partner customer led organization. So we’re interested right now. What are your partners and customers really asking for, or from you from HP right now in the middle of this, in response to COVID-19.

Alex Cho: There’s a lot of dialogue, I’d say, you know, to the first question. We’re getting asked about a variety of things, I mean there are things around business continuity. We have a lot of customers who are saying, and they have their employees who need to be sheltered in place and working from home so how do we ensure that they have continuity? We have other customers and partners who are addressing the fact that millions of students are no longer attending schools in person and need to continue digitally. My kids aren’t doing so. So, how do we ensure that they’re able to do that? We’re getting questions around how do we make sure these devices which we use. And increasingly, how do we make sure that they’re cleaning, how do we make sure we sanitize them without damaging them? And then probably the area that is most in the spirit and energy of what we’ve been working on. But again, we didn’t know we’d get such a fast forward of that and that is how do you keep people connected, productive, learning and secure and do that from home. How do you do that in a way that is relevant for all the diversity of needs out there, and we have a lot of discussions with our customers and partners in our own employees as well, and how to keep them productive and learning and productive in the home.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. With that said, you are doing a ton for them and, and I saw a lot of the resources that that you put on your on your website because you really are on the front lines on this I mean, one day, right you have a, you have a customer that, you know, let’s say, 10% of their workforce is on laptops and the other 90% is on desktops and now they have to roll 60,000 of their employees to work for home that that is just an incredible task and, you know, from my point of view, I consider HP vital to that and hopefully your customer service folks are able to keep working on behalf of your customers.

Alex Cho: Yeah. In fact, we do use occasion to, to be even more expansive and how we support our customers, whether it might be expanding to ensure that we have 24 by seven concierge support for key questions that our customers have. We’ve decided to extend warranties that are ending during the next couple of months further. And what’s interesting is that there’s almost a hierarchy of needs that we’re finding now first is, can I just connect and do some compute in the home, whether it’s for work or for school etc. A basic level, no longer is it useful just to have one device in the home you need one device for every person. So, how do you make sure they get there and we get a lot of questions and ask for support there. But just getting connected is part one, then how do you make sure you’re productive? How does it work in the house? Yeah, and you’ve heard me talk before Patrick about, you know, the office of the future and huddle spaces and large rooms and small rooms. Well, now we’ve had a crash course in houses, meaning, our people in their dedicated home office. Are they in the living room a shared space, are they using a bedroom, are they using the garage, and how do you deal with the different dynamics there so how are you being productive there. And there’s even a third layer that we’re talking to our customers about and that is how do you manage the different types of things that you do? A good example is one on one meetings, group meetings, staff meetings, events, we actually decided three days before we had a large worldwide event to cancel travel and to switch it from physical to virtual. We did it in a short period of time, and there was a lot of learnings and so we’re packaging those learnings and making them available to our customers and partners. So really this is a time of tremendous dialogue, learning, sharing and thinking about how do we make it work for ourselves and for our customers and partners.

Daniel Newman: That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment Alex, to be able to, you know, do a full cancellation in three days take a worldwide event for a company, your size and take it live. I witnessed this a little bit after Mobile World got canceled because after Mobile World canceled orders every company tried to do something to mobilize and keep the events going. And then for the first few a first wave of events canceled. A lot of those companies also tried to immediately move them to digital as it grew from sort of a growing concern to a worldwide pandemic. We’ve seen a growth in compassion and empathy and basically a desire for companies to not go. You know, to be sensitive to the current market state and not be busy selling products and services. So we’ve seen entire events either shifted to purely discussing what’s going on, or just postpone, but it sounds like you guys have been doing that and balancing that but I want to kind of elaborate a little bit on what you were saying because you were talking you started to kind of dive into this, but really specifically companies right now are talking about what they’re providing what they’re, especially big tech companies that have lots of resources. They’re really talking about how they can help. So, what’s HP doing? How is HP engaging and helping companies during public companies and people during a time like this?

Alex Cho: Yeah, and I will say that your first point is very much case, there is an interesting dynamic that we really feel like we’re all in this together. And I actually think there is a there is a great normalizing in community that that builds, even though this is a time of, you know for many people very challenging circumstance. And you know that being the backdrop, or there are several things that we’re doing as a company, but also just as an employer to our employees as a company. As I mentioned, we’re doing some things that are formalized like extending warranties, making our support available 24 by seven for any questions. We’re using our technologies; good example is we’re taking our 3D printing teams capability. And we’ve actually accelerated the process of validating and producing essential parts for medical responders in hospitals, and really working across industries to make that available to help accelerate use of existing 3D printers to enable them. We’re doing a lot around education, and an education is an area that we have a particular passion for. How do you make a free downloadable packets, for parents, for their children, for learning. We just announced earlier this week, and we will take our security. HP Sure Click security suite and make them available for the next few months because, because the reality is a mobile workforce is more vulnerable and mobile includes working from home. And so that’s another example we’ve also decided to make available our Zcentral solution. That’s really for high performance computing, if you think you might be able to take a laptop home, much more difficult taking a large workstation. We’re able to using our latest technology, enable workers to access that workstation, that stays in the office, without any of the performance hits and stay productive on high computing power so many things. Formal targeting targeted products, support and of course, we’re just participating in what other companies are doing and we are helping to support any type of activities related to getting masks out specific needs areas where donations of resources are valuable. So, it is a holistic activity as it is for all of the industry, which is again why I think it’s, it’s very much of a normalizing and community event that the world is going through.

Patrick Moorhead: Wow. That’s impressive. And by the way, HP is doing this as they’re working from home, and as generally speaking, the PC market is on fire. I mean, everybody needs the extra 50 or 60,000 PCs at a clip that they didn’t plan for so I’m sure people are busy 24 by seven, working with supply chain to make that happen. Those are great stories and I read about the 3D printing of specific parts, I can’t think of a more amazing use case for this and I saw some folks, creating an open source ventilator and the innovation at this time is just, it’s incredible and, you know, during this crazy time of execution. It must seem really hard. Time to innovate and do things differently. How on earth are you continuing to drive innovation. During this nutty short term period.

Alex Cho: And we all hope that it is short term. Oh, you know, I’d say that you’ve heard from us, you’ve heard me talk about being very passionate about insights innovation, and that has been a journey for us as a company to be increasingly focused on our customers and their experiences and using that as the backdrop for innovation. I’d say what’s changed is suddenly all of us, the entire workforce of HP has become agents of insights as well, because we’re in our homes were the ones who are now not in our office were the ones who have children who are, you know, away from school and needing to stay at home and so people are triple happening. They are working from home, they are schooling from home, they’re trying to take care of the home. And that is just making it, I guess, almost in a, in an environment where we’re getting millions of ideas seemingly of what problems can we solve. It’s really a rallying cry for innovation, and we have new ideas coming in every day. The other thing I would say is, this has really driven us to really think about our priorities and simplify what I have been amazed that his email just seems to grow. I don’t know why the same amount of work, might suddenly generate more email but somehow being at home. People seem to be sending more email and so it’s really forced us to think about how do we simplify what’s most important. And I think that’s a good thing to be going regular to be regularly reviewing what are the things that are most important in prioritizing.

Daniel Newman: You do it 10 years ago I was I just want you to keep going I want to catch up as I saw some really funny means that right when this whole kind of shut down it was that kind of guy out with a sign and these, there’s a lot of these ones that basically told you that you know told you that meeting could have been an email, you know, and basically the world’s now finding out all the meetings that actually could have just been an email, and we’re sort of being forced to, you know, you say there’s more email. Well, part of it I’m guessing is just the fact that in a real work culture, you’ll people walk down the hall, they set up little huddle down you know like hey, you know, they jump on Skype or Lync or whatever their chat platform is teams, and they say hey let’s meet down in the huddle room, and now that all has been forced to become communicated in either a chat or in a full email to make sure that there’s tracking for all the things that used to get done locally.

Alex Cho: Yeah, you know, I was sharing to several of the tree community, my first week experiences working from home. You know, it’s not that I don’t work from home, as a supplement to work in the office but this is really the first week that over this past week was the first week that I had to work from home. And there are a lot of things that I had not anticipated in things I didn’t expect. And one of one of them is, I’m pretty productive in the office. When I film at home I have to find new ways to keep efficient, and I think you’re right, bumping into people, quick chat on solving things without having to make it on keyboard in email that that is an area that I’m personally learning how to become more efficient on a lot of other things, and I sent out a top 10 things that I didn’t expect, and I had more email responses, of course, a generated email, or email responses I have in a long time.

Daniel Newman: But it’s funny because, like for patent this is what we do, we’re their road warriors. We work at home, so it’s so normal for us, but for so many people it’s not. It’s not something that they did every day and it’s not something to take for granted. You know we talked about when I went to business school. You know we talked about like management by walking around, which was a kind of a something I remember laughing about when we learned about it but it was a thing. It’s a thing and you know when I ran a couple of different companies, before I went out on my own. That was kind of like half my time was walking around the cubes in the offices and just talking to people in my business about what was going on and there was a lot of engagement that that created, and that’s suddenly gone, and for people they’re really used to that. And they’re really used to that engagement and, you know, the water cooler is a joke but the water cooler is also sometimes where innovation and spark is sometimes where relationships and trust is built. And now we need to find new ways to break through those barriers and create trust through digital channels and technology, which kind of leads me nicely into what I wanted to ask you about next. I don’t always do this I’m not always able to like riff straight into the next topic but every so often Alex, Daniel Hmm. So we’ve talked a lot about what you’re doing outside of the company. But HP is a large company, lots of employees, contractors, people that did come to work every day those people we just talked about. What is HP doing how are you kind of handling this within your own organization to really deal with this change and make sure that the company is fluid and resilient and the continuity is there.

Alex Cho: Yeah, you know, this is um, I’d say in general this is really a time for leadership and I, I use a word like that, and then maybe I can fill out a little bit more and one is to make sure we’ve got. First things first, and prioritize the, the health and wellness of our employees, and so that’s really job one, and really for our employees and partners and customers. And that’s been an important part of meat, we have a literally daily meeting among the executive staff to make sure we are getting input about what’s happening with our employees or identifying needs or putting into place, quick actions or midterm so on. Secondly, we have a lot to do ourselves, around, ensuring that our employees who are working from home are equipped, you know, just because we are a PC printing company doesn’t mean everyone has the equipment to be immediately effective at home. So enabling them to be productive, including connectivity in some parts of the world connectivity is more challenge so ensuring that we have that. I’d say. Thirdly, an important point again it’s not just that it connected. But how do they stay productive. And so all this best practices and tips and tricks, whether it’s in meetings or in doing all employee meetings or even events. We are rapidly codifying them we’ve already had many of them we’re putting them together and we’re sharing them with our employees so that they can be more effective. And then the other point what I think is again in the hierarchy of needs. Maybe a few steps away from basic needs, but really important and I’d say in week two, we’re spending week two because here in the area this is week two of shelter in place. And that we’re spending a lot of time to is how do we ensure that our employees are also getting sufficient amount of support, because they’re living and working in the same place. How do we make sure we’re addressing if there’s a risk of people feeling disconnected or isolated? How do we make sure there’s dialogue? How do we create watercooler time? So we’ve done some virtual water coolers where we set up 15 minutes, no agenda, you just hang out.Ssome people are great with creative things they’ve done, tea time, wine time. I’ve done video game time. Bring in your kids and share them. And that’s been really important because we’re really committed to the practical needs but the reality is that, you know, we’re more than just a working entity. We’re part of a much broader set of set of things that we do like life. And so we’ve been engaging across all those areas in trying to support our employees.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s great. That’s great stuff and I’ll tell you what I got a great dose of how you interact and communicate with your team. When you graciously hosted me for your webcast or your quarterly. All Hands employee presentation and I really do admire the time that you’re taking on employees to talk about them I tell you when I was in when I was in fortune 500 tech, none of the companies that I work for, were like that but it’s nice to see that there is a kind of a kinder gentler environment out there so you know we are going to be out of this mess. And you know, preferably short term versus mid-term, who knows. But at some point we will be out of here but I think we can all agree that the world has changed in relation to many things, including the future of work are our, are you learning or is this episode teaching you anything about what the future of work looks like and how agile we all need to be in situations like this.

Alex Cho: This is probably one of the greatest. The really ambition than we’ve had for several years, we’ve read called it the Office of the future is again no mentioned earlier. Who would have thought that suddenly we would get a massive all employee, you know worldwide opportunity to learn about work, and as well learning, life as more remote. We do think that this is short term, but we also think that this is going to be a catalyst for more ongoing changes. Yeah, we’re learning a lot. One of the things that’s been really valuable though is we’ve realized that it’s not an either or meaning. It’s not about all digital, or no digital or all face to face, or you know all virtual realities. How do you optimize both, how do you make them not a substitute or supplement and how do you use them together and in fact, you know, what we’re using internally our languages, is that technology should help people stay productive connected learning in securely? And I have to tell you, I mean, on the one side the transition is hard this is tough times and, including for me you know transitioning to being at home all day long is a big transition. But we’re also energized, because we realize this thing that we’re doing about creating technology, it has purpose. It has value in. And, you know, we spend so much time on this thing called work we’re doing something that’s going to have impact that we can tangibly see today and for the future. That that is energizing but we do think people will travel less when they can be digital, but they will save budget so that when they have to travel, no problem. They’ll travel will see that it’s possible for people to not lose time and more immediately gain access to other people get the benefit of their resources conference them in, and quickly resolve things so that, you know, for us, like the world and distance doesn’t have to slow things down like walls and distance does not have to slow things down in factor technology they can break down those walls, we think those kind of catalysts are just real breakthroughs that this is an occasion to do more of, and then learning the idea that we should and we can always learn whether we are in K through 12 or higher ed, or, you know, in the workplace. How do you enable meaningful learning and connection? Wow. That’s good. That’s a great opportunity for us so we do think, while Kobe will end the, this is a, the beginning of really leveraging technology for better connections and productivity and learning. And so we’re very energized by that.

Daniel Newman: I think that’s a great point. I think we’re going to see remote education pickup. We’ve said for a long time the classroom needed to be flipped and we’ve seen little examples but it hasn’t been done at scale. There’s a lot of sort of pundits out there that kind of talk about how the classroom and 50 years still is really the same at a smartboard or a projector just hadn’t changed that much. And this is forcing the entire academia to say, all right, if we really want to go remote. And we lose the privilege of live classroom studies, how do we deliver for companies across the board, just so many conversations patent I’ve been having the ability to truly put your workforce remote not – hey here’s a laptop and you know you can VPN in occasionally and do most of your work if you take a flex day, but to really be able to say, do all your work from anywhere, which is going to put pressure on everything from companies like yours to develop the products to support that to the cloud companies to the data center technologies to really enable applications and security and privacy and all these things to be achievable from anywhere and everywhere you are so you bring up a great point. I think the world of return, though, Alex I think you’d agree. I think we’re very social. I think we’d like to get face to face, but I think to your point, we can now be. We now really have a true view of the world of what can be done when you cannot go face to face, and just how productive we can be. And I think that I have to go fly across the country to have that one-hour meeting. I think a lot of companies are going to be looking at that go now, we’ve seen over the last three months you could be very productive, without leaving the office, and we can get a lot more done in a lot less time so that’s a great point. Although I am excited to have that choice again.

Alex Cho: Yeah, yeah choices nice choices nice, and maybe

Patrick Moorhead: A great thing to end on. You know I love, love this quote and I’m just mad I didn’t think of it first, Alex, about the future of work. This isn’t the future anymore this is now. This is the new normal. I love that Alex I just want to thank you so much for coming on The Six Five Insider show. We’ve really appreciated your insights and your passion and commitment comes through. I just love that about you and the new, and the new HP. So for Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead, thanks for joining us. If you liked what you saw what you heard press that subscribe button and also check out the resources at the end, which gives a little bit deeper insight into what Alex was talking about. Thanks everybody.

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