John Dathan, General Manager of HPE Canada, plays a key role in one of America’s best known IT companies.
When IT giant Hewlett Packard split into two separate entities in 2015, it signaled a new era for one of America’s leading tech firms.
Following the break-up, HP Inc. retained the printing and PC business divisions, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (HPE) retained the technology solutions divisions of the company.
The split fueled much talk of layoffs, efficiency, flexibility, and profit margins, yet evidence shows that the changes have improved margins for both companies even as the two entities come to grips with an ambitious restructuring.
For John Dathan, General Manager of HPE Canada, it is a challenge he is eagerly embracing. “The challenge was that the structure we had in place was the same we had when we were a much larger organization,” he says. “HPE is such a different company than it was two-and-a-half years ago. Before we were a $114 billion company with about 300,000 employees. Today, HPE is a very focused company with around $29 billion of revenue and around 66,000 employees.”
Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, HPE is today an enterprise-focused organization with three core business segments: hybrid IT, which includes compute, storage, data-center networking, and HPE Pointnext, a services organization; Intelligent Edge, which includes Aruba networking and industrial IoT solutions; and Financial Services, which provides flexible investment solutions, such as leasing, financing, IT consumption, and utility programs and asset management services for customers. As part of the restructuring process, known as HPE Next, theater and country leaders were eliminated with Charlie Atkinson, President and Managing Director for HPE Canada, stepping down, and Dathan taking over as General Manager in October.
“I start my day at 4:45 and I literally jump out of bed,” Dathan said regarding his enthusiasm for the position. “I joined the company a little over four years ago to lead Networking, and then added Storage before going into hybrid IT and our Compute platforms. I was able to learn many aspects of the business because coming in I had been purely a Networking person for almost 20 years.”
Taking advantage of market needs
For Dathan, the evolution from cloud technology to hybrid IT among customers has been a key factor in shaping the current market strategy of HPE. He views a trend whereby customers are moving from a cloud-first strategy to looking in depth at where cloud makes sense and where hybrid IT solutions are more applicable.
According to Dathan, HPE is in a unique position precisely because it has geared its strategy towards both hybrid IT and the Intelligent Edge—the latter a term invented by HPE to describe everything outside of the data center, which is a frontier where great innovations are taking place in areas from manufacturing to education.
“I think we all know there’s a place for cloud but I think there’s a greater recognition which says, depending on the workload, depending on the security requirements, depending on latency, we’re going to shift our thinking to really look at what the right mix is, where it should be,” he said. “I see that as a tremendous opportunity for HPE.”
“If you drill down from the strategy and you start to look at our portfolio, we believe it’s absolutely the strongest it’s ever been,” Dathan added. “The eight acquisitions we’ve made over the past twelve months have filled in some of the gaps and we continue to look for any areas that can help us. I think our financial strength is allowing us to do that, whether it’s investing internally in R&D or making strategic acquisitions. We’re in a position to really have the flexibility to do that.”
A newfound confidence
A swift and sound restructuring of HPE following its creation has been a key ingredient in this strategic and financial confidence. Last year, the company announced a program called HPE Next, a new, streamlined operating model designed to simplify operations, strengthen execution, and shift the company’s investments in innovation towards high growth and higher margin solutions and services.
“The HPE Next initiative was launched to really look at how we could become that more agile, nimble company from a profits perspective,” Dathan explained.
“Do we have the right organizational structure to be built for purpose, to be able to deliver on our strategy? How are we delivering on from the initial conversation to come up with a potential configuration that would solve a customer problem, to how we get that quoted, and once its quoted, looking at how we ultimately get it delivered, installed, and supported.”
Dathan sees future growth for HPE Canada and the company more broadly as coming from a combination of organic growth, a reinvention of strategic partnerships, and by taking advantage of the aforementioned evolution in IT services. “As a company, we want to and we expect to grow faster than the market, which means we’ll be taking share from our competitors,” he said. “The second way we want to grow is by really looking at our partnerships beyond the traditional go-to market model to more of a route-to-market.”
Dathan splits the partnerships that enable HPE to maintain its enviable market position into two categories. The first are their ecosystem partners which include the likes of Microsoft, SAP, and Docker.
The second are their more traditional go-to-market partners.
In April, the executives of their eighteen platinum partners gathered in Toronto with HPE executives to discuss the company’s strategy and gather feedback as part of the launch of a new partner advisory program.
“It’s no longer about delivering infrastructure and somebody else putting software on top it and somebody else making it sing and dance,” Dathan explained, pointing to how HPE Canada is working closely with Microsoft to take Azure Stack—a hybrid cloud initiative—to the Canadian market- place.
“It’s really about bringing it together so it’s delivered as an outcome and ideally, we’re wrap- ping that with some financial offerings so that the customer is actually paying for it as a service and not as a large capital outlay.”
According to Dathan, HPE brings other suppliers into its catalogue through an initiative called HPE Complete, which enables the company to offer even broader solutions to its customers.
“As far as HPE Complete, an example would be how we work with Veeam, how we work with Cohesity, how we work with Scality,” he explained. “That way, as we go to market for a storage solution or other service, both our partners and ourselves are able to offer it as a holistic solution. Without those external alliances, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Dathan believes that between developments such as hybrid IT and the Intelligent Edge, the world is in the midst of an explosive digital transformation that HPE is just beginning to tap the surface of.
“I think the people that are going to be successful are the people that build a practice that’s a repeatable exercise for their customers,” he said. “That’s seen in the strategy we have. It’s seen in the portfolio we have. But I’m also a big believer that it’s the culture we have.
“We can talk about partnership, innovation and action, but what I love and see every day is the way our employees actually do that. I’m a huge believer that how you do business is as important as how much business you do.”