For data warehousing professionals, the word "legacy" has acquired some negative connotations, especially when connected with "applications." Words such as "old," "antiquated," "outdated," "stodgy" and "cave-like" are often associated with "legacy." It may be difficult to disregard those thoughts and center on the dictionary definition of the word "legacy"--"something received from a predecessor." However, that's what Valerie Taglio, solutions marketing manager for Hewlett-Packard's High Performance Systems Division, suggests in order to truly understand Hewlett-Packard, its mission, its products, its customers and its position in the industry.
Taglio joined Hewlett- Packard after spending almost eight years in the consulting field, where she worked with large manufacturing and industrial companies. Taglio explains, "I enjoyed consulting very much, especially delving into customers' problems, determining the challenges they faced and then helping them develop solutions to those problems. But with consulting, you're only involved up until the recommendation. You're not involved in the implementation. So that's ultimately what drove me to where I am today--the desire to also be involved with the implementation of the solution."
Through her consulting work, Taglio became acutely aware of the key role technology, particularly computers, had in a company's ability to be competitive. Having spent more than half of her life in California, Taglio was also aware of the products and outstanding reputation of Hewlett- Packard--the legacy of William Hewlett and David Packard. According to Taglio, "They built a company based on very strong personal as well as business values. The fact that this culture continues to be so strong in a company of this size is a testament to their legacy. They built the company on the simple premise that if you provide quality products that help solve customer needs and you treat your employees well, both customers and employees will return that loyalty. I had a lot of respect for the company and that's why I looked for an opportunity at Hewlett-Packard." As she expected, she has learned that the values of Hewlett and Packard still prevail as the core of the company's ideology.
Taglio's beginning with Hewlett-Packard coincided with the beginning of the HP 9000 business at Hewlett-Packard. Taglio says, "When I started at HP, the idea of UNIX servers for the commercial market was pretty much unheard of. The first thing I did was to launch a customer visit program, specifically targeting the customers with multi-user UNIX systems. We took some of our key lab engineers and product managers, and we went out and talked to customers to find out what their needs were, what was interesting to them about these systems and about UNIX in the commercial space. We spent a couple of months on this program, and we designed the business plan based on that initial customer set. Obviously the plan evolved over time as the customer base expanded. But we built it very much with the customer in mind and have continued to do that."
Taglio moved from the planning side to the channels area as they identified that one of the keys to success for the HP 9000 was going to be centered around applications. She explains, "We saw an opportunity in two areas--one was companies that were developing UNIX applications from scratch, and the second was being able to provide solutions that ran on the mainframe but in an open systems environment. We developed a very specific plan to target those companies and help them to move into an open systems environment on the HP 9000."
In what she explains as a "logical segue," Taglio moved to the channels area where she managed the distributor and the reseller program for a few years. Taglio then left HP for about two years. "I did regret leaving, but I have never regretted coming back to HP, and I've been back now for close to three years," recounts Taglio. "The reason I came back is that I missed the customer focus at HP. I missed the legacy of the customer, the quality of the organization and the emphasis on the long term."
According to Taglio, there are two facets of Hewlett-Packard's company focus which she feels are responsible for their success. "The first is the HP emphasis on quality--the quality of the people at HP and the dedication that they feel to the business and the customers. From my experience, that is unique. I think the quality of the management and the way people are empowered at many levels in the organization to make the right decisions for their business demonstrates that HP is really built on trust." She continues, "The second is the HP way of treating customers almost like a partner. An HP customer is not somebody who is simply buying our services or our product. An HP customer is someone that we're partnering with for the long term from a technology perspective to help solve business problems. In fact, we like our customers to think of us as a 'trusted advisor,' particularly now more than ever. There is so much information out there as to what customers could buy, should buy, who is making it and what's best. It can be terribly confusing. Many of our customers come to us for direction, and they trust that if HP says something, then it's something they can count on."
Managing the database partner organization at HP was Taglio's next assignment. "What really attracted me to that position in particular was its impact on the business, because our database partners have such a significant impact on our business and our ability to deliver solutions to our customers. There's not a server that goes out the door that doesn't have a database associated with it. Therefore, the quality of those partnerships and our ability to jointly deliver solutions with those companies has always been very critical to our business."
Taglio's current responsibilities are the result of a recent reorganization. HP's Enterprise Systems Division was split into two divisions: the High Performance Systems Division, which is focused on data warehousing or decision support and mission-critical solutions; and the Internet and Applications Systems Division, which is focused on Internet servers and application servers--primarily ERP. Explaining the advantages of this new structure, Taglio says, "Since the market is obviously moving at a very fast pace, we needed to be able to do the same. Two very focused organizations have been created that can be nimble, responsive and can target specific solutions areas to build product, solutions and develop the channels that are all optimized for those particular spaces." Within the High Performance Systems Division, the solutions team, focused on data warehousing and mission-critical solutions, was combined with the partner team, focused on database and data warehouse partners and systems management partners.
Looking back at HP history and the legacy of the founders, Taglio relates, "When HP entered the commercial multi-user UNIX space, we looked around the industry to see if there was anyone else that we'd be competing with. There was really no competition at that time in that space. It allowed us to be very customer driven. Most companies are, I think, customer driven, but they're also somewhat competitor driven as well. It was a great time, and we were very close to our customers, and that's a legacy that we've continued. We've been able to maintain what I call a 'start-up spirit' that keeps us close to our customers."
Taglio continues, "Because of that beginning, today we're still the number one UNIX server company in the market. We're very proud of the fact that not only do we feel we started there, but we've been able to build and keep that position. There are a lot of marketing books written about how to get to number one, but there are a lot fewer written about how to stay there. It's a challenging position, but it's one that we welcome."
Developing solutions that address the changing needs of their customers enables Hewlett-Packard to maintain their market leadership. "I think one of the challenges in a market that continues to be very dynamic is to make changes in the business that you need to in order to continue to be flexible and responsive to customers. One of the nice things about this organization," says Taglio, "is that we're always trying to be forward-thinking and trying to determine how we can adapt. Through HP labs, we are able to stay at the forefront of technology, enabling us to deliver technology in such a way that it brings true value to our customers."
Looking to Hewlett-Packard's future, Taglio explains the Enterprise Systems Group focus. "For our UNIX systems business, the focus will be very much on extending the high end around the Intel 64-bit architecture with continued advances in performance/scalability. It will be adding value to our systems in such a way that we're able to deliver the best solution to our customers." She adds, "As it relates to data warehouses, our focus will be performance, high availability and manageability as part of our continuing effort to help customers effectively manage all aspects of the warehouse."
Working every day in the shadow of the legacy of William Hewlett and David Packard, Taglio describes her hobby as her work. However, with her husband Steve she is developing a personal legacy for their son Gus. "My husband, who works in the high-tech industry, is also cattle rancher in partnership with his father. On weekends, we often go up to the ranch, north of Sacramento." Gus recently had the chance to ride on the tractor with his grandpa, and Taglio says, "For a toddler, that's just about as good as it gets!"
The importance of a legacy of quality, originally promulgated at Hewlett-Packard by the founders and now by all members of the organization, is a lesson Taglio has taken to heart--both in the workplace and at home.
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