Sometimes it’s too easy to pick on Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, particularly when it comes to enterprise applications. The two companies seem destined to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and so it was with their latest joint announcement.
Microsoft, HP in Big Business Hookup, the headline screamed, highlighting a new joint services offering for “big business” from the two technology giants. Of course, being the picky little enterprise software bigot that I am, I immediately assumed that HP was signing up to bring, among other things, Microsoft Dynamics ERP software to the market. After all, as HP loves to boast on its website, half of all SAP implementations run on HP hardware. Wouldn’t it be cool – as in remunerative, strategic, competitive – to get some of that HP hardware running some of Microsoft’s ERP software?
Cool it would be, but no such luck. I eagerly went to the services pages on the HP website and looked around for some more info on what could be a dream team partnership. Finally, I resorted to their search function, and came up with the following response: No search results were found that match “Microsoft Dynamics” in HP Services.
And that about sums it up: two tech giants, one common market, one joint press release, and no apparent “match” about one of the more potentially interesting synergies in the market.
To be fair, there were 37 search results from other places in the HP website, and, not a few of them made it obvious that HP already does business with the Dynamics side of the Microsoft product family. Just not for the purposes of this one press release, apparently.
This is of course an old story for anyone who has covered HP, and Microsoft as well. Internal synergy has never really been part of the HP Way, at least when it comes to software, particularly enterprise software. They’ve done a decent job of partnering with the likes of Microsoft and SAP. But HP seems destined to do a lousy job of leveraging its position as a leader in delivering enterprise software platforms in order to better compete with arch-enemy IBM, which leverages enterprise software day in and day out, often to the chagrin of its big enterprise software partners.
But chagrined partners be damned, this is the technology business, and missed opportunities aren’t like a mid-term exam you can make up when you’re feeling better. IBM has more than once gotten the drop on HP in the software and services world, and, as far as I can tell, HP refuses to learn anything from these lessons. So here we are with an interesting opportunity vis-à-vis Microsoft, and here comes the two partners fumbling the ball all over the field.
Of course, Microsoft can fumble all it wants – it practically owns the damn playing field. But for HP, with its overly publicized struggles to sort out a place in a technology firmament that doesn’t seem to jive with its current strategy, the fumble looks like a serious flaw.
Why isn’t HP all over Microsoft Dynamics, particularly in combination with Vista, Sharepoint, and every other piece of new Microsoft technology that need lots of the hardware and services that HP needs to sell to its customers? Why, when it’s obvious that Dynamics is becoming more and more complex, and therefore in need of solutions partners that understand how to deliver complexity, is HP missing in action?
Just to make sure the missing in action claim is supported by reality, of the 37 hits that Microsoft Dynamics does get on the HP website, virtually all of them end up pointing to the same five Dynamics product briefs. There’s a couple of user stories. And a couple of technical notes. Both of which point out how strong the synergy can be between these two partners. One user implementation showed it almost too well: Take a few ProLiant servers, add some Proliant software and some HP systems software, stir in Microsoft’s Dynamics AX, Sharepoint, and SQL Server, and – voila – one happy mid-market customer.
It can’t be that hard to look strategic when you’re already doing so, can it? This is one more way in which the HP Way is sorely in need of a little change. For the better.
In addition to writing a column for Jupiterweb’s Datamation.com, where this column appeared, Joshua Greenbaum is a principal with Enterprise Applications Consulting, a technology and marketing consultancy in Berkeley, Calif.