HP/COMPAQ - Local HP staff fate clearer on Monday

New Zealand's 600 or so staff at the "new" Hewlett-Packard should have a better idea of their fates next week. But bosses at the newly-merged entity decline to say how many jobs will go.

New Zealand’s 600 or so staff at the “new” Hewlett-Packard should have a better idea of their fates next week. But bosses at the newly-merged entity decline to say how many jobs will go.

Staff at both companies met around 8am yesterday to hear of approval of the merger between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, just five hours after it gained legal clearance in the US.

The merger, announced last year, had been held up by legal challenges from former HP board member Walter Hewlett. Those claims were dismissed in court last week.

Just three of the new HP New Zealand’s top staffers have been announced to date: chief executive (and former Compaq country manager) Russell Hewitt; general manager of the personal systems and imaging and printing groups (and ex-HP country manager) Barry Hastings; and head of services (and former Compaq director of business support) Simon Tong.

The trio detailed what they said they could before journalists at Auckland’s Heritage Hotel, a stone's throw from the offices of major rival IBM.

Hewitt said the new merger would “learn lessons” from the previous ones involving HP and CSC and Compaq and Digital. Among them was integrating the two companies as quickly as possible, a process he hoped would take place within “weeks”.

“Speed and execution is crucial,” he says, to maintain the confidence of staff, resellers and customers.

Hewitt says the process of integrating employees from both companies will be led by HR manager Bridget O’Shannessy, yet another ex-Compaq leader.

HP spokeswoman Joanna Burgess says the HR process is currently being “signed off” with its legal teams to ensure it complies with New Zealand employment law.

When the merger was announced last July, HP had targeted 15,000 redundancies, or 10% of the total. Hewitt says he aims to keep on as many staff as possible, being of the belief that the New Zealand market has few areas where the companies fight over the same turf.

“Inevitably, there will be areas where we overlap, but there are many business area that we complement each other. We haven’t worked out how to [restructure],” he says. Hewitt says basic information is already in place for staff, such as questions and answers on the company intranet and “come Monday”, timelines and the selection process should be in place.

“Road maps” had been given to the New Zealand operations, but it has a large degree of flexibility within that, he says.

At present, says former HP leader Barry Hastings, both companies are running in parallel.

Services chief Simon Tong says account managers were already out in the field working for the new company. Customers would have a say on who their account managers would be, depending on which “heritage” company they felt served them best.

Both Compaq and HP had similar cultures and strategies, he says, so there is “not a lot of gnashing of teeth over the direction the business should take”.

“We will not drop the ball with customers. The focus is on a shared culture within both organisations. I do not see any problem in getting the [new company] up and running quickly,” Tong says.

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