As MD of Total I often meet with executives from our key partners. These discussions are invariably interesting, but never reported – so after a recent catch-up with George Brasher (pictured), the MD of HP Inc (UK & Ireland), I thought that with George’s agreement (thanks George) it would be interesting to share that here.
George is a gentleman, in both senses, and moved from America to the UK about three years ago, so it’s interesting to talk about how IT compares in the two countries. Perhaps surprisingly, he sees more similarities than differences – but after all, both are large, well-established economies with similar needs.
He does see relationships as being especially important in the UK. For George, they are even more critical here than other countries he’s worked in, and it’s particularly important to build a track record and trust, to give people confidence you can deliver on what you say.
For HP, and indeed other vendors, IT providers like Total are part of their distribution channel and George sees the UK channel as more entrepreneurial than in the US. He says, “That entrepreneurial flair really helps the channel – home-grown partners like Total have people running them who’ve been there from the start.”
Away from work, I know that George and his family love the UK and he’s become a keen football fan – he’s visited 9 of the 20 Premier League grounds so far and aims to complete the set.
“I fell in love with the game at that first match at Stamford Bridge,” he confides. “In America it’s half entertainment and half sport, and it has nothing to match the atmosphere and camaraderie you find in a typical Premiership game.”
But what of IT?
Shift to consumption model
For me the current changes in IT are more profound than anything I’ve seen before. George highlighted one of the biggest shifts as being how customers want to buy and consume IT. Whereas traditionally, organisations have bought servers, software and printers as capital purchases, increasingly this is moving to a pay-by-consumption model.
George says, “Customers want to buy what they want, when they want, and to have this monitored and managed by people like Total and HP.”
But why is this shift to consumption happening now? George identifies a couple of drivers. Firstly, financial: companies want to align their spend with their changing needs. Secondly, customers want to focus on their core value-add, which is not usually IT, so with a consumption-based model they can look to a partner to manage their IT for them.
Vendors are responding, to add value rather than just cut costs: for example, a year ago HP was the first major computing producer to announce a PC-as-a-service model. This includes predictive analytics software, for example HP can pro-actively monitor battery life and send out a new battery before it fails. As George points out, this is solving a customer problem before they know they have it – you can’t get much better than that.
The importance of security
George also identifies security as another major change, with high-profile ransomware attacks pushing it high up the news agenda. As George says, “There’s always going to be bad guys out there – it’s up to companies like HP, and partners like Total, to help protect people.”
In reality there is no one single answer to security, but a plethora of potential vulnerabilities that all need addressing. As George says it’s important to take a holistic view: to detect, protect and repair, really as three points of a triangle.
As part of this, HP’s Sure Start technology provides protection at the BIOS level. SureStart creates a ‘gold master’ of the BIOS that is directly encrypted on the device. If a hacker attacks the BIOS, the machine will recognise something has changed, reboot itself, load the secure ‘gold master’, wipe the infected file, and alert the IT team to the attack – making the HP machine effectively self-healing.
Another example is HP’s Sure Click technology, which provides a small virtualisation layer between the internet browser and the rest of the system, isolating any malicious activity within the browser tab and preventing it impacting the machine it’s running on.
One of the other big changes of recent years is that there are more form factors than ever: not just desktops, laptops and phones, but tablets, convertibles, detachables and two-in-ones. This reflects both changing working patterns and the consumerisation of business IT. As George explains, “At HP, we want to make sure we’ve got a broad set of form factors, so that there’s something that works for every customer in their role.”
HP was, of course, the first to come out with a three-in-one device with its Elite x3, the high-end smartphone that also can act as a tablet and desktop. While it’s still early days for this device category, it’s a format George expects to continue to grow.
George also points out that this increase in mobility means that security is even more important. Users may be logging in from a hotel or hotspot, and companies need to be sure they can provide a secure connection to their network.
Tips for the customer
While George spends a lot of his time with colleagues and partners he’s clearly passionate about customers. What advice does he have for them? “Start with the users’ needs, and work backwards from that – find what devices they need based on what they’re doing, and pick hardware that satisfy both users’ requirements (particularly millennials with high standards) and your organisations’ cost limits. Then, make sure security is up to scratch. And finally, look at a consumption model to help meet cost constraints.”
Technology constantly evolves, which is what makes working in IT so interesting. Both as vendor and partner (IT provider) we need to continuously adapt. The intersection of customer needs and technological innovation is where some of the most interesting things happen. George sees form factors continue to evolve. And expects voice interfaces to become more popular, and integrated in more devices.
He also sees the role of his partners changing: “There has been a shift over the last few years in the channel away from a transaction model, and towards the value-added reseller. Partners that have a deep relationship with customers, and build solutions rather than just sell product – they’re the ones that have been more successful, and that’s only going to continue.” He also sees a continuing shift to a consumption model.
I came away from my chat with George feeling enthused about the future of our industry – IT is a fast-changing sector, and one that I always find interesting. Whatever predictions we make now, there’s always something new around the corner, and I’m looking forward to finding out what’s next.