How three global megatrends are reshaping PCs and printing | Top Stories

It's been nearly three years since HP split into two companies — HP Inc and HP Enterprise, with HP Inc becoming home to a portfolio including printers, laptops, tablets and desktops. ZDNet talked to George Brasher MD of HP Inc for the UK and Ireland to get an update.

ZDNet: Can you tell me a little about your background and your role at HP?

HP: I started with HP 28 years ago and, for me, it's been a wonderful company to be a part of. I've lived in 20 different cities in 9 countries. I've worked in product development, marketing and sales, I've worked across PCs and . I've done this role for as MD for the UK and Ireland for four years. In terms of the company, I think we have gone from strength to strength.

We have a strategic frame that's around core growth and the future. The core growth is the biggest part of our business and there you've got to focus on the pockets of growth and you've got to make sure you're driving a great portfolio, the right cost structure, [HP Inc CEO Dion Weisler] calls it “little sprinkles of magic” — the differentiation. We differentiate based on security, design and collaboration.

Basically, the A3 copier market, where we think we're the market leaders. The second is the printing market for large-format printers, which is moving from analogue to digital, which means it's moving toward us. And then the third area is just in how our commercial customers want to transform their work spaces.

Essentially, that was our strategic frame that we set out four years ago. It hasn't changed. And we've been executing on that and I think the way that's played out for us is the way it's shown up in the market. We've extended our leadership position in both PC and print. In our most recent quarter we've had five quarters of double-digit growth in both of them. We're growing share, we're growing revenue, we're growing profits.

You have three areas that you are focusing on, let's take A3 printing as an example. How do you develop that market?

If you go back 20 years, you had two very different markets. You had a printer-based market that was A4 and hung off the network. And you had a copier-based market, which was largely A3 and was a standalone market. Those two markets have come together.

Now different people segment it in different ways, but I would say that there is one network-printing market that has both A4 and A3 characteristics. It depends on the user. If you're trying to satisfy the need of somebody on the desktop with desktop printing, then you've got one set of needs.

Then if you're going to satisfy the needs of a department, they are going to have another set of needs. It's just one more network device.

Now I think that there are a couple of things that are happening there. One is that you've got a lot of information in a physical form that is moving to the cloud. How do you create solutions that make it easy for customers to bring things up to the cloud or send it through email? How do you take things that are in digital form and bring them down to analogue form? To me, it's not just a standalone printer or copier. It's really a network device that you need to move between those two — and we've made great products that IT decision makers and CEOs can trust.

The second thing is — and this is something that people don't always realise — a printer is just another device sitting on a network and if you have a device sitting on a network, you need to think about the security around it. And I am always amazed when I talk with IT decision makers and CIOs, that they don't talk about security more. They are so concerned with managing their servers and their PCs that security is the one they don't always think about.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

With a network IP you can send and receive email, uplift things to the cloud, you can bring things down from the cloud, so it's just another node from the network.

So, all the security that we put into our PC devices? We put the same level of security into our printers because they can be hacked just like anything else.

HP Labs annually does a survey on where technology is going. Now it's not so much a technology forecast as a political forecast. We have people going out and looking at where technology is going and within that they can identify key trends.

One trend in rapid urbanisation. If you think about that, you have a world of over nine billion people and there are going to be 41 megacities. A megacity has over 10m people. If you go back 10 years, there were only 10 of them. There will be 41 and most of them in developing countries.

The second is changing demographics and you can use a lot of different analogies here, but basically, you've got two poles. A large population over 60 years old, a lot of them still in the workforce and with a lot of discretionary spend. But you've also got Generation Z coming through who are the sons and daughters of the baby-boomer workforce.

The third trend is hyper-globalisation, just a flattening of the market and how connected we are.

We have to think about the implications for us of things like rapid urbanisation and changing demographics.

To take one point, how do you see rapid urbanisation impacting a company like HP?


George Brasher, HP Inc's managing director for the UK and Ireland.

Image: HP Inc.

I don't think you can look at any of these things in isolation. You've got to bring in multiple megatrends.

If I think about rapid urbanisation, I've got to think about how we can partner with people. In this case it will be channel partners.

So, you've got to think about, not only about how you get coverage from a customer perspective across customer segments, but how do you make sure you've got the right coverage in these megacities around the world.

Another thing is that, if you've got all these people living in megacities, you've got to think about the size of printers. Space and design become really important.

And we want to make sure that we have a great looking product that has good collaboration features. For example, we work with Bang & Olufsen to get the speakers and part of that is because what we're finding from customers is that offices are changing.

This goes back to rapid urbanisation which means that more people are going to work in offices but they are not going to have the traditional desk anymore. This is happening around the world but you'll see this in our offices, too. They'll have some original desks, but they are usually shared spaces with meetings rooms and other spaces available.

And you see other changes in the way we live?

If you live in a city you are going to travel, primarily by bus or other mass transit. When you're doing this, you will be aware of the people around you. Now, we've all seen that issue when somebody is watching what you are doing on your laptop and you wonder, “Is that person looking over my shoulder?” And then there's the case when you leave your laptop in the coffee shop.

To help there we have integrated a privacy screen so with one button it doesn't allow people to see your screen and it creates an electronic privacy screen.

How about what you do in printing?

Traditionally you've had ink-jet printing which is mostly for home, then laser-jet printing which is mostly for business. We've created a third technology called PageWide which is basically an ink-based technology that's designed for business.

That's something we launched three or four years ago and it's a very popular technology. We took that very same technology and used it to build our 3D print technology.

SEE: Sensor'd enterprise: IoT, ML, and big data (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

In 3D printing you're worried about quality, you're worried about throughput speed and you're worried about cost. PageWide can help you with all three of those because it's about quality, speed and cost.

We've been able to make breakthroughs on both the cost and the speed, and that's because we were able to build on our legacy of PageWide products which instead of creating printed output, creates plastic parts.

How have things been since the split-off into two companies?

I think we are now stronger than ever. We've got our innovation engine cranked up really well. Everybody knows the strategic frame. We are executing against that. We have built more great products in the last 15 months that we have in any previous timeframe.

Where has the impetus for the innovation come from?

I would say two things. Number one is that we have a very clear strategic focus around solutions, products and services in both printers and PCs.

The second is that we have become the masters of our own destiny. As a company we get to be laser-focused from the board down.

I think if you're clear on the customer segments your targeting, you're clear on the areas that you play in. I think the outcome will be two things. One is that your product pipeline will go up, the second is that you'll be focused on execution at the ground level every day.

Where are you regarding diversity?

I am a big believer that the best teams are broad and diverse because that means you bring different viewpoints and that means you debate and so have a much better chance of coming up with the best decisions.

I think the second point is that as an industry, technology in the UK has a problem. If you look at the data, females in the country at large are just under half of the UK workforce. If you look at technology, I have seen two different sets of statistics from two different studies and they say that just 17 or 25 percent of the technology workforce is female.

Now we're an industry based on innovation and that means that we have to have the best minds in our industry and if we're only attracting between 17 and 25 percent then we're not doing a very good job as an industry.

I have been very vocal on this and as HP we want to be the very best employer but, frankly, as an industry, we need to step up our game.

We've created a returns programme so that women who return to the industry after a time out, possibly from having children, we've got a programme for that.

I've mandated that 50 percent of our interns will be female, because interns are the graduates of the next year, or the next young employees league over time.

And the third thing is that we've signed a technology charter which is basically a document that says that as an industry, we are working towards having a woman on every shortlist.

Because I feel really passionate about this. As an industry I want us to be the most attractive employer at large, and at HP I want us to be to be an attractive employer in there. For me, this is something that is really important to do.

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