Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview leaders, often CMOs or CEOs, that we deem simplifiers. In this Simplifiers interview I speak with Henry Gomez, EVP – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
In October of 2014, the Hewlett-Packard Company announced its intention to split into two separate entities, signaling the largest corporate demerger in history. The two resulting companies would each remain Fortune 100 industry leaders—with HP, Inc. focused on personal systems and printing, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) focused on enterprise IT.
MM: What does HPE stand for?
HG: HPE stands for simplicity, partnership and professionalism. It’s a gold standard in the technology industry with a deep background and history going back to the founding of Silicon Valley.
MM: How does HPE strive to create simple experiences?
HG: Simplifying has been a matter of survival for us, and we’re still on the journey. We used to have a saying that few people at HP could say yes but many could say no. In some ways, the company could not make decisions. We spun off separate business services into separate companies, creating HP and HPE, in an effort to eliminate internal bureaucracy and streamline decision-making. We’ve seen a great deal of efficiency from that simplification.
MM: How do you approach streamlining decision-making?
HG: We needed an organizational decision-making framework, and for that we turned to the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed model (RACI), which we’ve found tremendously useful. Every time I enter a meeting, I identify who falls into each of these categories. Because we are so large, it’s imperative to clarify the decision-making cadence, and be clear on who has final decision-making power. At a smaller company, people can usually determine this for themselves, but at a larger company like HPE, using RACI is essential.
MM: What benefits has HPE experienced from simplifying?
HG: As a result of simplifying, we make decisions faster, which leads to accelerated sales, better innovations and happier customers, partners and employees.
By streamlining and simplifying the company and decision-making processes, we’ve made it easier for stakeholders to navigate the company and accomplish their goals. For example, we used to have a complex system for delivering price quotes to customers. We’ve simplified this process and, as a result, reduced the time from days to hours in many instances, making our customers and our sales force much happier.
MM: How do you strive to keep things simple for your marketing team?
HG: Every day I go to work with the goal of helping my team simplify processes, whether that be decision-making within the team, or getting alignment from stakeholders across the company. I strive to help my team make decisions faster and get the job done quicker with less pain.
Simplicity is often thought of as boring, but it’s just the opposite—it’s empowering.
MM: What’s a recent simple customer experience that inspired you?
HG: The best example for me of ongoing simplicity is my iPhone. I’ve had one since 2008 and have never bought another brand. It’s an incredibly simple device on every level and remains consistent even as the technology and models change.
Another simple object I rely on is my Amazon Kindle. I travel frequently and it provides tremendous convenience. It is designed to let me do one thing well – read books. And because that’s all it’s designed to do, it’s better at the task than any other digital device I own.
We live in a world that in many ways rewards complexity. Simplicity is often thought of as boring, but it’s just the opposite—it’s empowering.
MM: What’s the opportunity as it relates to simplicity in the technology industry?
HG: The opportunity lies in simplifying the way we present our technology solutions.
When I first entered the technology world, I was stunned by what I call the “techy blah blah” that pours out of meetings and presentations. There is a great deal of legitimate complexity in technology, but the technology world often goes out of its way to show off this complexity, which is confusing to everyone, especially customers.
When explaining and marketing our services, everyone should be able to understand our solutions, whether or not they’re a technologist. Enterprise customers who are making purchase decisions are increasingly not engineers; in many cases, they’re C-level executives who may not have a technology background. For example, CMOs aren’t concerned about the technical details of a server, they want to discuss the business challenge they’re trying to solve, the solution they’re looking to employ and the business opportunity they want to leverage.
MM: What can executives do to operationalize simplicity?
HG: Set an example of clear decision-making by simplifying processes that are too complex. Do this by questioning the status quo. “It’s taken us a week to get this done—why not a day?”
When you question the status quo, people will retort, “we’ve always done it this way” or “you can’t change it because something will break.” The reality is that when you change processes, things rarely break. For example, when I first became CMO, it took us four to six months to pull together marketing campaigns. I told my marketing leaders that we needed to do it within four weeks. They assured me this was impossible, but now we sometimes do it in a matter of days.
MM: What does simplicity mean to you?
HG: Clear and rapid decision-making.
MM: What’s the top piece of advice you’d give to other brands trying to simplify?
HG: Live simplicity every day. As a leader, you must diligently work on making your organization a simpler place to operate and easier for your customers and partners to do business with you.
Have the courage to question and broach what you think is important. Most companies don’t struggle because they lack technical expertise; they struggle because they lack leadership. Be courageous about what you’re thinking. Be smart about how you present your opinions to senior leadership. And know that once a decision has been made by the final decision-maker, you must sign on and help them execute on that decision.
MM: Thank you.
This is this an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with CMO at Twitter,Leslie Berland; CMO at Blue Apron, Jared Cluff; SVP, Global Brand Management at American Express, Clayton Ruebensaal; EVP and Group President at Verizon Wireless, Ronan Dunne, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Cofra Holding Ltd, former CEO of C&A China, Lawrence Brenninkmeyer; CMO at The Recording Academy, Evan Greene; CMO at Mary Kay, Sheryl Adkins-Green; Head of Marketing at Home Centre, Rohit Singh Bhatia; SVP, CMO of Aflac, Gail Galuppo; SVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions, Carol Kruse, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; Jet.com President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.
Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: firstname.lastname@example.org