HP chief advises Homeland

ORLANDO, Fla. — Having managed the merger of two information technology industry giants, the chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. has some advice for the Homeland Security Department: Get a plan and stick with it.

Carly Fiorina, who was involved in the merger of HP and Compaq Computer Corp. during the past two years, said it is imperative to have goals for every week, every month and even every year as the new department integrates 22 federal agencies under its umbrella.

"It's not rocket science to say this. Once milestones and goals are established, you have to stick with them. You can't change them," Fiorina said March 3 at the Information Processing Interagency Conference meeting here.

Fiorina outlined the steps HP took to integrate the two companies and keep business moving even as the infrastructure changed. She said the biggest surprise was how quickly people wanted to get on with the business of working as one company after the merger.

The Homeland Security Department, with 170,000 workers, faces similar challenges to HP and its 140,000 employees, in making sure the right business decisions are made while redefining roles.

Fiorina noted that the department faces the question: "How do we prevent attacks in the United States while integrating [170,000 employees] with different cultures and IT systems?"

She said the answer involves detailed planning of processes, people and technology. When in doubt, she said, "Our customers became our tie-breakers."

Fiorina also advised that it is imperative to manage horizontally as well as vertically. Highlighting that point, she said HP clients insisted that they wanted to meet with one HP representative, not four representatives from different parts of the business.

Among the most important initiatives is communication, she said, using an intranet and keeping employees informed about what is happening.

"You cannot command the battlefield if you cannot communicate," she said.

Fiorina has met with officials from the new department to discuss HP's experience in standing up a new company after merging two of the world's biggest IT firms.

After her speech, she planned to meet with private-sector and government representatives, including Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the National Security Agency, to talk about HP's experiences.

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