Merger was easier than you think: Tsaparis

TORONTO — Almost six months after its history-making merger with Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Canada’s president said blending the two corporate cultures hasn’t been as difficult as its critics predicted.

“”This was one

of the biggest bogeymen out there; that’s the only way I can describe it,”” Paul Tsaparis told the audience during a speech at the York Technology Association luncheon Wednesday. “”There was a perception that there were these vast chasms between us, but immediately we started talking about products and technologies that were common to both companies — PCs, servers — so the vocabulary and language was very similar.””

Tsaparis acknowledged that staff from both firms were uneasy about the merger period, which stretched over almost eight months as shareholders voiced their opposition to the US$18 billion deal. His advice: focus on what they could control — serving customers — and put aside all the rest.

“”The one thing we control very well was surveying our customers,”” he said, “”and we took a lot of opportunities to do that. That was helpful both before the merger and after.””

HP sees consolidation among IT vendors as a natural evolution of the maturing industry, Tsaparis said, not unlike the automotive or pharmaceutical industries. To an extent, he added, the slow growth in IT over the last two years has probably eased its integration with Compaq.

While Dell has used its vertically integrated business model to compete on price, Tsaparis assured the audience that HP would not be mimicking the direct giant — at least, not in Canada. In the United States, HP is planning to launch a new channel program in November, Partner One, which will see the firm directly sell Intel servers, PCs, notebooks and printers to its entire customer base south of the border. The move is a shift away from the company’s “”hard deck”” policy, which limited direct sales to some of HP’s largest Fortune 1,000 clients. In Canada, HP will be launching its own version of the program, PartnerOne.ca, but without the direct sales element.

“”For some sectors of the market, it’s a valid way of doing business . . . but it’s not just the (buying over the) Web experience,”” he said, calling HP the most active IT vendor in the Canadian distribution market. “”Many customers want someone that can implement the technology, that can give them that direct customer relationship.””

HP executives had said the merger with Compaq offered the potential to grow its services business, and since the deal its biggest services win has come with a Canadian client, CIBC, which signed a $2 billion outsourcing agreement in September.

“”Think of it as providing extreme levels of high availability,”” Tsaparis said in describing HP’s role. “”When you go to the debit machine and you swipe your card, (if) it doesn’t work, you the customer aren’t happy about it, and the financial institution certainly isn’t happy about it.””

Besides the 1,300 CIBC staff who are moving over as a result of the HP deal, Tsaparis said the company will also acquire a number of the bank’s databases.

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