HPE's Next Advantage: CEO Neri Is Taking The Company's Customer- And Partner-First Legacy To New Heights


Rearchitecting HPE For The Services-Led Era

There's a reason former HPE CEO Meg Whitman chose Neri as the right CEO to lead HPE into the future. Whitman knew that whoever was going to transform HPE to succeed in a rapidly moving technology market would have to know the innards of the company.

Neri's 23 years at the company have given him a unique view into every nook and cranny of the organization -- an insider's knowledge that is absolutely essential to the reinvention of HPE. Neri is, in fact, the principal architect and driving force behind the massive reimagining of HPE called Next that is designed to give the company the ultimate "competitive advantage." It's the equivalent of taking a "clean sheet" approach to the company with massive changes aimed at simplification, innovation and execution.

"What excited me about Next is the ability to transform the company from within and create a competitive advantage for our business," said Neri. "When you grow up in this company for 23 years, unfortunately you know every system, every process, for good or bad. That gives me a sense of where we need to accelerate."

Keerti Melkote, founder of Aruba and now president of HPE's intelligent edge business after HPE's acquisition of Aruba in 2013, said Neri's insider knowledge of HPE is fueling the Next transformation.

"HPE Next is an effort to transform the back end of the company, to modernize the whole thing into a 21st century back end," said Melkote. "That, to me, cannot be done by an outsider. Someone has to know exactly how an order flows through from quote to cash and what are all the various systems and processes that need to come together to make that happen. You can't break that, because if you do, you're going to break the revenue model of the company. Doing it in a manner that works, and works well, is critically important, and Antonio knows it cold."

The essence of Neri's Next transformation is a return to an "innovators at heart culture," said Melkote. "This all comes down to innovating for our customers and keeping our partners in mind at all times." That innovation acceleration is aimed at powering the digital transformation of all customers so they are not disrupted in the same manner that Uber ripped apart the taxi industry, said Melkote. "That was a 100-year-old industry completely transformed," he said. "That's happening across the board. There's no technology company today that has had a lot of roots in the past that is leading the transformation. For HPE, the opportunity is to become that company."

Neri -- who is used to the long hours required of hands-on leadership -- is working at a feverish pace to make HPE that company. That includes moving fast on market-rattling acquisitions aimed at driving an ever-faster pace of HPE innovation.

In the past three months, HPE has moved to acquire three companies: Plexxi, a software-defined networking fabric provider; Red Pixie, a cloud consulting company that specializes in Microsoft Azure; and Cape Networks, an artificial intelligence network analytics provider.

Neri is driving the Next initiative -- which reduced the num ber of management layers from seven to four -- with his own brand of hands-on sales leadership. He is the first to step in to solve a customer or partner issue with an email or a phone call.

When Mark Melillo, founder and CEO of Melillo Consulting, one of HPE's top enterprise partners, had a delivery issue crop up that was impacting customer satisfaction, he reached out to Neri, who in no short order fixed the problem. "It ended up with a customer that was extremely happy," said Melillo. "The bottom line is that Antonio is unafraid to shake things up internally to make sure customers are happy."

Melillo said he is heartened by Neri's Next initiative and the significant supply chain changes at the company. "Antonio is taking on the supply chain issue head on," he said. "He is changing the entire process. We are already seeing some of the benefits of that, and with supply chain management in the future I think it is going to be better. It's a significant change and one that will bear a lot of fruit. HPE is becoming -- no pun intended -- a ‘nimble' company that can do what they do very well, be very innovative and out-execute the competition."

Steinar Sønsteby, CEO of Atea, the $4.5 billion European infrastructure giant that has been partnering with HP for more than 20 years, said Neri has partners, customers and employees believing in HPE's technology vision and story.

"I am blown away by the energy and motivation inside HPE today," said Sønsteby. "He has people believing in HPE. It started internally and now it has very quickly spread to partners and customers. Five years from now, Antonio is going to be remembered as the person that put the fire back into HPE. We are seeing an engineering spirit that people want to be a part of. Being a great leader is more of an art than a science. Antonio has a passion for people, engineering and how the technology is going to be developed, deployed and used by customers."

Sønsteby said he has personally witnessed Neri's customer and partner first-commitment. When Atea was bidding on a $100 million four-year deal, Sønsteby was not satisfied with the proposal put together by his and the HPE teams. He reached out to Neri and in a conference call on a Saturday evening, he and Neri hammered out a new proposal with stronger technology offerings that surprised the HPE-Atea team. The result: Atea and HPE won the deal. "Partner and customer commitment is his life," said Sønsteby of Neri. "That is who he is and what he does. He does not let himself or the organization back down."