I cover many business intelligence vendors; some execute and some don’t.  I started in this industry back in the mid 90’s and I don’t think I have witnessed another meltdown quite like HP’s business intelligence group. This morning HP announced that it would no longer actively sell its NeoView BI solution. Its not uncommon for companies to test a market but seldom do we see companies waste the money and time that HP has on BI and its Neoview product. HP failed to articulate a compelling strategy around business intelligence and has only sporadically delivered tactically making today’s announcement the worst kept secret in the BI space. This in spite of the fact that HP had identified BI as a market that was expected to grow to be larger than its entire suite of management software products. It was time for HP to step away from BI.

Last week HP laid the foundation for its new strategy when it announced its partnership with Microsoft to deliver appliance style solutions that in most ways over shadowed HP’s own Neoview appliance. Last year HP and Microsoft announced a $250 million partnership nicknamed “Frontline” designed to create a pool of resources to support product innovations by both companies. From the Microsoft perspective this is a great deal; they have HP in the same spot that Oracle did with their Exadata line which worked for HP right up until Oracle purchased Sun and kicked HP to the curb. I don’t have an issue with the HP/Microsoft partnership its the best way for HP to participate in the BI space at this point. HP is a hardware and services company so supporting Microsoft will fit within there core competencies.

The problems at HP run deep and are probably too numerous to list here but as I mentioned above it’s a meltdown of epic proportions.

  • The 2006 phone tapping scandal – This project cost Patricia Dunn her Chairman’s position and allowed Mark Hurd to ascend to the top of HP. Tapping reporters phones in a “witch hunt” to locate a rogue Board member who was leaking information.
  • Hurd’s management style – no one will debate that Mark managed by the P&L and during his reign HP set records for layoffs and reduced their investment in R&D hobbling the innovation that HP was once respected for. Many HP watchers expected the BI Group to flourish under Hurd but it was mired in ever changing strategies and uninteresting technology.
  • Hurd Scandal – The details on what exactly happened continue to leak out of HP but the bottom line is policies appear to have been broken and its been reported that Hurd was not forthcoming with the Board. In the end another leader bites the dust and instability resumed. To add injury to insult Hurd took the Co-Presidents position at HP’s biggest competitor Oracle.
  • NeoView – HP hung on way too long. It was clear early that Neoview was having difficulty competing on both price and performance some estimates show that HP sold less than 100 of these solutions. Positioned as the cornerstone of their BI strategy HP failed across the board with Neoview
  • Messaging and communication – HP dropped the ball on all fronts with BI messaging. The exodus of talented executives was difficult to track and it seemed that every time I met with HP a new message and executive were in place. It was clear that many of the brightest and dedicated were early to exit the group.
  • The Knightsbridge Acquisition – Tactically a good thing and it seemed that the purchase of the biggest BI/DW firm in the US would make an excellent foundation for HP’s BI initiatives but in the end they failed to leverage the 750+ consultants and lost many of them to the competition over the past several years.

It will be interesting to see what comes next from HP, clearly their only remaining play in the business intelligence space is that of a partner to more innovative firms. New CEO Leo’ Apotheker has been at his post since November 1, 2010 and is just now starting to make his intentions known so it will be a while before we all get to see whats in store for HP.