What we learned about the post-COVID world at HP Reinvent

HP partners are eyeing changes to the business landscape for a future that’s more productive, personalized, and customer-focused than ever before.

By The Garage Staff — October 13, 2020

Along with the way people work, learn, and socialize, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way companies do business. And in this moment, those who can adapt to  the steep challenges and new opportunities of these disruptions can position themselves for the future. That was the resounding message at the yearly HP Reinvent partner forum last month which this year attracted more than 5,000 virtual attendees from more than 140 countries who gathered to learn about new products, new business models, and new rules of customer engagement from HP leaders, along with the CEOs of companies like Accenture, Intel, Mastercard, and Microsoft.

“This is a defining moment for our companies and our industries,” HP CEO Enrique Lores said in the virtual event’s opening session. “We are witnessing the dawn of a new age ... but to fully capture these opportunities, we need to challenge the status quo.”

As tech companies grapple with the tectonic shifts of the past six months and the openings and responsibilities they have going forward, there are none so impactful as the way we think about work. Speakers emphasized that the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already under way across industries, such as workforce mobility, online education, and digital transformation. 

PC and printers have become more essential than ever for working, going to school, running small businesses, and even seeing a doctor. Yet operating remotely has posed challenges — like internet access, bandwidth, and security — that demand innovative solutions. New tools are also required for maintaining collaboration and creativity at a distance. “We were able to stay productive because of a built-up reservoir of social capital,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “You can be productive and burning down a backlog, but are you creating [something] new?”

In a world going digital fast, companies are also facing an imperative to equip workers with the skills they need to succeed. “This isn’t about teaching [people] to use new tools, but becoming on an ongoing basis a learning organization,” said Accenture CEO Julie Sweet. She emphasized that companies must tap digital technology to make learning widely accessible, as well as focus on personalized, “snackable” content. 

The rise of personalization and the subscription economy

 Among other big business model changes, the pandemic has turbocharged the rise of the subscription economy, which is projected to grow by a factor of 36 in the next five years. If you’re among those who count on a predictable delivery of razor blades, coffee beans, or even toilet paper, you’re in good company. It’s convenient for consumers (especially under quarantine) and as companies are figuring out, offering services and goods to consumers on a recurring basis can somewhat prepare them to withstand crises and pivot quickly compared to traditional product-based models, according to Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, a maker of cloud-based software that enables any company in any industry to run a subscription business. It also helps cement brand loyalty. 

“Companies that see customers as subscribers and are offering services to them on a recurring basis are finding that recurring revenue makes them incredibly resilient in this marketplace,” he said. “It’s easy for your competitors to copy your products; it’s really hard for them to replicate the relationships you have with your customers.”

Courtesy of HP

At HP Reinvent, executives and partners examined how the pandemic shifted consumer behavior and how companies will continue to move forward.

A natural outgrowth of subscription-based models has been a demand for personalization. Serving a “segment of one” is driving HP to double down on more customized solutions across its PC, printer, and industrial units. At the same time, speakers said that the pandemic, and today’s volatile geopolitics, have underscored the need to make supply chains more flexible and resilient. 

New technologies like digital manufacturing, digital printing, and 3D printing can address both of these needs, said Santi Morera, president of HP’s personalization and industrial business. He pointed to HP’s ability to quickly convert production lines to produce hand sanitizer and deliver more than 4 million units of protective equipment to the healthcare industry — including face shields inscribed with the names of individual nurses — as an example of the potential for agile, personalized, just-in-time manufacturing. 

“There are very few companies with the technology to make life-saving products, much less the infrastructure to produce them locally at scale,” Lores said. He noted that HP’s future strategy will include exploring novel applications for its 2D and 3D printing technology to create new business lines. 

Purpose-driven leadership

The very role of the CEO is also changing, argued Intel CEO Bob Swan. He pointed out that business leaders accustomed to globalization must now prepare for the possibility of a geographically divided world. At the same time, he said CEOs will have to acknowledge that their constituency is broader than ever before and play a more active role in politics and society. “We can’t stand on the sidelines anymore,” Swan said. “We can’t choose when we’re going to engage and not engage — we have to engage.” 

For leaders of HP and other companies represented at the partner forum, that changing role comes with a responsibility to deepen commitments to social causes. One example is HP Amplify Impact, a partner program the company is rolling out in November focused on “people, planet, and community” in the markets they serve. HP has committed to providing resources and tools to help its partners make inroads on sustainability, diversity, and promoting educational and economic opportunity. The company has set a goal of enrolling half of its global partners in the program by 2025.

Courtesy of HP

Companies are now focusing more attention on social and environmental issues than ever before.

“If we’ve learned anything in recent months, it’s that the time for talk is over," said HP Chief Commercial Officer Christoph Schell. "It’s time for bold action in our industry.”

Lores added that HP’s sustainable impact work led to more than $1.6 billion in new sales last year. “This isn’t simply the right thing to do — it’s also good for business,” he said. 

Product and service innovations for new ways of working

HP Reinvent was also an opportunity for the company to unveil new products and services designed to reflect the way customers interact with technology today. The focus was on tools that enable productivity, security, and collaboration amid changing workflows.

On the PC side, the company revealed a spectrum of new products that provide flexibility for customers of all sizes working from anywhere. For example, the HP ProBook 635 Aero G7 is the world’s lightest AMD-based business notebook, perfect for professionals who might move around the home as they work, while the HP E24d and E27d Conferencing Monitors are designed for virtual collaboration. On the services side, the company is launching Business Boost, which provides technology, security, and support services to help remote workers at small- and medium-sized businesses be more productive.

In the printer business, HP has also introduced products and solutions that support a distributed workforce. For example, the HP LaserJet Enterprise 400 Series  is the company’s smallest enterprise-class printer, while the HP DesignJet portfolio aims to be  an easy-to-use and compact large-format plotter for design professionals and home offices. The company also announced that Instant Ink, its subscription-based delivery service, will expand to include toner this fall. Additionally, HP is partnering with Upland Software to launch Document Workflow Cloud, a cloud-based solution that helps companies digitize and automate business processes.

Despite the challenges of the last six months, Lores noted that HP’s strong position across both home and office technology has given it a competitive advantage in a time of unprecedented transitions. “It’s critical that we view change not as a reason to be afraid, but as a catalyst for growth,” he said. 


Related: How the pandemic is changing the way consumers shop.