Five Questions with Jim Jackson, CMO, HPE

expert perspective

Jim Jackson, CMO, HPE

It’s an anxious world at the moment – from Covid-19 to climate change, political instability to racial tensions, and #MeToo to Brexit, there’s a lot to deal with. How has your brand reacted to any or all of these situations? 

With respect to COVID-19, our first response was to make sure our team members were safe and able to work remotely. At the same time, we knew that our customers – many of whom were on the frontlines–were dealing with multiple new challenges of their own.

As the world shut down, we moved incredibly fast, and I couldn’t be prouder of all that our teams accomplished. We are, and have always been, a purpose-driven company and, as such, we are conditioned to act quickly to change, no matter what the world throws our way. In fact, our core beliefs establish this mindset: accelerating what’s next, making bold moves, believing in the power of ‘yes we can,’ and being a force for good. We mobilized the whole company around our “Here to Help” campaign, which positioned the role of how our consulting services, technology solutions, and financing could play in helping customers adapt to the sudden changes in their businesses due to the pandemic – and served as an umbrella for our response efforts to help local communities. 

Working with our clients, we have accomplished some amazing things. We created hospitals out of freight ships in Italy, modernized IT systems for an EMEA agricultural company to help them meet global food production needs, worked with hospitals to rapidly expand their IT systems so they could scale up their response, set up wireless networks to support schools and critical care centers around the globe, and helped a major UK food retailer put systems in place to meet sudden demand for deliveries. And those are just a handful of examples. We also made our high-performance computing capabilities available to power critical COVID-19 research, and we granted free access to all of our patented technologies for the purpose of diagnosing, preventing, containing, and treating COVID-19.

When the social and racial unrest erupted across the US and in other countries, our brand took a stance. Our entire leadership team, from the Board to our people managers, moved to action. Our leaders met with Black team members throughout the company to listen. We heard there are issues causing pain and preventing progress, so we took action to improve. We launched a global HPE Inclusion & Diversity Council, developed an integrated advocacy program, enhanced inclusive leadership training, and are expanding the transparency and accountability for our diversity goals. Additionally, we are amending historical technical nomenclature to eliminate biased coding language. We recognize this is a journey, and we are committed to the work ahead. 

One high-profile action was your Airheads Volunteer Corps network register. What led to that? And how has it enabled you to progress – or survive?

One of HPE’s core values is to be a force for good. Early in the pandemic, we saw a need for healthcare organizations to set up temporary COVID-related facilities and for K-12 school districts to ensure that children with limited connectivity at home could have access to online distance-learning resources. HPE and Aruba responded by donating thousands of secure connectivity kits for the immediate provisioning of pop-up clinics, testing sites, temporary hospital facilities, and drive-up Wi-Fi hotspots for students. 

To help healthcare and K-12 organizations get set up quickly, we created the Airheads Volunteer Corps – an opt-in registry of volunteer network engineers ready to assist in building out these network infrastructures. In this way, Aruba was able to connect its people with those who desperately needed IT help. The demand for help and the generosity of the volunteers were tremendous. All told, we had 752 volunteers with 1,290 facilities receiving 2,700 bundles. And this was truly a global effort, with 69 countries represented across the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions. We were humbled by the response and now have the framework and process ready should the need arise again.

What has been the biggest lesson from all of this for your brand and its meaning?  

Our purpose at HPE is to advance the way people live and work; we deliver on this purpose by engineering experiences that unlock our customers’ full potential. Our swift actions during COVID-19 enabled our clients to be heroes to their own customers and stakeholders and have given further demonstration and meaning to our brand purpose and positioning. The challenges of COVID-19 illuminated this idea in a way we never could have imagined. Never underestimate the power of community. The way our HPE teams have rallied together to pull off the unthinkable–for ourselves, for our customers and for our world—has been awe-inspiring.

Has the last 12 months reaffirmed or changed your view on how brands need to exist and operate, now and in the future?

The last 12 months have only accelerated the need for brands to pivot to a digital-first, data-driven model. The year 2020 has moved this idea from a future vision to an imperative for right now. As a result, our clients expect a different experience from us, and we must remain agile to guide them with the right data and insights, on their terms. This shift was already underway, of course, but the timeline has now rapidly accelerated. Fortunately, we began this work in the pre-COVID-19 world.

Additionally, the last 12 months have affirmed our view that brands must take a stand against injustice and take every action to promote inclusion and diversity within and outside its walls. 

What’s next for your brand – where you will be focusing in the near future to ensure growth and success? 

I am reassured that our path forward to pivot to an as-a-service company by 2022 is the right direction. Many of the trends we saw coming three to five years out are now immediate needs today. The world’s data will only become vaster and more distributed, and clients must be able to securely deliver on their business needs. This means they must become edge-centric, cloud-enabled, and data-driven. We intend to be the leading brand that not only helps clients return to work safely but also accelerates their digital transformation strategy with edge-to-cloud platforms that help them connect, protect, analyze, and act on all their data, no matter where it resides.

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