2011 Newsmaker of the Year: Leyland Brown of HP Canada- Part One

Published: January 6th, 2012

Turbulent, chaotic, crazy are just three words used by the news media to describe the year HP went through in 2011.

Late in 2011, Leyland Brown, the head of HP’s personal systems group (PSG) in Canada, along with many HP Canada employees, customers and channel partners, breathed a sigh of relief from the news that PSG would not be sold or spun off.

Related story: No sale or spinoff: HP is keeping its Personal Systems Group

Instead of crazy and chaotic, HP has now brought “clarity” to the market place, according to Brown, who is CDN‘s first-ever female newsmaker of the year.
“Clarity is a good thing for the channel, customers and employees. We all have a job to do now,” she said.

The uncertainty surrounding PSG and its future has now been settled after newly hired CEO Meg Whitman said she categorically rejected a plan offered up by her predecessor, former CEO Leo Apotheker, to either sell or spin-off this division. HP, the world’s largest PC vendor, conducted what it called a “data-driven evaluation” of the impact of cutting off PSG and concluded that it was just too important to its supply chain, procurement and overall brand.

Brown said she’s not one to speculate and doesn’t believe it serves any purpose. As for the decision to keep PSG as a part of HP, she said she’s happy and that her team stands by the decision.

The announcement brought HP basically full-circle from when the manufacturer unveiled its much anticipated TouchPad tablets earlier this year.

Tablets became another bone of contention for HP channel partners in 2011. HP’s Americas channel chief Steven DiFranco arrived in Canada mid-year to outline the channel strategy for the TouchPad running the WebOS, when all of a sudden in August Apotheker pulled the plug on tablets and the WebOS.

Related story: Did HP just give webOS a death sentence?

Several channel partners told CDN they wanted HP to stay intact and wanted an opportunity to resell TouchPads.

According to Brown, now that there is guidance from the parent company the TouchPad is back in the mix.

“The tablet is a relevant market. PSG will have a tablet in the market running Windows 7 and you will see us introduce another tablet device that will be an important piece on top of our Windows-based device,” Brown said.

She was unable to provide any further details, such as if the new TouchPad would run WebOS or not.

Brown added that the tablet opportunity right now is as a consumption device and that HP wants to transition this market into a “Tablet 2.0” where it moves from just a consumption device to a device that can do other things and is more segment-driven.

Career goals

2011 will certainly go down as a memorable year for the company and for Brown as she was promoted to vice-president and general manager of the PSG Canada in May, replacing Charles Salameh (CDN‘s No. 3 newsmaker for 2010) who was promoted in February to a position at HP’s mobility division in the U.S. Brown was running PSG on an interim basis at the time.

Much of what went on with HP was out of Brown’s control. But her strategy was to block out all of the distractions and in the end she met and exceeded all PSG’s targets. She credits the many channel partners across Canada who stayed with PSG despite the news.

Under Salameh’s watch PSG built a framework focused on four segments: commercial, SMB, enterprise and public sector. Each area met or exceeded expectations except for consumer, which remained sluggish because of the uncertainty brought on by HP’s announcement to split away from PSG, Brown said.

As an example, HP Canada sold more Elitebooks as a percentage of its overall commercial notebook sell-through, more than any other country in the Americas.

“People ask me about our leadership issues and about our new CEO and the answer is always the same. HP is more than one person and PSG was rock solid and the best place to work for at HP in Canada (before the Whitman hiring) and it was the same way with Charles (Salameh). I want to maintain that level of excitement and passion. I bring a positive attitude and focus on what we need to do to make things possible and I want to continue that,” Brown said.

Brown went on to say that all of the distractions from the year provided an opportunity for her and the PSG team to re-engage with the channel, employees and customers. When the Aug. 18 announcement from Apotheker was made Brown crisscrossed much of the country and dealt head-on with channel partners and employees about the future of PSG in Canada.

“I told the channel partners and employees that I wasn’t on the board of directors and wouldn’t speculate and so I didn’t waste a lot of energy on that. I told the channel partners and employees to do the same and not speculate and keep focusing on the customer to retain and deliver on expectations,” she said.

In part two of CDN’s interview, Leyland Brown discusses the alleged death of the PC: 2011 Newsmaker of the Year: Leyland Brown of HP Canada- Part Two

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