Ann Livermore, head of Hewlett-Packard's storage and servers, software and services businesses, has faced decisions in her company that might have sent some executives heading for the door. But despite deals that cut into her territory, she keeps her focus on the big picture, on the challenges at hand, and on new opportunities for growth. It's all part of knowing that "business is a team sport," she says.
That sentiment isn't common among business leaders these days. Many senior executives are more focused on their individual well-being than on furthering their company's goals. They're quick to jump to new employers when they don't feel appreciated.
Some outside HP had speculated that Livermore was unhappy about relinquishing part of her portfolio after the company announced plans to acquire Electronic Data Systems, based in Plano, Texas, an IT outsourcing company. Under the agreement, the outsourcing portion of HP's services businesses about 13 percent of the group she runs will become part of EDS under its current chief, Ronald Rittenmeyer. Rittenmeyer will report to HP CEO Mark Hurd.
She says she's staying put. "This isn't about me," she said in an interview. "It's about doing what is best for HP. It makes sense to combine all outsourcing businesses and with a merger this big, for EDS to report directly to Mark," to ensure the best integration.
This doesn't mean the 49-year-old Livermore has taken a place on the sidelines. Her division reported $37.7 billion in revenue last year, or 36 percent of HP's total. Her office at HP's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters is about 20 feet from her boss, Hurd, who describes her as "one of the best executives I know. She's running a huge business and doing that very well."
Livermore helped develop strategy for the EDS deal with Hurd. Like him, she knew HP on its own couldn't expand its outsourcing services enough to meet demand.
"Just before Christmas, I was talking to two large financial institutions, a manufacturing company and a government organization that all had very large IT outsourcing opportunities for us, but we didn't have the resources to respond," she says. "By combining our outsourcing business with EDS, we'll have tremendous scale and be able to respond to every opportunity."
She has plenty of growth businesses to lead. Among these: blade systems, the No. 1 growth market in servers.
"I have one of the biggest and best jobs in technology," says Livermore, who earned $10.4 million in salary and bonus, and had equity valued at $4 million in fiscal 2007. "As much progress as HP has made in recent years, there's still so much more we can do and I'm eager to make that happen."
The 26-year HP veteran, a Stanford M.B.A., has had her share of setbacks and comebacks. She was on the phone with Hurd just four days after having a kidney transplant in 2005. She took a five-week leave but hasn't slowed down since returning to work.
In 1999, she lost out to Carly Fiorina for the CEO job. And in 2005, Hurd was recruited to fill the post. Rather than jump to another company, she became a supporter of Fiorina, with whom she's still friends, and then of Hurd. "I realized my own strengths complemented both of theirs," she says.
For one, she says she understands how processes and people work at the company. She also is focused on customers, talking to two or three big ones every day. And she has a reputation for identifying market trends. When she visited a dozen financial-services companies several years ago, she listened when IT executives said they were spending too much time and money operating their data networks.
Out of those conversations came HP's strategy for building "the next generation of (automated) data centers, which is now driving growth in software and services," says Livermore.
As one of three senior-ranking women at HP and the only one in a line job, Livermore says she was helped early on by a boss who was committed to building a diverse management team. "This was the early and mid-1980s, and 25 percent of his management team was female," she says.
She remembers that when Hurd first arrived at HP, he told her, "The numbers tell the story." Her story: In the Technology Solutions Group she heads, operating profit was $4.2 billion, or 11 percent of the unit's revenue, last year. In the last quarter, operating profit surged 38 percent.