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HP Rolling the Dice on Data Warehousing

Shortly after taking the helm of Hewlett-Packard in early 2005, Mark Hurd realized that, despite being one of the world's leading technology suppliers, HP had an embarrassing and crippling technology problem.

There was no easy way for executives to get a picture of what was happening in the entire company.

Each unit of the Palo Alto, California, computer giant had its own systems for tracking information about crucial areas like inventory, component costs and marketing expenditures. No central system pulled all the data together into what Hurd liked to call "a single version of the truth."

Hurd developed his passion for that quest during a previous job running the Teradata division of NCR. Teradata pioneered a technology called data warehousing, which allows managers to get a coherent picture of a company's inventory, production, marketing and sales.

With all of that information at their fingertips, employees can sift through and see once-hidden trends. Such technology helps companies like Wal-Mart Stores determine which shirt colors are preferred by people in Cincinnati, tells Best Buy what offers it should dangle in front of online shoppers in mid-March and suggests to Wynn Resorts which frequent gamblers should be coddled.

To Hurd, who rode his success at Teradata into the chief executive's spot at NCR, data warehousing is a vital tool for making a business much more efficient.

He had a few options for fixing HP's information problem: buy Teradata's products, acquire Teradata outright or have HP build its own data warehousing technology.

Taking a large risk, he chose the third option, encouraging HP engineers to meld decades-old technology inherited from the Compaq Computer acquisition with HP data analysis software to create a product called NeoView.

Hurd declined to be interviewed about HP's data management strategy. But Randy Mott, HP's chief information officer, said, "Mark made the assessment that he did not...



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