Hewlett-Packard Operates a Matrix Structure The Primary Essay

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Hewlett-Packard operates a matrix structure. The primary means of divisional breakdown is by region. HP has a corporate headquarters, one for Canada, a Latin America headquarters in Miami, plus others in Singapore, Japan and Switzerland (HP.com, 2011). In addition to geography, HP breaks down its organization by business. EDS and Compaq have some autonomy from the main HP organization. HP is organized around seven main businesses: Services, Enterprise Storage and Servers; Personal Systems Group; Imaging and Printing Group; Financial Services; Corporate Investments and Services; and Software (2010 HP Annual Report). This form of departmentalization allows HP focus on product development and innovation within the functional/product groups and then focus on marketing at the international/regional level.

HP retains a relatively centralized system of authority. In particular, the company takes a centralized approach to the research and development and corporate strategy functions (Hill & Jones, 2009). This allows HP to develop an integrated suite of products and services. The company often markets different products and services to the same set of (corporate and government) clients. This highlights the benefit of using a centralized system in that the company can tie different products together, providing more benefits to the consumer but also providing better results to the company by leveraging existing relationships and the installed technology base at the company's customers.

3. The combination of centralized strategy/R&D functions and decentralized marketing functions can result in a number of problems. One such problem is that the decentralized marketing units may have little sense of what the centralized units are doing, and vice versa. This communication issue could lead to sales representatives not fully understanding the products that they sell, or to R&D not fully understanding the needs of the different market groups.

HP maintains a strategy of open communication in an attempt to reduce the impacts of the communications challenge. The company's managers are quick to raise and address issues as they emerge. There is a company intranet, quarterly all-employee meetings and management blogs, among other communications tools designed to improve the flow of information between the company's departments and geographical units (HP, 2007). This allows communications flow to be two-way at Hewlett Packard. The emphasis at a centralized operation is on centralized control of communications, and this could stifle innovation or lead to the communications problems above. However, by utilizing a large number of mechanisms to facilitate two-way communications flow, HP believes it has the internal communications structure to address communications issues quickly and effectively.

4. The company has vacillated between formal and informal communications flows. In the 1990s, the informal flow of communications became a liability for HP as critical information was not necessarily disseminated to the right people in a timely manner (Sieloff, 1999). As a result, the company took steps to formalized communications. In recent years, HP's structure has made a shift back towards informal communications, using a number of different mechanisms. An emphasis on formal knowledge management systems removed the benefits that informal knowledge transmission has, including speed, efficiency and honesty. HP attempts to foster a corporate culture that emphasizes communication, and in doing so is attempting to again improve the flow of informal communications. The formal communications mechanisms also still exist, so the organization is attempting a two-headed approach to help it overcome possible communications issues.

5. If I worked in the project management office (PMO) I would recommend a number of different communications skills. The first is communications design. It is essential that the communications systems architecture for any project allows for the right information to be available to the right people at the right time. All employees involved in a project must be able and willing to use the system in order that its benefits are realized. The second element I would emphasize is the importance of formal communications. With employees all around the world and working for distinctly different elements of the corporation, it is easy for confusion to occur, or for people to simply fail to correct. With formal communications systems, employees will be better unable to know who they need to speak to about specific issues, and will have more resources more easily available.

However, informal communications systems also serve a role, and it is recommended that…

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