John Dathan takes HPE Canada reins in restructured Canadian operation

HPE Canada loses country management status, but it still has a general manager, and a seat at the table in decisions. Decision-making authority has not been moved to the U.S.

John Dathan, GM of HPE Canada

HPE Canada has undergone a significant restructuring which has seen the structure of the Canadian operation undergo significant changes. As part of a broader restructuring, theatre leaders and country leaders have been eliminated. Charlie Atkinson, President and Managing Director of HPE Canada, will be leaving the company at the end of October. His position disappears in the restructuring. It does not leave Canada leaderless however.

John Dathan, who has been Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Enterprise Group at HPE Canada, takes over as General Manager of HPE Canada, as part of the restructuring. He reports to Dan Belanger, who now heads North America for HPE.

“There are now five geos under Dan Belanger  — US East, US West, US Federal, US SMB, and Canada,” Dathan told ChannelBuzz. “It would have been very easy to tuck us into the U.S., but we remain separate. We have an equal seat at the table. Everyone in Canada will be either solid or dotted line reporting into me, so there is ownership.”

The changes are part of HPE Next, an internal restructuring initiative which CEO Meg Whitman discussed at HPE’s last earnings announcement.

“We still had a lot of the structure from the original organization, and to have the necessary speed, agility and focus going forward it was decided to make changes,” Dathan said. “Next was announced here internally at the end of July. I discussed this regularly with Charlie, and we both agreed that regardless of personal circumstances, this would be the best way going forward. Under this system, we wouldn’t have country leaders or theatre leaders as we had before.”

The new structure does not involve moving decision-making authority from Canada to a shared services model run out of the U.S.. Several significant Canadian subsidiaries have opted for that strategy over the years, most recently VMware. It typically involves a public restructuring to remove leadership from Canada, and then, after unsatisfactory results follow, a quiet reversal of policy to go back to what had been in place before.

“There will be some shared services in this North American model, but while it gives us access to more than we had before, presales are still dotted line to me,” Dathan said. “The difference is that now I have access to resources I didn’t have access to before. What we had in country was what we had to draw on. Now we can draw much more on North America.

Dathan acknowledged that for the new system to work more effectively and deliver the desired results, the execution has to be there.

“Changing the people isn’t enough,” he said. “The other half is the process, and we need to deliver on changes there. I believe the story of HP to HPE will be one of the greatest stories in history. Everything we used to do served what is now four separate companies. Now, 100 per cent of the effort can be spent on providing us with the tools that we need, things like specific quoting systems and instrumentation. That’s what the company is committed to. We spent $2.7 billion on Aruba  — an acquisition that would have done absolutely nothing for the part of the business that is now HP Inc. They have invested heavily in 3D printing – an investment that would have done nothing for HPE. It’s not about creating a single magic bullet, but there are several bullets there for us to be  successful.”

Dathan said that the changes have been communicated to their key partners.

“The message is that it is business as usual,” he said. “I’ve talked to all our platinum partners and the DRCs. It’s necessary to do that because I’m sure our competitors will tell a very different story. Charlie is popular and well known. But the partners are happy that the change is internal and that I have an equal seat in the table.”

While some things will change, they are the kind of things that successful vendors are partners are changing anyway as they evolve to meet the changing needs of IT, Dathan said.

“We need to work with partners to change the way the market changes outcomes,” he said. “That involves different consumption models, and reflects that IT solutions today are very different than they were three years ago. We all need to evolve. And we need to work with our partners to evolve.”