With shareholders scurrying for the exits and big questions being asked about its strategy, HP's pressured board took the drastic step of ousting CEO Leo Apotheker on Thursday. The former SAP (SAP) chief, who unveiled his controversial vision for the company last month, oversaw a sharp decline in the company's share price, something that Whitman has vowed to halt.
"HP has really disappointed investors in recent quarters; I am not happy about that," she explained, during a conference call late on Thursday. "We understand that our performance is under intense scrutiny."Whitman, not a universally popular choice for the HP hot seat, certainly has one of the toughest jobs in tech. Critics have already derided the company and its board as "dysfunctional," so the new CEO must pick up the pieces of this mess and somehow get HP back on track. Here are the three areas that Whitman should make her top priorities: Get the Corporate Message Straight HP's bumbling attempts to communicate its new strategy last last month were nothing short of disastrous, something which executive chairman Ray Lane admitted during Thursday's conference call. Lane described the communication surrounding the Aug. 18 strategy announcements as an embarassment, so Whitman's first job should be finding out what exactly went wrong. The incoming CEO then needs to build stronger lines of communication around HP, and quickly reach out to shareholders. Whereas her predecessor paid the price for keeping a relatively low profile, Whitman will be a much more visible presence. One of the best-known faces in Silicon Valley, the one-time eBay (eBay) boss is an accomplished public performer, so expect to see her on TV and the keynote circuit hammering home HP's strategy. Sorting out HP's messaging, though, is just the tip of iceberg, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope. "We have little doubt that HP's new CEO can more clearly articulate a long-term strategy," he explained, in a note released on Friday. "Once this is done, however, it will be even more important to explain the costs of implementing this strategy."