As far as channel relationships go, HP has certainly travelled a rocky road over the years. But judging by the partner reaction to its recent EMEA Preferred Partner event in San Francisco, it is definitely heading in the right direction.
With the theme of the event being ‘The Road Ahead. Together. Better. Simpler’, HP’s message was clear. The vendor wants to further simplify its relationship with the channel.
HP chief executive Mark Hurd even admitted in his keynote speech that the company has not always embraced the simple message.
“It is clear to us that we are hard to do business with,” Hurd said. “We will try to get our go-to-market strategy right and make it simpler for partners to do business with us.”
HP certainly appeared grateful to its channel for helping it become the largest IT company in the world. At every opportunity the executives personally thanked partners for their contribution to HP’s business.
Antoine Barre, vice president of Solution Partner Organisation (SPO) for EMEA at HP, echoed Hurd’s sentiments. “We are way too complex to do business with,” he said. “The partner channel is at the heart of HP and we want to look at how HP is investing in channel programmes and continue a mutually beneficial relationship.”
The San Francisco event also formed the backdrop for the return of the Gold Preferred Partner level, which was dropped a year ago because HP admitted the timing was not right.
Preferred partners will have received an information pack today detailing how to apply and what certification will be needed.
“In 2007, HP spent $300m (£152m) in channel compensation for resellers,” Barre said. “But at the same time we recognised that not all partners make the same contribution and should not all be treated in the same way. The new Gold accreditation will enable us to accelerate the Preferred Partner Programme, reward investment and offer incentive for commitment.”
Upon qualifying, partners will receive additional benefits such as pay for results, partner development funds, partner for growth and use of the exclusive Gold logo.
During the launch, Sean Gallagher, a director of SPO at HP, said: “Gold is back with a vengeance. We talked about it in Barcelona back in 2006, and we discussed and reviewed it. We were not happy with the architecture of it and knew we needed more time. We believe now is the time.”
As revealed by CRN Online, resellers have until 10 September to apply for Gold accreditation and the vendor plans to announce the bulk of the partners by 1 November to coincide with the start of its new fiscal year.
Microsoft was also capitalising on HP’s feel-good factor. Chief executive
Steve Ballmer had flown in
to talk about the deepening relationship between Microsoft and HP and the importance of collaboration.
At the event, the majority of HP’s Preferred partners, were also Microsoft Gold partners.
“We have an 80 to 90 per cent overlap of partners in this room,” Ballmer said. “Microsoft’s strategy is built on collaboration with partners. HP is very unique among the global partners with which we work because of its focus on the partner channel.”
The two vendors unveiled a joint Frontline partner programme at the event, aimed at the virtualisation and unified communications (UC) space.
To qualify for the programme, resellers must be Microsoft Gold level and an HP Preferred partner with specialisations relating to the vendor’s Enterprise Storage Services (ESS) group.
In time, Frontline will be extended to partners with other HP specialisations, the vendor promised.
Once accepted to the programme, VARs will receive special branding from July 2008 onwards and will be able to subscribe to offers through a dedicated portal.
They will also gain access to an additional six per cent margin on the hardware side and up to an extra 10 per cent on the software side, the two vendors revealed.
Enthusiasm was certainly running high among partner delegates at the conference.
Andy Field, commercial director of Easy Computers, said: “It was a very well organised and informative event, well worth the time I spent out of the office. The Gold partner status in principle seems like an excellent idea and we just need to know the specific criteria.”
Loay Lawrence, commercial director at Vohkus, said: “Out of the three HP events I have been to, San Francisco was definitely the best. We took a lot away from the event.”
Lawrence also welcomed the new accreditations. “It is a good thing to
distinguish between partners that
have taken the time to invest in the specialisations,” he said. “The Gold accreditation is a great way forward and is HP’s way of acknowledging that,” he added.
Phil Doye, chief executive of Kelway, said: “I found the whole event pretty positive. Particularly from our point of view the Gold and Frontline programmes are something that we will actively be pursuing. It actually confirms that HP is a pretty good partner to have.
“We are in a very competitive market, but the event was useful allowing us to meet with our peers to see where the market was in general. It was also good to be able to develop some deeper relationships with some of the more senior people at HP.”
Tom Kelly, UK managing director of Logicalis, said: “Overall I thought the event was excellent and I liked the intimacy of the format. There were between 400 and 500 people there, unlike other events where there are thousands. It gave people the ability to interact with others with whom they do not always come into contact.
“I believe these type of events are key to allowing a single forum for HP to get its message across. It also allows partners to bond. Companies like us have to collaborate with firms we normally consider to be our competition, but these type of events where we meet people on a casual level allows us to form relationships,” he added.
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