After a topsy-turvy 18 months for the world’s largest IT firm, HP’s UK leaders are claiming the vendor enters its new fiscal year in a good place, having put the channel centre stage in the past six months.
Integration has been the watchword of late, with UK Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) channel chief Kevin Matthews being given a wider remit as head of indirect sales. Matthews explained that he now oversees all sales through reseller, service provider, systems integrator and ISV channels.
“The tangible shift from six months ago is that indirect is centre stage, in terms of our business and how we are selling our products,” he added. “That is working; bringing indirect together really re-emphasises the importance of the channel business.”
Both Matthews and UK and Ireland managing director Nick Wilson spoke of the vendor “reaffirming” its commitment to the channel in recent months. The channel will also be instrumental in HP’s drive to grab a bigger slice of the SMB pie, claimed the executive duo, with Matthews pointing to its investment in its high-touch sales unit in Scotland as a sign of the vendor’s intent.
“We would like to start addressing as much of the market as we can,” added Wilson. “[In the past], we have probably covered the larger organisations better than the smaller ones. But if there is a part of the economy where the glass is half full, it is SMB. Most small and medium-sized companies want to buy from the market leader.”
It would appear that HP’s competition has intensified this year, with Huawei making a lot of noise about its desire to create a big impact in the European channel. The Chinese giant may have brought on board some big-name staff and distributors and signalled a lot of aggressive intent in the press, but the effect has been negligible, according to Matthews and Wilson.
“I have seen the headlines, but I have not seen any results,” said Matthews.
“Not in the channel, particularly not in networking,” added Wilson. “We have picked up a lot of market share in networking and we are now in a dominant number-two position.”
Another big internal coming together in the world of HP has taken place in its systems and print divisions in recent months. As recently as a year ago, the vendor was all set to spin off its PC arm, before swapping CEOs and changing its mind about its client business.
With the future of the Personal Systems Group locked down, the vendor further cemented its place at the heart of the company by announcing it was to merge it with the Imaging and Printing Group to form the Printers and Personal Systems (PPS) unit.
Paul Hunter, UK vice president of PPS, claimed that integration at a UK level is now wrapped up.
“We spent three months working very hard on it and have been executing on it with as much thoroughness as possible,” he said. “As of [two weeks ago] we have all our teams in place.”
Hunter claimed that partners will benefit from unity in account management and channel reward programmes, pointing out that “virtually all partners take both parts of the portfolio”. He claimed a number of end-user deals through the channel are now being turned around in as little as 48 hours and under.
“We have to improve our processes, our way of doing business. [It is about] being simpler, being easier to deal with,” he said.
Howard Hall, managing director of Gold partner DTP Group, claimed the IPG-PSG merger is unlikely to have either a major positive or negative impact on his firm.
“Not really for us, we are pretty self-sufficient. But I do not see it as being an issue in any way,” he added. “They had an opportunity to get rid of some people. Some were good, others will not be missed. It has been a bit of a mixed bag.”
PPS chief Hunter (pictured) refuted suggestions that the PC market is challenged at the moment, and asserted that his firm is not experiencing the inventory build-ups and declining average selling prices that other vendors are reportedly enduring.
“We do not see it growing in the way that it was five years ago, but we do not see it declining either. The PC market is more resilient than analysts give it credit for,” he said.
“We are absolutely not seeing a build-up of our inventory. It is one of the things we have done quite predictably and we have prided ourselves on managing inventory in the channel; it has never got out of line, and never got too old.”
A soft touch
Paul Toffis, UK and Ireland director of channel and alliances for HP Software, claimed that the vendor wants to expand its software footprint into its wider channel. In a bid to increase sales of the breadth of the software portfolio, HP has brought in the In7tive promotion, offering partners extra margin.
Reseller recruits that have not sold HP software in the past two years will be rewarded with an extra seven-point discount, as will those branching out into new areas that currently offer only part of the three-pronged portfolio of applications, operations and information life cycle management.
“If I can get more partners to sell across my portfolio, the benefits are accelerated,” said Toffis. “The portfolio is broad and we are always trying to grow the number of partners that we have.”
Richard Gibbons, software manager at Gold partner Bechtle, welcomed the fact that the software channel is to be brought under the umbrella of the HP PartnerONE organisation.
“Although we are a big hardware partner, we have found it difficult to engage with the right people in the software division, both with HP and the disties,” he said.
“Our account management is still quite siloed. But when software becomes part of the PartnerONE programme, account managers will have access to the software side and more investment in making it a success. Moving it should make it much easier for partners.”
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