HP is investing heavily in a new partner communications and ordering platform, Unison, which will provide VARs with a single viewing point for collecting information about products and services, available resources, training and, most importantly, pricing quotes.
Part of the aim is getting those products in the hands of partners so they can build high-value systems. Additionally, partners will use the same system for accessing status of available market development funds, product rebates, sales leads and deal registration.
Unision has been under development for months, but won't roll out until August. Partners got a glimpse of the new system at the February HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas.
Doug Oathout, the vice president of global marketing for channel partners, alliances and OEMs, is under no illusion about Unison being a quick fix for all of HP's operational and performance woes.
Rather, he sees mechanisms such as consolidated information and ordering systems as a piece of restoring HP to solid footing.
When HP talks about building systems, it's another way of saying "attached sales", a concept first promoted by former CEO Mark Hurd in 2007.
At the time, Hurd -- now with Oracle (pictured right) -- noted HP partners were prolific at selling products, but didn't do a good enough job of selling a raft of interconnected HP products that created systems.
By selling more products per account, Hurd argued that HP would gain through decreased cost of sales and displacing competitors in the process.
Attached sales is a recurring theme in HP's channel. Last year, HP channel chief Stephen DiFranco made numerous references to the need for HP and its partners to capture more wallet share of their mutual customers.
At the time, HP was trying to stem defections of customers worried about the instability following leadership changes and failed corporate strategies.
HP may have talked about making business processes easier for partners and customers, but didn't actually do anything to unify the programme. Unison is the attempt to finally operationalise the "attached sales" philosophy.
In a conversation with Channelnomics, Oathout expressed no illusions that Unison will be some silver bullet that will change HP channel performance overnight. Rather, he believes Unison is a piece of the overall puzzle in rebuilding channel confidence and productivity.
HP is pushing on three fronts to rebuild its stature: cloud computing, security and Big Data.
None of these domains are built around a single product; they require integrated hardware, software and professional services.
Unison, Oathout says, will act as a catalyst for enabling partners to build repeatable practices and product sales around these technology trends.
"Partners need to see the value in the platform," Oathout said. "If we're going to change the way we do business, it has to have impact."
HP continues to take heat from customers, partners and Wall Street investors for the missteps and poor management practices dating back to the summer of 2011.
In truth, HP is making steady progress building sensible, sustainable and valuable products and practices that meet market needs. Unicenter could prove an invaluable tool in enabling future HP and partner performance.
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