Try listing all the products in the HP portfolio. On second thought, don't bother; there are tens of thousands of items. Even the major categories - PCs, networking, storage and printing - have too many products to note. And the company is betting its future on developing greater capabilities and value in cloud computing, security and Big Data.
Little wonder HP believes its partners and the general channel community don't know all that the company does or can do. In a US publication, Computer Dealer News, following last month's HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas, HP's Americas channel chief Stephen DiFranco said that HP has to do more to let the channel know all it has to offer.
"They don't know all we do," claimed DiFranco. "We need to do more to get the product message out."
Allow me to respectfully disagree with Mr DiFranco. The HP story is well known. The company has operated in and around the channel for the better part of the last 30 years. Its partners have built strong, mature practices around respective domains. In fact, HP dominates relationships among the top one per cent of the channel.
The challenge facing HP isn't that the channel doesn't know everything it does, but that the channel isn't selling enough of HP's products and services.
Since the summer of 2011, HP has been trying to regain its footing. The TouchPad tablet debacle, a series of strategic management missteps and years of under-investing in business development have conspired to nearly kill the company. Ever since, HP under the direction of CEO Meg Whitman has been trying to restore stability and return to growth.
The most recent quarterly results showed nearly all major divisions lost year over year and quarter over quarter sales. However, the losses weren't as bad as HP and analysts expected, so almost everyone scored it a win. Storage, servers and especially PC sales are down.
And while software shows promise, HP continues to struggle with going to market with its Autonomy acquisition.
HP shook the confidence of partners to the core, and they sought alternatives to insulate their businesses from disruption. This is why companies such as Lenovo, EMC, and Cisco have gained at HP's expense.
DiFranco was quoted as saying: "We're one of the few manufacturers that plays across a broad enough product line that a VAR could literally build their entire business around us. A part of our product strategy is to make sure a VAR has the ability to complete a system with HP and have enough products to be successful. We design our lineup to enable franchise partnerships. I don't think everyone ever thinks of it that way."
That's patently untrue, particularly in the HP universe. Among HP's largest partners in the US -- Fusion Storm, MSI, Presidio, Logicalis, to name a few -- are well-established practices in networking and storage. Cisco and IBM have "franchised" partners too; look no further than Dimension Data for Cisco and Sirius Computer Solutions for IBM.
HP isn't alone in its thinking, and it is even behind, as rivals have spent two years building partners with defined technology practices and virtual channel networks of interlocking partners that create the net effect of a franchise.
One problem for HP and vendors like it is that partners now have choice where they hadn't before. Resellers can choose hosted, cloud-based and homegrown products to complete their systems.
Providers are earning more from their own IP than from their vendor products. This might be great for the health of the channel, but the lack of profitability on the resale of vendor products destroy the traditional incentive for loyalty.
In other words, providers don't necessarily need vendors to demonstrate value and generate profits.
This doesn't mean the rest of the channel is as mature as Dimension Data or Logicalis. More than 90 per cent of the channel doesn't have the truly defined specialisation or business technology practices that HP is thinking about.
And, while security is a well-defined market and cloud computing adoption in the channel is increasing, Big Data remains relatively untapped by any channel segment.
What providers need, in my view, is guidance on the emerging market opportunities and how to penetrate them in a meaningful and sustainable way. In this regard, HP is doing a tremendous job. Its regional centres of excellence are providing partners with resources that help develop these new technology practices.
And HP does have a tremendous programme for helping partners develop offerings that fit their customers' needs.
Vendor practices are being disrupted by the influx of services that challenge their legacy hardware, the availability of low-cost technology that competes with their core offerings and new business models that make partners less dependent on them for profitability and viability.
These challenges aren't exclusive to HP but are affecting all the major vendors. Telling providers what products you have isn't enough; vendors like HP need to re-establish their value and partner imperative to remain engaged in a channel of increasingly independent resellers.
Larry Walsh is president and chief executive of Channelnomics
As part of our special editorial partnership, CRN is republishing this article from Channelnomics
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