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Hewlett-Packard’s recent decision to move some high-end
consulting and education services
to channel partners from its direct-sales
organization could not have come at a better time.

Even though the vendor is tying the decision of which partners get to sell
the services to sales volumes, the move nevertheless recognizes that solution
providers’ business models are evolving and that much of this evolution
revolves around services.

HP said it will allow its Service Elite partners with the highest sales to
enterprise customers to sell the consulting and education services. The company
also said it is running managed services pilot programs and boosting internal
resources to support its services channel partners.

The moves address two often-articulated complaints about vendors—that they
have done little to embrace the managed services model and that, despite all
the programs they put in place to support partners, more is needed.

The complaint about managed services is specifically directed at the major
vendors. While Cisco and Dell have gotten kudos for their initiatives in this
area, big-name vendors by and large have received a thumbs-down.

Tellingly, in a recent poll by the MSP Alliance, 40 percent of 142
participating MSPs (managed services providers) said they are dissatisfied
with managed services support programs
from vendors.

But survey participants rated as favorite vendors those that focus
exclusively on managed services—N-able Technologies, Level Platforms, Zenith
Infotech and Kaseya. This finding makes sense, of course, but it also provides
further evidence that major vendors aren’t meeting the needs of MSPs.

And when it comes to meeting the needs of solution providers in general, vendors
don’t exactly score off the charts
. In a poll by Ziff Davis Enterprise and
Crimson Consulting last summer, a measly 14 percent of 273 solution providers
rated big IT vendors’ support programs as “very good” or “excellent.”
Seventy-three percent deemed them "good or fair" and 13 percent rated
them "poor or worse."

Vendors would have had a better chance of scoring higher if they had in the
last couple of years done a better job of adjusting to evolving business
models, such as managed services, and of rewarding partners for their influence
as opposed to just sales.

Vendors such as IBM and Microsoft have
started to recognize influence, but by and large channel programs still reward
partners for how much they sell. By rewarding influence, a vendor gives a commission
to partners, such as ISVs, for participating in a sale even when they don’t
ultimately put their signature on the dotted line when the deal closes.
It is likely that no matter how much they improve their channel support
infrastructures, vendors still will be the object of criticism from partners.
Such is the nature of relationships; more improvements could always be made.

But at least HP appears intent on assessing its programs’ shortcomings and
trying new approaches. Besides moving consulting and education services sales
to partners, the vendor also wants to simplify its overall channel programs to
make it easier for partners to do business with HP. The need for simplification
has been a common complaint among partners.

Simplification tends to yield positive results. Solution providers gravitate
to the vendors that best support them in selling their services and technology.

With its recent and planned moves to better support partners, HP appears to
be on the right track.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing
editor for Channel Insider. He can be reached at