VARs should focus on selling storage offerings in the coming year, especially for customers in the SMB and midmarket space—this according to Hewlett-Packard’s channel chief, Adrian Jones.
Jones, HP's vice president and general manager of the Americas Solution Partner Organization, addressed HP channel partners on the second day of the vendor's annual partner conference, held Feb. 25-28 in Las Vegas. In his address, he emphasized that HP will bring simplicity, predictability and consistency to the PartnerOne channel program to make engagement with HP easier for partners.
Jones said HP's hiring of more than 2,000 additional salespeople in 2007, announced in its recent financials, will put "more feet on the street" to help push sales growth across all market segments, including the enterprise, midmarket and SMB sectors. The additional sales personnel will help, not hinder, channel sales efforts with their customers, he said, stressing the continued importance of the channel to HP's strategy.
"You guys add more value than we can with end-user customers," Jones said. He asked the audience of channel partners for their help in continuing to bring integration and implementation services to customers.
Storage was a major focus of Jones' keynote, and he said HP will be "relentless" in pushing partners to grow the storage side of HP's business. Increasing partner incentives for storage products and services helped HP increase its storage business by 38 percent in 2007, he said, but the company and its partners still have work to do to lead in the product area against competitors such as Dell, IBM and NetApp.
"We plan to continue building out the [storage] product portfolio to strengthen our offerings. We need your help and your patience on some of the things we're doing there because we're not done yet, and we have a lot of work to do," Jones said, adding that partners can expect more storage product announcements in the coming months.
Over the past 12 months, Jones said, HP has announced, designed and released a number of storage and data center products for a broad base of customers, especially in the SMB and midmarket areas. He cited the "Shorty" c3000 blade server for SMBs; the SMB StorageWorks MSA2000 SAN, released Feb. 8; and the EVA4400 virtualized storage array, announced last week for cash-strapped midmarket and SMB customers.
Jones also echoed HP CEO Mark Hurd's sentiments that HP needs to focus on making its channel programs simpler, more predictable and consistent. Jones said HP is solid in product and personnel basics, and while the vendor is working on better aligning itself with partners, it has been very successful identifying, strategizing and executing on market trends through its channel partners.
"The channel is ingrained in our culture today, and we're always looking at how we can get better and work harder for you," Jones said. He reiterated Hurd's insistence that HP executives will be making many more face-to-face calls on channel partners to better understand and fulfill their needs.
"We're going to get more of the executives out there to work with you in the coming year; that is my promise. Sometimes we do make things a bit complex, but our guiding principles going forward are simplicity, predictability and consistency," Jones said.
HP will announce further changes to the PartnerOne channel program that will make it easier for channel partners to do business with HP and to be rewarded for the business they bring, he said. Increasing incentives on strategic areas such as storage, data center and the printing market, Jones added, is one way he is improving the program for partners.
Driving growth through VARs’ midmarket and SMB customers is also crucial, said Jones, since the $72 billion SMB market is difficult for HP to reach without the channel.
"We need your help to get to touch those SMB buying points. We just can't get to all of them," he said. Another HP focus will be to reward partners who sell customers solutions that encompass HP's entire portfolio of products: storage, servers, PCs and printers, he said.
"We know it's not easy; we know that it's tough. But that's why we're going to continue to reward you for investing in HP's products across the portfolio," Jones said.
Jones cited additions to PartnerOne such as the SMB Expressway partner portal and the enhanced Attach Plus program, which rewards partners for every point of growth they achieve, as examples of how HP is changing to better address partner needs. He said that, starting March 1, HP will roll out a U.S. deal registration Web site that will provide a one-stop process for registering deals online.
Like Hurd, Jones addressed some glaring partner pain points. He said HP has spent "a lot of time and money investing in IT" to ensure that accurate partner sales data is readily available. He added that HP executives have been up front about the data reporting issues, and that if partners do not find improved speed, accuracy and timeliness of their data, they should not hesitate to contact him or Tom LaRocca, vice president of partner development and programs.
"You will get an answer from us," said Jones. He then asked LaRocca to address another partner worry: that HP wants all of its resellers to sell HP exclusively.
LaRocca said that while the issue of loyalty versus exclusivity has received a lot of attention, the strategy is not to ask partners to be exclusive. HP recognizes that it requires significant investments in HP as partners build out their offerings to customers, and partners who make large investments in HP will see equally large returns, he said.
"As you add HP products to every sale, we want to reward you. As you increase your commitment with us, we are going to increase our reward to you," LaRocca said.