Technology Giants HP, IBM Retool Channel Programs in Midmarket Push

By Steve Wexler

As if HP doesn't have enough on its plate with its escalating war with Cisco (data center), and the multi-billion-dollar 3Com (networking) and Palm (mobility) acquisitions,  the company has decided to tackle the $7.5 billion midsize enterprise market . The world's largest IT vendor is announcing the HP ten.to.one (10,000-1,000 employees) initiative that includes new software, an enhanced partner program and a primary research survey as well as a new organization called HP Commercial Solutions within the HP Software and Solutions business unit. Not to be outdone, the world's second-largest IT vendor, IBM, is also making a number of channel announcements, also targeted to win the business of mid-sized companies.

HP's Paul Muller, vice president, Strategic Marketing, Software Products, Software and Solutions, tells Channel Insider the research showed that the mid-sized enterprise market is underserved, with a lot of no-name vendors offering a variety of point solutions. The company has 40,000 mid-sized enterprise customers globally, but that's only a small faction of the total market. He says up to 50 percent of the $7.5 billion market is in the Americas, representing a "tremendous opportunity" for new and existing software partners.

"They're really looking for an industry leader to come in change the way they buy and consume management software," Muller says.

According to the new HP-sponsored research from Forrester Consulting, half of mid-sized enterprises plan to implement cloud computing, as opposed to 29 percent of large enterprise respondents. To tap into this market HP is offering a free beta of its new on-demand HP LoadRunner in the Cloud software, which is available via Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). It gives clients a flexible 'pay as you go' approach for performance testing of applications and websites.

Security and risk management is the top priority for midsize businesses, with data protection and backup  identified as the technologies most needed to address risk management. So the company has enhanced HP Data Protector to give customers eight methods of protection when running environments using Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. It claims to offer the most complete backup integration for virtualization at the most affordable cost, up to 70 percent less than alternatives.

Midsized enterprises are also dissatisfied with a reactive IT environment and want to be able to better monitor their systems, predict issues and control the quality of service to business requirements. With the new HP SiteScope Operations Manager, they can improve business service availability and performance through faster monitoring of IT infrastructures and applications.

Mid-sized enterprises are looking simplified procurement deployment, management and protection, says Muller, and that's what HP is bringing to the table. And partners are key to that because they're the mid-sized enterprises' preferred channel, he adds. They have a relatively small number of IT staff and "tend to rely very heavily upon their partners."
For the channel, the HP ten.to.one initiative features persona-based training, partner certifications, boot camps and a social media community. It also offers a campaign syndication service to  build, customize and monitor campaigns and lead generation. The company provides a portfolio of services targeted at midsize enterprises, including HP Professional Services, HP Software Education training and HP Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.

Muller says a separate channel focus is required to address this opportunity, with three things built into the program: dramatically simplified tools to help speed the sales process; automated marketing and demand generation; and "super important", a  collaborative community so partners can stay on top of the rapidly changing technologies and markets.

IBM is also retooling its channel capabilities, including a new scoring system to ensure consistency among partners. Other changes include senior-level IBM relationship services, market intelligence resources, expanded social media and search tools, and a specialty to help partners deliver solutions based on IBM System x technology. It's part of Big Blue's continued investment in partners through skills development, streamlined processes and new opportunities to collaborate, says Rich Hume, general manager, IBM Global Business Partners and Mid-Market in a prepared statement. "We continue to deliver on our promise to simplify the way we do business with our Business Partners and help them improve profitability and accelerate growth."

New skill-building opportunities and benefits include: extended executive relationship coverage to a broader community of Premier and Software Value Plus authorized Business Partners; Lab Advocate program for Software Value Plus authorized Business Partners; market intelligence through a new suite of no-cost Market Insights research reports on PartnerWorld from both IBM and external vendors; the IBM Business Partner Locator, a new tool that helps clients, prospects and partners more easily identify skilled IBM Business Partners in their local market; and expanded PartnerWorld Contact Services for support with marketing, sales support, training, technical support and other areas.

Also new is the  System x Specialty to help partners expand their System x sales, technical and solutions skills through education, testing and learning resources. With the specialty, partners will receive a number of benefits, including enhanced technical support, participation in targeted sales programs, and industry recognition through the System x Specialty mark to be delivered later this year and into 2011.

Perhaps of most significance is the simplified requirements for advancement through the PartnerWorld levels built around four criteria: Skills, Revenue, Customer Satisfaction and References. Scheduled to be deployed in phases beginning in July, the new criteria recognize more ways to advance through the program, have fewer rules and minimum requirements and are designed to provide a clear path to higher PartnerWorld program levels, increased benefits and specialties.

In the new weighted skill system, partners earn points for certification and progressively higher points for deeper skills attainment such as advanced and expert technical certifications. IBM has introduced new revenue-based categories and a special midmarket accelerator to earn additional PartnerWorld points. The company will now award PartnerWorld points for verified client references, and with customer satisfaction still a focus area, this process will remain unchanged. 

This article was originally published on 2010-05-19