Hewlett-Packard (HP) says it is revamping its PartnerOne channel partner program with an eye toward simplifying partner access to HP products and related services.
Probably most noticeable to partners will be the disappearance of the current "Gold" and "Platinum" designations. Instead there will be a "Preferred Partner" label and within that an "Elite" designation, both of which will offer participants additional benefits, especially in high-growth areas such as virtualization, thin clients, PC and workstation blades, Microsoft Unified Communications, office printing and the public sector.
Elite status for PartnerOne will confer additional marketing benefits, back-end rebates and priority leads, according to Tom LaRocca, vice president of marketing and strategy for HP's Solution Partners Organization for the Americas.
Below the Preferred tier, standard business partners will have access to support and training but none of the partner account management, rebates and accrued market development funds (MDF) that flow to qualified Preferred-level partners.
"All of the [HP] business groups compromised and aligned so that a partner can hit the same bar for all business units," LaRocca said. Today, a partner has to hit different bars for the technology solutions group (TSG), imaging and printing group (IPG) and personal systems group (PSG). (PSG covers PCs, laptops and workstations, IPG covers printing and digital photography, and TSG covers storage, servers, managed services and software.)
Currently, there are so many facets and points of entry to PartnerOne that navigating the system can be confusing. But that will change when the updated PartnerOne plan goes into effect Nov. 1. "Now if you're a preferred partner, you can participate in all the market subsidy funds, the new opportunity tools, and you will have sale coverage -- meaning a person's name and contact information at HP," LaRocca said.
Some partners were very pleased with the changes. "This rewards partners who invest in implementing HP products and services so we can compete better with direct marketers," said Mike Daher, founder and CEO of Denali Advanced Integration an elite HP partner in Redmond, Wash.
One major goal is to get PartnerOne partners to add more HP product lines, an outgrowth of CEO Mark Hurd's encouragement of partners to "double down" on their HP investment.
"Partners will be able to look at this and determine if it makes sense for their business model to add storage blades if they're already selling a lot of server blades. Most server customers need a SAN," LaRocca said.
And, like other tech vendors, HP is going to a customer-focused solutions nomenclature. So partner specialization designations around virtualization and business continuity will make sense to buyers. That mimics work Microsoft is doing in its partner competencies, where current labels like "information worker" that correspond with internal product groups will disappear in favor of names more recognizable to users.
HP partners apprised of this news wanted to hear more, but all of them said that while they welcome a chance to participate across many product categories, they want to make sure their existing certifications and designations in certain product areas are recognized.
The HP announcement comes at a time when the company is under fire from partners for a yet-to-be-announced partnership with CDW to chase small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Many HP partners view CDW as a direct threat, underpricing them in their own accounts. To these solution providers, the alliance is a sign that HP is favoring -- even subsidizing -- a high-volume, low-value-add partner over its bread-and-butter SMB VARs.
HP talks loyalty, but "loyalty is a two-way street," said one longtime HP solution provider upon hearing that news.
The CDW deal may push some HP partners to add or lead with rival hardware lines, perhaps even Dell, which has launched a channel recruitment effort.
LaRocca acknowledged the issue without commenting on the CDW deal per se.
"If a partner wants to look at Dell, we'll say, 'Look across the programs you're in. You can access all our programs' growth tools, we pay you back-end rebates, you get preferred logos, preferred leads from us. You get up-front discounts, you get a variety of benefits we feel are unmatched," he said. "You won't get this anyplace else."
Denali's Daher said HP is the best vendor for his company. "You have to be realistic. HP funds four positions here so they'll fund a lot more positions at CDW. I'd rather see them in the channel to attack SMBs rather than hiring more [HP] direct sales people."
The bottom line to Daher is that "HP used ot have a big call center in Colorado and it's gone. I would rather compete with CDW than HP" for accounts.
LaRocca expects there will be "1,000-plus" Preferred partners in the Americas and within those ranks a few hundred Elite partners.
"They'll have certifications either in virtualization or storage or printers or ProCurve. They've attained product certifications, have met all the standards we set and will have at least one Elite designation with many having multiple Elites. They'll get their own logo and then we'll market to the end-user customers for them. If you're in Des Moines and have a business continuity issue or need a storage solution, go into our system and put in your zip code," he said.
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