HP partners ask the company for responsiveness, speed to close deals

HP partners say they're still feeling effects of organizational problems, but are pleased to hear of the company's plans to correct them.

LAS VEGAS -- Leadership, innovation and execution. That's what PartnerOne and AllianceOne attendees at Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Global Partner Conference said they need to see from the vendor after the hoopla of the conference concluded.

After numerous deep dive one-on-one meetings between partners and Hewlett-Packard (HP) executives this week, partners said they reiterated the need for the organization to be more nimble and responsive, to close deals faster and help them bring in more revenue for their businesses.

Acknowledging that Hewlett-Packard got distracted, made missteps and that the last few years weren't easy, HP President and CEO Meg Whitman said the work ahead for the company was to make it right.

Wrapping up the last day of the conference, HP partners were told that the roadmap for the company includes, for example, making investments in internal systems, such as the use of Salesforce.com to help improve its channel relationships; stopping the churn at the executive level of the company; increasing investments in research and development; consolidating the siloed business units; and streamlining support systems for partners.

The roadmap pleased Todd Federman, national advocate for HP ESSN at Technology Integration Co. (TIG), a San Diego-based solution provider and longtime HP channel partner, who observed that HP has been broken for quite some time.

The impact of HP's dysfunction on business for the $340 million company with 24 offices nationwide? "It sometimes made it tough for us to put together programs and initiatives," Federman said.

It also confused customers, especially when an army of HP reps would show up at a client's business for a meeting. And, sometimes winning a customer's business would be at risk because of the long response times from the myriad of reps.

HP's move in early 2012 to merge its Imaging and Printing Group and Personal Systems Group into a single entity, Printing and Personal Systems (PPS), was a hailed move by partners. The consolidation included a shuffling of top executives to head the new PPS business, as well as newly appointed channel executives to focus on the company's go-to-market strategy.

At the conference this week, HP further solidified its PPS direction with the announcement of a PPS Services Specialization to help partners extend their portfolios and boost revenue.

"Now we need to see HP fine-tune the Enterprise Group by making some structural and management changes, particularly in reporting and oversight," Federman said.

While the Enterprise Group was formed at about the same time as PPS -- it consolidates Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN), as well as the company's global accounts organization and Technology Services -- some HP partners are still waiting for the company to solidify as a single organization with a single focus.

"The company was too siloed, with each division having its own agenda. It caused HP to lose track of its installed base," said Susan Lautenbach, director of marketing and alliances at STA, an Englewood, Colo.-based solutions provider that focuses primarily on services, servers and storage in the areas of virtualization and information management.

Like Federman, Lautenbach believes the Enterprise Group has to be more nimble and move faster to get open customer deals closed faster and off of the street.

Like many HP partners, Lautenbach viewed HP's introduction of new storage systems as a renewal of innovation. The company announced the HP StoreSystem, a channel-only midrange storage solution that combines HP 3PAR StoreServ storage arrays and HP StoreOnce deduplication backup software, as well as two new HP StoreVirtual Storage systems based on HP ProLiant Gen8 technologies.

In fact, much of the vendor's new product announcements were well-received, from the new storage solutions to innovations to strengthen its converged infrastructure portfolio, the new HP Blade System c7000 Platinum Enclosure, new bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives for unified wired/wireless connectivity and new HP Technology Services.

Still, at the end of the day, HP channel partners said the lion's share of their business is the same business they've been doing for the last half-dozen years, such as catering to the traditional needs of data centers and end users, or the basic "blocking and tackling" around server virtualization, laptops, printing, on-premises and off-premises networking, edge versus core routers and services.

Beverly Wyman's objective at the conference was to figure out how to give herself a raise for doing what she's already doing. What that means is getting on HP's radar and maximizing PartnerOne programs. Wyman is the owner of 12-year-old The Top Floor, an IT solution provider in Middlebury, Vt.

Partners came looking for hope, and many left with some.

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