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Hewlett-Packard SMB Central courts smaller VARs with new portal, MDF

Hewlett-Packard's new SMB Central portal aims to give partners easy access to products for small and medium-sized businesses. VARs can also get $1,500 for MDF per quarter.

Add Hewlett-Packard to the list of IT vendors with raging SMB fever.

This week the company will launch SMB Central, a portal described as a one-stop shop to help VARs sell into small and medium-sized business (SMB) accounts. The portal and its resources are available for free to members of HP’s PartnerOne program as well as small VARs that have not traditionally qualified for PartnerOne, said Meaghan Kelly, vice president of channel strategy for HP’s Solution Partners Organization.

Arlin Sorensen, CEO of Heartland Technology Solutions in Harlan, Iowa, welcomed HP’s focus on the SMB channel.

While HP has been a strategic ally of SMB partners for many years, there have been challenges in doing business with a company so vast, he said.  “[They can be] a bit complex and sprawling at times, so many SMB partners have struggled to build repeatable practices and stay informed of programs and opportunities … for their SMB clients,” said Sorenson.

HP SMB Central perks

Through SMB Central, HP partners can get $1,500 in market development funds (MDF) per quarter and access to sell all of the company’s products, including notebooks, desktops, printers and servers, Kelly said.

HP is also changing the way it assesses additional margin to partners. The vendor will emphasize sales across its product groups over particular revenue numbers.

“Our interest is in having HP franchise VARs, those that go all-in with HP,” Kelly said. “We find they grow faster than partners who sell just one product line.”

That all-in mantra is a holdover from the tenure of former HP CEO Mark Hurd, who repeatedly incited partners to sell and support more of the company’s diverse product lines.

All aboard the SMB bandwagon

But HP is hardly alone in that quest. Two weeks ago, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano delivered a similar message to IBM partners, telling them to sell more complete solutions -- ideally, comprising IBM software, hardware and services -- to the upper end of the SMB spectrum (companies with up to 1,000 employees).

Dell Inc. is also pursuing growth in small businesses and, if the most recent quarterly numbers are any indication, Dell is doing better than HP, at least in the PC market. But Dell is famously less partner-focused than HP, and longtime HP partners said they appreciate that.

More on HP PartnerOne

HP focuses on MDF changes

PartnerOne VARs worry about HP’s direction

Hewlett-Packard hones PartnerOne program

SMB Central will give partners a very focused way to engage with HP, Sorensen said. “It allows us to go to one place to get information, program and product updates and creates a platform that makes it simpler and more efficient to do business with HP,” he said.

Peter Anderson, president of Tampa, Fla.-based Bayshore Technologies, agreed that any program that helps VARs keep their cash flow robust is a good thing.

SMB Central is one of several HP partner program changes the company is making in the run-up to its Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at, or follow us on twitter.

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