5 Year-Olds Playing Soccer

March 20, 2008 at 7:25 am Leave a comment

By Diane Krakora.

I was in Las Vegas, yet again, for the start of yet another conference season. You’d  think because I met my husband at a conference in Vegas (at N+I 15 years ago) that I would have a fondness for this place.  But I don’t.  It’s noisy, smoky and usually hot, which I like, but it is actually cold this time.  No matter, most likely I won’t be going outside for the three days I’m here.

I’m here for the HP America’s Partner Conference (APC). As I waked into HP CEO and Chairman Mark Hurd’s keynote the evening prior to the start of the conference, the band was blaring and the room was packed with anticipation.

It had been 18 months since HP’s last partner conference and the room was buzzing with energy. Now that HP is a $100b+ company, what would be their next goal? What about the so called recession? What product announcements would HP make? What partnering changes would be coming our way? The audience of approximately 2000 HP resellers was asking these questions that evening.

Let me clarify, 2000 HP hardware resellers were in attendance. And those were primarily server partners, particularly because HP doesn’t have a strong storage offering. Some of the partners in attendance sold the printer and personal computing lines. But far and away, these were server and storage VARs. I was surprised how few of the VARs there sold HP software. HP has certainly been building up their software offering with several acquisitions over the last couple of years. I came to find out later that the HP software organization has their own partner summit in June (in Las Vegas as well). So APC is really a Technology Solutions Group (TSG – server, storage) only event.

The mood is casual, confident and relaxed as a very ill Mark Hurd takes the stage after the typical pump-you-up  band, show and stunt exhibition. First Mark clarified what he meant by several highly publicized comments about “loyalty”.  He re-iterated loyalty to him was the double down commitment he’s been asking for from partners for years. He clarified loyalty wasn’t analogous to the taboo word of “exclusive” Increasing partner loyalty or “doubling down” with HP is Mark’s request to sell the whole portfolio of HP products. Mark insists to partners that instead of filling in the solution with other non-HP products double down with HP and sell more HP products in the solution. Much more time is spent in the next couple of days discussing “attach rates” and programs designed to increase the overall solution sale. This is nothing new. Most IT companies are eager to expand the partner’s engagement and sales across all their product lines particularly after an acquisition. Both Oracle and Citrix have active and aggressive programs to encourage solution providers to sell the whole product portfolio. In the Amazon Consulting 2008 State of Partner Programs study, solution selling was one of the top value-based activities vendors are looking for from their VARs.

The message, however, came across as panic. Mark discussed how important partners have been to HP’s development from an $80 billion company to a $104 billion company. And he continued to stress how important partners are going to be to HP’s growth in the US moving forward. There was nothing shocking there. However it was the way he said it…HP must win the US.  The solution provider community is the only way we’re going to be successful in our growth goals here.   This was a little odd for two reasons. First, this is the America’s partner conference and about a quarter of the attendees were from outside the United States. He could have easily incorporated those partners in the rally cry by saying we must win in the America’s  He didn’t. He was focused exclusively in his keynote on the U.S. He also seemed very concerned and anxious about the overall growth of HP not being as strong in the US market and the fight for sales within the U.S. He didn’t mention Dell by name, but through my meetings over the next couple of days, I realized HP is definitely concerned with Dell’s focus on building a solution provider channel in the U.S.

Mark Hurd’s view of “how”HP partners will grow sales in the U.S. is through better alignment with the partner base asking partners to be where the HP direct sales force is not. The named and non-named account plan is still in place, but HP equated the sales strategy to enterprise customers to five year olds playing soccer. Everyone following the ball around and not playing their position. Mark indicated the only way HP was going to meet growth goals and win in the U.S. is if everyone plays their position and the solution providers cover the accounts where the HP direct team was not. From multiple conversations later in the conference, this seemed like a request from HP to the solution providers to stay out of the enterprise accounts and to focus on the commercial sector. Some partners were fine with this account coverage strategy. Others not so much as their primary business model was to sell to enterprise accounts. So some of the larger solution providers were a little “miffed” and remarked “why doesn’t” HP get off the field, let us 5 year olds do our job and they stay on the sidelines and coach!”


Entry filed under: Live from Events. Tags: , , , .

Partner Advisory Councils – Build A Partner-Centric Organization Outourcer/MSP Partner Programs – New Market, Old Principles

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