HP channel chief: Practices make perfect

Stephen DiFranco at APC 2011

Stephen DiFranco at APC 2011

LAS VEGAS – HP will continue the process of reorienting its channel programs away from rewarding partner sales and towards rewarding partners for their expertise, Americas channel chief Stephen DiFranco told attendees of HP Americas Partner Conference 2011 here.

It’s a long-term goal for the company to encourage partners to build true practices around deep market opportunities, as opposed to orienting its programs based on product segments. HP still has about 20 Elite designations under its PartnerOne umbrella, but the nature of those designations is changing, a consolidation that DiFranco says will make way for Elite designations built around practices.

The first of those major practice groups is going to be mobility, and the webOS platform that HP picked up in last year’s Palm acquisition (which was announced while APC 2010 was still going on) will fit front and centre in that specialty. DiFranco stopped short of providing extensive details, but said that a mobile practice will roll out over the course of HP’s current fiscal year. WebOS will feature its own PartnerOne program benefits, including MDF, deal registration and a set of commercial SKUs for its smartphone and tablet devices running webOS. Later, the company will roll out an Elite designation around webOS, DiFranco said.

“We want you to build a practice in the cloud for mobility,” DiFranco told partners, tying together the two biggest themes of the event into a single statement.

HP Canada channel chief John Cammalleri called the practices approach an evolution of the way PartnerOne has focused on value, and is part of the company’s drive to create a “singular focus” for its channel partners.

“Each line of business manages a piece of the channel, but we are focusing on being a single channel with the way we engage, and getting marketing strategy underneath it,” Cammalleri told ChannelBuzz.ca hours before DiFranco’s show-opening keynote.

Heather Kent, director of partner development and program at HP Canada, said the shift would see HP using PartnerOne.ca to help partners invest in building out practices, and that additional funding will be incremental.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for partners to make money, to be successful and to help us succeed,” Kent said.

While mobility is certainly the first priority of those major practices, DiFranco outlined several other broader plays it sees requiring partner practice building. Included on the list: audio/video, a $40 billion (U.S.) opportunity Stateside alone, and one where DiFranco sees a coming convergence between A/V resellers and IT solution providers. That transition, he predicted, will end up similarly to the voice/data convergence of the late 90s and early 2000s.

DiFranco also touted the idea of “franchise partners” for HP.  He defines these partners as partners who sell across the HP portfolio, and for whom HP represents a strong majority of the business. Over the last year, he said, the company’s franchise partners have seen explosive growth of “greater than 50 per cent,” for 2010 over 2009, compared to year-over-year growth of around 18 per cent for the broader HP partner community in general, and about half that for the channel in general.

Some other numbers shared by DiFranco in a data-heavy presentation that he pledged would focus on facts rather than hype:

  • In the Americas, HP’s channel revenues grew 20 per cent year-over-year, and the company added 263 more “active reseller” partners.
  • The company noted an 80 per cent increase in number of partners using its partner programs and tools, and that partners using its programs and tools are using 42 per cent more and are able to get results 2.5 times faster. Those changes, he said, can be attributed to the introduction of Rory Hunter as the company’s first CIO of the channel, allowing a single view of the IT needs of the company’s partner base. Previously, tools were managed and developed at the business unit level.
  • DiFranco said the company’s channel business has “run 2.5 times faster in revenue growth” than any of its direct business, and that includes a number of fundamentally direct acquisitions that HP had to “channelize” after the purchase.