HP launches SMB Central portal

HP SMB CentralHP is thinking community with the launch of its HP SMB Central Web portal and program.

Launched at the beginning of the month in the U.S. and coming online for Canadian partners this week, HP SMB Central is both a Web site and a partner program the company is using to work more closely with SMB-focused solution providers.

While HP may have one of the biggest tents of all the “big tent” channel programs with partner ranks in virtually all segments of the IT industry, Meaghan Kelly, vice president of channel strategy and SMB for HP’s Solution Partners Organization in the Americas, said there’s still room for more.

“We want to find the strongest SMB-focused partners and make sure we’re reaching out to them proactively,” Kelly said.

The program is designed for partners who are new to HP or don’t (yet) do enough business with the vendor to fit under its overarching PartnerOne.ca channel program, but represent a vital go-to-market method for HP in the lucrative SMB business. Kelly said that with more than one million SMB customers in Canada, the segment represents a $9 billion market opportunity, 60 per cent of which is going through the VAR channel today.

“We’ve had a gap in the past with servicing the rest of the market, the long tail of the channel that don’t meet the PartnerOne revenue requirements,” Kelly said. “We’re big and large and complex, and we don’t want our SMB partners to have to scout around to find out what’s going on.”

That simplicity will come down to a major shift from the way PartnerOne.ca is structured. While that program is largely segmented by products, SMB Central will focus on a month-to-month basis on a handful of top opportunities, “low-hanging fruit,” as Kelly puts it. The site will also put the spotlight on bundles, top opportunities in specific small-business verticals, and will highlight the importance of third-party software to round out solutions.

SMB Central does not replace the SMB Elite partner designation under PartnerOne.ca. But the company is counting on its SMB Elite partners to get involved. One of the major goals for the program is creating a community for newer partners, and Kelly said those SMB Elite partners will be invited to contribute, sharing their best practices with newer partners. Rose Genovese, channel marketing program manager for HP Canada, said the company has already reached out too much of that community and that many of those partners are interested in participating.

While the idea of sharing best practices with fellow solution providers that may often be perceived as competitors, Kelly said that mentality has given way in recent years to a more open approach. It’s a path that’s been paved by the sharing nature of distributor-sponsored channel communities like TechSelect, Varnex and VentureTech Network, she said, leading to a mentality that it’s okay for a vendor to strengthen its channel ranks in the “rising tide lifts all boats” vein.

“That gives us an opportunity to really enable a community through a peer-to-peer network,” she said.

HP intends to have those social networking components – which will also include blogs and live videoconferences with HP executives, industry analysts and other experts – live by the beginning of April.

Membership is free for current HP solution providers and prospective VARs. Current HP partners will be able to log into the site with the same credentials they use for other HP partner sites, while partners who are completely new to HP will be able to sign up with a simple agreement, Kelly said.