HP unifies PartnerOne, introduces Unison platform

Meg Whitman

HP CEO Meg Whitman

LAS VEGAS – Hewlett-Packard kicked off its Global Partner Conference at the Venetian here with some of the most sweeping changes to its PartnerOne partner program ever announced.

The company said its efforts are designed around profitability, consistency, and simplicity, and one exec, borrowing from its enterprise group overarching strategy, described it as “a converged infrastructure for our partners.”

The program becomes truly international in nature, unified across its Printing and Personal Systems business and its Enterprise Group, includes more new HP acquisitions than before, and will get a new engine behind it, among other changes.

Perhaps the single biggest change to the programs in terms of profitability is the decision to drop revenue gates and caps for rebates. Effective May 1, the company’s partners will earn rebates for eligible sales from “dollar one,” said Dan Tindall, vice president of worldwide channel sales for PPS, and will have no cap to their earnings.

“Our objective is for HP to be the most profitable partner you do business with,” CEO Meg Whitman told partners. “The more you sell, the more you earn”

Part of the plan involves simplifying the number of specializations available to partners. Doug Oathout, vice president of channel partners and alliance marketing for HP’s enterprise group, said for his division, that will mean going from 44 certifications down to 22, with similar changes over on the PPS side as well. And those revised numbers of certifications will be regrouped into new specializations for partners, which will then be available in Professional and Advanced levels, with higher earnings available at the Advanced tier. Partners will need two relevant certifications for Professional status, and five for Advanced.

Oathout said that much of the simplification of certifications will be done by dropping less-popular tracks, and combining similar tracks with overlap into single tracks.

HP has also committed to expanding business planning activities with its channel partners. Under the plan, the company will do formal business plans with its top 2,000 partners in each major region: the Americas, EMEA, and APJ.

The company has committed to $1.5 billion in investment in channel initiatives in its fiscal 2013, up from $1.4 billion in FY12. Those investments do not include rebates and promos, just partner program investments and “IT investments to make us easier to do business with,” said Lynn Anderson, senior vice president of communications.

Those IT investments largely surround Unison, a new platform for the company is rolling out for its partner portal, based on Salesforce.com. Unison will roll out over the next 18 months, will be unified across PPS and Enterprise, and will serve as a single sign-on for HP partners. And most importantly, it will bring the company’s partner tools up to date, said Oathout.

While Unison, and PartnerOne itself, will become truly international in nature, Oathout stressed that there will be room to recognize regional differences within the program. For example, Canadian partners will not be required to reach the same runrate in business as their American counterparts to reach top tiers of the program, partners in each country will be evaluated based on the market available to them. That should mean more partners in non-U.S. markets will reach top earning rates.

There will also be opportunities for countries around the world to evaluate which portions of PartnerOne and Unison to bring to bear in their countries, and even which portions to expand upon. For example, Canadian channel chiefs Gary Drysdale (PPS) and Andrew Eppich (Enterprise) indicated they were looking at ways to add more value to the “Concierge Chat” support feature that will be featured in Unison.

And some changes in the new program will seem quite familiar to HP partners in Canada. Around the world, the company has historically done its MDF allotments in three-month increments, making it hard for channel partners to book longer-term campaigns or activities in support of the vendor’s activities. With this program revision, HP is making its MDF efforts a six-month window. However, this six-month MDF engagement has long been the rule of the land in Canada.

Still, the company’s Canadian channel chiefs said their committed to getting as much of the new functionality and terms in PartnerOne brought to Canada as quickly as possible.

“Anything that we can do to launch in the second half of this year, we’ll do it,” Eppich said.

Oathout said the timeframe for much of the Unison functionality going live is November 1, with many more specifics of new programs and offerings becoming available to partner in May.

As another aspect of this massive revision, the company has included plans to include one of its acquisitions (Vertica) into PartnerOne, and a roadmap for another (Autonomy) to come on board.

Vertica immediately becomes part of the PartnerOne framework, and Colin Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager of HP Vertica, said it’s an opportunity for HP partners to get involved “in the tectonic shift that’s happening with information management.” In early days, he said, the group’s goal will be to educate partners not just on the company’s business analytics products, but nature and future of the marketplace.

“Over the last two years [since being acquired by HP], we’ve learned a lot from partners,” Mahoney said. “Now, we’re returning the favour. Let us teach you data science and analytics.”

And while the terms of the company’s purchase of Autonomy remain controversial, it remains committed to the technology, and to making it more widely available. In support of that, Autonomy rolled out its own partner program in the image of PartnerOne, and announced plans to transition into the PartnerOne framework over the course of 2013. In the past, partners who’ve wanted to engage with Autonomy have had to do so at a product line level, meaning that many were left to navigate multiple Autonomy mini-programs. That all ends with the new program, said Steve Reny, senior vice president of market development for HP Autonomy.

“As you invest in our technologies, we invest back in you to make it more profitable for you to do so, he said.