HP Betting Big on Simplifying Partner Relations

HP global channel marketing chief Doug Oathout

HP global channel marketing chief Doug Oathout

Hewlett-Packard Co. faces many challenges on its road to recovery. Building better products is just one — getting those products in the hands of partners so they can build high-value systems is the greater goal.

To reach this, HP is investing heavily in Unison, a new partner communications and ordering platform that gives HP partners a single pane of glass for collecting information about products and services, available resources, training and pricing quotes. Partners will use the same system for accessing the status of available market development funds, product rebates, sales leads and deal registration.

Unison will roll out until August, but partners got a glimpse of the new system at the February HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas.

Doug Oathout, the vice president of global marketing for channel partners, alliances and OEMs, is under no illusion about Unison being a quick fix for HP’s operational and performance woes. He sees mechanisms such as consolidated information and ordering systems as pieces of the restoration effort.

When HP talks about building systems, the company is talking about “attached sales,” a concept first promoted by former CEO Mark Hurd in 2007. At the time, Hurd noted HP partners were prolific at selling products, but not at selling interconnected HP products that created systems. By selling more products per account, Hurd argued HP would gain through decreased cost of sales and by displacing competitors.

Attached sales is a recurring theme in HP’s channel. Last year, HP channel chief Stephen DiFranco made references to the need for HP and its partners to capture more wallet share of mutual customers. HP was trying to stem defections of customers worried about the instability following leadership changes and failed corporate strategies.

HP may have talked about making business processes easier for partners and customers, but didn’t actually do anything to unify the program. Unison is the attempt to operationalize the attached sales philosophy.

HP is pushing on three fronts to rebuild its stature: cloud computing, security and Big Data. None are built around a single product; they require integrated hardware, software and professional services. Unison, Oathout says, will act as a catalyst for enabling partners to build repeatable practices and product sales around these technology trends.

“Partners need to see the value in the platform,” Oathout said. “If we’re going to change the way we do business, it has to be impactful.”

HP is taking heat from customers, partners and Wall Street investors for its missteps and poor management practices dating back to the summer of 2011. In truth, HP is making steady progress in building logical, sustainable and valuable products and practices that meet current and evolving market needs. Unison could be an invaluable tool in enabling future HP and partner performance.