DiFranco: HP’s Got Its Mojo Back

HP's Stephen DiFranco

HP’s Stephen DiFranco

Few thought Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and failed California gubernatorial hopeful, would have a lasting impact on Hewlett-Packard when she took over management of the struggling tech giant in the fall of 2011. Many analysts and pundits thought she was simply a placeholder for the ousted Leo Apotheker until the HP board could find a more suitable replacement.

Two years down the road, Whitman is driving the HP reformation from the front. She’s the driving force behind HP’s expansion into cloud computing, security and Big Data. Moreover, she’s in the trenches in driving the need for operational stability and strategic execution. And, nowhere is Whitman more committed than working through channel partners for mutual success.

The efforts of Whitman and HP management team are beginning to show results. The company’s losses are evaporating, new products are being released, and HP is getting aggressive in its go-to-market strategy. In a recent conversation with Channelnomics, channel chief Stephen DiFranco described it as, “We got a little of our mojo back and we’re solving problems faster.”

That’s not happening anymore. While HP is far from out of the woods from its sales, revenue and performance challenges, it’s doing more in enabling solution providers to develop technology practices that solve real-world business challenges. It’s recently announced “Just Right IT” initiative will bring prepackaged solutions based on workflows to the channel. The Moonshot Systems are providing partners with greater server and networking capabilities through software-defined network (SDN) technology. And HP is becoming a driver of services by enabling managed service providers to leverage its product and VARs to resell its branded services.

“That’s what a partner-led company does – makes products that work in a partner environment,” DiFranco said.

HP’s efforts are paying off. During the meltdown, scores of partners defected. Product quality had declined. The management turnover and unclear strategy sapped confidence in partners and customers. And uncertainty of what would come next prompted solution providers to seek safe haven with other vendors.

DiFranco says the stability attained through the reorganization and refocusing of the company and channel program are drawing partners back. HP, he says, is not taking partners for granted, and is fighting to earn the trust and confidence of solution providers.

“It feels like a young company, a nimble company, which understands that if we don’t do this better, we’re not going to be here,” DiFranco said.

None of this is to say HP is shying away from its troubles over the past couple of years. From Whitman down through the executive ranks, HP acknowledges its mistakes. And it’s not promising fast fixes; it maintains is reformation is a multiyear process in which it is only half way through. But instead of dwelling on what has happened, HP has turned the corner and is more focused on its future.

While other vendors are showing signs of challenges as they face similar disruptions to their legacy business models and products, HP is feeling good that it was the first to go through this transformation and it will be the first to emerge. And, as DiFranco says, it will emerge stronger.