So is HP Discover a customer event or a partner event?

HP Enterprise Group channel chief Sue Barsamian

HP Enterprise Group channel chief Sue Barsamian

LAS VEGAS – It used to be that HP’s event calendar was pretty easy to figure out for its channel partners. In February or March, it gathers its partners here for its Global Partner Conference, and in June, it gathers customers (and a few partners) here for HP Discover, a primarily customer-focused event.

But that’s rapidly changing. At this year’s North American version of Discover, partners make up close to half of the 9,000-plus non-HP attendees in the house, and the content offered to partners is shifting to reflect that changing reality.

With partners making up almost half the house, the company is dramatically expanding the number of training courses offered to solution providers at Discover.

“With almost 70 per cent of our [Enterprise Group] business done through the channel, that makes sense,” said Sue Barsamian, senior vice president of worldwide indirect sales for HP’s Enterprise Group. “It’s a great opportunity to get partners exposed to the breadth of our products in the easiest fashion possible. These are some of the broadest representatives of HP that we have, and we have a lot to convey.”

In the past, partners largely attended to accompany their HP customers. But now, along with information about new HP Enterprise Group products and its business strategy, the company is offering a lot more training to partners – in fact, it will train 750-plus partners on various solution areas this week at Discover, more than four times the number it did at last year’s Discover in Las Vegas.

That reflects both the growing number of partners in attendance, and a dramatic shift in how HP delivers training to its partners. Barsamian said it found itself in a “good news/bad news” situation as it pushes partners to sell more of its enterprise wares. It was successful in getting more of its partners representing more of the breadth of its product lines, but it faced a significant challenge in delivering the training those partners need, to the point where it was becoming too time-consuming for partners to scale across HP product lines because of the time investment in training.

Coming on the heels of its efforts to make PartnerOne a much easier program for partners to deal with, that didn’t sit well. So the company set out to change up how it handles partner training, and concentrate as much of that effort around events like HP Discover as possible. The effort was championed by Chuck Battipede, senior vice president of learning and development, who had ample motivation to make the changes successful – his spouse is a former HPer who now runs a solution provider, and who ran into those challenges in finding balance between getting trained and certified and still actually having time to sell to and implement for customers.

As a result of the new focus on partner training, which actually began at last year’s December edition of Discover held in Barcelona, many of the new partner attendees are on the technical and sales sides, the practitioners, as opposed to the more traditional management audience common to its Global Partner Conference. That suits Barsamian just fine – as well as delivering concentrated training at the event, it has a chance to get more of its “frontline” channel representatives educated on its new Enterprise Group announcements.

“It makes Discover a one-stop shop to hear the story, meet the team, and get trained and certified,” she said.

But owners and other partner executive members are still a common sight here at Discover – the company runs one of its two annual Partner Advisory Board meetings here on Thursday, as the “main event” of Discover winds down.

And the company event hosts some non-partner solution providers at the event, part of what Barsamian described as a “competitive takeout” recruiting play with partners who are primarily representing its enterprise competitors.

“This is a great opportunity to expose those partners to the breadth of our offerings and our value proposition, and we definitely leverage Discover for that,” Barsamian said.