HPE adds new Vantage partner program and tweaks some existing tools to better serve changing partner ecosystem

George Hope and Donna Grothjan onstage

On Monday, at the Partner Growth Summit which led off the HPE Discover 2022 event, HPE announced several enhancements to their partner program. One is a new partner program, the HPE Partner Ready Vantage program, which is designed to complement, not replace, the existing HPE Partner Ready Vantage program.  The HPE and Aruba partner programs are being integrated as part of this. The consolidation of five existing partner locators into one is also related to the larger changes. So is the older Pro series of enablement tools, which has been updated, principally to work better with the new program.

 “Our strategy is shifting the focus away from partner types and more to business models,” said George Hope, worldwide head of partner sales at HPE. “It’s based on what you do versus what you are, and reflects that we are seeing all partners adopt multiple personas.”

Hope said that this approach reflects seeing a partner convergence around three things.

“First, partners want to lead with their own IP,” he stated. “Second, they now have managed offerings, And third, they are shifting their business to more of a recurring revenue focus. Partners aren’t all evolving at the same pace, but we are doubling down on those who are moving, and those that aren’t, whose customers are not yet ready, can continue to sell product.”

The announcement of the HPE Partner Ready Vantage program, which will be available later this year, was the highlight. 

“At the beginning of this project, we agreed on three principles to steer us,” said Donna Grothjan, the Head of Worldwide Partners at Aruba. “One was to create an industry leading SaaS partner program with partners to drive growth, that leverages our existing program. The second was to focus on partner-delivered services. The third was to develop and deliver a single program across the ecosystem that aligns across capabilities and supports the partner’s choice of how to go to market.”

The new program has three tracks – Build, Sell and Service,” Grothjan said. “These tracks illustrate areas of partner capabilities, and each has Centres of Expertise to help partners build capabilities in their chosen area of focus.” 

“This is all based on top of our foundational partner program, except that it is no longer based on partner types but on those build, sell and service tracks,” said Beth Jensen, Director of Worldwide Channel Programs at Aruba. Build is based on building solutions using pre-packaged solutions from HPE and its technology partners, as well as ones partners develop themselves on HPE’s open platforms. Sell is focused on reselling HPE services. Services is building out services around customer success, managed services and professional services.

“Partners can drive their services under their brand or ours, and we will continue to provide rewards based on end-to-end lifecycle incentives,” Jensen added.  

The new program also features enhancements to the Partner Connect Portal.

“Five partner locators have been consolidated into one, which makes it easier for customers to find partners based on expertise and location,” Chavez said. This updated portal will also be able to show the capabilities of affiliated vendors, and it will evolve, showcasing partners’ capabilities for customers and internal sales.

The integration of the HPE and Aruba programs, and restructuring along partner business models were absolutely fundamental changes. The integration of the Aruba channel program with the HPE program itself should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, since HPE telegraphed it at their HPE GreenLake Day last fall, and Aruba followed up at their Aruba Atmosphere event this spring.

“Since our strategy was around the cloud, we had to combine Aruba,” Chavez said. “Our old program also did not fully recognize the influencers and integrators who facilitate deals without actually selling themselves. All our programs were very transactional. We needed to provide a home for these non-transactional partners.”

They also needed to better serve the different types of partners who have emerged in a changing environment.

“Today, we have a lot of service providers, because we have many traditional resellers who moved into this area and became hybrid providers,” Chavez said. “They have been required to sign up for two programs – resellers and service providers. If they are also Aruba partners, then they have to sign up for four programs. And they have not had a 360 degree view of these programs. We had to recognize partners had all these business models, and we needed to make changes to accommodate them.”

Not to be confused with the new Build, Sell and Service tracks are the existing Sales Pro, Tech Pro, and Marketing Pro enablement tools, all of which were rolled out four years ago and all of which are receiving upgrades now.

“Our Tech Pro enhancements add persona-based enablement which fit with the changes in the HPE Partner Ready Vantage program as we build out as a service expertise,” Chavez indicated.

“Sales Pro changes add different ominchannels to enable reps to consume content the way they want,” Chavez said. New features include a personalized portal with unique certification status and training modules, Portfolio Learning Curriculums with curated and interactive paths, Top Recommended Training (TRT) to make it easier for partners to find and prioritize relevant and impactful training modules, and On-The-Go Learning features where training modules can be consumed as podcasts, videos or web-based seminars. 

Chavez noted that the Marketing Pro changes include enhancements to tools and marketing. A new HPE Marketing Pro gateway provides intuitive, simplified access to all HPE marketing tools while a redesigned HPE Social Media Center features an improved user interface with consolidated navigation, content filtering, updated guides and added functionality. 

“The Pro series was designed around the way we did enablement  and the way we trained our own sales people – solutions people and architects,’ Chavez said. “Now we have added the as-a-service components to it. So all of the Pro Series is enablement for the program. The new tracks being introduced in the HPE Partner Ready Vantage program – Build, Sell and Service – ARE the program, with centres of expertise in them in which partners can choose to focus.

“It’s not a medallion-based system,” Chavez said. “Nutanix was the first company to get rid of the medallions, and we are the second.”

Chavez noted that the purpose of the Centres of Expertise was to recognize  partners who can deliver to HPE standards.

“If they don’t have all the needed services, for example, they can blend in ours,” he said. “Today they are certified on product. Going forward we want the focus to be the ability to deliver services on GreenLake – and to eventually be rated on this by customers.”

The new program will be rolled out over the next year. Chavez explained why it will take so long. 

“It is a next generation platform, where we started by building a new contracting system to get to ONE contract per partner with multiple personas,” he said. “That requires creating a whole new MDM structure  to minimize partner IDs. We had one partner with 40 IDs. So we have to create structure to have 1 ID with multiple relationships. That’s how we get the 360 degree view.”

Chavez said that they also wanted to give partners as much time as possible to think about the changes and their implications.

“Even internally, we still tend to think about partner types, which is not the idea,” he said.

More time will be involved in developing partner-centric HPE-branded services.

“Partners have had their own branded services, which PointNext competes with to some degree,” Chavez said. “Aruba never had those. That is why Aruba was able to come out with their services track in March. We will have ours in November.” 

“We have seen a major growth in new logos in the partner community,” Chavez summed up. “We’ve been hearing a lot more in partner councils about GreenLake. Now they are telling us that partners are asking for it, which is something that they were not doing before.”

“We saw a lot of networking interest when we launched Aruba as a service as a SKU in March,” Jensen added.