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Aug 20 2008   4:35PM GMT

HP strips partners of their “metals,” revamps partner designations

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

So, the word is out: Hewlett-Packard is collapsing its PartnerOne program for resellers, VARs and other IT solution providers, stripping it of all those precious metals designations and creating, instead, new labels that it thinks will mean something more to potential customers.

So now, you have the choice to be an HP Business Partner, an HP Preferred Partner or an HP Elite Partner. What’s more, these designations will hold true across the entire company. No more do you have to worry about being “mere” Gold in one area, yet Platinum in another product line. “We finally got all the business units at HP to agree that if you are a preferred partner and you meet this revenue goal, then you will have sales coverage, you will have opportunity coverage, you will get preferred pricing,” says Tom LaRocca, vice president of marketing and strategy for HP’s Solution Partners Organization for the Americas.

I spoke with LaRocca about the changes late last week. SearchITChannel’s Senior News Editor Barbara Darrow writes about the specifics of the changes in her news story here. And here’s a separate link to the complete press kit about the changes.

So, I won’t regurgitate the details of what’s happening. But here’s my initial take on these changes:

The Good

– It SEEMS simpler on the surface, plus the terms Preferred and Elite mean more to me that the old terms. (Even though that’s pretty much what everyone uses.) HP will use “Preferred Partner” in its customer-facing marketing materials, to boot, which gives these partners a leg up.

– Moving forward, HP will focus on certifying partners around solutions rather than products. What’s more, that solution might include content from a third party. The first area that LaRocca says will be a focus is Virtualization through HP’s relationship with VMware.

– Hurray for breaking down the barriers between the HP business units. You’ve told partners to represent your entire product line, now you’re making it easier for the smaller ones to do so. LaRocca won’t reveal the revenue number a partner must hit to reach Preferred but said in some cases it will be much lower than what some VARs are used to producing.

The Bad (and Somewhat Confusing)

– I like the idea of certifications and recognition being solutions-focused, but what if you’re a reseller who sells a different virtualization solution atop HP hardware? Yes, there others and what happens when Microsoft gets serious? Does this mean you need to switch that allegiance or will HP add other flavors of virtualization?

– I’m not sure that I understand, yet, exactly how leads will be doled out among Preferred partners. If there are multiple Preferreds in a given region (there will be around 1,000 worldwide), what formula will be used to pass leads along? Revenue? Specialty? Relationships with the HP field sales team? LaRocca suggested it would be done in rotation, but this doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. Shouldn’t a healthcare lead, as an example, get passed to the best healthcare VAR? I need more metrics here.

The bottom line, in any event, is that the world’s biggest technology company has put a stake in the ground that makes it clear what it wants out of partners—a serious investment in solutions and attention to multiple production lines. It will only be a matter of time before other vendors counter or follow HP’s lead.

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist and strategic communications consultant with SWOT Management Group. You can e-mail her at hclancy@swotmg.com.

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  • Heather Clancy
    What's in a name? Platinum vs Elite, Gold vs Preferred! I give HP high marks for stepping up and taking a confusing and humongous in scope, partner program and whittling it down to a much more manageable and easier to understand program. I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom LaRocca as well and what it truly comes down to is "He gets it!". Understanding it comes from the top, but in many organizations what starts at the top either stays there or only trickles down a few layers. Across the board, HP's senior and middle management, get it! This was music to my ears as one of HP's smaller solution providers we do represent the entire product line, but it has not always been easy to do so. This move simplifies the process and provides a clearer understanding of what is required of us to do so. Agreed, HP put the stake in the ground it is now our job to drive it deeper and hammer it home!
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