If you are an HP-focused partner that has been on the fence about Meg Whitman and her team's push to right the company, it's time to start feeling confident in the progress, position, direction and, most importantly, the commitment of the $112 billion company to solution providers.
Just one year ago, those of us who sit on the impatient outsider side of the turnaround equation were wondering if Whitman would pull the trigger on the management team members that had to go and pick the right replacements.
Quarterly results were showing market-share losses in the very visible PC and server areas, indicating solution providers were pushing alternatives. HP's PartnerOne program had not rolled out and, from where we sat, it was clear the infighting between the divisions was still there. Solution providers I've known for years who I never thought would push an HP competitor's product were doing just that. Frankly, we were all wondering if HP was going to turn the corner or go into a slow, steady and perhaps permanent decline.
But as the company heads into its 2014 Global Partner Conference the last week of March, things couldn't be more different.
I've been getting a steadier message from many solution providers for a few months that they are turning back to HP. That's not a universal discussion, but there is real momentum. And after recently spending time with much of the senior team including Whitman, Bill Veghte, Dion Weisler, Harry Gould, Sue Barsamian and John Hinshaw, it's clear that this group likes working together. More importantly, all are enthusiastically optimistic about the future opportunity yet understand there are many things that still need fixing.
This, of course, brings us back to Whitman because in the end it's her tone, style, attitude and perseverance that drive what happens in the hallways throughout the organization.
I've spent enough time with Whitman to understand a few things. First, she listens. Not all CEOs do. Second, she understands relationships matter. They matter inside the organization and they matter outside the company. She gets channel success is all about managing relationships in the market through programs, responsiveness and consistency. Now that HP has some positive momentum, the market dynamics begin to change because it's no longer risky for solution providers to bet on a strategic relationship. More importantly, her big bet on the channel now becomes more powerful as long as it remains consistent.
There are still issues that need to be resolved, and Whitman isn't shy about saying so—but she is also very focused on future growth with the channel. "What I love about the channel is that partners are entrepreneurs. First and foremost, if we help them grow we will grow," she said.
What's most clear is Whitman is in this game to win with partners and will do what it takes. Even driving the number of partner attendees to the Global Partner Conference becomes a goal. Whitman recently asked for a list of top partners not on the confirmed attendee list and, unsatisfied that some top partners would not hear the HP message first-hand, she split them into four groupings. Then she made an inside bet with three other teams of two, led by the Enterprise Group's Veghte, Printing and Personal Systems' Weisler and Software's George Kadifa, that she could make more calls and close more partners on coming to the event. The numbers aren't in until the conference opens, but no one's betting against her close rate.
BackTalk: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.