Page 1 of 2
Hewlett-Packard solution providers say Leo Apotheker's 11-month tenure as CEO, set in motion and sanctioned by HP's board of directors, has inflicted significant damage to the company's channel legacy.
More than a few HP partners that were 100 percent focused on providing end-to-end HP solutions when Apotheker took the helm have embraced competitive offerings. And some are even now in the process of adding competitive offerings like Dell, Lenovo and Samsung. What's more, even those partners that remain loyal to HP say that new President and CEO Meg Whitman is going to have to move quickly to rebuild the channel trust and loyalty that has been lost over the course of the last year.
"This whole last year working as a partner with Leo Apotheker as CEO has been a shocking experience," said Rick Chernick, the CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wisconsin HP partner who has remained one of the company's most loyal partners. "HP is a company that I have the utmost respect for and make a living from, but it just didn't feel good under Leo's command. There was no connection between Leo and the channel.
"I just didn't feel like I wanted to follow him into battle, but I stuck with HP because I believed in the management team underneath him including Todd Bradley, Stephen DiFranco, Mike Parrottino, Frank Rauch, and Dave Donatelli," said Chernick."I applaud the board for making a change. I sincerely hope and pray that this is the right move. The partners and customers need to be recharged. Something had to be done. I keep repeating to myself: 'This too shall pass.'" Chernick is not alone. Other partners say that HP has lost channel ground under Apotheker. "They lost loyalty and trust," said the CEO of one of HP's top partners who asked not to be identified. "They did a lot of things that were not consistent with HP. It is a slippery slope when you lose the confidence of your partners. You can't measure the impact in dollars and cents of all of those losses today. It hasn't fully been felt yet. But partners have started taking on other product lines and customers are looking at other options"
Whitman is already moving to restore the loyalty and trust of HP customers, partners, employees and investors. One of her first orders of business was a no-nonsense recommitment to HP's robust hardware business. That's no small matter given that partners and customers believed that Apotheker gave short shrift to the hardware business which accounts for the vast majority of HP's $126 billion in annual sales.
Besides reaffirming HP's commitment to the hardware business, HP solution providers said it is critical that Whitman move quickly to rally partners with a clear message on how solution providers fit into HP's future. The long and short of it is partners are still reeling and trying to stomach the August 18 announcements (killing the HP TouchPad Tablet, buying enterprise software maker Autonomy at what some see as an almost obscene price, and the decision to look at spinning off HP's $40 billion PC business).