In fact, despite a widening global recession, Adrian Jones, HP's vice president and general manager Americas Solution Partners Organization, expects 2009 to be a banner year in the U.S. for those companies that listen carefully to their partners.
"The first thing any company should be doing right now is listening to their partners and not trying to dictate what their strategy should be," said Jones.
It was partner input, Jones says, that pushed HP this year to adopt common terms and conditions across all of its three business units for its PartnerOne channel program, ending what had been a hodgepodge of different program nuances depending on the HP product sold.
And, at the behest of partners, HP is moving toward a competency specialization model for its partner certifications. In the past, HP focused on product certifications, but is quickly moving to solution specialization around specific verticals and technologies such as data protection, security, communications or virtualization, Jones said.
"We have to drive the right competency into the right vertical markets: partners have to evolve differently because it's a different market," he said.
Jones noted that in 2009 the U.S. is where HP has the most opportunity for growth. "The way we look at it, 67 percent of our revenue is outside the U.S., and the U.S. is a big, untapped opportunity," he said. But Jones has to be careful what he wished for. Earlier this year, HP launched a venture with CDW to go after small business using leads furnished by the vendor. Other HP solution providers cried foul, fearing new incursions by giant direct marketer CDW into their SMB accounts.
But Jones responded that HP was willing to fund small partners efforts to go after SMB opportunities as well. "Small business is where we don't penetrate as well and we see good growth in SMB [in 2009]," he said. "In 2009 there is going to be a more difficult economic climate and there has never been a better time to listen to what channel partners need to be successful."