HP on Thursday tapped 24-year veteran Mike Parrottino to lead U.S. channel sales for its Personal Systems Group, while also unveiling a plan to use a direct sales-focused call center to drum up business for the channel.
Parrottino, vice president of HP's PSG Solutions Partner Organization, has held a variety of escalating channel roles in the past four years and played a key role in structuring the company's tier two VAR community, according to Stephen DiFranco, PSG senior vice president and general manager.
"He's one of those executives who works quietly and steadily, and his years of experience have taught him how to navigate challenges within HP and get them resolved," DiFranco said in an interview. "I felt it was important to get him into a role that's more connected to channel."
The move is part of HP's effort to give its U.S. executive leadership closer oversight of channel engagement and management. Parrottino will work with other HP executives, including: Frank Rauch, ESSN; Scott Dunsire (IPG); Steve Erdman (Americas Software); Tracy Galloway (Attach and Services); and Matt Smith (Americas Channel Marketing).
"This group will serve as a channel governance leadership team to drive sales, marketing programs, communications and policies for our U.S. channel," an HP spokesperson said in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, HP is also changing how it generates demand for the SMB channel. HP in January 2010 opened a new sales operation in Rio Rancho, N.M. called SMB Exchange, which combines a call center with inside sales and channel sales teams and was intended to help HP steal SMB market share from Dell and other rivals.
SMB Exchange's focus has been on direct sales, but HP is now changing its mission to finding SMB opportunities and bringing them into the channel network. It's a partner-fulfilled model with HP generating demand, DiFranco said.
"I think this will make [SMB Exchange] far more important to HP in terms of leveraging VARs," said DiFranco. "The partner community wants us to help them find more business, and this is a way for us to do that."
John Hood, the HP vice president who runs SMB Exchange, is taking on an expanded role as head of SMB channel sales. Instead of only looking at small business from his call center, Hood will now have a field team to find SMB opportunities and bring them to partners, said DiFranco.
"This will expand the amount of people we have at HP calling on small businesses, and it also brings all of the PSG U.S. channel under one leader," DiFranco said. "There are still some small businesses that purchase directly from vendors, but the majority need kind of support that comes from VARs."
HP's decision last month to explore a spin-off or sale of PSG last month spooked channel partners, but ones that have worked closely with PSG for years are confident that HP has their best interests at heart.
"PSG has been focused on growing their business through the channel. This move is totally in line with what they have been saying," said Romi Randhawa, president and CEO of Fremont, Calif.-based solution provider HPM Networks
Arlin Sorensen, CEO of Heartland Technology Solutions, a top HP Midwest partner, sees the moves as evidence of HP's commitment to partners.
"Both Mike Parrottino and John Hood are friends of the channel," Sorensen said. "This move is not just a signal that HP is very much engaged in the channel, but a clear indication that HP will continue to have partners top of mind in their plans to serve customers."
One thing HP isn't doing is naming its new Americas channel chief. HP's board expects to deliver a decision on PSG by year's end, and DiFranco said that's also the timeframe for announcing the new Americas channel chief. He wouldn't comment on whether HP is leaning toward inside or outside candidates.