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Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman Wednesday told elite solution providers attending the Best of Breed Conference, hosted this week in Tampa, Fla. by CRN publisher The Channel Company, that she has steered the company firmly back to its channel roots as part of a turnaround strategy.
"Our default is the channel," Whitman told partners in question-and-answer session with partners moderated by The Channel Company CEO Robert Faletra. "This company was built with channel partners. Then my understanding is we pivoted a bit more toward direct selling motion. When I came in, I pivoted this company right back to channels because I think we are stronger together. Yes, there are customers that we will take direct, but our default position is let's do this together with the channel.
"I have met many of you in this audience, and what I know is that partners have always been at the heart of Hewlett-Packard," said Whitman in a satellite link address to BoB attendees. "And that is truer today than it ever has been before."
Since taking the helm at HP two years ago, Whitman said she has moved to focus squarely on the company's legendary "heritage" as a "great engineering company" backed up by a legacy of customer service and support. "We will do anything for customers and partners, sometimes at great expense, I must say," she said. "So we have to double down on those core features of HP. Then we have got to build the capability around packaging, pricing, solutioning because of the new style of IT. As a selling company, we are not as good as we should be. But, our point of difference has got to be around great products and great customer support and service."
Solution providers attending the BoB conference said they have seen a huge cultural shift back toward a channel-centric model with Whitman at the helm, particularly in the Enterprise Group business.
Rich Baldwin CIO and chief strategy officer of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego HP partner, said he is seeing more sales engagement with more rigor and discipline in the sales trenches under Whitman.
"The relationship with the channel is much tighter than it has ever been. They are putting money toward more marketing and customer engagement events," said Baldwin. "Meg is putting her money where her mouth is and following through on all her commitments to the channel."
That is paying off in higher sales and profits for Nth Generation, said Baldwin. He expects his HP business to be up 20 percent this year and as much as 30 percent next year. "We are getting involved in some larger opportunities and getting support to win those opportunities whether it is bringing in product specialists or senior executives," he said. "We are both working on calling higher in the organizations. It takes executive support to make that happen."
Before Whitman took the helm, HP's Enterprise Group was really "stand offish" with regard to embracing partners, said Baldwin.