HP's CEO Is Channel Strong

New Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker thinks for a moment when asked what people's biggest misconception about him is. And then he talks frankly about the view that some solution providers have of him as a result of his 20-year tenure at ERP software giant SAP.

"I know that many people in the channel were afraid that I was known to be a direct-sales, proprietary, get-out-of-my-way kind of person," said Apotheker, who was warm, engaging and willing to poke fun at himself in an exclusive 45-minute sit-down with CRN. "That is actually totally not true. Even at SAP, where I did build the world's probably best direct-sales force, it was hugely leveraged by channel partners, hugely leveraged. Without the channel partners, SAP would have never become what it became. Not even close. So I have always worked with channel partners and if I could use this opportunity as I am talking to you, I want to convey the message again and again and again: I embrace channel partners in any language you would choose."

Make no mistake about it: Apotheker is channel strong. He has hit the ground running, quickly getting his arms around the value of the channel for HP. He has met with some 50 partners around the world and has already charted a course into the new world of cloud computing, connected devices, software and services for HP and its channel partners. The big difference between former HP CEO Mark Hurd and Apotheker is the "Vision"--with a capital "V"--that Apotheker has brought to HP. It is no surprise that Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers pointed out in last month's interview with CRN that he likes his fellow CEO. The two share a passion for technology innovation and changing world economies with information technology.

The big story from CRN's meeting with Apotheker is how firmly committed he is to channel partners and how quickly he is moving to restore HP's cultural heritage as a technology innovator. The hell with cost-cutting. What this company needs is a single strategic vision that everyone in the organization can get behind. One HP. Apotheker is making sure that the company is not left behind in the cloud computing software and services era.

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My bet is partners are going to be surprised at just how strong an advocate Apotheker will be for them and just how aggressive he will be in helping them close deals. "I am a sales guy at heart," he said. "I carried a bag. So I sympathize with these people. So they can call. And I told them that in all of our meetings. Here is my number. Here is my e-mail. If you need help, call. So we will do whatever we need to do to help these guys sell."

Apotheker and HP, of course, still have to execute on the vision of helping partners sell and restoring HP's position as a technology innovator. But from here this looks like the start of a beautiful channel friendship.

BackTalk: What perceptions do you have about HP's Apotheker? Let me know at [email protected].