HP's Jones Had The Toughest Job

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Hewlett-Packard Americas Channel Chief Adrian Jones' tight relationship with HP CEO Mark Hurd made him an outstanding advocate for solution provider partners.

It also meant he was under Hurd's constant scrutiny, being pushed and prodded every step of the way to make sure the channel was delivering.

HP has promoted Jones to a new post effective Nov. 1 running HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers business in Asia-Pacific and Japan. It's a well-deserved promotion for Jones, whose close working relationship with Hurd paved the way for a dramatic increase in the number of joint sales calls that Hurd and other HP executives made with HP partners. Through the first six months of 2009, Hurd and other top-level HP executives met with more than 300 customers and 100 solution providers, according to Jones. My challenge to vendors is to answer this question: How many joint sales calls have your CEO and top executives made with partners this year? My bet is that challenge is met by nothing but the sound of crickets.

The fact is that Hurd is the most channel-engaged CEO in this business. There are few executives that have his unique mix of sales and operations experience. No other company has as big and as broad a technology portfolio and channel. And no other IT company has as bright a future for sales growth.

That's because no other company has invested as much in driving channel growth. At a time when competitors are cutting channel spend, Hurd is spending more than ever. That's because he wants more sales coverage, not less. He is the only top executive among the major computer makers that talks about his company not having enough sales coverage.

Hurd understands channel economics and is drilling down into every nook and cranny of channel spend. He wants to make sure he is getting the maximum return on every sales touch. That's why he is pushing channel leadership directly into the business units. That will likely mean even more dramatic increases in joint sales calls between HP executives and its partners.

Having a tight relationship with Hurd is no picnic. Hurd was constantly pushing Jones on increasing channel sales, cutting costs and getting partners to sell the full HP product portfolio. Of all the channel chiefs in this business, my bet is no one was more aggressively challenged by his CEO than Jones.

HP's biggest challenge in pushing channel responsibility directly into the business units is that the channel chiefs in those units don't have that tight working relationship with Hurd. That ability to stay deeply connected to the channel is something Hurd should be careful he does not lose as HP gives its business units more channel autonomy.

No channel chief can be successful without the strong support of the CEO. Jones had that tight relationship with Hurd. Will Jones' replacement and the business unit channel leaders be able to say the same? HP's channel future depends on it.

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