HP One Year Later

It's been just more than a year since Meg Whitman was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard. So it's a good time to look at just where HP was a year ago, where it is now and where it needs to go.

Whitman inherited an almost unimaginable mess of a company due in large part to former HP CEO Leo Apotheker and the HP board of directors that hired him and then fired him.

Whitman has done an admirable job of clearing up the chaos and confusion that Apotheker left after a mere 11 months at the helm. But there is a lot more that needs to be done to get HP back to the channel-strong position it was in before Apotheker messed things up. Now is the time for Whitman to pick up the pace by naming a single top channel chief. That appointment could go a long way toward eliminating internal, internecine political squabbles and getting partners behind one single sales arrow -- a single set of incentives with a single story to tell HP customers.

HP needs someone who has the ability to call the channel shots across all of the business units, clearing up any confusion in the sales ranks with regard to strategy or conflicts. And HP needs to give that new channel chief the resources and budget to aggressively re-engage the channel with an all-out offensive from sales strategy and execution to marketing and communication. As it stands right now, HP is simply not leveraging to the fullest extent what has always been one of its crown jewels: its robust channel sales force.

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One of the bright spots for the channel, however, has been the merging of the printing and personal computer units under Printing and Personal Systems Group Executive Vice President Todd Bradley, who remains a strong channel advocate. Hats off to Whitman for keeping top talent like Bradley, who is working to restore HP's channel momentum.

But whether HP wants to admit it or not, it has clearly lost partner sales share of mind and resources over the past year. Key HP partners have taken on new vendor lines such as Oracle or Dell or focused more aggressively on Cisco's Unified Computing System. Cisco, by the way, beat HP at its own game this year with a stunning victory in the midrange server category in CRN's Annual Report Card awards, based on a survey of more than 3,600 solution providers.

What's more, unlike Cisco and Dell, HP has no clear and compelling cloud computing services channel strategy that fully embraces all partners. The channel at this point is an afterthought as HP builds out its cloud services and solutions business.

HP's current siloed approach has resulted in a channel organization that has failed to deliver deep and long-lasting solution incentives that cut across business unit boundaries. It has failed to effectively communicate with partners as well.

The siloed approach isn't working. That single channel sales leader post is critical for both HP's customers and its partners.

BACKTALK: What do you think of HP's siloed approach to the channel? Contact Steve Burke at [email protected].