What's In It For You?

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On a beautiful Friday afternoon in Palo Alto last month, Damon Poeter and I had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of the largest technology company in the world: HP's Mark Hurd.

We talked about the type of solution providers HP is looking to recruit, how VARs should view EDS, the cloud and what keeps him up at night. He spent 45 minutes talking to us and, as you can imagine, it isn't easy to get on his calendar. But it was important to HP and Hurd to get his message out to you, his extended sales force.

He certainly said the right things: Hurd called HP not just channel friendly, but channel zealots. He said while he had a favorable view of the channel coming into HP five years ago, he probably didn't appreciate the sheer breadth of it.

And he outlined how he believes channel partners can and will offer services that HP is able to build out. In fact, Hurd believes that bringing EDS into the HP fold does not squelch opportunities for solution providers but, rather, provides them.

Obviously, actions speak louder than words. But Hurd has some fans in the channel who believe his leadership and commitment has allowed their organizations to prosper despite difficult economic times.

Take Denali Advanced Integration. Last May Hurd went to Seattle as Denali's guest to speak to 35 to 40 of its customers and prospects. According to John Convery, executive vice president at Denali, they prepared individual account briefing documents that Hurd read before the meeting so he had a sense of their customers' concerns. After the meeting, Denali prepared a summary of HP activity for each attendee's account and where each could use help from Hurd. Today, they receive regular e-mails from him and have another roundtable planned for next month. As a result of this partnership, Denali has set all-time records for sales with HP and the pipeline has never been more robust, according to Convery. And he believes it is because of the team effort starting at the top with Hurd.

This hands-on approach by the CEO goes beyond Denali. In 2009 Hurd met with roughly 3,000 CIOs and is expected to exceed that number in 2010. According to HP, Hurd spends close to 70 percent of his time on customer-, partner- and employee-facing activities and has scheduled roundtables in 25 cities this year.

Clearly, in the ongoing battle for the data center between Cisco and HP it will take more of this type of work and less of the inflammatory quotes we've seen batted back and forth during the past year. Instead, success will be about action and commitment from all levels within a vendor organization--from the CEO down to the sales representatives in the field.

Growth, actually, is all about you. And the executives know it. Hurd didn't want to speak to Damon or me personally. He wanted to speak to you. Winning the data center from the largest companies to the smallest will be determined by your commitment to companies and technology.

So as we head into the Cisco and HP partner conferences late this month, both companies will be selling to you. Are they meeting your needs? Are they helping you grow your business? They know you are central to their success. Are they committed to yours?

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