HP Drops Gold, Platinum For Preferred And Elite

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Hewlett-Packard is dropping the Gold and Platinum monikers for its best channel partners and replacing them with Preferred and Elite, a move it says will help it better market the channel to end user customers.

The changes, set to go into effect Nov. 1, are part of a retooling of the vendor's PartnerOne channel program that were announced by the company at Everything Channel's XChange '08 in Dallas.

Solution providers attending the conference said they had little information on how the new plan would affect their bottom line. "I don't know what it means to me yet," said one HP Platinum partner who asked not to be identified. "I'm trying to find out the details from my HP rep. I'll withhold judgment until I see the numbers."

Don Richie, CEO of Sequel Data Systems, an HP enterprise partner in Austin, Tex. said he was optimistic about the new plan. "HP came to some of us prior to this announcement and laid out their plan. We had voiced our concerns about a few details and HP heard them. The area that partners are going are to see real benefit is if they are growing and if they are growing then the rewards will be substantial," he said.

Keith Nelson, vice president of technology for Vistem Solutions, an Irvine, Calif. solution provider who has been reselling Dell hardware for the last ten years and sold about $2 million in Dell hardware last year, said he'll take a look at HP in light of the new PartnerOne program. HP's biggest challenge will be matching Dell's technical support, he said. "We are a premier support partner for Dell, and when we have a problem, we don't have to call India," he said.

Another solution provider at the conference who asked not to be identified said, "It seems like a lot of hype, without much substance. I was expecting something earth shaking," he said.

Adrian Jones, HP's vice president and general manager, Americas Solution Partners Organization (SPO) announced the PartnerOne changes Tuesday at XChange.

"All three business units have adopted different programs and different entry points so we've simplified that," Jones said. "We now have one PartnerOne entry point and one program for all business units," Jones said, noting that previously that HP's Personal Systems Group (PSG), Technology Solutions Group (TSG) and Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) each had different PartnerOne program requirements.

Additionally, he said that growth benefits for Preferred and Elite members would increase substantially. Jones said that, for example, a $2 million a year Elite partner that grows his business by 10 percent in 2009 would see about a 20 percent increase in rebate money over what he would have earned for similar growth in 2008.

Tom LaRocca, HP's vice president of partner development and programs, noted that there were different revenue bars across the three HP business units to attain Gold and Platinum status. "The platform bars are now all the same," he said.

Under the new PartnerOne plan, HP will have three levels with the lowest wrung being Business partner, followed by the Preferred and Elite levels. LaRocca said there would be between 15,000 to 20,000 Business level partners in the U.S. that will get 800 number support as well as training and support benefits. "Once you aggregate all of your HP revenue for a year and cross a very minimal revenue bar, you become a Preferred partner," he said.

LaRocca declined to say the bar to reach Preferred status, but solution providers briefed by HP said it would likely be $3 million in annual HP sales compared with the current requirement of $5 million to reach Gold status. He said, however, that there are multiple routes to achieve Preferred status. "It's a revenue and or a growth bar and or a certification bar," he said.

Preferred partners gain access to HP's value big deal pricing, dedicated sales coverage and increased marketing dollars. What's more, HP for the first time is mounting a campaign to market Preferred and Elite partners to endusers.

"This is the first time, for our Preferred and Elite partners, we are going to be marketing to endusers for you," Jones told partners during his XChange keynote.

Jones said that Elite partners would also get priority leads form HP. "In Q4 of this year we will 5x the number of leads given to partners over Q3," he said. "We are going to prioritize our leads for our Elite partners and making sure that the elite partners are getting the majority of those leads."

LaRocca noted that HP currently has "a few hundred" Platinum and Gold partners. "We'll be over a 1,000 partners in the Preferred partner level," he said.

He said that Elite partners will be ones that achieve an Elite status in any HP technology area regardless of revenue. Elite partners will recieve all benefits of Preferred partners in addition to their Elite benefits. As part of the rollout of the new PartnerOne program, HP is also adding new Elite designations such as ones for Public Sector and Virtualization as well as new ones for PSG including Bladesytem PC and Workstation and Thin Clients.

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