Is It Too Late For HP's Whitman To Mend Channel Fences?

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Meanwhile, Whitman sees product quality as crucial to regaining the channel's trust. She believes HP has a stronger lineup of new products than it did a year ago, including the 3Par StoreServ 7000 series, which is priced in the $25,000 range and aimed at midmarket customers. HP's Proliant Gen 8 servers, Moonshot servers, ElitePad 900 tablet, Ultrabooks and multifunction printers are other areas of product strength, according to Whitman.

Whitman believes better products will go a long way toward improving channel morale. "We understand that not only do we have to make great products; you as a partner have to make equal to or more money with us than you do with our competitors," she said. "And if we can combine that with products that customers want, then we will have a home run on our hands."

While it remains to be seen whether Whitman's plan for rebuilding trust will work, early returns are promising.

"We're more aligned with HP right now than we've been in a long time. We have executive relationships up and down the company, across the business units," Bill Loupakos, senior vice president of professional services at American Digital, an Arlington Heights, Ill.-based partner, told CRN.

American Digital's HP business grew 8 percent last year, and Loupakos expects it to double in 2013. "The whole message of being partner-friendly is now embedded, and Meg is leading the charge. The difference from last year is like night and day," he said.

HP for the past few months has been getting the word out to its sales force, on a country-by-country basis, emphasizing that violations of the new rules of engagement won't be tolerated. "In reaction to some of the noise that we heard, we've been going out and seriously re-educating people that need to be re-educated," Barsamian said.

HP already has shown an increased willingness to work with partners on midsize commercial accounts, which were previously a gray area. Several HP partners credited Aaron Mills, U.S. vice president of sales for midsize enterprise in HP's ESSN division, for setting a channel-friendly tone. In the eyes of partners, Mills is a model for how the rest of the Enterprise Group should treat partners.

"We are engaged with his team, and they are pretty much 100 percent through the channel," Michael Haley, president of Edge Solutions, an HP Elite partner in Alpharetta, Ga., told CRN. Haley said his HP business was roughly flat last year, but profitability grew due to fewer agent deals and more transactions going through distributors.

In the end, Whitman still believes she can get the company back on track.

"Listen, I was the third CEO in three years. If I'd been an employee, I'm not sure I would have believed," Whitman said. "I think we have created a vision that people believe in. You can just feel it in the hallways-people are pretty energized. Someone said to me the other day, 'I feel more excited about HP with the stock price at $17 than when it was at $40,' as ironic as that is."


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