HP's Whitman Lays Down The Channel Law

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Baldwin expects HP to push more commercial accounts to partners and begin more aggressively rewarding partners that sell the full HP portfolio. He also sees HP getting more aggressive against competitors like Cisco in networking and EMC in storage. "They have teams of people ready to help us win business," he said.

Baldwin credits the changes to Whitman's ability to "figure out what was wrong" during her first year on the job and now moving aggressively to put fixes in place. "She has changed the way the PBMs [Partner Business Managers] work with us," he said. "It is really invigorating to see the attention we are getting and the processes they are putting in place to make sure our teams are working one on one at the field level. It's one thing to hear it at the top but if it doesn't get down to the street, nothing happens."

Mont Phelps, the CEO of NWN, a national HP enterprise partner with $279 million in annual sales, said he feels much better about the HP partnership after this year's partner conference. "Last year was full of expectations and promise," he said. "This year they laid out some interesting and committed programs and support for the channel."

Phelps said his concern going forward is the "depth and constancy" of the HP channel commitment. "A change and culture shift like this is something that takes time," he said. "They have laid out a long-term view. The real challenge is can they stick to it? You have to stick to it. I think Meg has the starch to do just that."

Bruce Geier, president and CEO of Technology Integration Group, No. 69 on the SP500 with $341 million in sales, said the biggest challenge is whether Whitman's channel message is embraced in the field. "We like what we hear," he said. "The message is really good. But what starts at the top doesn't always make it to the bottom. We have to see if it flows down into the organization. If they can pull this off, it is great stuff."

One CEO for a large enterprise partner, who did not want to be identified, said he was "jazzed up" by the changes that HP is making to work more closely with partners, but is also concerned that it might not "filter through the management team all the way down into the field."

"There is still a lot of management, VPs and sales reps that want to go direct and bypass the channel," he said. "The proof is in the pudding on whether they can change the behavior of rogue sales reps."

Rick Chernick, the CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wisc., HP partner, believes Whitman's channel stand is a turning point that will lead to sales growth for partners teaming tightly with HP. "Meg has made her stand, and it is for the reseller," said Chernick. "She has made it clear that HP cares about resellers and that HP employees need to take care of the reseller. If they don't, they are out."


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