Partners: Whitman Restored HPE's Channel Commitment; Neri Needs To Continue The Momentum

Partners say outgoing Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman restored partner commitment during her six-year tenure and it is now up to incoming CEO Antonio Neri to continue that momentum.

"When Meg came on board the company was in dire straits, it was a ship that was sinking," said Rick Chernick, the CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a longtime Green Bay Wis., HPE enterprise partner. "Meg restored partner faith and pride in HPE. She turned around a company with $12 billion in debt and has left it with $7 billion in cash and the best product portfolio it has ever had. The products they have today are exceptional. She did a great job of reviving a very sick company."

Neri, the driving force behind the company's next-generation software-defined portfolio who will take the helm as of Feb. 1, 2018, needs to continue that channel momentum, said Chernick.

[Related: HPE Blockbuster: Whitman Is Stepping Aside As CEO, Neri Set To Lead The Company Into The Future ]

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"When Meg came in the morale among resellers with HPE was horrible," he said. "Before she came in HP didn't seem to care if partners lived or died. Meg came in and changed that culture. It has to continue. We have every reason to believe Antonio will be a great leader."

Chernick's message to Neri: "Partners are betting their business on HPE. I just hope he continues the momentum from the Meg era. Antonio needs to honor the relationships that have been long established between the resellers and HPE. We have had one of the best years ever with HPE last year. We want that momentum to continue with Antonio."

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 119 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said Neri must make sure he communicates his channel and technology vision for the company now that he is taking the top job.

"Meg had a vision and a direction that she took the company in," he said. "The question is, will Antonio follow in those footsteps or look to make his own mark as most company CEOs do? The first thing he needs to do is make sure he communicates with partners. In real estate, it's location, location, location. With the channel it needs to be communicate, communicate, communicate."

John Barker, co-founder and CEO of Versatile, an HPE Platinum partner based in Marlborough, Mass., touted Whitman as a "partner champion" who was willing to roll up her sleeves to help channel partners close deals.

"Meg was true to her word. If you needed help with an opportunity with a customer and you thought Meg could help, she would get involved," said Barker. "The cool part about that is, it didn't have to be a $10 million deal, it could be a lot less than that. She was willing to roll up her sleeves and help out."

Barker said Whitman was unique as a CEO because she was willing to get engaged with customers on behalf of partners.

"It's sometimes difficult to get a hold of people, but Meg would get back to you within 24 hours. I had personal experience with Meg on a couple of items and she was really good at that and always willing to get engaged with the customer," said Barker.

Barker also touted Whitman's ability to change the culture of the company and her savvy acquisitions that have boosted HPE's market presence during her tenure.

"She put the company through a lot of difficult changes that were necessary and streamlined the organization. She also made some great acquisitions around Aruba, Nimble, SimpliVity and some others," he said.

Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider that works with HPE, said Whitman is going out on top. "Look what she's done to this point. She's obviously climbed a big mountain to get HPE where it is. Just separating the two companies and then the additions she's made are just amazing," Goldstein said.

Goldstein pointed specifically to the acquisitions this year of flash storage start-up Nimble Storage and hyper-converged infrastructure powerhouse SimpliVity. "Those acquisitions came at the right time. It's great technology, and Nimble was a steal. They hit spaces in the market that are rich with opportunity."

Goldstein said HPE's strengthened product portfolio could prompt LAN Infotech to increase its investment with HPE. "You can't put all your eggs in one basket, and there's a lot of competition out there. But whether it's hyper-converged or storage, they are definitely where the market is going."

Additional Reporting by CRN's Mark Haranas and Matt Brown