HP ProCurve To Add Specializations For Enterprise, SMB Partners

Following the channel model it already established in Europe, ProCurve over the next six months aims to create separate tracks within its North American partner program: one to support its large base of SMB partners and another for its growing number of enterprise partners, said Mark Thompson, global sales and marketing manager for ProCurve Networking by HP, Palo Alto, Calif.

Though most of ProCurve&'s channel partners focus on midsize customers with 250 to a few thousand seats, the percentage of partners focused on enterprise accounts is growing faster, Thompson told CRN this week at Interop-New York.

“One of the challenges with a one-size-fits-all VAR program is that it doesn&'t quite meet the needs of those partners targeting the Fortune 500 or the SMB,” he said. “In Europe, we&'ve split the programs to customize the benefits, and we let the partners self-select [their category].”

Kevin Meany, director of technical services at Versatile Communications, a Marlborough, Mass.-based partner that focuses on the midmarket, lauded ProCurve&'s new channel strategy. “To try to stretch the program, it&'s a huge gamut of partners. You have some selling to two-switch shops vs. others selling [to customers with] 5,000 users. It&'s a different set of needs,” he said.

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As this bifurcated channel strategy makes its way to North America, ProCurve partners will see HP invest in more in-depth support resources for enterprise partners, which also will receive dedicated sales reps in the field, according to Thompson. In contrast, SMB partners require more generalized support expertise and will continue to share field resources, he said.

“SMB partners are keeping their access to the same kinds of resources [as enterprise partners]--part of a sales rep, online tools, the same kinds of training--but we&'re crafting the program so they don&'t have to hit a multimillion-dollar bar to get at those resources,” Thompson said.

The specializations will fall within ProCurve&'s current partner designations, such as its high-end ProCurve Elite partner category, but won&'t replace them, he added.

Thompson also addressed solution providers&' nagging concern that HP will sell off ProCurve as part of CEO Mark Hurd&'s stated goal to divest the company of businesses that fall outside its core focus.

“Whether [ProCurve] is one of them, only time will tell,” Thompson said. Given that ProCurve already operates as an independent unit, however, any split from HP would result in little disruption to its partners, he said.

Thompson also said a potential sale or spin-off of ProCurve could have long-term benefits for partners. “You would get channel programs that are optimized for networking partners,” he said. Currently, there are some trade-offs to being a part of a larger organization that&'s not a networking company at its core, he noted. “If we were an independent business outside of HP, those would be gone.”