Paul Hunter: Why HPE Is Doubling Down On Tech Pro Community, Technology Solution Summits

New Investment In Partner Solution Architect Community, Technology Solution Summits

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Global Channel Chief Paul Hunter says the company is making significant new investments in building out the skill sets of elite solution architects with a focus on business outcomes.

"We are fighting for the mind share of the technologists of partners," said Hunter. "We are fighting for mind share of the sales people in those partners. We are fighting for mind share of the owners. And we are also fighting for mind share of the marketing organization."

To that end, Hunter this week rolled out globally the new Tech Pro Community which is aimed at building an elite technical community of partner solution architects working with HPE solution architects in a single community aimed at driving game changing business outcomes for customers.

HPE has also doubled down on its Technology Solution Summits, which provide technical education for solution architects. Hunter, in fact, officially launched the Tech Pro Community at the HPE Technology Solution Summit in Paris which runs March 11- 15, attracting 1,300 partner participants, an increase of 25 percent over the prior year.

"Those technology solution summits are really key events for us," Hunter told CRN. "We have doubled down on them this year and we'll continue to double down on them in future years. So we have got lofty aspirations for continuing to grow the participation of our partners at those events."

How big a breakthrough is the new Tech Pro Community for solution architects?

We are really, really excited about this. This is an area that when you make incremental investment you really see the return from it.

What we are trying to do is essentially help fix business outcomes with technology that is enabled by partners. So partners are converting our technology and matching it to the business outcome they are trying to fix.

Those partners have got lots of companies they work with so we are fighting for air time with them. We are fighting for the mind share of the technologists of partners. We are fighting for mind share of the sales people in those partners. We are fighting for mind share of the owners. And we are also fighting for mind share of the marketing organization.

For each one of those different audiences, it is our mission to grow our mind share and to entice them and to encourage them to be our advocates.

How has HPE increased investments in the solution architects and the technology teams at HPE partners, particularly with the technology solution summits?

We are putting increased investment through MDF (market development funds) in partner participation for the technology solution summits. For the European event, we have got over 1,300 partner participants. That is an increase of 25 percent over the prior year. We have had a similar increase in attendance in Bangkok and we are looking to increase the attendance in the US. We are really scaling the technology solutions summits and the partner participation in them.

How are MDF funds being used there and how big an opportunity is that for partners?

We have a significant investment in MDF. That is a really meaningful investment in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars a year. We are talking a significant amount of investment in developing markets with our partners.

One of the things we are looking at it what are the best returns on those investments? It's a detailed piece of work because each partner is different, different market segments have different attributes, different geographies have different attributes. We are looking at where are the best returns for collaborating and partnering with channel partners and making those investments.

One area we believe delivers really good returns for both of us is the technical community. So we are making MDF available for partners that want to attend our technical solutions summits. We essentially fund the majority of their attendance fees. They also have the opportunity to do their competency training at those events as well.

To me it is privilege that we have got 1,300 participants in Paris that are going to spend three days with us who will get a forward look at the technology we are bringing to market. They get access to our engineering teams from our business units. They get access to our presales organization as well.

Not only does it build insight into what we are doing, but by building that intimacy we believe we get a greater degree of collaboration. It is also a great forum for that community to meet other people in similar roles in similar companies.

It also allows them to build really personal relationships with the people designing, building and planning the future of our technology portfiolio. Those technology solution summits are really key events for us. We have doubled down on them this year and we'll continue to double down on them in future years. So we have got lofty aspirations for continuing to grow the participation of our partners at those events.

We have used MDF before, but we have made a bigger allocation and investment of MDF to encourage our partners to participate.

What kind of impact is HPE Vice President of Worldwide Presales and Presales Operations Michael Pilbeam having on the Tech Pro Community?

One of the decisions I am really pleased about is Mike Pilbeam, who runs our presales organization globally, has taken responsibility for building the advocacy with the technologists of our partners. To me that speaks volumes. Because it is one thing for the partner sales organization wanting to do that it is another thing when essentially the leader of our entire presales organization treats our partner's presales teams as an extension on his own. That's just how he considers it. He is responsible for making sure that we grow the advocacy with our partners. He is responsible and has people working on the Tech Pro Community.

That is important to me. It is important that we are building good relationships with our partners with our presales community and with our customers. It joins the three together. Tech Pro does what Airheads does for Aruba. It is for partner technologists. It is for HPE technologists. And it is for customer technologists. Tech Pro Community brings the three together.

How collaborative is the Tech Pro Community experience?

It is the opportunity to build collaboration between our team and our partner teams. That is one of the main aspects of Tech Pro Community. It is all about building community.

How important is the idea that HPE CEO Antonio Neri has fostered that partners are an extension of the HPE sales team?

It is an attitude. Because it has been core to our DNA and the company for a long period of time it is not difficult to encourage that. If it is not in your DNA it is quite difficult to really extend the degree of transparency and trust to partners. It is not going to always work so you have to be comfortable that sometimes you not going to get the coverage or outcome you want. It is not always covered with cream and strawberries. But if you approach it with that mindset the partners will trust you more and they will invest more with you because they know the return is going to be reciprocated.

What kind of cultural impact is HPE CEO Antonio Neri having on the geek culture so to speak at HPE and the industry?

The culture that (HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) (pictured), (Aruba President and founder) Keerti (Melkote), (Hybrid IT President and Chief Sales Officer) Phil (Davis) and (President and CEO HPE Financial Services) Irv (Rothman) are creating in our business. Tech Pro Community is a good example.

We went to Phil and Antonio with the idea of investing in Tech Pro Community. They provided us additional investment. Any investment we make comes at the expense of another dollar spent on R&D or putting another sales person on the street. It is a meaningful discretionary choice. They made the decision to invest in the community in a matter of days.

We have a program that clearly produced great results in Asia. We sought more investment for it. That was granted. And now we are deploying it globally and launching it in March. That is a real reflection of the culture of agility that Antonio, Keerti, Phil and Irv are creating. We are encouraged to pilot quickly and either stop doing it or scale. There is not really any middle ground. We are not interested in experiments for the sake of being different. We are interested in experiments for the sake of understanding. Once we get a point of view on the thesis, that it can scale, be applied globally and it delivers the return hoped or planned, we scale as quickly as possible.

Or if it didn't work, we learn from it. It was a valuable thing for us to do but we are closing it down. We are advocating that across our teams as quickly and broadly as we can. The more of these pilots that we can run, the more we learn, the quicker we scale these new breakthroughs.

What is your personal connection to the Tech Pro Community?

It is a community I have a real personal affinity for. My wife is a presales architect. I remember very well one of my first sales as a salesman was heavily dependent on the presales guy I worked with 20 odd years ago. In many instances the presales teams and the architects are doing the work of turning an opportunity into a reality - into a solution so it turns up as a proposal at the customer.

What type of effort is HPE making to tell partner stories?

In collaboration with our marketing team we are talking about making the partners heroes of our stories. Let's put our partners on a pedestal and shine a light on the work they are doing to transform customers to create these digital experiences.

So we have started collecting those stories. We did one with CPP Associates and Post University and one with Mainline Information Systems and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOL).

They are both stories told by the partners about how they have have transformed customer environments with the customers featured on it. We do the production. It is on YouTube. We are building out these assets of partner customer transformation stories. They are available for our partners to use. They are produced by us so they get investment and coverage from us and they are available for our salespeople to use.

We have a sales learning platform called Seismic. We have deployed Seismic for our own sales organization in 2018. We are now deploying Seismic for our partner sales people this year. So the sales assets that are available for our sales organization are the exactly the same assets that are available for the salespeople in our partner organizations.

If a partner wants an example of where we have sold SimpliVity hyoperconverged to an education establishment or University, they will find the example of CPP selling to Post University. The guy from Post University is talking about how SimpliVity created a 40 to 1 deduplication ratio and the partner is saying that any customer trying to do more with less then this is the solution you should be considering.

It is just really powerful when our partners bring these stories to life. That was a decision we took with the marketing team 8 weeks ago and (Director of North America Channels Marketing) Cheri Wesinger (who was named to CRN's Power 100 Women of Channel list) been working on it for a longer period of time. We took some work that the US team has done and now we are going to scale that – highlighting our partner success stories, aligning them to the Super Six, investing in the publication of them. The next stage of the journey is how do we match that with lead creation and demand generation and increased investment.

How fast is HPE moving in the wake of the separation four years ago of HPE and HP?

I have worked in corporations for a long period of time. Getting faster is a really difficult thing for companies to do. You get used to a pace of working. To get faster requires really disruptive decisions like separating a company.

Now what we are seeing is our company is getting more experience at working at a faster pace with a greater degree of experimentation with and with a greater degree of making decisions, then executing them and measuring the execution, and applying that data.

I believe that if we deliver on our promise to our partners and our customers we will win. I believe our future is in our own hands. It is not a question of strategy. It is a question of execution.

We get fabulous feedback from our customers on our strategy. We get fabulous feedback from our partners on our product portfolio who repeatedly tell us this is the best product portfolio we have ever had. It is all about execution and that is what we are focused on. The opportunities to get better are endless. We have got more ideas than we have got the capacity to deliver on which is great because it means we get to prioritize what we do.