Terry Richardson On Why HPE Tech Pro Partners Are Seeing Double-Digit Sales Growth

Driving Sales Growth

Hewlett Packard Enterprise North America Channel Chief Terry Richardson, a 30-year channel veteran who has received acclaim as one of the industry's most respected channel chiefs, says HPE partners investing in the new Tech Pro Community are seeing a dramatic increase in sales growth.

"We did a pilot of this in our Asia Pacific region and saw terrific results: the partners that were active with Tech Pro Community grew at double digits compared to Asia Pacific partners who did not participate," said Richardson. "It makes sense. The more partners know about your solutions and capabilities, the better job they can do positioning that solutions portfolio to customers."

The new HPE Tech Pro Community, which was launched last month, is aimed at providing HPE partner pre- and post-sales reps access to the same training, certification, sales tools and resources as HPE''s own technical talent in a single, vibrant community forum setting. HPE is focused on moving 60,000 of the best and brightest partner tech talent into the program.

To that end, HPE is expecting a 40 percent increase in partner participation at its Aspire conference (May 19-23, Swan & Dolphin Resort, Orlando Fla.) where partners and HPE's top technical talent will gather to share technology insights, said Richardson.

"The whole focus of Tech Pro community is to make sure our partners are equipped to compete today and into the future in areas like intelligent edge, making flash more pervasive in data centers or helping customers decide how to best leverage the cloud and implement hybrid strategies," he said. "Those are all things we are training our technical people on but now our partners get the benefit of the same training."

How important is the new Tech Pro Academy program for partners?

At the end of the day the most successful partners are those that have the most competent technical pre- and post-sales staffs. Tech Pro community is our way of recognizing the value of those technical personnel.

We did a pilot of this in our Asia Pacific region and saw terrific results. The partners that were active with Tech Pro Community grew at double digits compared to partners who did not participate. It makes sense. The more partners know about your solutions and capabilities the better job they can do positioning that solutions portfolio to customers.

What Tech Pro community does is formally recognize all the individuals that play those important technical roles at our partners. Our commitment is that they get access to the exact same information and the exact same training as our own pre sales and post sales engineers. It is really our way of recognizing – better than we have ever done before – the value of this community.

The big benefit for the tech professionals personally is that we are focused on building communities. If you exclude the subset of large national or global partners, most of the tens of thousands of partners we do business with tend to be regional players.

By creating a community, we are already seeing collaboration between technical personnel at different partners that don't really compete. It is a community and as we start to refine our focus as a business aligned to our strategy around identifying partners with specific competencies, it won't just be partners that we can point to that are really skilled in hybrid cloud, data protection or AI, it will be individuals within those partners that are truly an extension of our team. That gives us real reach.There is a real benefit to the individual because being part of this community will become more industry recognized.

How important is it that HPE is making partner technical professionals part of the same community as HPE direct sales pre- and post-sales reps?

We just had the TSS event in Paris made up of HPE and partner personnel all getting the same message (with 1,300 partner participants, up 25 percent from last year). In May in the U.S., we have an event called Aspire (May 19-23, Swan & Dolphin Resort, Orlando Fla.). It is HPE technical and partner technical personnel in the same room, in the same sessions, learning the same stuff.

With Tech Pro Community we have made all of the assets that are available online available to partners. So through a single portal- psnow (products and solutions) - partners can get access to everything they need to know about our products and solutions. That is the same content that our HPE people have access to. I don't think we can be any more welcoming or transparent than that.To back up (HPE CEO) Antonio's (Neri ) words: 'They are an extension of us and we treat them that way.'

What is the message for partners regarding the Aspire conference next month?

We will have 40 percent more partner participation this year than last year's event. Register early because we are going to sell out. We have a fixed amount of space. We have got as much additional space as we could get. We did a preregistration for partners and the response was overwhelmingly positive. So we had to get more space. It is first come, first served and then for future events we'll look at even bigger spaces.

I think there is an increased appetite for training from the partners. It is also indicative of the need to learn new things. What you knew in the past does not necessarily translate into what you need to know to be a successful solution provider in the future because technology is changing so fast, and the types of skills and expertise need to change accordingly.

How important is the Tech Pro Community to driving HPE's vision around intelligent edge?

The whole focus of Tech Pro Community is to make sure our partners are equipped to compete today and into the future in areas like intelligent edge, making flash more pervasive in data centers or helping customers decide how to best leverage the cloud and implement hybrid strategies. Those are all things we are training our technical people on but now our partners get the benefit of the same training. That will serve them well.

Not all partners have equivalent skill sets in all disciplines. So we are already seeing examples where partners that may be really strong in networking skills at the edge are teaming with folks that lack that capability because they have been more data center focused around compute and storage. We see partners forming relationships together which I think is healthy for the whole ecosystem. That is happening through the portal or with folks in our PBM (partner business manger) community playing relationship broker. For partners struggling with hiring to a skillset they can get started by tapping into another partner that has that capability already and is looking to drive up the utilization (rate) of their technical folks.

How big an opportunity is there for the pre and post sales reps to update their skill set for the digital transformation era?

I think it's a big deal for partners. If I look at this industry from the perspective of a partner, every vendor has certification program requirements for sales and technical training. Most partners today have multiple vendor offerings on their line card. It is really difficult to be complaint with every vendor's technology that you want to sell.

What we have done with Tech Pro community with specific competency areas is recognize and give partners benefits for their capabilities around VMware, SAP and Oracle. So the competencies we have are focused more around workloads and business solutions that are not just HPE.

So it is a way for partners to leverage the knowledge and capabilities they already have. Tech Pro is focused on business outcomes. If partners have those skill sets they will be able to gain HPE competencies with the ability to focus on the areas they want to invest in and learn.

How important is the Tech Pro training for partners looking to further establish themselves as trusted advisors?

The more educated the partner's personnel are, the better they can serve their customers in a trusted advisor role. If you are serving your customer in a trusted advisor role, there is a great opportunity for margin and long term expansive relationships. That is what partners are looking for – a customer for life. That starts with technical capabilities because anybody can sell a box at a lower price. That is not really what customers need. Customers need somebody helping them on this (digital transformation) journey to figure out what are the bets they need to make in order to be even more competitive or to prevent them from potentially being disrupted by competitors. We are focused on the technical community so that partners are in the best position to help their customers.

How important is it for partners to move faster with technical education?

We have never seen the pace of change in this industry like we are witnessing now. Partners, customers and vendors are all transforming simultaneously. Making sure we have (business outcome) relevant content available to all of our partners from a technical training and readiness standpoint gives us a competitive advantage. We recognized that it can't just be about our products. It has got to be more about the customer's environment and the applications and workloads those customers are dealing with to solve their business problems. It's a big shift in the way we think about required competency and training for partners. It's a recognition of where the industry is.

Where do you see partners needing the most help with training?

I think every partner is different, but certainly understanding applications and workloads and being able to guide what applications should remain on prem and what might be better served being in a SaaS provider's data center or private or public cloud is key. Helping customers navigate that is number one.

The biggest opportunity we see is at the edge. The edge doesn't just mean a networking device. It is really understanding how much of the compute, storage and frankly processing and analyzing of the data needs to happen real time at the edge. Partners need to help customers do that.

Partners have to have the skills, applications expertise and understanding to guide what is happening at the edge. Technology advances like 5G is opening up immense opportunities. It is an enabling opportunity. Partners need to know how to take advantage of that. Most partners are pretty good at data center stuff whether it is specializing in networking, security or storage. The edge is new.

What kind of momentum are you seeing for partners with HPE Aruba?

Aruba is a technology that has been very good for the partner community. We have more than tripled the business since the acquisition. All of that has been influenced and worked in some way, shape or form with the channel. It has great for the channel, but it has been even better for customers because of the advantage Aruba brings not just on devices but security and other software capabilities. Aruba is providing tremendous flexibility and opportunities for customers to transform the experience of workers and their key stakeholders. It is a technology that some of the most progressive partners are lining up behind. They see Aruba as a door opener to new account acquisition.

What is the biggest challenge for partners right now?

The biggest challenge for partners is hiring and being able to afford technical talent. Having their technical talent be part of a community like Tech Pro recognizes the importance of the individual. It is an investment in the individual pre and post sales reps. Hopefully that results in partners being able to retain their people and potentially attract others interested in participating in a community like Tech Pro.

How big is the opportunity for partners to update the skill sets of their technical talent?

What we are trying to do is take folks with some of the legacy skills and translate those into specific competencies. Some partners may have a deep bench of skills, for example, related to Unix. Those skills are very relevant to key applications and workloads like SAP and Oracle. It's just a different focus like how you take advantage of SAP HANA real time analytic capabilities. It's being able to address a different set of customer problems with that strong applications expertise.

How important is the cutting edge technology culture being driven by HPE CEO Antonio Neri?

(HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) is continuing on the path that (former HPE CEO) Meg (Whitman) started, returning HPE to its roots as a technology innovator. Antonio has identified ways to compliment our portfolio through some very strategic acquisitions and partnerships. Because Antonio grew up in the company and has a very strong product and services background he really has the requisite skills to execute on our strategy of intelligent edge, simplifying hybrid IT in the data center and making sure we have the appropriate services offerings like Greenlake to enable all this technology to be deployed. So Antonio continues to focus on the fact that – products matter, infrastructure matters. The world is going to have on premise infrastructure. His focus is on making sure we have the best offering that is available to partners and ultimately to customers.

How many partners are you targeting with Tech Pro Community?

We are targeting 60,000. The target is platinum and gold partners. We encourage all partners to continue to grow with us and evolve up our partner tiers.

We are seeing more partners wanting to progress. We are seeing business partners progress to Silver at an accelerated rate and Silver working to get to Gold.

When partners look at HPE they see a complete portfolio. All the boxes are checked from edge to data center and everything in between. No all our competitors can say that. We are in a pretty good place from a portfolio standpoint.

Partners are also looking at our commitment to partnering with best of breed companies. With Pathfinder and HPE Complete, we are taking technologies like Qumulo, Cohesity, Datera and other software defined products that compliment our core offerings to market. Partners really like that. At the end of the day it is very difficult for partners to deal with every potential vendor they need to in order to solve customer problems. Partners appreciate that they can deal with us instead of having to go do a bunch of independent relationships.

Talk about the business outcome focus that is part of Tech Pro.

Instead of focusing on server and compute certifications, we have hybrid IT. That recognizes that in order for partners to be prepared to deal with today and tomorrow's customers requirements it is about understanding the entire (IT) estate looking at it through a hybrid lens. Instead of forcing people to go down specific product disciplines we have aggregated it up to more of a hybrid IT certification. With the individual competencies we will dive deeper in the market with everything from edge to AI and software defined. We'll even have competencies around our consumption offering which we call Greenlake.

How can partners differentiate themselves with Tech Pro?

Some partners feature how many skilled technical HPE personnel they have. They are very proud of the number of ASEs or Master ASEs that are in their organization and they use that in some of their selling efforts – especially when there is a propensity and a favorable bias towards HPE in the eyes of a customer.

Competencies are relevant to customers because it shows partners are certified by HPE in a variety of disciplines. But it also matters to our field reps as partners learn to differentiate themselves in the eyes of our field account executives. Tech Pro allows partners to demonstrate and point to the competencies they have earned through testing and real world implementations and customers successes. It matters internally as to who are the best partners to engage in a territory, geography or segment.

How big an advantage is Tech Pro hybrid certification on where workloads can run more efficiently?

For the data center customer that is number one. Also customers are doing deployments that transcend North America with data centers in Europe and Asia. Now you have technical people that have same types of skills and capabilities outside the boundaries of the US or where ever the partner currently plays. That is going to help as more partners think about expanding their capabilities globally with a consistent approach to technical training.

How important is this to the individual rep that wants to stay at the cutting edge?

There is a lot of pride in the technical community in the knowledge they possess and how that benefits customers and the solution provider. We are trying to make it personal by doing a better job of recognizing and acknowledging those individuals. We also want to make sure our technical leadership and personnel very welcoming and engaging at a personal level to all of the HPE partner representatives that go through the same certification process. That is when the magic starts to happen when you see people starting to work together. This is all about doing that at scale across an entire community. That is really exciting to watch. I'm thrilled that we are doing it.

Looking out several years, what is going to be the ultimate impact of Tech Pro?

If we do this well, we have a community of highly informed, educated and highly inspired technical personnel capable of representing HPE independently or in conjunction with our own technical community to better serve customers. The individuals that take the time to be part of this will experience some personal growth and rewards as a result of being part of this. Also we will have a much more collaborative working relationship with partners. It has already been good but this will make it even better.