HP plans to increase its number of specialised certification programs during the next six months. The news comes after partners requested help with differentiating in areas such as storage and printing services.
"We told HP it needed to specialise and create barriers to entry," Data#3 CEO, John Grant, said. "If you are going to make an investment then you want to know you will be able to make a return. "HP was being represented by every man and his dog while other vendors went in for deals with more qualified partners. Specialisation is a good thing now HP is in the game."
While agreeing specialisation was good in theory, Klikon Solutions sales director, David Abouhaidar, reserved judgement. "I'm not sure what to make of it because it was all very sudden," he said. "But with HP it's always been about who you know and leads are very scarce. Specialisation will be good if HP supports the partners who invest the time and money."
HP solution partners organisation director, Martin Dare, said the move to improve specialisation was driven by changes in a market that was increasingly fragmented. Other vendors including IBM had already made similar moves. "The market seems to be much more specific now about how it values support," Dare said. "Good pricing, rapid delivery and a guarantee of reliability used to be enough three years ago but now customers just expect that.
"We want to respond appropriately to market requirements and partners are doing the same thing.
"They are focusing on particular [vertical market] sectors or staying broad-based [from a customer perspective] but concentrating on specific technologies. ILM [Information Lifecycle Management] is a good example of that."
HP has suffered trust issues with resellers in recent years, particularly in the print business where major partners like Commander have shifted allegiance to Lexmark. This has largely been due to concerns about its direct sales encroaching on traditional channel territory.
But Dare said it had made solid progress since new CEO, Mark Hurd, took the reins last year and promised to return the favour if partners showed loyalty to the HP brand.
Data#3's Grant said HP had made inroads but there was still more work to be done.
"The situation is better now than in the past but there are still some cracks to be ironed out," he said. "HP took business from partners to improve its margins under Carly Fiorina [former CEO] and that created a lot of angst. "It is trying to work its way back by going direct to a small group of accounts but improving its focus on working through the channel for everything else. The strategy is better now and specialisation is one way of making partners more successful."