HP this week announced overhauls to its channel structure, launching a three-level partner program aimed at bringing resellers in line with its 'HP Invent' strategy at the same time as reinforcing the HP brand amongst end users.
The move will realign HP's channel - previously an operation which integrated multiple channel programs such as corporate resellers, VARs and workgroup resellers, under the HP Invent mantle an extension of the vendor's "always on" strategy.
Resellers will be moved to one of three categories: premier partners, business partners and registered resellers.
According to HP channel and alliance partner manager Greg Trigger, the channel will effectively become HP's "outsourced sales force". HP's direct sales team will be encouraged to push leads through the channel.
"It doesn't matter whether they are a tier one or two reseller, they will receive the same accreditation, provided they meet the criteria," Trigger explained. "Not all our existing top tier resellers will move into the premier business partner category."
For premier partners, those criteria will be based on sales targets and the technical expertise of staff. This is formalised through the HP STAR training program.
Businesses which are invited to join as Premier partners will be required to have at least two STAR certified technicians and one sales professional in every branch as well as a sales threshold of around $7.5 million per year.
"It is a marketing meal that rewards the activity of the reseller and for the first time that takes in everything from selling a Unix system to a Jornada handheld," Trigger said.
Trigger expects around 12 to 15 companies will be invited on as Premier Business Partners. Between 80 to 100 resellers will become Business Partners Australia-wide.
Generally, the restructure has been met with positive reseller reaction, particularly from those operating in the enterprise space, where HP is offering rebate incentives.
"Given the margin squeeze on most products these days, any potential rebate increase is another sign of the commitment to the channel," said Jim Lang, sales manager at Tasmanian reseller Computerland Hobart. Lang welcomed the move, saying it has previously been too easy for businesses to label themselves HP dealers.
"It is good that HP are seeking levels of certification," he said. It is getting so that every man and his dog has the HP logo on their Web site. I am pleased to see HP putting commitment back into the channel.
"Like all changes in the channel, you look for what is going to get you. So far, so good," Lang said.
Jon Johnston, managing director of HP's largest reseller, Centari Systems, sees the changes as "a very good thing".
"HP is providing more financial incentives for value-add products in terms of rebate. Most vendors give some form of rebate, but HP has made it more attractive for their enterprise products and services. I think the HP brand is very strong and channel partners will benefit from that."
Ian Harding, managing director of CES Computers in Canberra has seen so many channel programs come and go, he is unperturbed by the changes. He remains more concerned with the day to day issues of running a business.
"As far we are concerned it is business as usual," he said. "It is all part of the consolidation of the HP resellers into an easily identifiable channel."
It is a sentiment echoed by Richard Ware, managing director of Newcastle-based Hunter Digital.
"Every manufacturer seems to go through these [kinds of] changes every two years or so. We don't think it will have that much of an impact. Our business relationships are built on people, not on how they structure things. If HP is putting more focus on its channel, that's good.
"In the past HP has been a bit of a closed shop with not much access. This may make it easier, but we will wait and see."
Distribution of the new branding materials will commence this week.