HP Enhances PartnerONE Program

Streamlined program will drop Gold, Platinum levels.

Hewlett-Packard Co. will roll out significant changes to its PartnerONE program next month.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer giant will drop the Gold and Platinum levels and replace them with Preferred and Elite levels, while streamlining the program to bring the partner requirements into alignment across business units.

"I think what's going to happen here is we're going to find more partners actively interested in this program than before," predicts Tom LaRocca, HP vice president for marketing and strategy in the Solution Partners Organization-Americas.

New-Name Breakdown
The Preferred Partner level, which replaces the Gold level, includes-among other benefits-access to sales rebates, marketing support and growth incentives.

The Elite Partner level, replacing Platinum, adds assigned channel sales support, end user-focused marketing support, priority leads, partner locator support, stronger rebates and other benefits.

The Business Partner level, which includes partner promotions, HP financing, support and training, will continue to be the lowest tier of the PartnerONE program.

According to LaRocca, the new program will coordinate entry levels for HP's different business units, such as the Personal Systems Group. "With Platinum and Gold, the way we have it today, the entry levels into the different programs are different by business unit," LaRocca explains. "You may qualify for one level of funds for the Personal Systems Group, but you may not qualify for that same level of funds for printers or servers. It's a little challenging to navigate through this whole thing."

At the same time, the choice of new program-level names comes because HP is finding that the existing Gold and Platinum partner classifications have little resonance with customers. "We're dropping the nomenclature [Gold and Platinum]. What we're really going to do is go out and market to end users about why you want to use a partner," he says. "Today, if we market a Gold partner, they don't necessarily know what that means. If we go with Preferred Partner, customers will know what that means."

The effort will include demand-generation media campaigns aimed at small to midsize business and commercial customers starting with HP's fiscal year on Nov. 1. The effort is modeled after a pilot program in Europe.

HP doesn't discuss the number of North American partners in the PartnerONE program, although other industry observers put the number at about 15,000. While the majority is currently in the Business Partner class, LaRocca says he expects the program to wind up with more partners in the Preferred and Elite levels than are currently in the Gold and Platinum levels.

Extra Investments
Moving from one partner tier to another depends primarily on hitting undisclosed revenue targets. Partners who grow quickly will be eligible for extra investments from HP based on their rate of revenue growth. "If you're an Elite partner and you did $2 million with us in 2008 and you grow 10 percent in 2009, your financial investments from us will go up 20 percent or more," LaRocca explains.

Another way for partners to increase rebates will be to broaden the range of HP solutions that they carry. Elite training is available for technology areas including PC and workstation blades, thin clients, virtualization, Microsoft unified communications, office printing and the public sector.

Also in August, HP came up with a formal name for an initiative that has seen HP CEO Mark Hurd meet face-to-face with about 100 partners in the last 12 months. HP calls the program ExeConnect. It provides a formal structure that partners can use to request that Hurd meet with them or their customers. LaRocca said that HP will substitute lower-ranking executives, such as Adrian Jones, vice president and general manager of the Solution Partners Organization-Americas, where appropriate.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.