HP Canada removes channel chief position

While Hewlett-Packard Co. Canada (NYSE: HPQ) will no longer have a traditional channel chief, the last person to hold that position insists that for partners, the support and route to market hasn’t changed.

As part of a recent restructuring, John Cammalleri will no longer hold the position of vice-president of the solution provider organization. Instead of one channel chief for HP Canada, that responsibility will now reside within each of HP Canada’s main business units, such as the personal systems group (PSG), imaging and printing group (IPG) and enterprise servers, storage and networking group (ESSN). Cammalleri is taking responsibility for the reseller business in PSG, as well as the route to market for the small and medium-sized business segment.

“The strategy is to create much tighter linkages between the end-user sales organization and the SMB channel organization, because you really can’t separate the partner from the SMB business,” said Cammalleri, noting 98 per cent of HP Canada’s SMB revenue comes through the channel. “It’s really about a singular way in which you go to market.”

In terms of HP’s channel support structure, Cammalleri stressed the route to market hasn’t really changed. The product groups have always had responsibility for the channel route to market, and all channel support has always been done at the business unit level. Also, the channel marketing organization ran by Heather Kent, partner development and programs manager, remains housed within PSG supporting the channel across the organization so a consistent marketing and enablement methodology is delivered to partners.

Kent noted HP increased its investment in partner support and enablement in 2011, and is anticipating another 10 per cent increase in investment in 2012.

“How partners engage with HP hasn’t changed,” said Kent. “There’s no impact on partners other than the benefit of greater alignment to the sales organization in the SMB space.”

The elimination of the channel chief role mirrors changes as HP Americas, where the channel chief role was eliminated after Stephen DiFranco left the channel chief role to lead the PSG Americas business. In Canada, HP has created a channel governance team to go into the details of how accounts are being covered, and to ensure the channel is being supported in a consistent way.

The restructuring will be a positive development if it means more of an in-depth focus from HP channel reps into each business unit said David Reid, president and CEO of Epic Information Solutions, an HP business partner from Winnipeg. Reid noted that HP has had divided programs for some time, so the the leadership change is really more administrative and shouldn’t mean a significant change for most partners.

“We deal with all three business units and when it was just one business manager covering all three, they couldn’t drill very deep into any one area,” said Reid. “Having three partner managers will be fine. I think it will be more effective.”

It will be up to HP to ensure the managers aren’t duplicating work, and if Epic starts to get a repetition of information Reid said he’ll let HP know.

Analyst James Alexander agrees there shouldn’t be a major change for HP partners. Alexander, senior vice-president with the London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, said more than most companies, HP has always been a product-driven company in terms of its go to market strategy. He added it will be important that HP continue to view partners as a whole, for their activity across HP’s business units and not just in each bucket.

“If I was a partner I’d prefer to have a single partner representative; one ‘throat to choke’ that will recognize my importance to the company in whole,” said Alexander. “HP has such a broad portfolio. It’s such a shame they can’t figure out how to gain leverage to sell across the portfolio. That’s one of the things (former CEO Mark) Hurd stressed. With his demise, perhaps it’s gone by the board.”

What has changed is that HP Canada now no longer has a single senior executive with overall channel responsibility, wearing the channel chief hat. Whether or not that will mean a loss of clout for partners within the organization remains to be seen.

“That will be the question, whether there’s change in how much attention the channel will get because we’re lacking that person,” said Epic’s Reid. “I hope it doesn’t happen and HP’s (channel commitment) remains strong.”

Info-Tech’s Alexander noted that much of the funding for partner sales and marketing comes out of the product groups anyway, so in a sense the marketing group now has more of a direct line into the organization than before, which will benefit partners.

“It’s not the cleanest structure looking at it from the outside, but inside I think it’s probably better and partners will have a stronger advocate with this new architecture,” said Alexander.

While there was value in having a singular person with responsibility for the channel, HP’s Cammalleri said the channel is “in the DNA” of HP, with or without an executive having that exclusive responsibility.

“It’s not like you’re in a scenario where if you don’t have that role, there will be less of an understanding of how the channel operates,” said Cammalleri. “It’s in our DNA across all the business units and the sales organization to think about the partners.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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