HP shakes channel foundations, sets new partner expectations amid digital age

HP shakes channel foundations, sets new partner expectations amid digital age

Billed as a ‘first-of-its kind’ for tech giant, overhaul centres around the launch of Amplify, a partner program spanning performance, capabilities and collaboration

Ng Tian Chong (HP)

Ng Tian Chong (HP)

Credit: HP

HP has unveiled a new program designed to overhaul traditional channel practices in response to increased levels of digitalisation, setting fresh partner expectations amid a sizeable shift in go-to-market strategy.

Billed as a ‘first-of-its kind’ for the technology giant, the overhaul centres around the launch of Amplify, a partner program built to provide consistency, deepened capabilities and enhanced levels of performance and collaboration across the ecosystem.

Standard ambitions perhaps, but beneath the surface lies a strong statement of intent to change conventional behaviours through a streamlined framework that prioritises digital engagement and insights over age-old deal making.

Evident through the retiring of Partner First - launched to herald a new era post-split from Hewlett Packard Enterprise in late 2015 - HP has created a modern-day blueprint for success via the supply chain.

Effective 1 November for commercial partners - with retail partners expected to transition in the second half of 2021 - Amplify houses two distinct tracks in Synergy and Power, retiring legacy statuses such as Platinum, Gold and Silver in the process.

“Today’s buyer expects streamlined, automated and personalised experiences,” said Ng Tian Chong, managing director of Greater Asia at HP. “To thrive in this changing environment - with data as the new currency - requires a combined shift to relate to our customers as individuals, not markets.

“Amplify not only makes it easier for partners to do business with HP - it provides partners with a clear path to ready their business and succeed in today’s environment and beyond - to capitalise on emerging trends and play a central role in the evolving customer buying journey.”

Speaking exclusively to Channel Asia via video link from Singapore, Tian Chong said Synergy represents the foundational elements of the new program, with Power ranking requiring additional capabilities investment.

“By default, a lot of partners will map into Synergy which will cater to the bulk of our current managed partners,” he explained. “For partners which want to remain transactional and want to wait and see how this progresses, they will be housed under Synergy.

“Power is over and above what is available through Synergy, which requires more collaboration from partners in terms of sharing data with HP. We expect that at least 20-30 per cent of partners which contribute the bulk of our business will fall into the Power track.”

Housing a combination of transactional, contractual and hybrid selling models, the structure of Amplify spans three core pillars: performance, capabilities and collaboration.

While the new program will continue to reward partners based on goals and volume, a new measurement and reward system will acknowledge “strategic efforts” deployed through the sales process, from registration volume to average sales value and account retention.

Beyond sales revenue, rewards will be offered for partners building new skills in digital, service delivery, e-commerce, omni-channel and secure data collaboration. Furthermore, the more capabilities around secure data collection, routes to market, services and specialisations, the more access and benefits partners will receive.

As outlined by Tian Chong, the new program also removes “local nuances” through the creation of a consistent framework available across the world.

“No longer will we have local variations in Australia or China, this is no longer a collection of essentially different programs under the Partner First umbrella,” he said. “Partners which operate regionally appreciate the consistency.”

In consolidating partner products, tools and trainings into one program, Amplify aims to provide “clear compensation levels” alongside the ability to invest in value-added services and skills. And the trade-off is simple; the more partners invest in skills, the higher the rewards.

“HP and its partners have an enormous and exciting opportunity to reinvent the way we do business and our route-to-market,” added David Tan, head of Channel, Omni and Supplies Sales across Greater Asia at HP. “Yet addressing these opportunities requires overcoming system inadequacies, legacy habits and embracing new business models. We’re making this leap together, embracing and investing in important changes to our ecosystem and our shared capabilities.”

Creating a collaborative channel

Through Amplify, plans are in place to convert data analytics into deeper insights capable of supporting partners in the creation of new go-to-market strategies. To achieve this, HP will “collaborate closely” with providers to hone digital skills - such as automated quotes and ordering - to provide a “more consistent customer experience” across multiple channels.

“Collaboration is a huge focus,” Tian Chong confirmed. “Power is the highest level of our program framework and we want partners to collaborate with HP beyond the current data they share.

“This is more than simply reporting sales of 10 PCs and five printers, we’re peeling the onion and becoming more granular in terms of the information that we require. We’re not just looking for overall quantity but a mix in terms of SKU and usage, for example.

“Through telemetry data on our products - which are all connected online - we know how many pages are print, whether black or white and the overall coverage. This is data that we will share with partners that want to collaborate with HP.”

Tian Chong said the sharing of such information will help increase targeted messaging when marketing to specific industries, in addition to streamlining supply chain management capabilities.

“We want partners to invest in these capabilities because providing a digital-first experience is crucial for success,” he added. “More of our customers - especially in Asia Pacific - are millennials and they are moving into positions of influence within the business.

“Some own small businesses or start-ups while others hold mid- to senior-level management positions meaning they have high expectations in terms of the way they make decisions, research products and buy solutions.”

In short, this shift in focus represents more than selling managed print services or device-as-a-service, rather online offerings such as shopping cart functionality, backed by online pricing and the ability to track customers through artificial intelligence.

But Tian Chong acknowledged that collaboration - and future success - with partners represents a “two-way street”, emphasising the need for trust-based alliances anchored by clear guidelines and frameworks.

“The easy part is talking about this, the more challenging aspect is working with partners to ensure trust and collaborate in a new way,” he said. “We can obtain data but what are we going to do with it? Will partners think we are going to use this information to go direct? What are the rules of engagement?

“The same rules apply to HP. What if we share telemetry data from our products with partners who are not single vendor? How do we know that this partner is not going to share this data with Canon, Epson, Ricoh, Lenovo or Dell?

“This has to be a two-way street built on trust, with the intent of growing our respective businesses. We have an advantage in terms of our long-standing relationship and loyalty to the channel but we can’t take this for granted, the past is no guarantee of the future.”

Delving deeper, Tian Chong also accepted that for partners to embrace digitalisation - in a channel forever hampered by manual processes - HP must extend support in the form of training and tools to help bridge the gap.

“We want to enable partners to go faster on this journey of digitising their business and we’ll provide the tools to help action this,” he outlined. “But even without HP, the industry is already gravitating this way and leveraging marketplaces.

“For example, some of our partners are opening up online stores with marketplaces in Lazada and Shopee, as well as large-scale resellers or retailers creating dot-com websites. Covid-19 has accelerated this buying trend much faster than we originally thought.”

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