HP to Combine Partner, Sales Portals with Virtual Chatbot Assistants

HP is accelerating its shift to DaaS and digital transformation.

Jeffrey Schwartz

March 19, 2019

5 Min Read
HP's Don Weisler at Reinvent 2019

(Pictured above: HP’s Don Weisler on stage at HP Reinvent in Houston, March 19.)

HP REINVENT — Moving to simplify how customers buy – and partners sell – HP personal systems and printers, the company is consolidating its sales and partner portals into a common platform where enhanced chatbots will ultimately have a more prominent presence.

HP outlined the forthcoming combined portal and new financing options, which both will help facilitate the shift to device as a service (DaaS), at the company’s Reinvent partner conference, taking place this week in Houston.

Noting that 90 percent of its business is transacted via the channel through 250,000 partners, HP CEO Dion Weisler said that the key to partner growth will come from opportunities associated with customers’ digital-transformation initiatives and the shift from transactional business to DaaS and managed print services (MPS).

Three years after divesting its enterprise server, storage and software businesses, Weisler emphasized that HP partners’ business have grown.

“Since 2016, our channel has grown by $10 billion,” Weisler said in his opening keynote. “If that’s a dying business, I’ll take it.”

Weisler acknowledged recent headwinds, including a supply shortage of CPU components and a revenue miss in its printing supplies business in Europe.

“We know what we must do and you will see us take clear and decisive action to course-correct this later,” he said.

Weisler added that despite those near-term challenges, HP’s key priority is to enable partners and customers to transform to the device-as-a-service and managed-print-services business model.

As customers become savvy in their use of digital technology, the purchasing experience becomes more transparent. This shift has fueled HP’s own transformation efforts, which center around improving how purchases are made, said Mary Beth Walker, HP’s head of channels, during a pre-conference briefing.

“To succeed, we must adapt and tailor our sales strategy and touch points based on understanding the whole customer buying experience and the customer needs,” Walker said.

At the same time, emerging channels targeted at millennials and a new generation of decision makers are increasing demand for “everything-as-a-service,” she said.

“While many of our partners rely on a more transactional business at this point, their business will look dramatically different in a few years. The buying behaviors and our customer expectations are changing and disrupting business models and entire industries.”

These shifts were the impetus to combine the sales and partner portals. The integration of HP Sales Central (HPSC) and Partner First portals will start to appear next month, and in increments throughout the rest of the year. HP will refer to the combined portal as HPSC. As the combined portal rolls out, there are issues …

… that the company still must determine, such as how customer leads will be shared with partners.


HP’s Gary Simms

“We’re working right now with the category marketing groups to figure out exactly how we will do that,” said Gary Simms, HP’s head of Americas channel programs and enablement. “It’s still a work in progress, but it will be something that that is not as manual as it is today. It’s all part of the digital transformation.”

Also part of the digital transformation, HP is working on bringing chatbots to the newly combined portal, allowing customers and partners to ask for specific information. The bot will understand text and natural language. Dave Lobodo, head of worldwide digital sales enablement platforms, said 85 percent of all engagements with clients will begin with a chatbot encounter by next year. HP’s new chatbot will offer access to thousands of SKUs, according to Lobodo.

“We’re finding three-times faster access to finding product information using a chatbot and artificial intelligence,” he said. “And we’re actually finding time savings between 35 and 55 minutes a day in our sales motion using this chatbot engagement.”

The chatbot functionality is still under development and the company will roll it out incrementally.

As part of its digital shift, HP in October started rolling out its new Wise for Channel program, designed for partner technicians to simplify access to technical information and documentation from the field. It includes how-to videos, service manuals and advisories. Since its launch last fall, 5,000 partners have started using it, HP announced. The company this week released a new mobile-optimized version of Wise that ncludes improved search and use of video.

“It’s going to provide adaptability to device screen size and with more powerful search capabilities through a more robust product detail page; enhanced video results provide easy access to product-specific information,” Simms said.

Meanwhile, bringing together the sales and partner portals and the mobile app interface “will enable channel partners to provide quotes and close deals anywhere anytime while providing a really best-in-class customer, as well as partner experience,” said Deborah Baker, HP’s head of worldwide leasing and financing.

Also announced was HP Integrated Financial Solutions, a company-branded offering that aims to offer more and broader options better suited for device-as-a-service options including instant credit approval, electronic signature support and rapid invoicing. HP said the new financing programs will roll out within the next few months in partnership with several global financial solution providers.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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