HPE Channel Chief: 'Some of Our Best Stuff' Has Come from PartnersHPE Channel Chief: 'Some of Our Best Stuff' Has Come from Partners
HPE channel chief Paul Hunter is obsessed with speed and getting things done.
June 24, 2019
The churn at the top of HPE’s channel organization has been robust, with three channel chiefs in three years — beginning with Kerry Bailey in November 2015, Denzil Samuels in 2017 and Paul Hunter that same year. As the current worldwide partner sales leader, Hunter just set a record, having been in the job for 19 months.
A 17-year veteran with the company, Hunter stepped into the channel leadership role the same month that Meg Whitman, CEO at HPE, announced she’s stepping down from hers. He also served as chief of staff to Whitman for five years, giving him a ringside seat to the maturations of the company through its breakup into two separate entities — HP Inc. and HPE.
HPE’s Paul Hunter
Now, Hunter is setting a very different course for HPE partners as he works alongside Antonio Neri, CEO, who took the reins from Whitman. Channel Futures caught up with Hunter at HPE Global Partner Summit (GPS)/Discover 2019 in Las Vegas, to talk about how he’s setting into his job and what’s in store for HPE partners.
Channel Futures: Give us some perspective on your time as HPE’s channel leader, as you approach two years on the job.
Paul Hunter: As I said at GPS – and this is our second GPS not our 31st – HPE is a new company. We set out on Nov. 1, 2017, as a new company with the shackles taken off. The thesis of the separation is that we have to become faster, more nimble, and more special[ized] in order to defeat and compete, take share from competitors, and deliver on that.
We got a lot done in the first year – announced and launched a new partner program, offered a new partner offer for consumption [GreenLake] – and those were big undertakings. But, in the year since, we’ve doubled the amount that we’ve gotten done.
We’re obsessed with the speed at which we get things done. I would say there’s a lot of evidence to support that we’re getting faster. We’re pumping stuff out, such as iterations in our programs, ways we want to collaborate, tools, every dimension of the partner experience; we’re working at a pace with a fair degree of intensity to make sure that we stay ahead of the competition. That is both exciting and demanding. Through becoming more specialized and more agile, it means that what we’re able to do is set up lots of little test cases — we work with a sales leader in a country, they may have an idea, we’ll support it, we’ll collaborate to bring it to life, and if it works, we release it globally. And if it doesn’t, we do something different.
CF: Is this “test case” philosophy/strategy new at HPE?
PH: Yes. It started with the partner GreenLake proposition. We didn’t design that on our own; we designed that with our partners — about six to 10 partners who worked on it with us for four months. We call it GreenLake 3.0 because the first two didn’t work. What we did differently the third time was work with the partners on the design of the proposition. It takes an attitude and personality to want to collaborate and trust. Having done that, we are increasingly doing that.
Some of the most valued aspects of this event is that I have more than 20 one-on-one meetings with partners – outside of all the other events – and for each one, my objective is to find an experiment that we can do [together]. What chance is there that we align to what our partners want to do? That can be a market, or part of our portfolio that has the principle of being scalable — and that we can do quickly. There are a few …
… design principles from the outset, such as, can it serve a bigger purpose? it has to scale globally, doesn’t require a huge investment from the outset, can implement it quickly, and test quickly.
If a partner has an idea that they want to try and it gets the support of the sales leader in their country, we’re up for trying it. Some of our best stuff has come from that. HPE Tech Pro Community is an example; it was piloted in Asia.
CF: Are you hoping to hear from more than the 20-or-so partners that you met with [last week] at GPS? How does a partner get on your radar?
PH: Send me an email, contact me on LinkedIn, use any social media you want — so far, I haven’t run out of bandwidth. Maybe I will and we’ll have to do something else, but I hope not. These things are much better when they’re organic; they don’t need to be planned. I think the best ideas, sometimes, are the ones that you haven’t anticipated.
I’ve put a lot of work into making sure that I know as many partners as I can, personally. They know that I’m just a normal human being and I’m happy to get to get that feedback because that’s an opportunity for us to get better. I don’t want just to hear about all the good stuff — of course, that’s encouraging and motivating for our teams, but I also want to hear about the bad stuff; it provides the opportunity to improve.
CF: HPE made quite a number of significant and strategy announcements at GPS/Discover. Is there a corresponding road map for partners? And, will that strategy be reflected in the partner program?
PH: From a program perspective, we want to ground everyone. So we won’t be making massive changes for next year; instead, we’ll be iterating. The foundation, cornerstones and principles that surround our partner program from its launch last year will stay the same. We’re looking to encourage the sale of our solution portfolio and we’re looking to encourage the expertise of our partners and, at the same time, we’re looking to make sure that for the rest of our portfolio, we make it as easy to develop, close, deliver and support them with the least amount of time and human investment as possible.
Now post-2020, what we want to do is start rewarding and encouraging partners for the delivery of outcomes because we’re on this journey from selling feature, function, and benefits to selling solutions that impact business outcomes. We need to increasingly distinguish between something that affects a business outcome and something that is more transactional in nature. As an example, if you think about our composable platform, Synergy, some customers buy Synergy for replacement of their blade infrastructure and some customers buy Synergy as a composable platform that utilizes resource pools for compute. The uses of the compute that drive different customer experiences and partners who are able to sell, deliver and implement a composable strategy are far more valuable than the resale of blade. We have to be more refined and more granular in what’s more valuable, where partners can deliver that, where they can participate and what expertise they need.
How do we bring that to reality? We’re very passionate about that and have a dedicated leader for partner sales enablement – Steven Hagler [vice president, global sales and partner enablement] – and he’s dedicated to making sure that …
… we land our propositions on the sales force of our partners.
The path to do that is implementing really good systems experiences. So we’re addressing our systems and processes by modernizing and updating all of our systems experience. Our learning development platform will be rolled out, globally – but we’re not ready to announce yet – because we haven’t finished the negotiations, but we have committed to the investment. All of our sales assets are available on Seismic, a modern application that we’ve had for a year and a half, and we’re growing partner participation on Seismic, and it’s the same platform that the HPE sale organization uses.
HPE has a compelling vision but you have to deliver on it.
CF: Let’s talk about the partner road map.
PH: Take it one step at a time, depending where you are, how sophisticated you are, how capable you are and the track record you have delivering projects. So, if you have a history of selling compute with us, take the next step into looking how you extract value and insights from data and build out the capability to sell the storage portfolio. And once you have the ability to do that, build on the ability to sell composable. We have a framework that we call the Super 6; the whole point of the Super 6 is to give partners a reference point for building out their capability — so take out the Super 6, see where you have expertise and where you haven’t, and that’s pretty clear when we mapped it out because they’re adjacent.
So, that would be the road map for building out capability.
The Super 6 consists of a framework, and one of the arts to execution is consistency. Four of the Super 6 have stayed the same for two years and we added two. My suspicion is that we’ll try to reduce it because less is more.
If I had two asks, I’d say get on the consumption train and understand how you can apply the insights we’re driving to from our use of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools. You do those two things and you’ll be in good shape.
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