HP Channel Chief Stephen DiFranco Talks Managed Services

HP Channel Chief Stephen DiFranco Talks Managed Services

As Hewlett-Packard's channel chief, Stephen DiFranco (pictured) has two top priorities -- fine-tuning a channel partner program that's (1) consistent and (2) predictable. So far, most of this week's HP Americas Partner Conference has focused on taking profitable market share from Cisco Systems and Dell. But if you quiz DiFranco, he's more than happy to share his thoughts on emerging managed services opportunities for HP's channel partners. Here are the details.

First, let me set the scene a bit: During Monday's sessions (April 26), HP spent considerable time evangelizing its server, storage and networking strategy as an open, scalable, x86 alternative to Cisco's Unified Computing System (though HP never mentioned UCS by name). HP also promised to compete more effectively against Dell in the SMB market.

The message from HP was simple: Partners will have the opportunity to sell even more products, and HP claims to have the most comprehensive IT product portfolio on the planet.

If you were an MSP in the audience, you were probably starting to wonder if HP was preparing any recurring revenue strategies for you. Alas, there wasn't much managed services talk -- at all -- during the event. It's as if HP only wants to deliver infrastructure into the MSP, SaaS and cloud markets -- without really developing recurring revenue opportunities (other than printer ink) for partners.

But perhaps I need to open my mind and realize (A) Channel Chief DiFranco has only been on the job for a few weeks and (B) HP is doing just fine as a product-centric company.

DiFranco Talks Managed Services

By Tuesday (April 27), my mindset improved considerably. On stage, DiFranco didn't say much about manged services. But in a private sit-down, DiFranco proved that he understands recurring revenue models and the managed services sector.

"Managed services allows channel partners to have a continual revenue stream, which is certainly interesting to a lot of our partners," said DiFranco. "But the much more valuable part of the equation involves business relationships. Managed services allows channel partners to have closer, continuous business relationships with their customers."

As customers scale up or down, MSPs can scale their services appropriately, DiFranco noted. "For the economic health of our industry, it's imperative for manufacturers to help partners master managed services. We’ve raised partners to think of capital hardware selling. We need to help them evolve. That’s part of our job."

I'm not surprised by DiFranco's comments. He previously ran channels for Lenovo. And several sources say DiFranco was instrumental in Lenovo's recent managed services partner efforts.

DiFranco has only been at HP a few weeks, so it will take some time for him to inject managed services DNA into the company. At present, HP is quietly participating in a managed services road show hosted by  Level Platforms. I'm curious to see if DiFranco expands those efforts to ensure HP's hardware team works closely with all of the major PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers.

Signs of Progress

In the meantime, there are signs of MSP hope within HP.
Small steps. But I can't help but wonder if DiFranco is working on something bigger...

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