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Channels will face tech innovation wave says HPE UK&I channel head

HPE’s latest results show that its ideas on using its technology, becoming easier to work with and working better through channels is paying off.  It will aim to raise this further next year, with more clarity and reaching further through distribution. Mark Armstrong, channels head of UK&I talked to IT Europa this week about changes in the last year.

To start with the IT market has always changed fast, he is not sure how different that is now. “It feels like the market is changing faster and more radically, but this presents opportunities as well. Technology is being used deeper into connectivity for successful businesses and I see this as only increasing.”

“We are doing quite a lot to make it simpler to do business with us. HPE now has a strategy and investment plan around a simpler business in hybrid cloud that offers a “right mix” of consumption from private to public.” It is hybrid and it is edge – from networking and mobility to core and cloud and a lifecycle of services around those technologies.

“We will invest to develop organically as well as buying technology such as Nimble and BlueData, and through partnerships with organisations that can add value - the Pathfinder project.  We are simpler than we were and clearer on strategy.”

In the channel, that strategy – HPE and external innovation - aims to lower the cost to partners.

“We’ve done a lot on this. The last year has seen channel growth – the proportion in the channel is going up. The channel is broadening – we have the top platinum partners – SCC, Insight, Computacenter etc, but we have put together a territory programme to help manage the smaller partners with our own sales resources to develop and help them. That has become very successful for us and we have seen growth there, helping them to develop their own presales and solutions.”

He also sees the channel also growing in the unmanaged space – HPE is addressing the customers directly and making it easier for partners to offer standardised solutions. “Some of these partners have very interesting collaborative relationships with their customers, where they act as consultants. These new partners can be different from traditional VARs. We want to support that.”

The enablement behind the channel programmes has changed to become simpler and allow them to become accredited more easily. It will enable small mid-market players to become more accredited.

The most successful players in this market are developing stronger points of view around technologies that add value, they are moving from classic tech resale to innovative solutions, he suggests. “They take the technology layer and the software defined layers to extract more value. I’ve seen this become a bigger proportion of the channel and the faster-growing partners are those who create value for their customers.”

2019 will see continued investment in hybrid cloud and technologies. A good example of this is around Simplivity (pictured) – creating composable hyper-converged networks as well as compute for software-defined networking. There will be a broadening of these type of solutions, he says.

“After many announcements at the recent Discover event, including AI tools, there is a big job for us to do with the channel – we are introducing so much, that one of my tasks is for partners to be enabled on these innovations. It is one of my priorities to get these out to market. We are also doing broader marketing, education and development in the end-user.“

Just keeping up and finding the right language for this in 2019  will be an issue for the channel and HPE will continue technology roadshows for partners. “We also have an interesting academy programme being built up to train early career sellers in the partners on the new technologies. We will invest more in this as it is having good results and we are seeing strong pipeline development in those partner with this.”

And it will rely on a wider ecosystem – partners, VARs, service providers and distribution to deliver its message: There is value there for distributors who can help partners create the value-based proposition, The value added distributor is growing nicely in this space. “Our key core distributors are also investing in providing this where partners may not have the size and scale to deliver this.” There will be a bigger ecosystem that will deliver this, with some of the partners turning into service providers, rather than leading with the technology. The ways customers are consuming solutions is definitely broadening, he concludes.