Partner politics

Bernhard Isemann is a man that HP partners can expect to see a lot more of in the coming months.

  • E-Mail
By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 15, 2008

Bernhard Isemann is a man that HP partners can expect to see a lot more of in the coming months after taking over as head of HP Middle East's Solutions Partner Organisation (SPO) following Salim Ziade's promotion to a MEMA-level position.

In an exclusive interview with Channel Middle East, Isemann tackles the issues on the minds of the 3,000 or so resellers pushing the HP brand across the region.

So what are your major objectives for the partner business in the first few months that you settle into the SPO position?

My scope in the organisation is to drive focus in all of the HP product areas so that partners can rely on subject matter experts in the partner organisation rather than having one interface managing the partner like an account. We are now going into detail - you could say we are offering partners three sales-driven experts; one for PSG, one for printing and one for IT infrastructure.

Maybe in the past we did not invest enough planning time with partners so that is something we want to improve by looking deeper into individual situations rather than applying a percentage.

The way forward is for us to help them in a more structured and better way to achieve their sales goals, close business and satisfy their customers. That is our main job. The second objective is to drive growth.

What about your aspirations on a geographic level in the Middle East?

We are working on building up Saudi Arabia so we have investments going in there to strengthen our channel organisation and increase our breadth. We are looking for new partners. The second topic is to support the growth in certain markets - Kuwait, Qatar - where we will help our partners with investment into sales.

Loyalty has been a word that HP has used in conjunction with its partner community ever since Mark Hurd became CEO. Can Middle East partners expect the loyalty message to continue?

There are people dealing with HP products on occasional situations and what we want to do is to enable and help them to do more business with us. At the same time, we are bringing in a Gold level to the Preferred Partner Programme, and besides that we are extending our Preferred Partner base.

What we are asking of our partners is loyalty to HP and we are rewarding this. Partners that penetrate accounts and customers, and help us to position our products in a competitive environment, will get more margin and more rebates from us.

Are partners expected to be exclusive with HP?

I don't think you can expect such a thing from a partner. There are some out there - they have a very good business model, and of course their operational costs are far more optimised compared to someone who deals with every brand.

But I think a systems integrator needs to have a portfolio of products, so a pure HP systems integrator will need certain products from time to time. I don't really think there is the need to have competitive products in the portfolio; complementary products will be enough for systems integrators and even resellers.

If HP is focused on rewarding loyalty and skills investment are you going to measure partners differently?

Partners will not be measured differently, but they will be measured more closely because we want to reward growth and loyalty. These are both things that we are currently measuring very closely. The reason for this is simply that the region is growing, investments are growing, and so we want to grow.

At HP's recent Preferred Partner conference, EMEA managing director Francesco Serafini said that the new Gold certification is not as relevant for the Middle East as other markets because the level of growth in the region means there is not as much pressure on resellers to differentiate. Do you agree with that?

I have been in this region for six years and before I joined HP I ran a reseller so I understand the systems integration business from the partner angle quite well. I think the region is wrongly perceived - the Gold partner programme has a strong value here because we have highly professional systems integrators.

When I look at the quality of our top 40 partners in the region they are on a level that can be compared to the US or Europe. The Gold programme makes a lot of sense for them. Actually, if you take the three largest partners in the UAE, for example, they can automatically consider themselves Gold partners - there is nothing they need to change.

Partners have until 10th September to apply for the Gold certification. How many resellers do you think will be awarded that status after this date?

I think there are a realistic few who will get it because those who want to make it are already getting guidance from us as of now. I expect that in the end we will have between 40 and 50 Gold partners in the entire Middle East region. We are managing these applications with the partners so that companies don't apply with the wrong expectations and finish up disappointed.

Is it you and your team that decides which Middle East partners are awarded the Gold accreditation?

That decision cannot be taken locally as such because HP defines the benchmark and we run it according to this. For example, if another 10 or 15 existing partners suddenly made a large investment and scaled their operations in the next three months then they would become Gold partners because it is played according to a fair benchmarking.

Do you think that your time in the reseller channel managing networking VAR Syscom will help you in the SPO role?

I think so, yes. It is an advantage because I had the chance to really understand the pain points in things like my P&L, margin structure and payment terms. It helped me to understand the reality of the sales cycle, closing business, getting money, getting the installation done and working with the vendor.

It means I do not have unreasonable expectations and what I definitely learned from those years is that numbers do not come to us via spreadsheets - they come via people who sell.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code