HP is getting closer to going prime time within the A3 space.
Forget everything you remember about HP’s previous attempts to capture the hearts and minds of the office technology dealer channel. Who can ever forget how those turned out? But this time it’s going to be different because this time HP is serious.
I’ve come to that conclusion after witnessing the amount of time and energy HP has devoted to sharing with the press and analyst community its go-to-market strategies, product development, and progress in signing up dealers prior to launch.
Earlier this week we received our second update of the year on HP’s product portfolio, an update on the ecosystem of providers for its Smart Device Services technology, its progress on route to market development, and how the company is creating awareness for its entry into the A3 market.
As of April 3, HP was taking orders worldwide on its LaserJet portfolio with shipments for those products beginning that same day although as David Laing, VP and head of HP’s iMPS Services Business, pointed out, it depends on the country and location when broad availability will take place. Meanwhile, its PageWide Pro machines start shipping on May 15 while the PageWide Enterprise machines ship in the fall. Demo units are currently being delivered to key partners and customers as of two weeks ago and evaluation units are now at HP’s largest enterprise customers.
Route to Market
HP is taking what Laing called a new route to market to reach partners with its A3 portfolio. HP has typically used a distributor model as compared to the traditional A3 OEMs’ direct model. With its A3 line HP is taking a hybrid approach, starting with a portal for each of its Premier Partners. That portal will list all the products available to that partner, their specific pricing, and allow partners to order devices, supplies, and accessories as needed. The portal can also be used to handle a partner’s large deal pricing requests and serve as a source for updates on a partner’s progress in achieving program targets and where they are as far as incentives as they move through each quarter.
Logistic Service Providers (LSPs) will be responsible for taking the orders, handling credit transactions between HP and the partner, and fulfilling and delivering the product along with providing additional services requested by the reseller. Most countries will have one LSP, but larger countries such as the U.S. will have two.
“It’s really the best of our direct portal capability in giving them direct specific pricing and giving the partner the benefit and the efficiency of a world class distributors to deliver the product and handle the credit capabilities with those partners,” explained Laing. “It’s a different approach for HP, but one we think is a win-win for HP and the partners as we go forward.”
Let’s Make an HP Dealer
As of April 3, HP had 495 dealers lined up globally to sell its products. About 60% of those had partnered with HP before to sell its A4 products. That 60% figure includes traditional office technology dealers. Of the 40% who have not done business with HP previously, Laing reported that these partners are now winning incremental HP A4 deals already.
Laing declined to identify just who these partners were citing competitive concerns. Nor was he able to offer specifics as to the number of channel partners in each region. What we do know is that HP is thrilled with the number and quality of U.S. partners that it has signed up so far, including what Laing described as the leading dealers in each of their markets.
HP has completed sales onboarding with most of its North American partners while service training is still ongoing.
“We’re doing all the things that need to be done to get them service ready for selling and servicing these products,” stated Laing.
Smart Device Services
HP is looking to bring the Internet of Things into the mix and leverage Internet technology to lower the cost of servicing machines and improve uptime for customers. An indication of HP’s seriousness about getting it right this time is that it has lined up 11 solutions partners to provide multi-vendors tools for its Smart Device Services (SDS). SDS is a set of cloud tools and device-based sensing capabilities for monitoring and diagnosing service needs, minimizing downtime, and cutting service-related costs. Those partners include ECi FMAudit, PrintFleet, FORZA, DocuForm, Metaphor, Blue Mega, Oberon, EKM, and OneStop MPS Portal.
“HP recognizes if [we] want to recruit partners, it’s easier to go to them and say we’ve enhanced your capabilities through the partner tools you’re already using rather than switching to an HP tool,” observed Laing. “Instead of learning a new tool, all they need to do is learn a couple of new capabilities in their existing tools that will deliver to them between 15-30% savings.”
The average savings, cited by Laing is running at 17.6% against the current industry database here in the U.S. The caveat for resellers who will be taking advantage of SDS is that they must use original HP toner and ink.
HP is using social media to raise awareness of its A3 devices, focusing on affordable color, security, and maximum uptime. Additionally, HP plans to have a presence at industry events such as ITEX.
We certainly can’t predict with any accuracy if HP’s initiatives are going to be any different this time around as it looks to make an impact in the business technology dealer channel. If what Laing says is accurate, it seems as if they are well on their way towards making an impact. And they won’t be content to be number three—the position they’re starting in with virtually all dealers they’ve engaged with here in the U.S.
As has been noted before, HP has created a joint business plan with its partners that has HP growing over time from a tier-three position into a tier two position. The length of that plan and the investments by the partner and HP into making that happen will vary, according to Laing.
That said, there are still some of my colleagues who are questioning HP’s latest entry into the A3 space—not the most vibrant space—but if one of your goals is to achieve a tier-two position within those reseller partner’s organizations, you’re probably not to achieve that goal without an A3 product—at least right now. Arguably, that goal is much more realistic than some of the goals we’ve heard other A3 OEMs set in the past. Still, it won’t be easy displacing established second-tier A3 players even if HP has a strong A4 line warming up in the bullpen.
You know that cliché, “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it”? This group within HP that’s taking aim at the traditional office technology dealer channel is certainly not ignoring history and we doubt they’ll repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Then again, that was then and this is now, and the rules of the game have changed dramatically over the past few years. No, this isn’t a sure thing, but we will emphasize once again that HP is serious and not to be ignored.
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