HP Amplify

HP Amplify: How HP Has Been Gaining Share and Improving Financial Performance

HP is a fun company to work with because it often feels like the executives are family in that they enjoy each other’s company, tend to operate strategically and continue to impress with a strong focus on security and innovation. HP’s Wolf Security organization stands alone in its capabilities to secure HP’s enterprise and government clients, while innovative products like its 3D printers are making inroads into emerging additive manufacturing markets for plastics and metals.

Next week is HP Amplify. In preparation for that, I’d like to talk about HP’s other strategic advantage, which is its partner program. While I can’t yet talk about the incredible improvements to this program that will be announced at Amplify next week, I do want to talk about two aspects of it that currently stand out as exemplary: the historic treatment of partners like extended family and HP’s MDF (Market Development Funds) program that stands as a stunning example of how MDF should be done.

Let’s talk about both this week.

Partners as Family

Back in the 1990s when I worked at IBM as an unofficial fixer of problems, one of the things I investigated was IBM’s then partner program (it has improved since then). We discovered that in the 80s and early 90s, IBM was all about announcing partner relationships and did a great job of attracting them, but maintaining partner relationships often fell through the cracks. Even though suggested corrective efforts were adopted, they often weren’t treated as a priority. Too often, when the channel and IBM direct sales were in conflict, the partner ended up getting screwed. It was very frustrating for me because I could see what needed to be done, but as internal staff, I had no authority to ensure compliance.

Since then, I’ve watched company after company promise to treat partners well, only to break those promises when they became inconvenient (like when direct sales and a partner were chasing the same account), and the partner was let down, invalidating the entire effort.

HP’s approach is vastly different. It puts its partners in an equal or often superior position to direct sales, making them more of a peer. Decisions are arrived at fairly, and, more often than not, when everything is equal, decisions favor the partner.

This makes partner events like next week’s Amplify in Las Vegas so interesting and fun that it’s like going to a reunion where people liked each other in school. The excitement, cooperation, and creative programs to help partners be more successful selling HP’s products stand out as examples of partner management excellence that I think others could learn from.

It makes no sense to me to have a partner program where you regularly screw partners, thus I think HP’s Amplify program should become the gold standard, or more accurately, the requirement for those wishing to be successful with their sales channel and other partner programs.


Market Development Fund is one of my biggest frustrations because it often seems to me like everyone does this wrong. MDF was created to fund marketing programs and help create demand for the related offerings. But in most cases, these programs flow to margins, thus market development (particularly promotions and advertising) and demand-generation are underfunded. This is why tech growth and demand are nowhere near where they were in the 1990s when most of these programs seemed to be working, publications and shows focused on helping build demand were common, and products like PCs pulled far greater interest.

HP’s MDF program stands out because it’s wrapped with requirements and metrics to ensure that the money doesn’t go to margins but flows to market development instead. Thus, HP products tend to be better marketed at the regional level than competing products, and HP’s partners are more successful than partners working with HP’s peers.

Wrapping Up

HP does several things better than anyone else. Next week, I’ll travel to Las Vegas to see their excellent Amplify partnership program. HP will also undoubtedly announce several enhancements focused on making its partners and therefore HP more successful over time.

Other companies could learn a great deal from HP CEO Enrique Lores’ leadership and HP’s attitude toward its employees, security, and especially its customers and partners. Next week, I expect to be reminded why HP has the strongest partner program I know of and reminds me why Amplify feels like a good high school reunion.

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