Hewlett Packard Enterprise Overhauled Its Strategic Alliances Approach, And That’s A Good Thing

Alliances and partnerships are some of the biggest drivers of large IT provider’s revenue and represent some of their most reliable sources of revenue. It’s nice to have others have a stake in your success. For a company like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, this is no different. Hewlett Packard Enterprise has revenues of $53 billion and around 250,000 employees, so they are among some of the biggest IT companies on earth, even after the Hewlett-Packard split of the enterprise and personal systems and printer groups. I got the chance to meet with HPE’s Alliance executive at HP Discover in London and wanted to share a few takeaways.

The reality is that HPE cannot provide every product and service themselves to their enterprise customers without partnering or adopting strong alliance programs. Sometimes, these alliances fill in a spot that is already dominated by a partner, like today’s enterprise virtualization. Other times it’s about a vertical segment or geography that an SI (systems integrator) has a particular lock on. Because of its size and the nature of the enterprise business, alliances and partnerships are extremely important to the continued growth of a company as big as HPE. I think HPE “gets” strategic partnering and has what is strongly shaping up to be a best-in-class alliances approach. Now they need to execute flawlessly, because other enterprise companies are good at this, too.

The former Hewlett-Packard had the majority of its alliances and partnering people in the business units. The pro here was that each business unit could get what they needed and probably quicker, but the con was that it was hard to leverage the entire power of the relationship across the entire Hewlett-Packard. The partners could also get frustrated that they may have been hearing two different things from the same company. You can imagine how easy this could be.

HPE now has a single, integrated organization at the pan-HPE corporate level with responsibilities spanning HPE business groups. This new group was responsible for the recent HPE and Microsoft Azure announcements. These strategic alliances can extend HPE’s sales reach and provide those partners’ clients more choices which in turn help those companies sell better and offer more products to their clients. The Strategic Alliances group currently manages over 4,000 of HPE’s partners and help drive and influence revenue across the company.

HPE’s Strategic Alliances group also has an approach that could be good for business, both HPE’s business as well as partners’. The HPE Strategic Alliances team is differentiated in the marketplace by being true go-to-market business creators and accelerators, not just the standard “partner management” organization. I’ve worked with “gatekeepers” and “strategic partner managers” and you need both, but can’t have one without the other. The new group plan not be just gate keepers within HPE, but rather the ones that steer the flow of business and make sure that business moves effectively across all of the different aspects of HPE’s capabilities as well as their partners’. Inherent in the drive to create business, I get the sense that HPE Strategic Alliances systematically builds out its partner ecosystem based its decades of understanding enterprise customers’ needs and requirements. This isn’t HPE’s first rodeo.

Alliance partners fall either into unique areas (infrastructure, software, services, etc.) or end-to-end where it makes sense. The partnering can tap into each company’s core capabilities with the opportunity to partner one on one with HPE or adding another partner in addition to HPE (e.g., HPE + SAP + Accenture).

Even though the Strategic Alliances team is helping to drive business forward for both HPE and their partners, I think it is ultimately and most importantly is also beneficial for end customers. HPE is recognizing that in what HPE coined as the “idea economy,” and HPE CEO Meg Whitman has drilled into all of our heads is that no vendor can be all things to all customers.

HPE is planning to both incubate and expand strategic partnerships with ISVs and SIs to best serve their customers through their four key transformational areas which I wrote about here. Some transformations include the shift towards hybrid infrastructure which I wrote about here, the need to protect digital assets, data-driven empowerment through analytics and enabling workplace productivity in the new mobile era. These transformation areas are parts of the biggest trends happening in the enterprise space today that are driving enterprise spending and overall industry thinking. As a result of HPE’s partnerships and alliances, the company can give their customers added firepower in addressing those pressing needs.

HPE’s approach to partnerships with their Strategic Alliances group shows that the company understands the need for a large company to singularly represent itself to its most strategic partners. It also shows that HPE has a unified vision for strategic partnerships and a facilitator of those relationships, not just someone that manages them. This can allow for an overall more productive environment and one that generally results in happier customers. HPE’s Strategic Alliances has a “best-in-class approach to partnerships and now it’s time to execute. Words are one thing and important, but a good strategy without execution can fail the company. I will be keeping a close eye on their execution in 2016.