As HP introduces its new range of A3 MFPs for MPS resellers, PITR caught up with Neil Sawyer to find out more about the company’s plans
PITR: What has HP been doing to prepare for the launch of its new A3 MFPs?
Neil Sawyer: Our print business is very buoyant at the moment, particularly within the commercial printing space – the laser and the ink space. If we look at the UK and Ireland, a lot of our focus over the past year or two has been around managed print services, because we feel that that’s where the opportunity resides for the 3,500 partners we work with today.
The good thing about HP is that the vast proportion – 80-87% – of our total business is fulfilled through the channel. We’re a very channel-friendly business and that will be our strategy when we go to market with our A3 products as well. A lot of the new partnerships we’re developing are as a result of our investment in A3 technology.
My main job over the last six months has been to ready our markets for the introduction of the A3 product on May 1. We have on-boarded approximately 25 partners in the UK and Ireland who will make up the main route to market for us when we sell A3. Approximately 10 of them are totally new to HP; the balance are partners we’ve traded with for the last 15-20 years.
We’ve also been investing in people and processes, making sure that the partners we work with have the right amount of people to help them on key managed print service (MPS) projects. Some of these partners are quite new to the HP brand, so it’s important that we equip them properly, as well as working with our main – in fact our only – distributor in the UK and Ireland. From day one, Westcoast will act as a handler and an order management guide for all of our partners for A3.
The final point I’ll make in terms of our business and new partner opportunities is that HP comes from a very, very strong pedigree in print. We’ve got a very good and healthy market share, particularly in A4 office printing. Our customers are very familiar with our product, particularly as we are also the leaders in the UK and Ireland for business computing, both laptops and desktops.
Beyond the world of A3 and managed print services, we’ve got an amazing product portfolio of devices, technology and solutions, so we can help our reseller partners unlock new markets. A good example is what we’ve been doing with two of our partners, Landscape Printing and Softcat; using their knowledge of managed print services to sell PCs and other types of product with the same billing and contractual terms that a partner would have traditionally used to sell MPS.
On top of that, we’ve got 3D printing coming into the market place. HP are pioneers of enterprise-grade 3D printing, and we’ve got wide format and graphics printing, which are complementary products to a lot of our new products.
PITR: What for you are some of the key growth areas for HP?
Sawyer: We have a very clear strategy. Our main business is what we call our Core Strategy – that is what we do every day with all of our partners, whether for transactional printing or managed print service solutions. That’s our core business.
Where we feel we really want to grow is with the introduction of a wider A3 portfolio and, of course, the acquisition of the Samsung printing business. That’s where we see growth with our print resellers in particular – we call that our growth strategy.
Our future strategy with those partners is looking beyond what the market demands today to what we know they’ll be demanding in the future. A good example would be the investment we’ve been putting into 3D printing; we genuinely believe that is a game-changer for the future.
Whether with our core, our growth or our future strategy, HP has got a very sustainable partnership with our resellers. We don’t stand still and we always help them grow in areas that perhaps they hadn’t explored in the past.
PITR: What are the challenges facing channel partners today and what is HP doing to counter them?
Sawyer: My observation is that channel partners have a lot of new programs and ideas thrown at them from many different vendors and many different service providers. It’s difficult to digest all of that and compare all those programs, so one of the things HP is doing is making our programs and the way in which we work with our partners a lot simpler.
A very good example is how we work with partners on end customer bids and tender responses. We put a lot of investment into our pricing systems, particularly for printing, where our pricing and discount structure is now standardised.
This helps partners produce consistent price lists for their business; they know that they will get a structured discount and a consistent discount according to the types of product and volumes that they’re going to purchase. We call that the HP integrated quoting tool, and that’s just one very small example of how we have become simpler to do business with and clearer in terms of the margin and return that partners are going to get for their customers.
One of the things we’ve really worked hard on over the last year is making sure there’s some consistency and a lot faster response around pricing requests or discount requests from our resellers. Typically, we can now provide a response to any tender support or discount request within the hour. About 80% of those requests are right first time, so in the vast majority of cases resellers don’t have to escalate them. That makes a huge difference when you’re dealing with a business the size of HP, particularly with the amount of printing technology that we fulfil on a daily basis.
PITR: What do you see as key areas of differentiation between HP and its competitors?
Sawyer: We have a very strong pedigree of being consistent, predictable and transparent in how we work with our channel, and we offer a broad range of very, very cost competitive devices. We’ve put a lot of investment into our laser portfolio and into what we call our PageWide ink technology, which is really disruptive and allows our partners to take a very competitive proposition to their end customers and say something different to them based on the technology that we’ve got.
The other big area we are looking into, which HP really prides itself on, is security. From laptops through to A3 devices, we feel that we’ve got one of the best, if not the best, security proposition in the world. The HP security video featuring Christian Slater explains a little more about our vision and the reason why security in business is so important
PITR: What training have you provided your new resellers?
Sawyer: We’ve spent the last few months training our partners on all of our new portfolio. We invest about $1 billion globally into print technology, so it’s important we train them in what we do. Over the next 4-6 weeks, we are visiting every one of our channel partners across every one of their sales locations and training their sales people on the reasons why a customer should purchase HP technology in collaboration with their offering as a service delivery partner.
PITR: What do you think will be the big trends in 2017?
Sawyer: We work with 20,000 corporate customers in the UK. While things like managed print services and contract based sales used to be very much focused on the top 200 or 300 businesses, we now ask all our customers about their interest in managed print. More and more businesses, no matter how big or small, are interested in taking the capital expenditure of print away and focusing more on an operational expenditure model. In addition, there’s a lot of legislation coming in, particularly around data and client confidentiality, which we are responding to with a better, more comprehensive offering around security.