HPE’s new local channel chief Julie Barbieri joined the global tech giant in early April and was immediately presented with a problem none of her predecessors had ever encountered, a global pandemic.
But this did not dissuade Barbieri, a pragmatist who has a history of confounding expectations. She started her career in IT as a break fix engineer, something Barbieri said was very different for women to do ‘way back then’.
From there she moved into a sales role first at Digital Equipment Corporation (which ultimately became HPE) and then at distributor Avnet. From there Barbieri moved to reseller Frontline Systems.
Once Frontline was acquired by NTT in 2011, Barbieri held senior management positions with her new employer and was ultimately tapped to run the integrator’s local technology solutions business.
For Barbieri, it was during her time at NTT when focused on the company’s sales strategy and partnerships, that the relationship with HPE began to blossom into what would later become one of the closest in the channel.
“The strongest partnership that we had whilst I was at the organisations was with HPE, they were one of [NTT’s] top performing partners,” Barbieri told CRN.
“[I am] very much familiar to HPE and the direction they have taken over the years.”
While at NTT, Barbieri was a member of HPE’s regional and global partner advisory boards and knows the importance of cohesive relationships with local solution providers.
Now five months into the role, she said a focus would be to help the channel ‘pivot’ from the ‘traditional resale of technology’ to providing and serving clients through partnerships, as a service offering
“That's the direction for HPE, we have pivoted and Antonio [Neri] has made it clear that is where we are heading.”
Changing face of partner engagement - No more boozy lunches?
One of the biggest challenges Barbieri has had to face is partner engagement. “Since I joined the organisation, we have had our first virtual partner meeting,” she explained.
“Usually, they have been face to face and have happened twice a year, one mid-year and one at the end of the Vendor’s financial year.”
“And so typically the one at the end of the year has been a couple of days locked away with partner principals where there's been a lot of messaging and feedback given in those sessions. But because of the situation we're all in today, we decided to pivot to a virtual session, but we splitted out over three mornings.
“I really thought about some of the commentary that the partners had made in previous partner principal conferences that I've been to, and didn't want to make it about, you know, lots of productised offerings or anything like that.
“We spent some time working with partners around the importance of digital marketing and what that might look like. We had our marketing director [Jorge Villalpando] provide that information and at the time we thought it was quite relevant to what everybody was experiencing.”
HPE’s Aussie channel chief said partners were now looking more than ever to build out their digital presence and that this was the driver for the session.
Barbieri is based in Melbourne which makes her tasks all the more difficult as she is not even able to visit with partners in her own state.
“You have to think of creating ways that you're going to engage people and keep them engaged moving forward,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, there's really not much we can do about [the lockdown]. We can try and do the right thing and adapt to different methods of engaging and so I do find with the partners that I'm speaking to and even the internal people at HPE, they are all trying to think of creative different things that you can do to engage with people virtually.
Partner sentiment amidst customer confusion
While there is considerable uncertainty in the market at present, Barbieri said many of HPE’s partners remain bullish about opportunities in the near future.
“The partners that I have been speaking to in a lot of cases are very upbeat and positive about the market and the direction in which they're headed,” she explained. “They see some great opportunities down the line which is really good.”
HPE’s global boss Antonio Neri evangelised the company’s shift to utility based billing for the vendor’s entire product stack at HPE’s first digital event in July and Barbieri said this had been well received by partners.
Barbieri said the vendor’s local partner community is more dynamic than ever, with partners mixing procurement and services on a per customer basis.
“So it's really important that we have a program that's flexible, to be able to address those different modes in which our partners are going to operate.
“I truly believe that the partner ready program is certainly that type of program that can meet our channels requirements, depending on how they're acting within markets.
“We are doing a lot of work at the moment to understand what that partner landscape looks like. Where our partners actually lie and what productised offerings they are looking to take to market potentially with GreenLake.
“So then, when opportunities present themselves, we can look to the partner community on how we can engage with them best and how we can take opportunity to the channel community based around what they're best in market for, what they want to be famous for.’
Local uptake of GreenLake and future strategy
Barbieri said the vendor had 50 customers in the local market but would not disclose the number of partners selling the solution.
She added that the vendor anticipated growth in the new program to come from new and existing partners and signaled out the vendor’s containerisation technology as an area with great potential.
“[For] partners that haven't pivoted or transitioned to an as-a-service offering, GreenLake is perfect we can we can help them with some of those offerings, bring them into the organisation, or those who are smaller again, but don't want to set up an environment a managed service of the business themselves.”
So I'm really passionate about the channel and have always been passionate about the channel, really looking forward to, you know, driving more business through the channel and enabling empowering them to, you know, to help them do more out into the marketplace.