HP has admitted that it needs to drive more meaning into the Gold partner accreditation for end-user customers in light of recent changes to the programme.
The total number of Gold partners in HP's Preferred Partner Programme (PPP) has risen from 117 last fiscal year to 140, according to the vendor, as qualification for the top tier accreditation moved from a $3.5m (£2.2m) revenue threshold to holding at least one specialisation.
In recent years the number of Gold partners has fallen, a trend that resellers unsurprisingly backed as they wanted the certification to be more exclusive.
Kevin Matthews, HP UK and Ireland channel manager for enterprise servers, storage and networking, said: "We are such a broad church in terms of the products we offer, we wanted to encourage smaller partners to get the highest level of compensation with us but perhaps they couldn't contribute $3.5m."
With the change in criteria, the number of partners carrying individual specialisations was the important factor to focus on and not the size of the total community, he said.
There are currently 5 specialisations in ESSN, 3 each for PSG, HP Services and IPG and 6 for HP Networking.
In ESSN, the number of partners carrying the Converged Infrastructure specialisation has fallen from 20 to 16 as HP raised the bar for sales and technical certifications but in other business units including printing it has gone up.
"We have made it more exclusive for partners that want to invest in us, we may have recruited some partners that we didn't have last year, I'm thinking specifically about partners in the printing area that couldn't make the threshold," he said.
The move to specialisations distinguished partners' skills more clearly, argued Loay Lawrence, commercial and marketing director at HP Gold partner Vohkus,
"Customers will be able to see that we've invested heavily in specific HP accreditations," he said.
James Napp, managing director at Bechtle, echoed those sentiments: "Specialisations can be positive. If you are doing the numbers and investing in HP it is reciprocated."
However, HP concurred it could do more to promote to end-users the value that it believes resides in the Gold partner badge.
"We are making the HP end user sales team more aware of the specialisations that we have with the partners so that when they are engaging with a partner, together they know and can sell the benefits to customers," said Matthews.
"There is more work that could be done, we are addressing that, we are totally committed to investing in the channel and need to make sure that brand is pervasive," he said.