As the director of agency contractor services for Hewlett-Packard, I am contacted almost daily by providers of contingent labor. It’s a challenging market for suppliers trying to get on our supplier lists, as companies such as ours look to reduce our supply base and develop more strategic partnerships with our suppliers.

But what does that mean? What does a more strategic relationship look like and how can a company differentiate itself?

In the March 2011 issue of Staffing Industry Review magazine, Charles Ritter of National Insurance stated that pricing and quality are a “given in today’s world.” We expect that suppliers are providing us the best resource at the best price. Likewise, performance is a fundamental expectation. We don’t take it for granted, though. We do define metrics and a supplier scorecard to measure the performance and consistency of our suppliers. Again, these are the basics.

We have only identified a handful of our suppliers as “top tier” strategic suppliers, where we invest in strategic supplier development. Of course, scale is a major factor. We are looking for partners that can meet our needs in multiple countries and potentially provide multiple services to HP. It’s critical that these companies have a global sales and operational structure to enable pursuit of our strategic vision and shared opportunities.

Strategic Value

These companies have done their homework and understand HP’s business and opportunities, and present ideas for innovation and improvement business, improve our efficiency or drive additional savings. Here are a few examples of companies that acted as true strategic partners.

  • Winning and growing together. A significant labor supplier in India and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region has dedicated resources to generate HP hardware and software sales in these regions through their channels and customers. The sales generated through this partnership are substantial and increasing. On a smaller scale, HP’s Employee Purchase Program team was connected with a supplier’s benefits organization to enable the supplier’s employees to receive a discount on HP products. The benefits to both are clear: revenue for HP and quality products at a discount for the supplier.
  • Time is money. During a significant staffing ramp-up, one partner suggested an approach to streamline the interview process while expanding to a national talent pool. The company clearly understood the required skill set, implemented a process for prescreening technical skills, utilized virtual interview technology and provided a warranty period. This unique approach ensured quality, and reduced time as well as travel costs and environmental impact.
  • Savings through staffing. A provider of engineering and technical support for hardware and software testing partnered with HP to deliver savings and reduce time to market by developing an onshore/offshore model. The supplier continues to help to ensure success in this model by facilitating daily handoff meetings between the time zones.

It’s clear that partnership takes many forms. But in all cases, the supplier relationships are mutually beneficial. HP is obviously not alone in this pursuit; many companies are looking for expertise and collaboration. How can you help?

Engage globally:

  • Take advantage of emerging markets
  • Help us meet our customers’ needs and win new business
  • Demonstrate your cost leadership
  • Act as one company. Ensure that your sales executives are working through procurement, not around us


  • Bring us your industry best practices
  • Know and lead with your core competency; don’t chase business that you aren’t equipped to win

Mitigate Risk:

  • Ensure supply and quality
  • Cooperate on contracting; recognize that few changes are allowed

As markets shift and economies change, it has become more imperative that we partner with companies that align with our company priorities and provide innovation and value. The opportunity is there … are you?