Dusting off my notebooks (the notepad variety) I came upon some carefully documented notes of my conversations with Dell’s Channel team, in particular with Greg Davis, Vice President and General Manager of Global Commercial Channels. Just reviewing the notes of the previous two years it hit me squarely in my face that Dell’s channels team has been on a restless pursuit of:
- Training & enablement,
- Winning datacenter together with the channel, and
- Partner profitability
Fall of 2011
Although Dell’s Partner Direct program was formally launched in 2007 with aggressive channel recruitment and courting happening in 2008, we will pick up on our conversations with Dell’s Greg Davis and Paul Shaffer, Executive Director Global Channel Marketing & Demand Generation from the fall of 2011. Partner enablement, training, certification and integration of acquisitions had percolated to the top of the team's agenda. For an IT company which is notorious in selling direct, drastic measures were needed to become “one” with the channel. Dell delivered 75,000 training modules to its partners, 30 percent of Dell’s commercial business had started to come from channels and 58,000 registration deals were closed. With the acquisition of Force10 Networks Dell announced enhanced network certification programs and 130 premier partners got their certifications. Emphasizing that the training modules were working, Greg Davis had mentioned that top 10 partners who invested most in training had seen 110 percent growth in revenue. Fall 2011 was also the time when partners started seeing the first glimpse of gentle motivations from Dell to push deeper into healthcare segment and drive revenue from datacenter solutions. Inroads were being made into smaller partners for SMBs as much as national and larger partners.
During the same time period while Dell was building out its confidence and trust with the channels, enterprises and SMBs were moving to cloud, thus dis-intermediating the channel. Especially the VAR channels (which typically form the largest percent of channel partners of an IT Vendor) had been finding their traditional business models threatened by products and services that could be sold direct by a vendor over the Internet. To continue to adapt to the changing times and never taking its eye off the channel partners’ livelihood Dell launched cloud channel programs in the spring of 2012:
- Cloud Builder,
- Cloud Provider, &
- Cloud Service Enabler
A technical services team was also put into place to help partners sell data center solutions namely, server and storage. Dell now had roughly 250 premium partners and had delivered 135,000 training modules in the year.
Work was far from complete. More acquisitions were taking place; these acquisitions had to be integrated and above all emerging market countries had to be targeted. Both Greg Davis and Amit Midha, President, Asia Pacific and Japan, Chairman, Global Emerging Markets underscored the fact that they were working to ensure a consistent channel engagement across every market covering:
- Deal registration
- Compensation neutrality
- Conflict escalation process, and
- Executive priority
The channel commitment work in Asia/Pacific countries in our opinion is far from complete. There are still some major strides to be made, specifically in the Asia/Pacific region. By its own acknowledgement, Asia/Pacific is the fastest growing regions for Dell which requires a constant confidence and trust building process with the channels. In many of Techaisle’s analyst interactions with channel partners in 2012 in Asia/Pacific, it was found that channels had warmed up to Dell but some questioned Dell’s sincerity whenever bigger contracts were involved.
In both summer and fall of 2012 we asked Greg Davis and Amit Midha where they thought they were with consistency and confidence. Not only were they bullish but also recognized that they have some hills to climb. They were also candid that services remain a big component of any channel’s revenue mix and while typical services such as warranty, break-fix, and insurance were straightforward re-sale of Dell Services, partnering in consulting was a bit more challenging.
By the summer of 2012, efforts were paying off, 62,000 deal registrations per quarter were coming through partners with 72 percent approval rate, 35,000 training modules were being delivered per quarter, the number of premier and preferred partners had jumped to 2500, Asia/Pacific channel programs were being strengthened, SonicWALL was integrated and specific courses were introduced on how to talk to a CIO, value of integrated datacenter. Above all social media training programs were launched for the benefit of the channels.
In late summer, in a conversation with Greg Davis and Bob Skelley, Executive Director, Global Certified Partner Program & Channel, they reiterated their commitment to make Dell “easy to work with” and restated their deep & maniacal focus on training and competencies. This focus resulted in 34 percent of global commercial business funneling through Dell channels, up from 30 percent in the fall of 2011. Number of deal registrations had jumped to 71,000 and an enhanced deal registration tool on mobile platforms was rolled-out. 47,000 training courses had been delivered in the quarter and Dell now had 113,000 channel partners. Initial focus on healthcare segment had resulted in a surge in end-user customers. A 40 percent growth in certifications was also achieved when compared with previous quarter. With the integration of Wyse, a desktop virtualization certification program was introduced. Dell channels had truly arrived and there was never a question of ever turning back.
One year later, Fall 2012
One year later, by fall of 2012, Dell had 130,000 channel partners, 35 percent of commercial business revenue was funneling through channels, 142,000 training courses had been delivered in the year, number of deal registrations had shot up to 65,000 and there were now 3600 preferred and premier channel partners. In the words of Greg Davis, “Dell has the most confident and competent channel partners in the world”. One year later, I saw an urgency to deliver with a profound focus on datacenters, systems management and cloud services. Virtualization was also beginning to take center stage. Kathy Schneider, Executive Director, Global Channel Marketing & Programs, drove home the point that she and her team were focused on driving best practices across four strategic pillars:
- Easy to do business with One Price and Sales Tools
- Win in the Enterprise using a comprehensive sales tool aptly named as Enterprise Master
- Training & enablement through expansion of training beyond Dell’s standard solutions to include social media
- Partner profitability through a simple, effective and rewarding incentives program
It has been a long way from direct PC selling to indirect solution selling. Real progress has been made. Dell’s channel executives are an end-to-end solutions empowering team for the channels. Not all channels will thrive but those that are equally committed to learn, adapt and practice will certainly succeed.
With contribution from Gitika Bajaj in Asia/Pacific