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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Dell Channels – All the right moves?

Channel Momentum

As some IT companies continue to consolidate and others split up, Dell is promising its channel partners consistency, stability and increased profitability. And it is showing:

  • Dell Channel revenue now represents more than 40 percent of overall Dell commercial revenue and its channel business is growing faster than the overall market

  • Channel revenue growth is up double digits in 10 of Dell’s top 11 countries year-over-year

  • Dell solutions are now available through three of top Distributors - Ingram, TechData and Synnex - and where Dell is experiencing growth in excess of 50 percent


To keep the channel momentum intact, Dell is pledging US$125 million in enhanced incentives to help channel partners bid and close new customer acquisitions and also deploy towards retention deals with existing customers.

As always, not willing to take any hype on face value Techaisle took to the streets to really talk with Dell SMB channel partners and especially those who have partnered with both Dell and HP. Over the course of last three weeks, Techaisle conducted over 25 depth interviews with SMB channel partners. The discussions clearly revealed that the partners have started to look at Dell rather seriously. As one of them said, “Dell has changed its approach and outlook towards channel partners after it went private. They monitor and coordinate with their partners just like any other OEM. They have changed their ways in how they strategize and have created their training plans to cater to our needs and are succeeding by actively collaborating.”

Another partner, based in Texas and focused on SMBs was more direct, “Dell hasn’t been looking at channel partners as a key to gain market share unlike OEMs like HP. A few months back only about a 30 percent of sales were driven by the channel partners and the rest was a result of Dell’s direct sales efforts. The reason is that Dell itself had a large sales team managing sales accounts. However, after Dell went private they have mended their ways in how they look at us. They have kept the key sales accounts with themselves and the rest have been distributed amongst the channel partners for further management and revenue generation which is a good step as it inculcates trust and sense of real partnership.”

Impressive Numerics

At one of my sit-down meetings, Cheryl Cook, VP, Global Channels and Alliances shared some impressive statistics:

  • Dell has 167,000 channel partners out of which 4,255 are Preferred and Premium partners.

  • Nearly 700 channel partners chose to become premier or preferred partners of Dell in 2014, a testament to channel commitment

  • Training uptake, (a top requirement of channel partners as per Techaisle SMB Channel study), was up by 54 percent in 1H’14. But more importantly, training on software solutions increased by 102 percent.

  • Over 82,000 deal registrations were processed, up 8 percent YoY and software (security, device management, data protection, systems management) deal registration was up by 32 percent

  • Rebates processed was also up by 23 percent during the same time frame

  • 4400 new customers were acquired through channels, transacted 10,000 new orders out of which 1200 were for storage and 1600 for software


Although she deftly skipped my question on how many named accounts have been formally handed over to channel partners she reiterated that Dell is continuing to maintain its compensation accelerator program which is yielding good results. Recently, a little over 200,000 greenfield accounts have been posted on the Partner Portal.

Investment in Training, Support, Lead generation, Consultative partnerships

Most channel partners that Techaisle spoke with agreed that Dell has been concentrating on technical training sessions and regularly assessing partners’ performance with a clear objective of empowering them with required product knowledge to be able to pitch to the right set of SMB customers in the best possible way. Unlike the immediate past, account managers from Dell have suddenly become approachable. Some partners went to the extent of telling Techaisle “we specifically like the pre-sales and sales trainings that Dell has designed for Channel Partners. At times I feel that their efforts in the field of training annoy us as there are multiple and repetitive requests for attending or undergoing the same set of trainings that we have already gone through. They do not yet have a system to remove these redundancies”.

Channels are also having good experiences working with Dell’s consultative approach. “Lately, we were dealing with a few SMB customers and they wanted the account managers and few other technical experts to be available on call. We worked together with Dell and closed 3 deals where the consultative partnership worked in our favor”, said an SMB channel partner based in California.

Dell is also investing in supporting the channels when they bid for complex engagements. Their pre-sales support has improved as compared to before as channels now have access to their technical resources who work along with partners’ technical teams in understanding customer requirements, existing customer infrastructure to suggest suitable solutions.

In addition to training and support Dell is making a series of investments to help channel partners by:

  • Making available 5X demo gear to facilitate proof-of-concept

  • Increasing number of Solution centers for partners to showcase Dell end-to-end solutions to their customers (granted not many SMB channel partners will take advantage)

  • Improving areas of financing such as extending credit and payment terms thereby assisting channel partners in better managing their cash flows. The terms announced are 75 days interest-free financing on all Dell purchases for an introductory period of 180 days


Are conflicts a thing of the past? Channels are cautiously optimistic

Dell seems to be diligently working towards building trust within its channel partners. Dell and its partners have had a love-hate relationship due to conflicts with Dell’s strong direct sales force across all divisions. In fact, with the progress made, channels are wishing that Dell limits its investment in its internal sales teams as it would in all probability bring back the channels to “square one”.

The channel partner community reminded us of unpleasant past experiences of “Dell snatching customers from their partners and dealing with them directly”. But they quickly added, “We haven’t come across such a scenario (lately) and would never want to face a situation like that”.

Another partner said, “Dell has always been known for their direct business and has ramped up their efforts in the indirect sales through channels around a year ago. Earlier, we never knew if a deal which is routed through us will be closed keeping us in loop (with our margins intact) or Dell may go ahead and deal with the customer directly. Now, this has completely changed and Dell itself directs the customers to go through us”.

An HP and Dell partner was eager to get his point across regarding lead generation saying that Dell is managing a nice balance while sharing potential customer details with only one partner. HP is not following this approach triggering conflicts.

End-to-End Solutions message is resonating

Dell is steadfastly focused on its end-to-end solutions strategy and channels are paying attention. “Dell offers support in implementing end-to-end solutions. They work with us in consultation to determine the best product and solutions based on SMB customer requirements. Account Manager from Dell works with us closely when we deal with such deployments. We get all the technical help required, if skills are not available with us. Dell offers us access to experts (both on calls and physically, when required) from functional areas when we deal with SMBs for deployment of end-to-end solutions”.

Channels are finding that not only end-to-end solution deals give them extra margins but also makes it easier to deal with Dell, namely, channels get a better attention from Dell. Techaisle feels that if selective attention becomes the norm then many Dell SMB channel partners may flounder.

A mid-west Dell SMB channel partner was very vocal when we spoke with him. “Dell is important while we engage in end-to-end deals with our customers. Dell’s role starts from pre-sales to the deployment of such engagements. They offer the required marketing set-up for the products and solutions. If we have to take care of these things on our own, I think our margins will squeeze and it will be difficult to sustain our business”.

Having a full portfolio of offerings also allows “non-end-to-end solution channel partners” to sell adjacent technologies. For example, “we have clubbed and sold Dell hardware with Cisco, NetApp and IBM storage management and security solutions”.

Then there are other channel partners who try and build solutions with a product from Dell as the center-point. “Based on customer requirements we will see if there is a Dell product suited to meet the needs. If yes, we pitch for it and if there isn’t a product suited, we may bundle it up with other solutions and design an end-to-end solution for our customer. If the customer wants to go with a specific product and Dell doesn’t have promising product in the area; in these cases we will bundle it up with other product and present it as an end-to-end solution to our customers”.

Lingering Channel Challenges

To my question on what should channel partners be expecting next from Dell, Cheryl Cook quickly points out her focus on strategic pillars of mobility, security and Big Data with big push on converged infrastructure and innovative storage solutions.  She counters me with a question on VMware EVO:RAIL and its “fantastic” suitability for the SMB market segment.

Channels are listening and echoing that the fastest selling Dell solutions are Rack and Blade servers. But they feel that Dell has not yet been able to position its Force10 and SonicWall offerings effectively and channels are losing to Cisco or HP.

As conflict is disappearing, trust is settling in, channels have a new gripe. When a customer floats an RFP to a number of partners, Dell seizes the responsibility to directly speak with the customer, decides which partner is in the best position to offer most favorable terms and informs other partners to step aside and not waste their time on a deal which may not land with them at all. This annoys the channel partners as they would like a fair opportunity to win the deal and gain a customer by cutting down on own their margins.

No Regrets – but could have been bolder

Looking at the last one year since taking the helm, Cheryl Cook has no visible regrets. After much coaxing and cogitating she says, “Perhaps we could have been bolder in our move” referring to speed of Dell’s organizational moves and intuitive proactive thinking. The future is bright and she and her team are committed to helping all partners – “narrow or broadline”.
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SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

Techaisle’s study on SMB Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends shows that for 59 percent of US small businesses and 93 percent of US midmarket businesses, collaboration is among the Top 5 IT priorities for investments. In Asia/Pacific, 63 percent of SMBs are turning towards it as a business growth driver and in Western Europe, 68 percent of SMBs are finding that collaboration drives better teamwork and customer responsiveness.

Overall 38 percent of US SMBs are currently using one or more collaboration solutions and another 20 percent are planning to use one within the next year, a growth of 52 percent. Overwhelmingly, SMB customers view online file sharing as the most important aspect of a collaboration solution as 64 percent of SMBs using collaboration are currently using online file sharing (24 percent of all US SMBs) and another 32 percent are planning to use it within the next one year.

The survey data also shows that the next stage in the SMB collaboration adoption is their need for online interaction, that is, simultaneously share and edits files from PCs and mobile devices, mobile video collaboration, integration with social networks, and richer media escalations, such as using chat, text, voice, video at the same time.

As per the study, key business drivers for SMB collaboration adoption are also changing. While currently there is a strong desire to build robust content repositories, the next wave of SMB collaboration adopters are emphasizing speed of innovation, demands for improved productivity, and imperatives for faster time to market.

In terms of brand solution adoption, the SMB market is quite fragmented with Google, Microsoft, and Cisco leading, but there are many other smaller collaboration solution brands that are being used extensively by SMBs. Further analysis of data also underscores the importance and use of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications such as CRM, ERP, accounting, project management, HR management, business intelligence and content publishing.

With respect to file sharing, Dropbox has had a very strong impact on the SMB collaboration solutions market. By enabling mobile users to share files freely, they at once underscored the central importance of mobility, enabled individual users to be drivers of corporate collaboration activity, and proved the centricity of file-first rather than person-first collaboration models.

Box (another important vendor in the space), on the other hand has gone on record saying that SMBs are not its target market segment. There is a market opportunity for traditional backup and file-sharing IT companies such as Hightail, Carbonite, Egnyte as well as those delivering mobile workspaces such as Citrix and managed services platform providers such as Continuum and security IT vendors such as Trend Micro. However, the reach for each of these will be limited to the reach of their respective SMB focused channel partners.

Techaisle believes that there are additional file-centric developments that will further shape the nature of SMB file sharing solutions in the years to come. Today, most files are intrinsically connected to the applications that created them. If cloud and mobility are the key determinants of IT delivery, then there would be a need for the decoupling of data from applications. Application-independent data wrapped in rich metadata would allow new cloud-based applications (potentially based on BI platforms) to combine existing data to meet new business requirements. In addition, freed of originating applications, it is also likely that data could be optimally formatted for a wide range of displays: large screen PCs, smaller screen smartphones and tablets, and new display types ranging from signage to digital paper to wearable heads-up displays.

For more details on the report, click SMB and Midmarket Collaboration Adoption Trends

 

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Techaisle survey data shows BYOD is a major force in the US SMB Market

techaisle-smb-byod-trend-end-point-device-adoption

To set the context for a BYOD discussion Techaisle’s survey on end-point technology status of SMBs provide an intriguing set of statistics through which we can assess recent endpoint trends. BYOD is clearly a major force in the US SMB market. BYOD purchases accounted for 13% of all new laptops, 17% of all new tablets, and 22% of all new smartphones purchased by US SMBs in 2013. This creates challenges for both IT management, which needs to establish methods of managing these devices, and for suppliers, who need to work with SMBIT to secure their position in the main endpoint categories, and also appeal to business managers and individual buyers to ensure that they are not left out of a major portion of the market. Techaisle’s SMB End-point survey data shows that approaches to BYOD –brand selection, reimbursement, application download and support – vary with employee size, with small SMBs leaving most of the decision, cost and support to individual users, and larger SMBs tending to involve business and/or IT management in these activities.

The survey data also shows that overall frequency of device purchases, which speaks to the erosion of the notebook market as emphasis shifts to alternative screens; in 2013, a higher percentage of US SMB employees were using tablets and smartphones than notebooks purchased within the year.

Suppliers need to recognize the distinctions that are apparent across employee size categories, and structure their offerings accordingly. IT vendors courting the very small business (1-19 employee) segment should recognize that employees are most likely paying for and supporting these devise themselves; as a result, IT vendors will need to offer financing and vendor/carrier-supplied, business-grade support options. In larger SMBs, specifically, mid-market businesses, funding and support is more likely to come from business and IT management; in these segments, OEMs are advised to establish programs that make it easy to onboard, secure and support new devices and users. In both cases, there are gaps in policies; suppliers who help businesses to establish and implement effective BYOD practices may be able to position their products favorably as a result.

SMB employees driving much of the activity is also creating sales and marketing challenge for suppliers: opportunities to sell brands and configurations that are outside corporate specifications, and challenges in aligning channel strategies to a market that includes both IT and individual employees (business management) as important buying groups.

Within the SMB context, BYOD itself comes in several ‘flavors.’ Techaisle survey data shows that on hand an SMB employee both selects and pays for a new device, delighting the CFO, but causing problems for IT. On the other, the SMB employee pays for the device, but selects it based on guidelines or an approved list – an approach (referred to in some cases as CYOD) that appeals to both the CFO and IT, but might not be completely satisfactory for the employee. BYOD can take any one of these paths and add some level of reimbursement for the purchase from the company and/or technical support for the devices, which has both upside (because the employee selects technology that he/she is comfortable with) and downside (the cost burden rests, at least to some extent, with the company rather than the employee) for the SMB business owner. And regardless of the approach chosen, some SMBs are instituting formal contracts that provide them with authorization to secure and (if necessary) ‘wipe’ employee-owned devices.

Who selects the BYOD brand?


The most critical BYOD question for IT manufacturers revolves around brand selection: is it done by the employee or the employer? Survey data shows that the answer depends largely on the size of the SMB business.

Who pays the BYOD bill?


One of the contentious issues in BYOD is the matter of responsibility for funding the device purchase. Many employees view BYOD as an attempt by their SMB employers to shift costs from the business to its staff. Many SMBs, on the other hand, see BYOD as a means of ensuring that employees have access to the technology that they like best. Some employers view paying for the devices as a means of building goodwill with staff (and/or as a means of building a basis for exerting management control over the devices), while others believe that simply allowing the devices to be connected to corporate assets represents contribution enough.

Who is responsible for BYOD support?


In our survey, we asked respondents to identify the ways in which their organizations support BYOD devices. The findings provide a fascinating insight into the ways in which BYOD devices are integrated into the corporate endpoint portfolio from no support at all to commitment to full integration of BYOD devices.

What is the policy with respect to app downloads on BYOD devices?


One of the key employee benefits associated with BYOD devices is that employees have a platform on which to run personal applications. What, though, is the implication for business applications? Are employees free to select any app that they choose, or should the business play a role in directing or determining the selection of business apps? Results from the survey suggest that the degree of formalization associated with app selection and installation varies from no formal policy to a very structured approach.

Is there a contract in place to govern BYOD use?


The final BYOD issue investigated by our survey related to the creation of contracts between employers and employees. Techaisle considers these contracts to be important to the success of BYOD strategies, as they provide explicit employee agreement to IT activities necessary to safeguarding corporate apps and data and we expect that this will become standard HR practice in BYOD-friendly SMBs over time.

About the Report

Coverage:

  • Current and Planned purchase Intentions of client devices

  • Tablet OS & Application software adoption – Behind the Screen

  • BYOD: Employers vs. Employees, or Micros vs. Larger SMBs?

  • Across the OS generations: XP, Windows 8 refresh intentions

  • The Android Opportunity: Google in the PC Market

  • Converged Mobility PCs: 2-in-1 PCs

  • PC Purchase Channel and Sources of Information


More details about the report can be found here.

Related Research Articles

Seven Key Trends and their Meaning: SMB Endpoint Device Market in 2014

SMB Purchase Intentions for Android PCs

Key Attributes of Successful SMB Mobility Solutions
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Strong Need for SMB Cloud Channel Partners to offer Vertical Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend study shows that there has been a big leap in percentage of SMB channel partners offering cloud computing services to SMBs in the last year across several countries. For example, in the US the percentage offering cloud services has jumped from 38 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2013 and another 22 percent are planning to offer cloud solutions. Similarly, in Australia the percentage has gone up substantially from 34 percent in 2012 and in Germany from less than 30 percent to over 60 percent. The biggest change is seen among the VARs. In 2012 only 34 percent were offering cloud solutions and in 2013 74 percent of them are offering cloud solutions to SMB customers. In Germany, the biggest jump has been within the SPs (Service Providers). However, not all channel partners (VARs, SPs, MSPs, SIs) have become successful in selling cloud to SMBs. Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling cloud and those that have not developed successful cloud practices.

Industry expertise and the ability to offer vertical solution is one such key area that is creating a distance between the successful and unsuccessful SMB cloud channel partners. Techaisle’s SMB studies have shown that SMBs are increasingly looking for vertical industry solutions but channels have been relatively slow in offering such solutions. Year 2014 will be important as this is the first year when SMB business issues have flip-flopped from reducing operational costs to increasing business growth and cloud-based line of business vertical solutions is an important area of investment.

Combining the data from Techaisle's SMB and Channel Partner studies we find that a significant gap exists between percent of SMBs adopting vertical cloud solutions and percent of SMB channel partners offering such solutions though it must be said that the gap has narrowed in the last 2 years as shown in the chart below.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog-3

The Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study data shows (chart below) that 21 times as many successful cloud partners are offer vertical solutions to SMBs as those that are not successful.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog-2

Most of the successful SMB cloud channel partners have product/service portfolios that are mapped to the full set of SMB technology needs: compute and storage infrastructure, applications, communications, support for test/development, and solutions addressing specific vertical requirements. The majority of unsuccessful SMB channel partners have limited their offerings to storage, backup, and basic SaaS offerings like Office 365 or Google Apps.

Some may argue that there is a ‘chicken and egg’ effect: that successful partners have broader portfolios because they have more engaged SMB customers. As with the chickens and eggs themselves, though, it may not matter where the cycle begins, if SMB channel partners that are not currently successful in the cloud wish to compete with those that are, they will need to develop portfolios that extend beyond IaaS to vertical-specific applications.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog

Above chart from the Winning Strategies study shows that 50 percent more successful cloud channel partners than unsuccessful partners report that vertical industry knowledge is a key component of the value that they bring to their SMB customers. These successful channel partners are able to demonstrate knowledge of the SMBs’ industry, and are therefore able to create confidence within their SMB clients. These channel partners are also the most likely to build and maintain long-term relationships with their SMB customers. Unsuccessful channel partners claim that they are able to demonstrate understanding of their SMB customers’ business needs – but at a technical level – and are constrained by a lack of vertical understanding. 70 percent of unsuccessful channel partners emphasize their technical expertise during interactions with SMBs as they lack the understanding of their SMB customers’ industry vertical to be able to offer sophisticated cloud solutions. They emphasize service quality without necessarily understanding what this means in a cloud context. In addition, many of the unsuccessful partners tend to stress price when positioning cloud computing solutions.

Therefore it is imperative for SMB channel partners to go beyond technical knowledge and really understand the dynamics of industries in which their SMB customers operate and become industry subject matter experts.

Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study covers critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful cloud partners in three key areas: Business Priorities and Resource Allocations, Current and Planned Cloud offerings, Sales and Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend report covers: Mobility, Cloud, Managed Services, Virtualization, Backup, Data Integration, Sales & Marketing including Social Media & Lead Generation

 

 
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