Convincing conference, unified messaging from all executives, substantial customer success stories including SMBs, considerable partner alliance conversations, convergence showcase, expanding geographic footprint, emerging technologies, mid-market design point, and end-to-end solutions story. What can I say?
At the recently held Dell Annual Analyst Conference, in Austin, the centerpiece of messaging was Dell’s relentless pursuit to be an end-to-end IT solutions provider and a trusted partner. Michael Dell in his conversation with the analysts proved that Dell has changed the conversation from product to services.
“Many new change vectors are going on - Data centers are becoming server centric/compute centric, networking is being combined with computing and storage and security are becoming one – Dell has the ability to understand where the puck is going”, said Michael Dell. To that extent Dell is busy building products and solutions from which customers can capture value.
Dell has made 20 acquisitions since 2008 to build a solutions delivery capability. Its R&D, which is increasingly being focused on storage, server, security and networking convergence went up by 40 percent in the last year alone. A key aspect of the strategy is to develop converged solutions that include storage, security, servers and wrapping it all together with services and deliver end user solutions that help customers compute in environments with pervasive data access.
Since his return as CEO, Michael Dell has steadily moved Dell into new areas for higher growth and profitability. Although Dell’s revenue has remained within a narrow margin, growing by only 1.5% from 2008 to 2012, its net income after taxes has grown by 18.5% within the same time period. Dell today has greater diversity in its solution offerings and broader geographic footprint. Both storage and security are higher margin products and with the acquisition of EqualLogic, Compellent and recently SonicWall, Dell’s margin story continues to improve.
Dell’s end-to-end solutions story is also beginning to look complete with portfolio having evolved from PCs and servers to services. Dell’s software portfolio is not where it should be but Dell is building out its capabilities for on premise software, cloud applications and software embedded in hardware. Consistent with the overall theme it wants to offer software solutions that are easier to buy, easier to use and easier to extract value.
Even the channels organization is perfectly aligned and focused on continuing to grow its PartnerDirect program that was started five years ago and is now approximately US$14 billion business for Dell. The channel’s organization headed by Greg Davis is continuing to make its rules of engagement very partner friendly and empowering and training its channels to provide value to their customers. Greg is ensuring that there is consistent
channel engagement across both mature and emerging markets with deal registration, compensation neutrality and executive priority. With over 135,000 training modules delivered in the last year alone it aims to provide simplicity, enablement and a strategy to win datacenters together. To take advantage of new social media networking platforms, Dell has also launched a new social media training program for its channel partners. The training program, developed based on Dell’s own experiences, provides its channel partners access to a number of useful social media tools and tips, including links to all of PartnerDirect’s social media platforms, a Q&A forum, registrations for both a live virtual training session and on-demand refresher courses.
Executing on its vision
Dell’s vision is being driven by five key market dynamics:
- Emerging markets growth
- Consumerization of IT
- Explosion of data
- Alternative computing platforms
- Corporate IT complexity
Dell has not only been able to integrate the businesses it has acquired but also has successfully scaled them. Dell Boomi, a middleware for cloud, originally acquired for its ability to bring cloud integration to SMBs, is equally at home in large enterprises. A recent example is OneWorld Alliance which has implemented a new information technology (IT) hub based on Dell Boomi AtomSphere cloud integration, designed to substantially reduce complexity, cost and time involved in linking new member airlines into the alliance.
SMBs' "CIO in a box"
Whenever an IT vendor presents customer stories I look for sincerity in the customer’s dialog and contribution of the IT vendor to customer’s success. Current Motor, an Ann Arbor, Michigan based SMB stole the show and my heart. With only 12 employees it uses full end-to-end solutions from Dell in the most interesting yet fundamental ways. Remember that it is only a small business; nevertheless Dell put a team together to bring to fruition integration with salesforce.com and digital dashboard enablement of Electric Scooters six months sooner than expected. Solutions used – mobility, cloud, hardware, software, services. As Laura Flanagan, Executive Chairman, Current Motor put it, “Dell is her CIO in a box.” And it all started with Laura approaching Dell with a business pain point. The result -- sincerity in dialog and value-add by Dell.
As Dave Johnson, SVP, Corporate Strategy said in his presentation, the “heart of the customer is the CIO.” No worries, SMBs, if you do not have a CIO, Dell can play that role for you.
Next Steps for Dell
- The entire Dell team has to work harder to get its messaging and capabilities heard by its current and potential customers because I feel Dell’s end-to-end
solutions story has not yet reached the crescendo it deserves
- By focusing on mid-market design point Dell should not forget that small businesses have different needs and the last thing they want is a scaled-down version of product meant for mid-market businesses. Other IT vendors have tried in the past with zero to limited success
- Dell should formulate and articulate its mobile strategy beyond its planned introduction of tablets and smartphones, especially for the SMB segment that are adopting mobility solutions faster than enterprises
- Technology pain points have now overtaken business pain points for SMBs. Dell can be that unique IT Vendor that helps SMBs sort out and identify relevant technology options (cloud, mobility, infrastructure, managed services, virtualization, social media, business intelligence, marketing automation) by becoming a trusted advisor and business consultant