The Dish on Dell

February 11, 2008 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

By Diane Krakora

He called it a Program! Wow, that’s a change. Greg Davis vice president, America’s channel business for Dell, told me last year “we’re not creating a program. We’re creating a value proposition for solution providers who want to engage with Dell, and some elements to the engagement structure.” At least that’s how I remember it. Well, last week at the Ziff Davis Channel Summit in Dallas, Texas, Greg Davis referred to the Dell PartnerDirect Program. In fact, in his conference key note, he said the word “program” many times. He mentioned that they are engaging approximately 30,000 solution providers around the world and that through the acquisition of EqualLogic, they believe they will have a strong program to engage and empower. I was surprised when Greg said “EqualLogic has a great program.” Not because of the program robustness itself, but because I didn’t realized that Greg would know the components of a great partner program. He mentioned that Dell will be adopting the EqualLogic people and the program and that Bob Skelley, vice president of channel development for EqualLogic would be running the Dell PartnerDirect program.

This isn’t the only change in Greg Davis I’ve seen in the last 6 months. Dell also launched a partner portal that includes marketing tools, financing and ordering capabilities, a training path for managed services and deal registration. Deal registration isn’t new. Dell has been offering the ability for partners to register opportunities since December 5, 2007. They already have $24 million in pipeline sales visible through the solution.

What really turned my head during Greg’s keynote is when he mentioned Dell will be compensation neutral with the direct sales team in 2008. My jaw nearly dropped on the table as he explained the direct sales team will retire quota of sales through a partner at the same rate they would if they sold the gear direct. Now that’s a big change. We have companies here in the valley that have been working with partners for years, and producing upwards of 25% of the overall company revenue through partners that don’t have a compensation neutral program for the direct teams.

Dell has come a long way in the terms that they’re using to talk about partnering and the use of the word “program” to define how they’re going to engage and empower partners, however there is still a ways to go before Dell really embraces the channel, if they ever do. For one thing, they have to stop thinking about the channel as a “customer” and need to start treating them as partners. In a question about driving loyalty with solution providers, Greg Davis responded “I wouldn’t give a quota to a customer.” I don’t think that was what anybody was advocating. However the more successful channel organizations embrace the solution provider as an extension of the vendors’ organization: treating them like an extension of their sales, marketing and support organizations.

Dell also has some work to do around their Managed Services messaging. Considering they purchased Silverback and Everdream, no one is surprised that Dell is building a managed service offering. Greg confirmed in no uncertain terms that they will be selling managed services directly. What was a little fuzzier was the explanation of how they will be pulling the Silverback and Everdream teams together to build an MSP program which will support the 182 MSPs already engaged with Dell. Huh? How are you balancing that with the direct managed services?

Certainly changing a machine as huge as Dell, seeped in such a direct culture has got to feel like an uphill battle. In a conversation with Greg Davis last year, he mentioned he was the best suited for the job as changing the Dell model would require someone from the inside, versed in internal cultural issues and politics. He’s done an admirable job: he got a compensation neutral plan within six months, so it will be interesting to see how some of the new “channel centric” blood mixes with the old Dell direct team. Bob Skelley and team from the EqualLogic side will be one boost of channel champion juice. Another will be the recent announcement that long time channel executive Donna Troy has landed at Dell. Donna, most recently the executive vice president of global SME indirect channels at SAP, has been hired as an executive working with corporate accounts, which will include roles with both the channel and direct sides of the company. Prior to SAP, Donna was responsible for global channel strategy, development and execution at Network Associates and was CEO and president of Partnerware, a channel management software provider. Before that, she was vice president of worldwide channels and alliances at Tivoli Systems and spent 20 years at IBM, where her positions included vice president of Global Solution Developer Alliances. Donna will be an interesting mix into the Dell culture and I look forward to watching the changes that come with her to the Dell partners and “program.”

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Entry filed under: Live from Events.

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