Dell PartnerDirect Nears Software Integration

Marvin Blough is leading the charge to bring Dell Software into PartnerDirect.

Marvin Blough, executive director of worldwide channels and alliance for Dell Software

Dell proudly proclaims that its software business, a business that didn’t formally exist 18 months ago, has reached the $1.5 billion in revenues mark. And with some upcoming changes to its PartnerDirect channel program, it will work to make its new software business available to much more of its channel base.

Dell Software has come together from a series of acquisitions over the last two years, including Quest Software, SonicWall, Kace, AppAssure, and Boomi, all of which had their own channel approaches and strategies. While some (SonicWall, for example) was nearly 100 percent channel, others (Kace and AppAssure) were largely direct, and still others (Boomi) were focused on specialist partners, namely systems integrators. So getting it down to a single channel strategy has been key – and that strategy is to be shared with the company’s hardware-centric partners.

“Partners have tons of vendors, and all of them have different programs – what they don’t want is bunch of different programs from Dell,” said Marvin Blough, executive director of worldwide channels and alliances for Dell Software.

So the company is adding four new software-focused competencies (Security, Systems Management, Data Protection, and Information Management) , to its existing five hardware-centric competencies (Server, Desktop Virtualization, Networking, Storage, Cloud Services and Solutions), and is opening up its software offerings to a wider swath of its partner base.

To go with the new competencies, Dell is making some changes to how partners move up the ladder within PartnerDirect. As before, partners will reach Preferred status by achieving any one of the competencies. Partners can still advance to the top Premier tier by reaching two or more of the nine competencies, or they will have the option of boing for an Advanced Competency, in the case of those with a great deal of depth but not a lot of breadth to their business.

“We have partners who are experts in their areas, and don’t really want to look at other areas to build them up, but they bring a lot of value to their customers,” Blough said.

The new software competencies will also carry different revenue clips than the existing hardware specializations. Partners seeking Preferred status in one of the software areas will need to attain $50,000 in annual sales of Dell offerings in the specialized area, compared to a $200,000 run rate for hardware specializations. For Premier partners, the numbers are $500,000 annually for hardware, or $250,000 for software specializations.

“It simply wasn’t fair to have the same revenue requirements across these different products,” Blough said.

It’s in Dell’s interest to make the software specializations as attractive as possible to its existing PartnerDirect partners. While Dell has previously acknowledged a great deal of the software partners it’s brought on through its various acquisitions are also existing PartnerDirect members, there’s a large percentage of Dell partners who haven’t taken on the software offerings. And as Dell continues to seek to reinvent itself as a complete B2B solutions company, getting as much of the channel on board with as many of its new software fields is important to optimizing its opportunity for those offerings.

But doing so is not always easy – rival Hewlett-Packard, which has been in the software business for a lot longer than Dell, has struggled with getting the masses of its hardware-focused partners on board with much of its software line.

Dell takes its next steps in just two weeks. It introduces the new software specializations to PartnerDirect on September 1.