Dell President: Partners Don’t Know All We Can Do

Dell president Steve Felice

Dell president Steve Felice

Following a slew of acquisitions over recent years, and in the midst of both a transformation from a PC company to an end-to-end solutions company and the drama its recently-won bid to go private, Dell Inc. has a challenge in the channel.

While partners understand the concept of its transformation, the company is getting a sense that its partners don’t understand everything it can do. And as cross-selling and solutions messaging become the issue of the day at the Round Rock, Tex.-based vendor, that’s a problem.

“Partners are still getting oriented to what we have. We’re trying to spend as much time as possible explaining all the capabilities we have, but our partners are still somewhat surprised,” said Steve Felice, president of Dell.

Felice and North American channel sales chief Frank Vitagliano spoke to Canadian channel press immediately after presenting at the company’s first-ever Canadian partner conference in Toronto Wednesday, and said the company has to do more to make sure partners both understand its end-to-end strategy, and all the pieces that make up that strategy.

“We have a lot of capabilities that people just don’t know about right now,” Felice said. “We have a phenomenal portfolio, and if we can use the relationships we have with partners and customers around the world, we can take some of these products with a very small footprint, and really explode it in a short period of time.”

Vitagliano said the company’s partner organization is going to focus on working with partners to understand the full nature of the Dell lineup, and make that fit in better with the partner’s own focus.

While making sure partners understand the full breadth of what Dell’s already doing is key, the company also needs to keep adding to its offerings to round out the solutions story it’s been developing over the last few years. Felice suggests that most of the areas where Dell can most effectively add more capabilities are areas where it’s already started to map its claim – security, systems management, and Big Data all jump to mind – the company’s challenge is to take the roadmap that has worked in its most effective acquisitions, and repeat it with new lines of business, whether acquired or grown organically from within Dell. That model is probably best exhibited by its acquisition of management software vendor Kace, a company that was Dell was able to grow sevenfold in 18 months after it purchased it.

“If we have products that add value, and we get into that go-to-market mode, we can accelerate that growth,” Felice said.

Going private will allow Dell to stay entrepreneurial, he said. The company may be large now, but he said it’s still young enough to remember where it came from, and to stick to the values that brought it there. In many ways, the newly private Dell will be “the world’s largest startup,” Felice said.

“We want to apply the same principles of our first 20 years: staying close to our customers and our partners, excelling in services, driving cost down, and making it simpler for customers,” he said. “We just now get to apply those concepts to the whole technology sphere.”

Of course, left unsaid in those core values is one that helped define the company’s first 20-plus years – the emphasis on the direct-to-end-user model. That is one that the company – which is on pace to soon drive 40 percent of its revenues through partners – has left behind for this transition. Instead, Vitagliano said that going private will allow Dell to accelerate its new direction when it comes to the channel community.

“When I look at the relatively short period of time Dell’s been in the channel, it’s amazing the things that are in place, the infrastructure that’s been built, the tools, the assets, the marketing capabilities, the support, the training and enablement,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do that, and do it faster, better, and more effectively.”

Particularly, Vitagliano pointed to the opportunity to more completely integrate Dell’s myriad acquisitions, and tighter sales engagement between Dell and its partners as areas where his channel team can continue to gain ground.