NEW ORLEANS – Dell’s commercial business currently runs about one third through channel partners, but company founder and CEO Michael Dell says that figure, grown over the seven-plus years of its PartnerDirect program, is just the beginning.
In a keynote interview with Ingram Micro North America president Paul Bay at the distributor’s IMone event here, Dell said he could see channel eventually accounting for between 50 and 75 per cent of Dell’s overall commercial business.
“As [the partner program] has reached scale, it’s become what we call ‘Dell-normal.’ It’s part of what we do every day, not an appendage,” Dell said. “When we design a product, when we add capabilities, when we look at services or financing, our channel is built into that. It’s built into our whole go-to-market.”
Currently, the channel business at Dell is about $20 billion per year. Dell said he can see that growing to $40 to $50 billion.
“We haven’t set a ceiling on it,” he said.
Of late, an expanded presence at distribution has been one of the biggest ways Dell been looking to grow its channel, and Dell’s presence at Ingram’s first-ever IMone supershow speaks to that. The company has tasked channel veteran Frank Vitagliano with leading that charge, and Dell said the efforts have started to show results. In the most recently-completed quarter, Dell told Bay, the company grew its business through Ingram Micro 95 per cent.
“Since we’re not a public company anymore, I can say things like that,” Dell quipped.
Dell credited the company’s growth to a channel of some 146,000 solution providers worldwide with the company’s consistency in engaging the channel since launching PartnerDirect in 2007.
“In 2007, we said ‘we come in peace,’ and ‘this is not an experiment,’” Dell said. “We’ve showed over those seven years a real commitment, consistency, and predictability. That’s been rewarded with very strong and robust growth.”
Dell touched on the company’s hard-fought battle to go private, saying that winning that battle “allows us to be bold.” That includes things like talking about sales results with a distribution partner during what would otherwise be a quiet time, as noted above, but also includes a lot more.
“Being private lets us invest with a more long-term mindset,” Dell noted. “It allows us to be very aggressive. We couldn’t be more excited about the position we’re in and the opportunity it provides for our partners and customers.
Dell walked partners through the company’s main focus areas, pillars the company calls transform, inform, connect, and protect, and noted that the channel has “given us a much broader reach,” particularly into the SMB space.
He urged partners to embrace constant change, and to find core areas of growth and opportunity. The biggest among them, he said, is the security space.
“If you’re good at helping customers handle IT security challenges, you’re likely to be much more relevant than you were before,” he told partners.
While IMone is the first high-profile distribution even to see the eponymous CEO attend, he hinted it is not likely to be the last.
“I look forward to coming back and being your biggest partners,” Dell told Bay.