Dell EMC Canada Commercial President Connolly takes stock of progress – and challenges

Kevin Connolly talks with ChannelBuzz about the recent performance of Dell EMC Canada Commercial, and their progress in resolving alignment issues which still have some presence even through the formal integration between Dell and EMC is long past.

Kevin Connolly, Dell EMC Canada Commercial President

A little over a year ago, longtime EMC employee Kevin Connolly succeeded former Dell Canada head Kevin Peesker as Dell EMC Canada Commercial President. Connolly updated ChannelBuzz this week about Commercial’s progress this year. He also discussed his efforts during the last year to make Dell Canada Commercial more efficient in terms of alignment of direct and channel resources, and making it easier for the midmarket and SMB-focused Commercial partners to do business with the company.

“Since I got up here right after the Dell-EMC merger, it has been a wild ride and the future is bright,” Connolly said.

“I have a long view of the situation,” Connolly stressed. “We talked a year ago about aligning the companies, training the organization, which is a passion of mine, and growing the volume in Canada. A year in, we have had good double-digit growth. The economy, of course, is the elephant in the room, and we don’t know what’s going to happen there. But we do know that net-new buyers are growing. Channel partners are growing. Newer products for Dell EMC Commercial like HCI and our VMware business are in hypergrowth. We want to keep on track there, while continuing to build on the foundational elements.”

While there was some volatility in overall Dell EMC numbers in Q1 and Q2 this year, Connolly was ecstatic about the specific performance of his Dell EMC Canada Commercial entity across its three markets: server, storage and client.

“Q1 was great for us here from a commercial market perspective,” he said. “I’m not out of bounds in saying that it was the best quarter we have had in a long, long time. I have a long term view of what success looks like in Commercial in Canada. I know that it’s an 18-hole golf match and these are just one hole. I still like the trajectory that we are on.”

Connolly said that they were also very satisfied with the Commercial unit’s performance in Q2.

“We had double digit growth in Commercial, and we were very satisfied with the results,” he said. “The big picture is that customers were buying infrastructure. We continue to realign the portfolio to make sure we are aligned properly for the midmarket space. However, with the six-month snapshot as a whole, I couldn’t be happier.”

Some analyst and media commentary this year has talked about Dell EMC’s parallel midmarket product sets in storage – the legacy Dell SC [Compellent] products and the newer Unity line from the old EMC side – creating some confusion in the market. Connolly interpreted this as a belief that the SC series had outlived its use, and asserted strongly that this has no relevance to the situation in Canada.

“I don’t think this is an issue at all,” he said. It’s something nice for analysts and media to hang their hat on, but what I see on the street is Compellent. Customers really like that product. They have had a very good experience with it. They continue to march forward and invest in the product. Confusion in the market makes for a story, but our legacy Dell storage numbers are off the chart in Canada.”

Connolly also emphasized the performance of the channel HCI business in Canada, and that the strong numbers being posted reflect far more than the present rising tide in hyperconverged lifting all boats.

“Hyperconverged is doing well right now – but there are still haves and have nots,” he said. “In Canada, we recently had new wins north of 30 and 50 units respectively, which were two of the largest global HCI installs in the first half. If we aren’t scaling at a triple-digit pace, we would have a problem. Right now the growth is good, but we watch it every day.”

While Dell EMC put mechanisms in place to smoothen channel go-to-market when they created their new unified channel program a  year and a half ago, Connelly indicated that awareness of how these unfold across all use cases remain a work in progress for some Commercial partners. It’s a hangover from the original integration following the merger.

“The challenge was getting business and people aligned in Commercial, as we put EMC and VMware and the core Dell company together,” he stated. “The signals are that it is starting to work. But when we look in the mirror, we are still putting the companies together. On the partner front, we have put in place the mechanisms to increase profitability, and there is a lot of good news there. Partners in Commercial are still asking us though to be easier to do business with. It’s things like the quoting and pricing, around different systems, where partners have different systems coming at them.  It’s just more about getting them comfortable with all of these products, so if they find demand they can execute on it quickly. For example, legacy EMC resellers still ask how registrations work for them, and ask us to continue to make it simpler for them. Much of this has been implemented at a high level, but we are still doing a lot of the grunt work in getting it down into the field. Partners also are asking for more education, and they want it to be simpler.”

Dell EMC has made it a major priority since the merger, both with incents and with exhortations, to encourage partners to cross-sell more products, particularly from product lines they didn’t have access to before the merger. Despite the alignment issues, Connolly said that particularly among their higher-performing partners, they have seen good results in the Commercial space.

“We find partners are growing well because they are investing in other lines of business,” he said. “We expected this to grow, but at the outset, you really don’t know what the adoption rate will be like and how fast it will happen. Our major partners in Canada have had significant growth leaping into other segments.”

After his year plus in senior management in Canada, Connolly has found that the Canadian channel is basically similar to the U.S., and doesn’t need to be incented or motivated differently.

“I think its pretty much the same,” he said. “They want to make money. They want to be treated fairly. The only thing that I do think is unique is the geographical challenge. In Canada, partners are really sticky in more the remote communities, and I’m not sure that’s 100 per cent true in the US, where in places like Maine, or New Hampshire, or Nashville, there are more competitors and less stickiness than similar places in Canada. In Canada, we are laser-focused on the big metros, like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City, and Calgary, but there’s buying everywhere. The overall winner has to cover all the more remote geos well.”