Dell ready for new Roaring Twenties in Canada

Mike Sharun and Paul Katigbak, who run Dell EMC’s enterprise and commercial businesses in Canada respectively, discuss Dell Technologies’ digital transformation strategy in Canada.

Dell EMC’s Mike Sharun (L) and Paul Katigbak (R)

TORONTO – “It’s only five months till the end of the year and we hit the twenties, and just like the last century had the Roaring Twenties, the same things are starting to happen now, said Mike Sharun, President of Enterprise Sales at Dell EMC Canada. “Digital transformation is taking a foothold among organizations. Companies will be defined with success or failure in terms of how they adopt to these new economies.”

That kicked off a media panel in Dell Technologies’ offices in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, where Sharun, and Paul Katigbak, his counterpart as President of Commercial Sales, Dell EMC Canada, discussed the company’s digital transformation strategy and its particular nuances in the Canadian market.

Sharun emphasized that the path to digital transformation is well understood, and that Dell Technologies has a key advantage over competitors in navigating it.

“We know what drives it – it’s the billions and billions of devices being connected,” he said. “This is a data-driven economy. Data is the new steel. Today, the most valuable companies are data companies. Microsoft is the number one company again. Who would have thought that two years ago? That happened because they transformed themselves on Azure and invested in AI. We feel that if you are driving your organization, and you want to take advantage of data, you need infrastructure to do that, and if you don’t have infrastructure you won’t be successful.

Dell’s position is that it is the company that can deliver on the infrastructure.

“Dell Technologies was created to help organizations be successful in this new economy,” Sharun emphasized. “We feel we are the leader from an infrastructure perspective. We are the only end-to-end provider. We are number one in servers and in storage. We can supply the plumbing.

“The biggest thing we provide is that integrated suite of solutions,” he added. “Speed is the biggest attraction that we have. We aren’t naïve. We know that there’s tons of technology out there. But in terms of the ability to seamlessly put them together to get an end result – no one can do that like we do in the industry.”

Partners who can amplify that core strength of Dell’s are critical, Sharun stressed.

“Where we are concentrating is making sure that we have the right ecosystem, with partners who are well suited for a multi-cloud world. The hybrid model will exist for the foreseeable future. But clouds are the new lock-in. Having something you can put an envelope around so you can move it a key part of our multi-cloud strategy. Having partners focused on specific verticals is key for us.”

The Internet of Things is a key component of that growth strategy, and one of the few areas where Dell has had to play catch-up. While some IT vendors have been active in the operational technology space for decades – and a few for many decades – Dell introduced their first IoT product in 2015. They have been investing aggressively in it since then however, emphasizing their commitment to IoT and to Artificial Intelligence, and have been stressing to customers the need for them to have a commitment to this journey. Dell has also been emphasizing that their broad lineup of  Dell EMC, Pivotal, VMware, Virtustream, SecureWorks RSA, and Dell Boomi, their Integration Platform-as-a-Service subsidiary, give them the breadth to succeed in the space.

“A lot of this is driven by what’s happening on the consumer side of the house,” Katigbak said. “There are very smart, capable devices across all industry verticals. The mystery is what the next big thing is. The data is out there. It’s a matter of coming up with the right questions. That’s the new game.”

It’s a sphere where products which aren’t being used for intelligent assessment of data are being future-proofed today, in the assumption that they will be.

“Manufacturers are now putting IoT capabilities in their products, even if they aren’t being used today,” Katigbak noted. “That’s table stakes now. But a lot of it is invisible to you.”

“People use a lot of IoT devices and don’t even know it,” Sharun added. “In a store they track what aisle you go down, what you pick up. Feedback on social platforms is based on IoT.”

“Some customers are really pushing the envelope on this,” Katigbak pointed out. “In healthcare, we are seeing the use of augmented reality in security. Healthcare now also does RFID when you check into Emergency, which saves time. In education and manufacturing there are also pockets of innovation.”

These newer technologies pose particular challenges for companies schooled on an IT model.

“Where we still don’t do a very good job is quantifying a benefit, including things like opportunity costs,” Sharun said. “We do a lot of work around fraud detection, and the benefits are hundreds of millions of dollars out of the gate. We have to do a better job of figuring out how to monetize that.”

The bottom line, both executives stressed, is that the dynamism of the economy today makes transformation essential for organizations.

“To be successful in the near term and long term, Canadian companies have to transform digitally – not just have a plan to do so,” Katigbak said. “They have to do things in an agile and quick manner – not a waterfall. Workforce transformation is a key, and security is no longer a bolt-on.”

He said that while most companies acknowledge the issue, too many still aren’t taking actionable measures.

“CEOs say ‘this is critical for me’ – but then many can’t execute,” Katigbak stressed. “Being a close second when industries disappear a lot quicker now may not be a good strategy.”

Katigbak referred to a study prepared for Dell and Intel late last year, where the Canadian data came out last fall, and the global data that put the Canadian numbers into context came out this January. While 83 per cent of the 100 Canadian C level execs surveyed believed digital transformation needs to be more widespread in their organizations, only 6 per cent could be classified as Digital Leaders. In contrast, 43 per cent were in the bottom two cohorts. Digital Followers, who have very few digital investments, and are only tentatively starting to plan for the future, were 34 per cent, compared to 44 per cent in the last such study 2016. The bottom group, Digital Laggards, who have no digital plan at all, is now 9 per cent, compared to 18 per cent in 2016.

“We have at least seen some Laggards and Followers move to become Digital Adopters,” Katigbak said. That category, which was 12 per cent of organizations in 2016, had risen to 29 per cent. Still, improvement notwithstanding, they still put Canada behind the curve globally.

With the advantages Canada has globally, Canadian organizations should be doing better here, Sharun concluded.

“The safety we provide in terms of doing business is a big advantage for us,” he said. “Toronto is one of the top places in the world in terms of startup growth. There is a safety net, in the sense that we don’t do crazy things here. There is a high level of education. And the dollar is low. For every two people you can hire in the US, you can hire three here.”

Sharun does expect to see focus on several key areas of digital innovation going forward.

“I think these will include AI, agriculture, Smart Cities, and quantum computing,” he said.

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