Dell makes its Canada-first play

TORONTO – When Kevin Peesker returned to the Canadian market back in January of this year to be Dell Canada president he was telling anyone who would listen about re-focusing the organization into a Canada-first approach.

The strategy, while lauded in the marketplace, also flies in the face of what other high tech vendors do in this country. Most American-based vendors adopt a North American regional strategy that treats Canada as one area of a much larger market. Peesker, who ran Dell’s European consumer and small business unit, made the Canada-first strategy his top priority. The challenge was that Dell was already running the subsidiary in a North American model.

CDN sat down with Peesker to talk about this challenge and why it was so important to him along with other topics such as going private, the channel, mobility and the cloud. The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: Why was it important to you to implement a Canada-first strategy for Dell?

Kevin Peesker: The best answer to that is with the complexity we have in the market and the customers we have to deal with we found value in specialization. That’s great for product development and research and development all the way to the customer. But eventually in the front end of those areas have to come together. We have gone to four business units throughout the organization and the benefits for the customer is they have one single organization to deal with. And, the customer has one back to pat. This will also help us facilitate more solutions from an end-to-end perspective for the customer.

CDN Now: You have to know that this Canada-first strategy flies in the face of what other top vendors do in Canada?

K.P.: For us the real benefit is with scale and the ability to leverage the resources we have across the country. We want to go end-to-end in a couple of dimensions and from a channel standpoint with partners and we have the opportunity to have a consultative program. The leadership here has the ability to engaged national organizations and regional one with the same capacity and excellence. We will also leverage training and development. We have offering over 100,000 training courses for the channel for free. We can execute at a Canada-level and we now have a single leader for the channel in Tara Fine. You know the first question we got from business people at the Channel Summit event was how will take care of the Canadian market? Yes we are global organization and we operate in the U.S. as well as other regions but the majority of our team is Canadian. And, we are Canadian in the mid-market, in the government entities. These customer now are looking for a Canadian organization to solve issues and provide them with advice and support from a Canadian perspective. This type of scale will also help us in specialized markets such as education, healthcare and financial. The Canada-first strategy has been very valuable to us.

CDN Now: You ran UK and Ireland for Dell. They say that Ireland closely resembles the Canadian market. What did you learn there that you want to implement here in Canada?

K.P.: Any leader in Canadian business that has been working with large a U.S. entity on a macro-level knows we are a fraction of the size of the American market. It’s not the same in Europe. France, German, and the U.K. are similar in size. There are language differences but those countries acted in more geographic centric way. We had the same structure in Canada and the U.K. At the end of the day the countries came together with an intern-relationship with the channel and other vendors. It was at the country-level and my view of that is when I knew I was coming back to Canada this would be a very good move for the Canada team, the customers and the partners. It’s already proving to be a success for us in the Canadian market. Now, I still report to the U.S. and to Michael Dell. I know who my boss is and with that we can ensure we are optimized in Canada to serve the customers here.

CDN Now: How does Dell going private help you in the Canadian market?

K.P.: Going private is very exciting. We are the world’s largest start-up and the one thing about Dell people is that they are consistently entrepreneurial. That will never change. The entrepreneurial spirit started from Michael in his college dorm room. We are very nimble internally and with customers. Going private we are now in a position where one individual owns 75 per cent of the organization. He is making the decisions. He has been clear on the long term investment in the enterprise, client products, the PC business, new product lines we recently invested in such as software for our end-to-end solution strategy. These are all highly valued by customers. As an organization, the privatization gives us the ability to take a longer term focused approach in the marketplace.

CDN Now: You are now about six years in your channel journey. You were there at the start. How do you take Dell’s channel program to the next level?

K.P.: I was there on day one and it was an interesting beginning. We moved to assess the market and developed what we felt was a best in class methodology that would be an on-going process. The PartnerDirect portfolio and portal, I think that area engaging with partners with new methods, team members dedicated to them, and an online mechanism that would continue to investment in this areas was the right move. Recently we made more investments for new lines of business in the PartnerDirect program and launched the integration of Dell’s software group and made that formal in September for Premier and Preferred partners. We are expanding that with service providers. Those types of investments give them one point of access into the tools and systems we have. I think what we have now it is highly depended in learning and development. Internally we are assisting the partners in developing their capabilities.

Six years down the road Dell is serious about the channel and it’s no longer a question of what we are going to do but what more we can do for the channel. We continue to ask those types of questions. What more can we do to help you service the customer. We are passionate about this.

CDN Now:  How does the cloud business change things for Dell?

K.P.: From a cloud perspective we view the cloud and strategy in three key ways and it’s multi-faceted and multi-tenanted. So people are dealing with the cloud in a public, private or hybrid way. We view it as critical to assist organizations in managing each of those environments. It’s important for us to manage the cloud infraction so if a customer goes to Amazon or a hybrid or if they choose to go the private route we need to show them how we can best help them in each of those environments.

CDN Now: From a mobility point of view, you don’t have a smartphone. Does that matter in terms of Dell’s end-to-end strategy?

K.P.: From a mobility standpoint, the devices are only one small component and obviously the most visible devices is the smartphone. What we are hearing from the customers is there is going to be a wide range of choice for end point devices. That can range from smartphones to tablets to convertibles and we have those products. CIOs have a real interest in proliferation and it’s going to be about security and end point management, protection and access of information. So the engagement we have in those devices will assist customers in all those areas.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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