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Dell Partner Direct program comes to Canada

Direct vendor hires first ever channel manager to build partner network one solution provider at a time

Frank Fuser has been promoted by Dell Canada to become the face of its channel in this country.

The former services vice-president and one time Apple staffer officially launched the Partner Direct program in Canada, which was made available first in the U.S. on Dec. 5, in Canada.

There were no major changes made to the Partner Direct program for the Canadian geography.

However, one of the biggest elements of Partner Direct, deal registration, will not be available for Canadian VARs until March 17. The company did Canadianize the site for registration in both English and French.

There will also be a new compensation model for internal Dell direct sales staff. Starting today, all sales will be compensated the same way whether it goes to the channel or direct.

Channel recruitment will also be priority for Dell Canada. Fuser did not reveal any of his channel recruitment goals, except for reaching 200 Certified Partners in Canada.

“I like to spend more time with key channel partners to establish strong trust. It will happen one at a time and we are not going to launch it and they will come. It will take time and it will be done with one-on-one discussions. It will take examples of winning and we are going to have to win together,” he said.

Michelle Warren, channel analyst for Info-Tech Research of London, Ont. has been following Dell’s journey into the channel and she said Dell’s commitment to solution providers cannot at any time be unwavering.

“They can do it, but it’s going to have to be unwavering support of the channel if they want to expand partnerships and build that trust. There can be no signs of mistrust or those partnerships will be severed. The feedback I hear is that Dell pays on time, but if there is a shift towards direct sales and they do not put some marketing money towards the channel it could all fall apart,” she said.

Currently, the Canadian operations have close to 2,000 partners, of which more than 80 came from The EqualLogic acquisition. About 15 of those partners will be enrolled in the Certified Partner portion of the program. The 2,000 or so partners represent 10 per cent of Dell Canada’s overall revenue. Fuser said he wants to dramatically increase that number but his mandate is only to provide faster channel growth than Dell’s overall average, which is at 10 per cent as well.

Worldwide, Dell has more than 30,000 partners that do approximately US$9 billion in sales. Warren said there is a sliver of hope that Dell Canada could out pace the company average.

“There is some chance because they have been dealing with some channel partners already. If they start to highlight those, and the benefits, they could convert more,” Warren said.

The challenge she sees for Dell Canada is in the Certified Partner area, which is only at 150 partners to date.

“They will not see many hit that rung unless they have financial benefits to justify the pain of time and money required to complete the requirements of that level,” she said.

Dell’s Fuser said the vendor needs to tread carefully and build trust with the channel. One of those ways is to offer as simple a partner program as possible.

Fuser said that Dell’s build-to-order capabilities, along with custom factory integration, will be made available to Canadian partners. These two offerings will enable partners to cut costs and upfront time spent on developing solutions, which will in turn increase their margins. Custom factory integration, for example, can install software and images for customers.

“This alleviates a huge amount of time and these are examples of taking the value add of the direct model and applying it to the channel model,” Fuser said.

Warren added there are only a limited number of solution providers that can hit the Certified level and many of them are owned by HP or Lenovo. “That is a huge hurdle to overcome,” she said.

Fuser said that Dell Canada’s channel team will be targeting partners that have already passed certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and others.

Most of the 2,000 partners will be in the Registered area of the Partner Direct program. For a solution provider to become Certified they must first be Registered. From there a solution provider must take product training from Dell, go through a business review and pass a short test online to become Certified. Once Certified the partner will then be segmented into either Managed Services or Enterprise.

“A year ago I would not have envisioned us at this stage. But sure enough a lot has changed from our perspective. The picture we need to paint today is one of building relationships with partners,” Fuser said.