Dell PartnerDirect: Five years later

It’s been five years since Dell Computer Corp. turned the channel world upside down. Back then the direct only vendor entered the channel with a lot of trepidation.

There was a lot of absolute dread from channel partners in Canada. Solution providers at the time told CDN that they would not have any interest in doing business with Dell. One of the best quotes from that time came from Harry Zarek, CEO of Compugen: “They have missionary work to do.”

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To a certain degree Dell Channel Chief and former Dell Canada GM Greg Davis agreed.

“We are certainly still trying to win partner business everyday. That hasn’t changed from five years ago. It has gotten extremely easier; actually exponentially easier today than five years ago,” Davis said.

In PartnerDirect’s first month in existence, Dell had a measly 12 deals booked in its brand new deal registration program, which was going to be the key cog its any channel success. To give you a comparison of how far Dell has gone in the channel, last month that same deal registration program had 1,600 transactions booked.

Kathleen Schneider, executive director, global channel marketing for Dell describe the mood five years ago as having a cynical undertones. “There were many technical questions coming from partners and a lot of what if scenarios five years ago. The tone has shifted today and the discussions we now have are about the business opportunity,” she said.The business opportunity has changed and so has Dell Computer Corp.

According to Bob Skelly, the company’s executive director of global channels, Dell is no longer just a hardware vendor. It has transitioned into an end-to-end technology provider.

Today, 35 per cent of Dell’s commercial business goes through the channel. And, it’s not just about PCs. The company this year in a 90 day span acquired SonicWall, Wyse Technology and Quest Software Inc. All three companies had significant channel networks. In one fell-swoop Dell gained more than 23,000 channel partners with these three acquisitions (SonicWall 15,000 partners, Wyse 3,000 partners and Quest 5,000 partners). The company followed up these major acquisitions with small buys such as Clerity Solutions and Make Technologies of Vancouver.

Skelly said that these acquisitions are part of Dell’s overall business transformational strategy to become an end-to-end provider. “Channel partners have always been the key to this strategy. Completing the acquisition of Quest Software adds another dimension and when you combine that with SonicWall and Wyse we have just started to build out our software portfolio. We now have management, security, cloud and virtualization to round out our end-to-end story.”

Davis admitted that Dell is still short in a few areas in the data centre space in its end-to-end provider journey. “We will continue to look at that but we have a fair amount on our plate right now,” he said. Davis does have a juggling act on his hands because of all these acquisitions. Since all three companies had significant channel networks Davis and his team have been working on a lot of individual pieces and trying to bring them together for a complete solution for the partner community.

For example, there are certain solution providers who sell Dell servers but are not authorized to sell storage or networking. “We need to convince them to see the opportunity in multiple product lines especially in the data centre.”

The strategy that Davis is employing with the acquisitions is to allow each company to maintain autonomy in its first year. So the same service, support and go-to-market strategy for SonicWall, Wyse and Quest will not change. But over time Dell will begin to integrate those products and resources into a single united Dell. “From a partner community and customer standpoint, this process takes time to do it right and we are in an awkward phase with so many acquisitions that we did in a 90 day span. But we have been lucky because (the channel executives from those acquisitions) understand channel business and they will enhance our ability to be successful in the channel,” Davis added.

Another part of Dell’s channel story is in training and certifications. Last year, for example, Dell produced 130,000 courses. Skelly said that Dell has a goal to reach 200,000 courses and as of last month it hit 144,000. Acquisitions such as SonicWall, Wyse and Quest have contributed to this growth, but Skelly added that these courses introduce new solutions for the channel in storage, blades, mini data centres and networking.

“It’s been a terrific five years. It’s not been without its challenges but these five years have been exciting and as I look back on it we are still trying to accomplish the same things from 2007. I am pleased with our progress, but there is still plenty of work to be done. We are still working with partners to build the program together and add value to them and grow the business. We have the same goals today as we had back then; to grow faster than the market and be simply and easy to work with and its paid off for those partners who jumped in with us back in 2007,” Davis said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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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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