Dell enterprise boss lays out channel strategy

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Dell enterprise boss lays out channel strategy
Marius Haas
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As partners are tested by recent shake-ups and split-ups in the IT industry, Dell's top enterprise solution exec Marius Haas positions himself and Dell as the voice of reason.

As Dell's chief commercial officer and president of Enterprise Solutions, Haas said Dell has a clear vision for IT unfettered by shortsighted Wall Street prognosticators and pushers of proprietary hardware and software.

Haas expounded on everything from Dell's open appliance strategy, its cloud ambitions and what emerging opportunities partners should keep their eyes on in a no-holds-barred interview with CRN US.

What follows is a one-on-one with Haas from last week's Dell World 2014 in Austin, Texas.

How has Dell been delivering on promises it made at the last Dell World regarding moving 200,000 partners to the channel?

We came out with a pretty good value proposition for our partners last year at Dell World. Since then, I think hopefully demonstrating we were going to drive the execution component of it.

I know there were expectations that everything would happen overnight. But I think we all realised it takes time. We are now at the momentum where many partners are enjoying the benefits of that hard work.

How is Dell doing as a company?

The only data point we are sharing is every line of business, every region is growing at a very healthy rate. We are seeing performance that we have not seen in a decade. We are thrilled with that momentum.

Our partner revenue is growing at multiples of the market. Nine out of 10 [Dell international] markets are growing at double-digit rates. And well over 40 percent of revenue comes from the partner community.

What are the channel goals for 2015?

We believe we have made great progress with the goals. We have exceeded those [2014] goals with our partner community. We are pleased, but not satisfied with that success.

We always want to do more with our partners. That's why we made the announcements we did this year. We know we still have enablement capabilities to deploy for our partners. We, together, can be more efficient and engaging with our customers.

So in the year ahead, look for Dell to focus on training, certification and streamlining the automation processes. We want to create a frictionless ordering environment. These are some things that we know Dell still has some gaps in. These are also things we are making incremental investments in.

In addition to rolling out more programs for partners that deliver better partner economics, we are working on enhancing the overall experience with Dell as well.

Where are you seeing the most potential with partners?

The best progress that we see is when a partner engages with us all the way down at the field level, at the metropolitan zip-code level. That's where we collaboratively do account planning and work on the skill sets that the partner has versus the skill sets that we have. That's where we figure out how we most synergistically leverage our skill sets together to win more deals.

Where are you seeing the most success with partners?

We have seen tremendous success at the enablement piece with partners. That's what the partners are asking us to do more of. And we certainly want to replicate success as much as we can.

So what you'll see more of from Dell is focus on that last mile of let's do the account planning, territory mapping and let's understand where are the key interaction points between Dell and a partner. We need to figure out the key people that help partners close deals. We need to figure out how to help partners discover deals. That's the kind of collaboration that you are seeing and the kind we want to emulate and go faster with.

We have heard 40 percent of Dell's global revenue is driven by the channel. What's Dell's target for next year,or the year after that for indirect sales?

We don't do our planning by we want X percent of our business going through the channel.

My objective now is to leverage the above synergies to cover 100 percent of the market with the broadest and best omni-channel strategy. Our goal is to build with the best partners on the planet. We want to avoid oversaturation [of accounts in one geographic area]. If that means a disproportionate share of our revenue and growth comes from that omni-channel approach, that's great. But we don't have a target of 40, 50, 70 for the channel.

Our target is to grow at multiples of the market. Our goal is to be successful with our partners' ecosystem and go after that growth. Our growth in the channel is faster than direct today. So that's why you see a mixed shift.

Talk about Dell's appliance approach to IT.

First and foremost, the conversations that we have with customers is, 'What's the business problem you are trying to solve? How do the current workloads or applications that you are currently using help solve your business problems? And what's the IT infrastructure or solution you need to help solve your business needs?'

Dell simplifies delivery of the solution by offering an appliance structure and effective deployment. Appliances can be deployed seamlessly, delivering enterprise applications and workload processing with the highest simplicity, at the lowest cost, with the highest performance.

Why is Dell's appliance approach better than other OEMs?

We believe because of Dell's core architecture, and Dell's use of open standards and modular compute-centric architecture, [that] makes Dell the preferred partner of choice for [independent software vendors] that are looking for a tier-one OEM to be their partner.

We have built a very agile research-and-development organization that can respond to what our customers need in record time. I think if you go to VMWare and ask, 'Hey, how responsive was Dell when they came to putting together an EVO: RAIL strategy?' what you'll hear is from the first time we discussed the concept to the announcement of Dell's EVO: RAIL solution, it took less than six weeks. VMware couldn't do that with any other OEM. With several of the other large OEMs, [it] will take more than a year to get similar product out the door.

Dell has taken a disaggregated approach to appliances, decoupling software and the OS from hardware in an open infrastructure. Can you weigh the pros and cons of this approach?

I think there is an approach by others where they say, 'My stack is the best and only stack.' Instead, Dell takes the approach of, 'Let's be open, collaborative and let's solve the business problem or the application problem.' That's the conversation we believe adds the most value to the customer. 

Look, some of our customers say, 'Hey I like the Nutanix solution because it allows me to better manage my storage virtualisation environment. Can you help us deploy this within our environment to make sure it's a well-engineered solution?' The answer is, absolutely.   

We could take the path and develop Dell solutions and 18 months later tell our customers, 'There you go.' We decided to take the approach of driving customer value today and focus on the longer-term build, partner and sell strategy to augment solutions that Dell is already delivering.

Dell appears to be dipping its toe into network function virtualization (NFV) through a partnership with virtual cluster switching company Brocade. Talk about market potential and this new market.

NFV is a space that is going though tremendous transition. It's a space that is going from old, proprietary hardware infrastructure to one based on new technology based on x86 modular standards. This transformation in that industry is causing a new, competitive environment that has emerged overnight.

It's not the old telco-versus-telco battle. It's now telcos versus service providers versus everyone else.  That is creating new opportunities for Brocade and Dell to develop better-together solutions that bring communications capabilities through new technology based on x86 modular standards.

Who better than Dell to customers with that NFV transformation?

NEXT: public investor scrutiny.

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