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June 9, 2011
The Dell Storage Forum did a good job of laying out the future direction of Dell’s storage strategy and how the company’s recent acquisitions in the space fit into the overall picture. But as with everything, The VAR Guy still had some unanswered questions. Luckily, Brian Bell, VP of Compellent at Dell and Bob Skelley, executive director, Global Channel Partner Program and Channels at Dell were all too happy to sit down with our resident blogger and lay down some more information. Here’s what they had to say about the future of the technology, the future of the channel program, and even the dreaded channel conflict.
The VAR Guy started off with Dell Compellent, since it’s a major part of Dell’s strategy. What does Dell have planned, and where is it headed? “From a technology standpoint, we’re basically solving the customer’s problems uniquely,” Bell said. “Reseller partners are fighting for business and need [that] different toolset [to fight] the competition.” Product offerings should be more than something new or unique, he said; it also needs the ability to wrap services around it. “The way you to go to market is as important as what’s in the market.”
Dell is capitalizing on the success of the Compellent technology within the channel, which is driving much of the company’s strategy. “We’re in a unique place — we can treat this as a blank slate,” Skelley said, relating to the fairly new ecosystem that the Compellent acquisition has brought Dell. “We don’t have 20 years of legacy channel connections. We do a lot of listening to our channel partners, between one-on-ones, partner advisory councils and roundtable events. Partner feedback is integral to what we develop and what we bring to market.” From that feedback, both Skelley and Bell said Dell Compellent has maintained high customer satisfaction by lessening the complexity of rebates and, of course, the free training.
“A channel program that works and makes sense for our partners is huge,” Bell added. “Whether it be training, or no cost for a training, as partners get more invested in our program, they get more rewarded and reinvest in the program.”
But of course, there are bound to be some conflict, especially when shifting a traditionally direct company into a channel-focused sales model. Skelley said it was fair criticism, but Bell noted it’s still early in the shift. “It’s been mostly goodness [but] it has to start with the executive team.
“Dell’s channel program has come a long way,” he added. “There’s a [market] segment right now that’s so pro-channel, [but] then there’s a segment that … you have to prove to them that it’s helpful. And they’ll come around.”
Today, “direct [Dell teams] still have to register a sale like a partner does,” Skelley noted. “[But] with the SMB space in particular, our channel sales team is bringing those [registered deals] — more than 90 percent of the time — and saying, ‘let’s get the channel partner to engage,’ and gives them the deal to run with.”
Shifting gears, our resident blogger was curious what trends Dell is seeing with its storage technology. Interestingly, it was the same answers he received from Dell’s partners — which means Dell is listening. Data center is huge, and any products that need data are Dell Compellent-compatible. Cloud apps, VDI, and the consumerization of IT were all driving influences, but there isn’t a single market that doesn’t want better data management. That should be a wake-up call not just to Dell Compellent partners, but to storage VARs in general.
With data growing exponentially, Skelley said Dell wants to “train [partners] so they’re fully armed to represent the Full Dell portfolio. [And] from a strategic standpoint, [we’re] doubling [our] engineering team on Compellent and growing EqualLogic.”
Is it just The VAR Guy, or is Dell sounding more and more like a true channel-focused company?
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