For about two months or so, I've been pursuing an update on Dell ProManage-Managed Services. How is the initiative performing? And have any new MSPs pursued Dell's various certifications? No doubt, portions of the MSP community have dismissed Dell's strategy. And some skeptical voices are growing louder. I've got plenty of questions -- and observations. Here they are.
First up: Communications with Dell. A spokeswoman for the company says Dell is in a quiet period, but Dell will circle back with me after February 18. Fair enough. As a publicly held company, there are times when Dell has to remain mum. I certainly understand that.
Still, Dell's multi-month silence (before the financial quiet period started) in the managed services market is surprising. In early 2009, Dell did a reasonably good job describing its direct sales strategy, agent strategy and MSP certification strategy. Somewhere around September of 2009, Dell started going silent on the managed services topic.
Silence HurtsNegative press has started again. A number of MSPs are rallying against Dell. As are some bloggers. From where I sit, I don't believe a company is ever "all good" or "all bad." And if you look hard enough, you'll find a good number of MSPs and solutions providers that are profiting with Dell.
Since about 2007 I've maintained the following stance: Dell needs MSPs and solutions providers to help drive sales, lift Dells revenues and, in turn, potentially raise Dell's share price. I see a direct link between Dell's performance on Wall Street and Dell's partner program.
Still, anecdotal concerns about Dell's partner program continue to pop up. Everon Technology Services, an Inc. 5000 company and MSPmentor 100 member, recently updated a war story about losing a client to Dell managed services. Plenty of readers have been pointing me to that Everon blog post, asking me for my reaction.
Back in 2008, I believe Dell's social media team would have worked fast to address Everon's statements. Fast forward to the present, and Dell appears silent on the matter.
More recently, Channel Insider noted that Do IT Smarter jumped from Dell's Silverback technology to Level Platforms. It wasn't breaking news. But it was an important report that highlighted a key market inflection point: When Dell shifted Silverback (i.e., Dell Remote Monitoring) from an on-premise service to a SaaS service, plenty of Silverback MSPs reconsidered their strategy and moved over to new platforms.
A key example: Nimsoft CEO Gary Read recently said seven former Dell Silverback partners have moved to Nimsoft's platform. And ironically, a Dell MSP sales veteran recently jumped to Nimsoft as well.
And it's safe to say upstarts like CharTec -- a hardware as a service (HaaS) and technology as a service (TaaS) specialist -- have trained MSPs to succeed against Dell.
Silver LiningStill, I do hear from MSPs that are having success with Dell.
Five Nines Technology Group of Lincoln, Nebraska, has built a profitable storage relationship with Dell, according to Five Nines CEO Nick Bock. The effort wasn't easy. I hear Five Nines has had some challenging times with Dell, before the current storage relationship has gained traction. I still need to speak with Bock for more details.
I've also heard from VARs that want to simply become agents that resell Dell managed services for a commission. Some folks frown on the agent model. But ultimately, there are resellers that consider it easy money.
Five Key QuestionsConsidering all the above-noted chatter, I look forward to speaking with Dell once the company's quiet period has ended. Here are five key questions I intend to ask:
1. Dell MSP Certification: In 2009, the number of certified Dell MSPs was essentially flat; as new MSPs stepped in some older MSPs stepped out. Is Dell seeing any new trends in terms of (A) retaining MSPs and (B) training new MSPs?
2. Integration: Back in 2008 or so, I expected Dell to start integrating Dell Remote Monitoring (formerly called Silverback), Everdream and MessageOne with one another. But I haven't heard much about that potential effort. Do the integration plans exist? And if so, will all three platforms involve MSPs?
3. Emerging Efforts: Dell was beta testing managed print services with a few MSPs back in 2009. What became of those efforts?
4. Competitive Landscape: What is Dell's reaction to competitive statements from Nimsoft, CharTec and other companies that are claiming success against Dell's MSP and hardware efforts?
5. Bottom Line: Is Dell still aggressively pursuing managed services providers as partners? In other words: Is Dell looking for managed services partners or hardware resellers?
To reiterate: Dell still has some believers in the managed services market. But there are plenty of skeptics and critics. And those skeptical voices have grown louder in recent months. Once Dell's quiet period ends, I expect the company to offer some updated perspectives.