Dell channel chief Greg Davis on aligning acquisitions, partner program

Dell channel chief Greg Davis explains the impact of the company's acquisitions on its partners, as well as how it's solidifying its partner program.

Dell Inc. has a lot on its plate these days. It's transitioning from being primarily a company that supplies hardware for the data center to one that offers hardware, software and services for end-to-end IT solutions. Accomplishing this transformation has involved a lot of acquisitions over the past few years. In addition, it has a relatively young channel program, having launched it in 2007. And ownership of Dell is up in the air as...

CEO Michael Dell fights to take the company private.

Against the backdrop of these changes to Dell's strategy, SearchITChannel talked with Channel Chief Greg Davis, vice president and general manager for the commercial channel. Davis reflected on the biggest challenges the company has in solidifying its partner program and the company's strategy to retain the partners it gets through its many acquisitions.

What are your biggest challenges as Dell channel chief?

Greg Davis: The biggest challenges continue to be around delivering the promises that we made to partners. We've been very focused on four key elements: to be the easiest company to work with, to stay focused on training, [to provide] partners with the competencies and capabilities to win in the data center, and [to enhance] partner profitability. These four things are the biggest opportunity we have and the biggest challenge that we have and are the focus of our team.

If I had it to do over again, I would have made deal registration a deeper priority early on.

Greg Davis,
vice president and general manager for the commercial channel, Dell

I believe we've done a good job of integrating in acquisitions over the years, but it's constant work and [requires vigilance] to integrate all of the programs, all of the functions and all of the activities into a single partner program to enhance the value of Dell into our partner community.

We continue to stay focused on training. Last year we delivered over 200,000 training courses to partners. We're on target to deliver 250,000 training courses to partners this year, making sure that our partners are the most competent and capable partners in the world relative to Dell solutions.

Do you have a specific strategy in place this year to meet the four key challenges?

Davis: We specifically continue to invest in the integration of tools and capability in our program to ensure that the acquired companies and assets that we made over the last 12 to 18 months get improved and seamlessly integrated into our channel program.

We're well on a path to train in excess of 25,000 unique individuals -- reps and technical people -- this year on Dell solutions. We believe that our investment in training over the last several years is a cornerstone in our success.

[As for winning in the data center], Dell works to help partners … by providing scalable end-to-end solutions for them -- from servers and storage to systems management, security and networking. Our product portfolio is the best it's ever been. And with the acquisition of several market-leading software companies combined with the formation of Dell Software Group, we are transforming the PartnerDirect program to support that transformation. The enhanced PartnerDirect program provides multiple paths and profit opportunities for hardware and software partners and for those wanting to cross-sell and upsell adjacent solutions.

[To enhance profitability], there are several tools to help our partners generate leads and market their solutions, and we've made improvements this year to some of them based on partner feedback. These include making our Campaign Builder tool function across all their devices, from laptop to tablet to smartphone. This enables partners to create customized marketing campaigns with customer presentations, tutorial videos, sample emails and more.

Our Preferred and Premier partners can also leverage our Find a Partner tool to build their business. This is a graphical search engine that we've incorporated into Dell.com pages so that the site's millions of visitors can pinpoint partners through their location and their Dell competencies.

This year, we also enhanced our social media training program to help partners develop their online presence in new platforms. Following our entry-level training sessions last year, this year we are focusing on advanced features and essential tactics for several popular online platforms.

Would you address any mistakes that Dell has made as it evolves its indirect channel?

Davis: Any time you build a business or you're investing in something the way we have with our channel partners, we've made mistakes and we've taken a risk on programs and activities that if we had to do over we'd do differently.

We started deal registration with a very limited scope for our partners -- I think our partners had to have a deal worth at least $75,000 and there were other restrictions around deal registration.

We continue to make the deal registration tool easier and to open up opportunities more broadly for the channel. If I had it to do over again, I would have made deal registration a deeper priority early on.

Also, there's plenty of opportunity to improve the integration of acquisitions. I'm extremely optimistic and proud of the acquisitions that we made. They're not just terrific intellectual property, but most of the companies have been very strong channel companies with people, individuals and leaders who know the channel business.

I feel like we learn from every acquisition, but every one is a little bit different in terms of their tools, processes; even the [acquired] companies that might use Salesforce.com as their CRM might be set up separately. So the integration of [CRM] is harder than you might think. Still, integration of the IT tools -- I'd do it faster if I had to do it all over again.

What is Dell doing to encourage partners to stay with Dell rather than jump ship?

Davis: Our job as a team is to build relationships and to build and grow a community with our partners. We work hard every day to understand their business, where they're focused and how Dell might be a part of it and what … we need to do to change and evolve our programs or the way we interact to win the hearts and minds and mindshare of our partner community.

We do that every day. It's been a mantra of our program from the beginning; what we put in place six years ago was direct feedback from our partner community.

Having said that, every partner looks at their business and they make strategic decisions about who they want to rely on for the future of their business. My job is to make sure that we're in front of our partners showing our value and competing every day to be a part of their partner ecosystem.

Some value-added resellers are going to make the decision that another company is a better fit for where they're going, and that's OK. We have a very specific strategy: We want to win with our partners. We want to win in the data center; we want to engage and build a business that is a true value-add with our partner community; and we are willing to invest in those partners that are investing in Dell.

More partners are investing with us, and while some might [decide] that Dell is not the right fit, I'm very confident that there are enough partners that are choosing Dell that we have a great future ahead of us with our partner community.

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