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Dell gets partner religion (again)

Well, credit Dell with putting on a  good show for solution providers with its most recent pledge to embrace the channel. Maybe the company will make good on its promises this time around but here are a few things to remember.

First, this whole Dell-vs.-the-channel thread isn’t as cut-and-dried as it seems. I’ve talked with several resellers over the years who preferred dealing with Dell than with the allegedly more channel-friendly HP or other hardware vendors.  Many said that hardware margins were so thin anyway, they usually skipped that part of the sale unless the customer insisted. And in those cases, Dell was as good a choice as any. At least until Dell service woes surfaced so publicly.

And, many solution providers who had healthy hardware businesses a decade ago are now software-and-services only. That tells you something about the nature of competing not only with Dell but with CDW and other low-cost suppliers.

Let us not forget that Dell built its fortune on being great on logistics. It never led the field in great, creative, fun machines. Nor on service.  (I’m sure Michael would beg to differ–what would you expect?) But there’s nothing wrong with using a supplier who can drop-ship you a server or a PC but fast.

And another thing: Dell has had many enablers in its partner-bashing past.  You know who they are.  Big names. Like Oracle and Microsoft. When it was top dog, Dell got T&Cs from all of these guys–Intel too, I’d wager–that no one else could hope for.

Dell’s sales force types are no angels. Witness the tales of VARs who say the a strategicically gifted flat-panel TV to a customer exec spelled the difference between them and Dell winning a given deal. But is that sales force any worse than Oracle’s  or IBM Global Services in the enterprise arena? All of these vendors–including Microsoft– want account control for themselves. No partner can ever forget that.

So, let’s wait and see what happens with Dell’s new programs. But how hard is it going to be for any VAR battered by Dell in the past to start registering leads with the vendor now?

Most solution providers will tell you they see lead registration as a vendor tool for collecting customer info it later uses for its own (often direct) benefit. And Dell certainly didn’t patent that idea.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area reporter, can be reached at

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