Dell drives channel services

Dell has unveiled a services accreditation programme for its Middle East channel partners. The IT hardware giant, which is currently recruiting staff to boost its regional headcount, is also planning to expand its sales efforts in the growing small and medium business (SMB) segment in the region.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 8, 2005

Dell has unveiled a services accreditation programme for its Middle East channel partners. The IT hardware giant, which is currently recruiting staff to boost its regional headcount, is also planning to expand its sales efforts in the growing small and medium business (SMB) segment in the region. Speaking at a recent get-together for Middle East enterprise channel partners held at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the Green Community, Dubai, regional manager Michael Collins explained the Middle East go-to-market strategy. “The enterprise is a core area for Dell,” he explained. “It is a strategic area of focus and today we have announced a programme that will certify our channel and give them even more credibility in the market. This will put real weight behind the message that they take to market.” Some 75 delegates — representing the enterprise sales force of Dell partners from across the Middle East — attended the event to hear details of the new certification programme and receive updates on Dell’s enterprise strategy and offering in core areas such as servers and storage from senior executives. “There will be various levels of certification for Dell authorised service providers with each level linked to the access that partners have to Dell, the training they have received and the expectation from us relating to their support offering, sales capability and consulting skills,” added Collins. “This is certification related to their ability to sell from an enterprise consulting point of view. It is installation skills and post-sales support. If there is one thing that enterprise customers look for in an IT partner, it is credibility. If the partner does not have credibility, it is hard for them to have a conversation with the customer,” he continued. Dell has already made strong inroads into the large account space in terms of desktop and notebook sales and the vendor now hopes to replicate that success in areas such as storage and servers through its scalable enterprise sales message. While rival vendors such as HP and IBM boast significant internal IT services arms able to sell their hardware offerings on the back of a wider IT solution, Dell remains reliant on the skills of its partners to penetrate the large account space. “We are highly dependent on the channel,” admits Collins. “But the same is true for most of our competitors, even if they do have local service offerings of their own. Our partners have similar offerings and if a project needs to be led by services, our channel can do that for us.” As well as renewing its commitment to serving the needs of enterprise customers in the Middle East, Dell is also working hard to boost its penetration in the SMB sector. Part of Dell’s ongoing channel strategy is to work with existing partners to push them towards opportunities in the SMB segment. “As you go further down, your penetration becomes more dependent on programmes and marketing and mass distribution,” said Collins. “To penetrate that market you have to change your strategy slightly. Our first priority is to get our partners moving deeper into that market and improve our coverage.” Promoting Dell’s alliances with major vendor partners is also high on Collins’ regional agenda. At present, Dell’s EMEA distribution unit operates a centralised function for managing these alliance relationships with vendors such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and Intel. Hammering home the benefits of these alliances at a Middle East level remains a challenge for Dell. “We do have a strategy to improve the local relationships,” said Collins. “We don’t spend enough time with these alliance partners in the Middle East and the strength of the corporate messages that exits are not reaching all the customers locally. It is a big opportunity for us to invest in this, fix it and add real value to our operation.” Scaling up its staff resources in the Middle East will help Dell to devote more time and attention to this business area. The vendor currently has 20 staff in the region and expects this number to rise to 30 in the coming months. With a wide product offering and solutions for all users from consumers to the largest enterprises, growth opportunities exist for Dell in many different market segments including retail, SMB and enterprise. Working out how to prioritise the areas of investment and deciding where to focus resources remains an ongoing challenge for the vendor. “They are all priorities,” explained Collins. “We have a strong top down approach and our growth in this region has been driven by partners targeting large accounts. We do what we do well and will continue to expand where we see market opportunities — hence the focus on areas such as retail in Saudi Arabia and taking our partners into the SMB sector. These are the main strategies alongside finding the right people to join our company, developing the resources that increase our go-to-market capability, strengthening our channel management and building up demand generation activities.” “The industry that we are in requires us to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time,” Collins concluded.

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