Enterprise to get the Dell hard sell

Dell is turning its attention towards enterprise and Michael Collins believes it will have the same impact there as it has on the PC front

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By  Peter Branton Published  September 11, 2005

|~|Collinsbody.jpg|~|Dell has been expanding its organisation in the Middle East. By the end of the year it will be double in size.|~|Dell made its mark in the PC business by making the desktop or notebook purchase as easy as buying a TV or a washing machine: it standardised the whole process. But can the same company make a success of going after the enterprise business? IT Weekly talks to a man who thinks it can: Michael Collins, general manager, Dell Middle East. ,We were talking before about Dell having ambitious plans for the region. What are those plans? What are we going to see from Dell here in the Middle East? I guess our focus over the past two years or so has been around expanding the organisation. By the end of this year we should see a local team, Middle East, which will double in size. The same could be said for last year. For the last two years we have made significant investments in people and focused on the most strategic areas, for the region and for Dell. For instance, we recently appointed an enterprise sales manager; the enterprise is a strategic product line for us. We also recently appointed a regional services manager, so we now have somebody looking after our entire regional services business, with the primary objective of focusing on customer satisfaction, working through the channel. We’ve also changed the structure of our territory, we’ve moved from four regions to three. The two obvious ones are Saudi Arabia and the UAE and rather than having the rest of the Gulf and Levant separate, we’ve put them together, which will improve the economies of managing that territory. Then, we’ve broken that territory into smaller groups of countries, so thereby getting a lot more focus around smaller countries. Within what IDC terms the rest of the Middle East and Egypt we have one sales manager looking after that and then several country managers reporting in to him. So structurally, we’ve changed, again to increase our focus and increase the economies of our business. So how many staff do you have in your operation in the region right now? We don’t talk about numbers other than the worldwide total head count. We’ve doubled the number of people working for us, is what I would say. We’re also opening an office in Saudi Arabia, which is a work in progress, we have an office in Bahrain. The people looking after Aramco are working out of the Bahrain office. The Bahrain office is very close to Aramco, and since it exists, we’ll keep it like that. Judging from your operations before, even if you doubled numbers, I suspect that you will still have a comparatively small head count on the ground. How are you going to supply enterprise accounts with the right levels of service? Our channel model is a huge dependence for us. We have quite a unique model with selected distribution, which means we have a few partners per country that truly represent us and deliver the virtual direct model. Our focus is to beef up Dell resources that relate to enterprise customers and enterprise products, namely the server and storage lines. So in both areas we’re investing in resources to accomplish a number of objectives, primarily to continue to improve the channel’s capability to deliver support to these customers and take ownership of these customers under the directive of Dell. For enterprise accounts, you’re facing competition from HP and IBM. Both have quite large organisations here, with stable channel structures. When you’re talking about enterprise customers, they do expect quite a lot of support. How can Dell deliver this? I think the answer is through the channel. Our response is to continually improve the capabilities of our channel. What is more important is getting the logistics associated with holding the right quantity and quality of parts. We talk about stable channel structure. I’d argue that we have the most stable channel structure, we expect our partners to truly represent Dell. The improvements we are making are more around enablement of our partners. We’re talking specifically about post-sales support, the better availability of spares, the better quality of service the customer will get. With our existing channel structure we have a capable, solid channel. Our channel expansion will come about more as a result of identifying uncovered opportunity. It will be driven more by coverage rather than increasing partners to increase support. I’d rather work with what we have and improve it. I don’t think more partners would give better support. Our partners, almost like Dell, own the customer and between them and us we make sure the customer gets the right level of support. Growth is always a good measurement of customer satisfaction, if you look at our performance then you can conclude that the support infrastructure is satisfying our customers in that they continue to invest in Dell products. That may hold good for post-sales support. However things such as hardware spares are quite low in terms of support for enterprise accounts. If you’re trying to go after big enterprise account you want people to come in and pitch ideas, you want a true support and consulting capacity, surely? I guess from a desktop or notebook point of view, things like post-sales support are very important. There’s a consulting job to be done for all products in reality. Customers want to know what benefits they can get from your products as opposed to those from your competition. It becomes more and more of a requirement as you move up the products, towards enterprise products, so servers and storage. Going back to our investment in local resources, as I said we’ve recently appointed a head of enterprise sales to head up our enterprise and we use enterprise consultants to work with large customers, who are responsible for consulting with customers, how our products relate to their requirements, and infrastructure. These people are part of our enterprise organisation. These are people from within Dell and we have people focused on each of the territories. When we talk about enterprise, I should make clear that we talk about enterprise customers and enterprise products. By default the two end up together anyway; large sophisticated customers end up with large sophisticated products. Our focus on selling enterprise as a product into the large corporate market is supported in two ways. It is critical to have the right level of post-sales support because that becomes part of the consulting. It certainly becomes a large part of the discussion, and a lot of the pre-sales support is related to the technology and how we can participate in solving the customers’ needs. What is important to us are our changes to the channel to get it to the level to play the consulting role with us. We’ve recently introduced the enterprise partner programme here in the region, which is designed to get our channel to the level that we need them to be at to play the consultant role with us, so that we have enterprise- capable consulting partners. Will these programmes entail working with existing partners or bringing in new ones? It has four levels, which take our partners from selling basic hardware and the skills required to do that, up to a very high level certified channel, certified on our hardware, certified on implementation, with pre and post-sales capabilities, sales and support resources. So, at the upper end of the scale we’re talking about large systems integrators, and at the other end of the scale, we’re just talking about giving our channel the ability to sell our hardware. ||**||

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