Dell is piloting a new training curriculum around workstations to provide presales support and other benefits to solution providers.
About 170 U.S. partners have completed the workstation program, said Kathy Schneider, executive director of Dell's global channel marketing and programs.
"We're finding partners that want to take their capabilities to the next level with Dell," Schneider said.
The workstation program isn't a complete "competency" curriculum such that exists around Dell's EqualLogic, Compellent or other technology areas, Schneider said. Rather, it's a smaller and quicker training program, but one that includes enticements such as access to presales field sales resources for VARs that complete the training.
"Sometimes you want something to enable the interest of partners. What this is is a set of training [courses] above and beyond normal training," Schneider said.
Workstations have kind of been an ignored segment of Dell's line card to many solution providers focusing on Dell's higher-end enterprise products and certifications. But customers buy them and many VARs sell them, so a more formal curriculum around them made sense, said Dell's Schneider.
"I wouldn't disagree with [workstations being forgotten by Dell VARs] but we think it is a great opportunity. It has so much other drag to it. Just look at the client opportunities. There are full solutions and quite complex solutions [to target]," Schneider said.
In addition to presales support, VARs completing the program will receive preferential seed units and MDFs, Schneider said.
"Even though it's not a competency per se, it's an area where we can help partners," she said.
Dell expects the number of VARs to complete workstation training to increase rapidly over the coming year. "As it gains traction, we will sit back down and enhance benefits. They need to be tangible. They can't just be on paper. You need to know what you need to know and know what you'll get for doing that," Schneider said. "I don't know if we'll jump from 170 to thousands, but to be very clear we want to be able to have it scale."
Meanwhile, Dell is also now piloting an Online Solution Composer -- with about 60 partners and more than 200 customers -- that enables communication between Dell, solution providers and customers on complex projects and bids, according to Dell.
"It's not just a configuration tool, but it's a collaboration tool as well," Schneider said. "It's a platform to go back and forth architecting and configuring something that tends to be pretty complex."
The Online Solution Composer should be available in April or May, according to Dell.
The new programs should help Dell continue to grow its PartnerDirect business, founded five years ago. In the fourth quarter, channel revenue accounted for 37 percent of global commercial sales, said Greg Davis, vice president and general manager, global commercial channel, for Dell.
In addition, Dell processed 64,000 deal registrations by solution providers in the fourth quarter and approved 71 percent of them. The company also redesigned the PartnerDirect website with more quick links and enabled VARs to register deals from mobile devices.
"We finished the year with about 133,000 partners [globally]. The more impactful piece for me is we had a 49 percent increase in the number of partners that have passed certifications and are now Preferred or Premiere," Davis said. "We have a total of 3,863 partners that are now Preferred or Premiere. We continue to see great acceptance of our training curriculum. We delivered 207,000 training courses in 2012 and we want to continue to invest and grow that with our partners."
PUBLISHED MARCH 1, 2013