Dell partners Monday said new Dell North America President Bill Rodrigues and Vice President of Worldwide Channels Cheryl Cook have yet to show their channel stripes.
"You are what your record is," said one top vendor management executive for a large Dell partner, who did not want to be identified. "Right now, I don't know what the channel record is of Cook and Rodrigues. We need to find out. Cook and Rodrigues have to absolutely build relationships with the channel. Either they respect the channel or they don't. If they respect the channel, this will go well. If they don't, it won't."
Rodrigues and Cook were named to the top U.S. jobs as part of a major shakeup that Dell is calling the next step in its growth strategy moving the "channel sales organization deeper into Dell's regional organizational structure." The shakeup is the first since Dell completed its $24.9 billion private equity buyout last month.
At this point, partners said, it is difficult to tell whether the duo will pivot toward a direct or an indirect sales model as Dell moves to push its channel sales needle from just 33 percent of its global commercial business to a number that could almost double to as much as 60 percent as it moves to grow its enterprise sales footprint.
Dell partners said they have had little experience in the sales trenches with either Rodrigues, a 14-year Dell veteran who was formerly vice president and general manager of global business, or Cook, who joined Dell two and half years ago as vice president of enterprise solutions.
That said, partners stressed that their strong relationship with both highly respected 30-year channel veteran Frank Vitagliano, who joined Dell last year as vice president of North America global commercial channels, and Jim DeFoe, a 17-year Dell veteran who is vice president of Dell North America nationally managed partners, gives them some comfort. Both Vitagliano and DeFoe will report to Rodrigues, who will be heading up the single North America sales organization.
Another key, partners said, is the leadership of Dell Chief Commercial Officer and President of Enterprise Solutions Marius Haas, also regarded as a long-time channel proponent. "Marius [Haas], Frank [Vitagliano] and Jim [DeFoe] are all big channel supporters," said one source who was briefed on Dell's changes. "I think this is going to drive much stronger collaboration between the channel and Dell direct with more account mapping and planning."
The moves come as Dell's worldwide server shipments, which in the second quarter fell just shy of Hewlett-Packard's, plummeted by more than 14 percent in the third quarter, according to preliminary market data from Gartner. At the same time, rival HP grew worldwide server shipments by more than 5 percent in the third quarter, halting a slump of eight consecutive quarters
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Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Dell partner, said he see the management as a positive step forward. "I think this shakeup is good. It gives us a clear path to who's running what at Dell," he said. "I didn't see it coming."
As Dell redefines itself as a private company and with Dell World in a few weeks, Goldstein said, now is the time for Dell to make some big changes to show the channel it's serious about taking a fresh approach to doing business with partners.
"Dell now has some new blood to get the job done," he said. "It's unclear what their track records are, but I'm happy the new Dell will have a relatively clean slate."
Dell's Cook came to the company after a one-year stint as senior vice president of Americas Sales for Dragon speech-recognition maker Nuance Communications and four years at Sun Microsystems including as head of senior vice president of global accounts.
Cook's Sun experience is especially troubling to a number of partners who viewed the company as a channel antagonist that favored a direct sales go-to-market motion versus a channel-focused model.
"The Sun experience leaves a bad taste," said the CEO for a top Dell partner, who did not want to be identified. "I just don't know anything about her. She has had three different VP jobs over the last three years. We'll just have to see what happens. The first thing she should be doing is go and meet partners to see how the channel and Dell can drive more business together. She has to get out, get known and get moving with the channel."
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