Dell Partners: Some Say They're Feeling The Love, Others Say They're Feeling Left Out


Now that Dell is coming up on its one-year anniversary as a private company, the $24.9 billion question is: How is Dell doing with its Texas-size promises to partners to move nearly 200,000 direct accounts to the channel and transform itself from a box-pusher into a nimble and innovative enterprise company?

Answering that question is tough, especially now that Dell is a private company and no longer beholden to quarterly check-ins with Wall Street. But that was the point. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell maintained that as a private company Dell would be free to do what it needed to do to grow outside the harsh spotlight of anxious investors.

Michael Dell officially took his company private last October. Leading up to what was the largest leveraged buyout of a public company to go private, CEO Dell promised he would put an end to the business-as-usual Dell -- especially when it came to its relationship with partners.

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In a bold move, at its Dell World partners' conference in December just months after going private, Dell made good on a promise to shake things up. With a new spirit that partners say was palpable at the Austin Convention Center, Bill Rodrigues, president of Dell North America, outlined his plan to merge the direct and indirect sales armies under one roof and trumpeted the move of more than 200,000 Dell direct accounts to channel partners.

At the time, partners were giddy with excitement at the prospect of a fire hose of new Dell business headed their way. Dell partners told CRN then that they were already beefing up employee head counts in anticipation of an onslaught of new Dell business.

Meanwhile, Michael Dell took to the main stage at Dell World and, with a new swagger, touted a "new Dell" as the "world's biggest startup." He revealed new investments in R&D and data center products such as Fluid Cache for SAN, a solution for supercharging datacenter application performance. Partners were optimistic.

BUT THERE'S 'MORE WORK TO BE DONE'

Fast forward to June and the Dell User Forum in Hollywood, Fla., and the message from Dell's executive team and partners was noticeably more subdued.

"Clearly, there is work to be done on accelerating the whole training, enablement, territory mapping and account mapping," said Marius Haas, Dell's chief commercial officer and president of enterprise solutions. "Things are starting to move into high gear. The changes we have made internally are now enabling the regional sales directors to have much more collaborative conversations with the partners without having to defend a sales territory."

Dell partners, when asked about the "new Dell" in June, expressed divergent opinions ranging from frustrated to overjoyed.

Jarrett Pavao, president of iPower Technologies, a $3 million-a-year Dell Premier partner based in Boca Raton, Fla., said while Dell's heart is on the right place it's struggling to deliver on its promise to break down its once-notorious direct culture.

"For almost a year we have been meeting with Dell channel reps and getting really pumped up about aligning ourselves with Dell to grow our business," Pavao said. "We were ramping up, but when it came to Dell actually bringing us into accounts, it's been crickets. When we asked what happened to all those big promises, our channel rep had that deer-in-the-headlights look," Pavao said.

New Dell business never materialized, Pavao said. "It's not for lack of trying. Our [Dell] channel rep couldn't have been more helpful," he said. Pavao was told it was Dell's direct sales team that was dragging its feet and reluctant to cooperate with channel partners. In the end, Pavao said, Dell has offered the names of 30 companies that he described as "essentially cold-call leads."

"The names didn't include phone numbers or contacts," Pavao said. "I could have pulled these company names out of a phonebook and gotten more information about who they are."

iPower Technologies' story isn't unique. Other Dell mid- to large-size partners say they also have received big promises of account sharing and lucrative new business from channel reps. Like iPower Technologies, those partners have sat in the meetings with their Dell reps and talked about alignment and territory mapping, but ultimately were given cold-call leads.

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