Dell's Cultural Crisis

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When Dell came out with its channel program last year, Connecting Point of Las Vegas took the company at its word and forged a partnership with the longtime channel antagonist.

Lester Keizer, CEO of Connecting Point, said he decided to give Dell a "chance" to prove its claims of being a born-again channel convert. Step one for Connecting Point was registering a deal on a government bid. "I decided to give Dell a shot," Keizer said. His deal was accepted but then rejected later when Dell direct entered the picture, he said. Dell direct ultimately took the deal and Connecting Point was left out in the cold.

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At the recent Everything Channel XChange conference, Keizer met over breakfast with Dell Channel Chief Greg Davis to try to get the matter resolved. He said that Davis has pledged to make it right by giving the commission portion of the deal to Connecting Point. "I've still got to see the check," Keizer said. "Greg has told me he will make it right. He gave me his word. I trust Greg, but I don't trust the organization. ... But he is fighting two battles. The biggest battle is not here. It's the internal battle back in Austin."

Keizer is one of many solution providers watching to see whether Davis has the political muscle to transform Dell into a channel organization. It's ultimately going to come down to whether CEO Michael Dell is truly committed to making the direct giant a channel power. That means telling thousands of Dell direct reps to stay out of an account if a channel partner has staked it out or risk being fired.

Davis confirmed he has spoken with Keizer about the channel conflict issue. "If I make a mistake, I'm going to make it good," Davis said. He said the Dell direct registration didn't initially show up and, as a result, the company has "identified it and fixed the process so I don't have it again. But in terms of commitment I haven't had any issues where the general managers across our direct business aren't committed to enabling me to deliver that commitment. It is just a process of learning."

Davis stresses that out of $120 million in partner deal registrations, Dell has only had a half-dozen channel conflict issues. "Did you expect that I was not going to have any issues?" he asked.

"I give credit to Greg for at least trying," Keizer said. "But the question still remains is he working uphill trying to change the behavior patterns of a monolithic organization that is direct? Only time will tell."

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