Partners: Dell's Transformation As Private Company Is Impressive, But Channel Wrinkles Persist

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Twelve months ago, if you'd asked any Dell partner about the future of the $60 billion IT giant, they probably would have had to think a while before responding. 

That’s understandable, given that this time last year Dell was snarled in a high-stakes, $25 billion scuffle with shareholders -- and most notably, with activist investor Carl Icahn -- to go private.

Today, when partners talk about Dell’s future, the doubt is gone. In fact, some Dell partners such as the Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and Dell partner, have a code word for its Dell business.

"We call it 'Operation Gold Rush'," Sonia St. Charles, CEO and co-founder of the Davenport Group, told CRN in a recent interview.

St. Charles said that Dell, after being born again as a private company, has a new fighting spirit backed up with the right product mix, vision for future growth, and more importantly, a commitment to work with its channel partners.

Related: 10 Biggest Milestones For Dell Since Going Private

"Dell’s transformation has been remarkable. The sense of change and momentum is palpable," said St. Charles. She says her Dell business has doubled, and the only thing holding back her company’s success with Dell is her ability to hire talented new staff.

Dell still has plenty of bumps to smooth out, according to some partners. But on the whole, they say Dell is poised to be the IT comeback kid.

On Tuesday, Dell hosts its Dell Users Forum in Miami, Florida where it’s expected to announce a host of new enterprise initiatives, which judging from the conference’s agenda, include competing more aggressively in the converged IT marketplace and stepping up its storage game with all-flash product lines.

Dell executives say next week’s conference will be a coming out party of sorts for Dell, which will deliver its vision for what Chairman and CEO Michael Dell describes as a more "agile" business approach -- one that will allow the company to move at the speed of a nimble startup.

"I think, all-and-all, Dell pulled off something phenomenal," said Laurie McCabe, cofounder and partner in research firm SMB Group. "It has gone through a lot of uncertainty and remains intact and has proved it can be an innovative solution provider and a good business partner."

Dell's transformation includes not only going private, but also a pledge to move some 200,000 direct Dell accounts into co-management with channel partners. That’s a move that has earned Dell a lot of goodwill in its base of around 165,000 channel partners.

However, some partners say Dell hasn’t yet followed through on its pledge.

Dave Hiechel, president and CEO of Eagle Software, a Salina, Kan.-based solution provider that does about 50 percent of its business with Dell’s storage and server hardware, said Dell has been inconsistent.

"Their heart is in the right place. We have discussed joint account mapping and collaborating on accounts, but I don’t think Dell has been able to execute on that promise it made with the channel. Not yet at least."

NEXT: Dell Partners Say "Show Us The New Accounts" 

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