Dell Tool Lets Partners Configure Enterprise-Class Solutions

The Online Solutions Configurator is integrated with Dell's deal registration tool in its PartnerDirect channel program and includes preconfigured solutions and training videos as well as the option to create more custom solutions, said Kathy Schneider, executive director for global channel marketing and programs at Dell.

"That's a really important feature. The whole point is to make it simpler for partners and not to create another siloed system. We were very conscious not to make it feel that way," Schneider said. "We realized that for partners to configure a technical solution, it was very often done offline. A configurator didn't support complex enterprise solutions that would combine different products together."

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The tool can configure Dell servers, storage, networking and other converged infrastructure offerings. Solution providers also can work with a Dell Enterprise Solutions Specialist to create and price a complete offering for customers, according to Dell, Round Rock, Texas.

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While a select portfolio of servers, storage and networking is available through the configurator now, the catalog will be expanded over the coming months, Schneider said.

'We will continue our investment not only in the rollout. One of those new features will be some products that are not in it yet because technically we couldn't get it done in time ... and we didn't want to hold up this rollout," Schneider said.

Another future enhancement will be custom pricing. In its initial version, the configurator features just list pricing. Solution providers will be able to set their own partner-specific pricing levels based on discounts and be able to calculate their margins, Schneider said.

Andrew Balzarini, Dell partner manager and enterprise specialist at iT1 Source, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based solution provider, said it should prove to be a valuable tool to his company's sales reps.

"Not to mention it gives the rep a lot more insight into what goes into a Dell solution," Balzarini said. "Dell is pretty progressive with tools they provide. The more they build into this, the better. I'm a big Dell advocate. They have a lot of great solutions and if you embrace tools like this, it can only help you."

The only challenge may be to convince sales reps to recognize the value it provides, he said.

"It's not a learning curve from a difficulty perspective, but getting them to slow down enough to use this is challenging," he said. "Many times, the [Dell] account reps will do it for them. But if I'm a rep, the more I do myself, the more it empowers me. The reps who get it will succeed with it; those who don't won't."

The Online Solutions Configurator is available now in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Germany. It will be available to solution providers in The Netherlands and France later this month, the company said.

Dell started thinking about an enterprise solutions configurator last year and piloted the tool separately in the U.S. and U.K., said Schneider.

"We didn't want it to just be a configurator like you see on, where you choose different things. We wanted it to be a sales tools between the Dell channel salesperson and the partner's salesperson. We wanted to work together in a more collaborative fashion," she said.