Dell Chief Partner Officer Denise Millard Talks Apex Incentives, Channel Strategy And Executing On Partner Feedback

‘From a program standpoint, we continue to hear that we are really the best in the industry, and the level of predictability and consistency with respect to how our partners are engaging with Dell is continuing to get better,’ Dell Technologies Chief Partner Officer Denise Millard tells CRN.

Dell Technologies is revamping the channel program under Chief Partner Officer Denise Millard (pictured) with new programs and incentives around PC deals as well as better incentives for partners in Apex product categories.

Millard, who took on the new role in October, talked with CRN about the job as well as the changes that Dell is ushering in alongside her longtime Hopkinton, Mass., officemate and direct report Darren Sullivan, senior vice president of Dell’s global partner program and operations. Millard reports to Bill Scannell, Dell’s president of global sales and customer operations.

“From a program standpoint, we continue to hear that we are really the best in the industry, and the level of predictability and consistency with respect to how our partners are engaging with Dell is continuing to get better,” Millard said.

The changes come just five months after a massive revamp of Dell’s go-to-market strategy called Partner First For Storage. Under that framework, Dell’s direct sales force, called its core sellers, have richer incentives to move deals through the channel.

[RELATED: ‘It Is Win Or Die Trying,’ Partner Says Of Dell’s Revamped Channel Leadership]

Putting an emphasis on increasing Dell’s business through the channel has been at the forefront, and Millard said the approach is working. Approximately 50 percent of Dell’s net revenue moved through the channel in the past 12 months, as well as 60 percent of the tech giant’s new and renewed customers.

This year, Dell’s channel program includes streamlined Apex products, which are now split into two groups Server+ and Storage+. Sullivan said this was a chance for Dell to fully embed all of its Apex offers together in a common framework to make it simpler for partners to take to market.

“Going forward, the Apex consumption offers will now be eligible for the back-end incentives base rebate, new business incentive, repetitive takeout, etc. This is a really important step because it further ties in Apex to our overall strategy,” Sullivan said. “The unique aspect of the Apex consumption offers is a is an up-front incentive in addition to those back-end incentives. So when you look at it on balance, it’s a highly profitable opportunity for partners when they sell Apex consumption options. With that said, now it’s just simpler to understand and accept as part of our overall program structure.”

Dell said partners who have earned a metal tier inside Dell’s program and who hold a Client+ competency are now eligible for a five-times multiplier on the base rebate when selling Dell client peripherals and two times the base rebate when selling Precision workstations, Dell displays, docking stations, Dell Latitude rugged laptops and tablets. Dell said it is also increasing the rebate for partners who attach Dell Pro Support Plus when selling Client+ products..

Millard and Sullivan talked with CRN about ways Dell is growing and modernizing it core business through partners, looking for areas to increase opportunities with partners, enabling them around newer technologies and increasing the ease of doing business.

“So those three elements have been consistent and that is really the framework for how we structure all of our conversations,” Millard said.

What are some of the big priorities for Dell’s channel organization this year?

Millard: We do a lot of work throughout the year to make sure that we’re listening to our partners through Partner Advisory Panels and other listening posts that really guide us and guides the program design for the year.

You’re going to see us really focus on how do we continue to grow share? How do we work with and through our ecosystem to accelerate those market growth opportunities both in our core businesses as well as the big bet areas?

Things like AI and multi-cloud and edge are increasingly becoming important, both in customer conversations and outcomes that we’re delivering. You’ll see us doubling down on our ISG [Infrastructure Solution Group] business and you’ll hear us talk about what we’re doing around those areas.

On storage, Dell radically changed how it sells its storage products last August. Can you tell us how that’s performing?

Millard: We doubled down in the area of storge with what we launched last August with Partner First for Storage. So as part of that we made over 99 percent of our customers and prospective customers partner first.

We quadrupled the number of accounts eligible for the partner of record status, and then we’re compensating our sales teams more to work with and through partners.

That is one one of the biggest go-to-market changes that we’ve embarked on but while it’s still early days we’re seeing massive collaboration. And all of our KPIs are trending in a really positive way. And so we’re really encouraged by what we’re seeing.

To continue to incent partners to work in that area, there’s a couple things we're doing. So the first is we’re increasing new business acquisition incentives.

And we’re also, with our Titanium partners, we’re working hand in hand with them to build account plans for the year, set joint goals, [and] outline the plan for growth that will include obviously how we take advantage of the partner first strategy.

It looks like you streamlined the Apex offerings as well?

Millard: Some of the feedback was how do we how do we simplify and make sure that people are making the right choices around whether they pick an Apex cloud platform or they pick a consumption model?

So what we are doing is we’re streamlining the Dell Apex infrastructure offerings into the storage and server product categories. What that’s really going to do is enable the full incentive for our Dell Apex portfolio. So it now qualifies for a base rebate and it qualifies for a behavioral incentive, really increasing the profit potential for our partners.

As part of the standard things that would apply, they still would have access to the up-front incentive as part of Dell Apex, but they have to have the right Dell Apex infrastructure competency to be eligible for that.

If you think about Apex, there’s three pieces to it.

There’s the infrastructure, the cloud platform, so we launched Apex for Azure. We launched Apex for Red Hat OpenShift. Those are cloud platforms and the intention is to give customers and partners choice there.

Then there is Apex Navigator, which is kind of like the control plane across multi-cloud. And then there is what we’re doing in the public cloud with putting our software in the public cloud.

All of that is underpinned by consumption models. So, on the consumption side, what we’re seeing is customers as well as GSIs [global systems integrators] want to become more asset-light.

As they become more asset-light, the choice around consumption models becomes increasingly important, No. 1. No. 2, they want a cloudlike experience. So they want a service delivered to them versus buying a specific product or technology.

They’re looking for an outcome and so that’s what a consumption model is delivering.

Sullivan: With regards to the changes we’re making on the incentives for Apex, what we’re doing is we’re taking this opportunity to just fully embed all of our offers together in a common framework. So the fact that going forward the Apex consumption offers will now be eligible for the back-end incentives—base rebates, new business incentives, repetitive takeout, etc.—is a really important step.

It further ties Apex in to our overall strategy. It really brings the whole portfolio, whether that’s Capex or Apex together, so our partners can understand how to engage with us from a profitability perspective in a consistent way.

But as Denise mentioned, we’re also maintaining one unique aspect of the Apex consumption offers, which is an up-front incentive in addition to those back-end incentives. So when you look at it on balance, it’s a highly profitable opportunity for partners when they sell Apex consumption offers with us.

How should partners be thinking about PC sales in 2024?

Millard: There’s definitely going to be a refresh cycle opportunity. I think that’s going to come in the form of a couple of different things. The first is the COVID refresh. So if you think about just the general life cycle of of a device, we’re coming up on that four- and five-year time horizon.

The second is there’s a large proportion of devices out there are not powered to run AI workloads. So with things like Copilot coming online, users are requiring that level of capability on their device.

That is going to drive a refresh cycle, not for the entire population, but for a population of users out there. Also, there’s a Windows refresh that’s coming over the next 18 months. So I think with those three drivers in mind, in addition to the program changes, I feel like we’re really well positioned as we go into the new year.

This is your first partner program rollout as chief partner officer, how are you looking at these next few months?

Millard: I think one, there’s huge excitement across Dell for the power of partnership and the role that we’re seeing the ecosystem play. So, I’m super excited to have the opportunity to lead that across Dell Technologies, especially with our 40th birthday coming up in the new fiscal.

I think it’s an exciting time to be a partner with Dell—we’re doubling down in in many areas.

And if you think about the big bets that we talked about this the last time we were together, we can’t do that without an ecosystem of partners.

We can’t deliver those outcomes without partners and so they’re playing a more pivotal role in those go- to-market areas. So I think we’re collectively really, really excited.