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The 10 Biggest Dell Technologies News Stories Of 2021

Mark Haranas

Here’s the 10 most important Dell Technologies news stories of 2021—from VMware and Apex to channel partner conflict.

1. Dell Direct Sales In Conflict With Channel Partners

The most shocking news CRN discovered in 2021 was that channel conflict between Dell’s 27,000-strong direct salesforce and its channel community in both its client systems and infrastructure business consisting of servers, storage and hyperconverged infrastructure.

Some of Dell’s most strategic solution providers said conflict with Dell’s direct sellers has reached a breaking point, including the direct salesforce increasingly trying to steal new customer opportunities, particularly through controversial deal registration rejections.

“Dell direct is our biggest competitor,” said the president of a longtime Dell Titanium partner to CRN in December. “It’s not just for client systems anymore. Our biggest issue across the board is the Dell direct mentality, because there are just no checks and balances. … It’s just like the Wild West out there.”

Partners said channel conflict is manifesting itself as an increase in the number of deals nationwide getting rejected from registration. In some cases, those rejections come because Dell direct reps are going behind their backs promising to give customers a lower price if they buy direct, solution providers told CRN. What’s more, partners said they have seen Dell direct reps aggressively attempt to gather account information from channel sales reps in an effort to take new opportunities in existing accounts—such as new infrastructure orders or services sales—direct.

On the client systems side, CRN learned after speaking with over a dozen Dell Technologies channel partners, that Dell’s direct sales force had started gunning for a larger share of PC sales in North America which is driving huge conflict with the company’s channel community.

Top solution provider executives—all of whom are Platinum or higher partner levels—said they now see Dell as a competitor on PC sales and are exploring their options for taking client systems deals to other OEMs such as HP and Lenovo.

“The way I see it is the Dell direct reps are now in competition with the channel on client systems,” said the CEO of a national Dell solution provider who has already seen one of his company’s recent Dell PC deals taken direct. “This is a direct kick in the face to the VAR community. Based on how this all plays out, it will force partners to become uber aggressive to try to take Dell out to protect their turf.

When CRN asked Dell’s North America President John Byrne last year how he would describe Dell’s client systems sales strategy: direct-led, partner-led or channel neutral, Byrne responded: “All of the above. We want both routes. We want both to be growing and both to be growing dramatically.” As to whether he directed both channel and direct reps to move Dell’s client business to a direct-first sales model versus partner-led, Byrne reiterated, “We want both routes of market to grow—both direct and channel.”

Dell partners said the channel conflict began escalating in early 2021 and has since gotten worse over the last several months.

In response, Dell’s Bill Scannell, vehemently denied that there is widespread Dell channel conflict. “Are there a couple of partners that have an issue?” asked Scannell rhetorically in an interview with CRN. “I’m sure they do. And as I’ve said to them on stage at FRS [Field Readiness Seminar, Dell’s sales kickoff] and at the partner Advisory Boards—call us. I’m Bill.Scannell@dell.com—publish that. If people have an issue, call me. Our partners are our most important assets. It’s our route to markets. It’s why we’re growing so well.”

Scannell said Dell’s channel business has grown faster than its overall business in fiscal year 2022, including in the company’s recent third quarter when Dell’s total revenue grew 21 percent compared to 34 percent growth from partners. “Partners are growing faster than we are as a company right now. We should be dancing in the streets,” said Scannell.

The biggest Dell story of 2021 will continue to be the most important story in 2022.

With partners up in arms about Dell’s direct salesforce encroaching more into channel deals and opportunities—as well as a reduction in seasoned partner account managers (PAMs) and the lack of a solid channel strategy for Dell’s Apex—the biggest question for Dell in 2022 is if it will try to fix these channel issues or continue with business as usual.

 
Mark Haranas

Mark Haranas is an assistant news editor and longtime journalist now covering cloud, multicloud, software, SaaS and channel partners at CRN. He speaks with world-renown CEOs and IT experts as well as covering breaking news and live events while also managing several CRN reporters. He can be reached at mharanas@thechannelcompany.com.

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