Dell EMC President Marius Haas On The Company's 'Refuse To Lose Approach' To The Storage Market

On The Record

Marius Haas is driving Dell EMC's storage blitz in fiscal year 2019 with plans to win market share from competitors including Rubrik, NetApp and Hewlett Packard Enterprise by doubling down on storage investments and channel enablement.

Haas, president and chief commercial officer for Dell EMC, is responsible for Dell's growing $43 million global channel organization as well as the company's go-to-market strategy.

In an interview with CRN, Haas talks about the company's storage blitz, market differentiation, new stand-alone storage quotas for partners, and the channel call to action for the new year.

What's the call to action on storage and the all-flash attack mantra for Dell EMC?

It's pretty darn simple. Our client business is on fire, in a good way, not a bad way. Our server business is probably on a trajectory again this quarter to gain 500 basis points a share, which is now going to be three quarters in a row, but we feel as though we have not been on the same trajectory in storage. We have eroded share and we are saying, 'Enough is enough.' It now needs to be real clear that we expect our team members and our partner ecosystem to really rally around the storage business. There are competitors out in the market and for some reason, in some cases, they have done better than we have. So we're taking an approach around, 'Hey, we're going to take a refuse to lose approach in the business that we used to have 36 percent share in and we no longer have that.' We are changing our compensation models internally to ensure that the focus is there on storage, in addition to the other areas, but it was a little diluted this past year. So that's one on our side.

What can partners expect now from Dell EMC with this storage charge?

We are going to be very prescriptive on our product positioning, which had been a question from the partners around, 'Hey, you created confusion as to what do you lead with and where.' We are going to force that conversation from our side to get crisper and crisper, create the battle cards for our partners around how do you position our solutions vis-a-vis the competitors, and why our value proposition is stronger. We are going to clearly put the dollars behind it to make sure it's economically attractive for our partner ecosystem. We're going to put the training programs with it as well and we're going to make sure our sales makers are very focused on it.

What are some storage investments you're making to drive growth?

We are adding gross about 1,200 people to our mix. All of that is within the storage ecosystem. We clearly need to make sure that we have the right resources to go in the right depth, to have the right architecture conversations, that also enable our partners to sell the full broad breadth of the portfolio into all markets aggressively -- from high end all the way down to the low end. We're now at almost 1,000 just for commercial alone around the world. We're going to keep adding more and more and more. It will all be done by the end of our fiscal year, which will be end of January.

Who are these 1,200 people and what is their job?

They'll be in place around the world. They'll be components that are what we call DCSEs -- data center solution sellers that are predominantly focused on storage. Then underneath that are also inside support team members for, for example our partners, as well as specialty leads for every single one of our product lines within the storage portfolio. So we can go deep and we can go wide on storage on the outside as well as on the inside.

How big of an increase is that 1,200 to Dell EMC's overall storage team?

Roughly around a 20 [percent] to 25 percent increase.

What impact will these 1,200 people have on partners? Are they going to hit the ground running?

Absolutely. There's always a productivity ramp that you need to assume with it, but we've got all that in place as part of our on-boarding as well as aligning of the team members to the right territories and to the right partners. We clearly anticipate from what had been over the last year or two years, we've had a slight share loss, we want to pivot that to a share gain and then we want to pivot that to a clear premium to the market on a growth trajectory standpoint. All of that we want to get done next fiscal year.

What about the internal and partner compensation? How much money are you putting there?

On our side, what we're creating is an environment that is specifically for storage to make sure that every single seller has a specific storage-only quota, in addition to a server quota, in addition to a client quota, as an example. Whereas before, for example, we had a combined blended quota of servers and storage. So you can have your attainment just by achieving your server quota. So we are getting real precise around the expectations of our sellers to say, 'Storage is critically important. You're going to be driving it.'

We got a phenomenal storage team that came to us with the EMC acquisition. Now what we want to do is turn that into an engine that is just going to drive extremely hard... We're also going to create training programs, enablement programs, MDF funds and back-end rebates commensurate with our ambition to clearly have an aggressive share gain plan next year.

Can you put any color around that storage quota?

I'll give you an analogy. We want to be anywhere from 5 to 10 points premium to the market in our high end and midrange parts of the storage business. So translate that into a plan that we're going to deploy among our team members to go achieve that... For example, let's say the midrange market is expected to grow at 1.5 percent to 2 percent, we want to be 5 to 10 points above that. We want to grow midrange in the neighborhood of 6 percent to 10 percent.

Where do you get the share?

We are going to take it from others. There's no doubt. That's why you have to create a clear incentive for partners that there's a reason to come to Dell Technologies. It's not only because we're the strongest in storage, but we're going to be the strongest in servers, the strongest in clients, the strongest in virtualization -- the full profile presents an opportunity for a partner to really bet big on Dell Technologies. And in order to incent them to do so, we put money on the table.

Who's the most vulnerable vendor out there in the market when you look at your competition?

If our expectation is that we are in a gain-share, grow-at-a-premium-to-market, we have to go after all the core competitors. We're looking at NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Veeam, Rubrik -- then you expand into the hyper-converged infrastructure ecosystem, you can imagine the list there.

What about product positioning and where do Dell EMC partners need to place their focus?

When there was positioning confusion, what happened was everything doesn't go at the pace you want it to go because you just don't know what you ought to be driving, what you lead with. When we created that clarity in the midmarket saying, 'Hey, in these use cases, we want to be real clear that we want to be driving our SC [Series] portfolio.' We literally made that pivot not that long ago from a positioning standpoint. I look at the quarter to date today, my SC [Series] growth is 20 percent subsequent to that move and making sure all the team members inside the organization -- what we call our Technical Sales Reps that are inside that support the outside -- all are very much incented to be driving that same positioning, that same alignment, that same compensation model. You make that flip and all of a sudden you saw that engine revving very quickly. So when you eliminate ambiguity and are clear on the positioning on a workload basis to say, 'In this scenario you go in and run this play' -- boom, you win. So we already have the data to say, 'Got that right, let's do more of it.'

Do you think you took the eye off the ball in storage?

I don't think it's an eye off the ball. I think it's focus. When you have an organization that has a portfolio that's this big, then all of a sudden you ask that same organization to sell and promote a portfolio that's twice or three times the size and you don't do enough differentiation that will drive the behaviors through the compensation engine -- then they'll go the path of least resistance. Now that we have almost a year under our belt, we're realizing, 'OK, now how do we get the focus back on the parts of the business that are clearly important for us?' Losing share is unacceptable, so what are all of the actions we're going to take to make sure we're in a position of strength and align all our team members and align all of our partners to help in that journey?