Dell EMC’s grand statement

Shaking hands business deal
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A new partner plan isn't 'historic', it's essential



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16 February 2017 | 0

Billy MacInnesNo one could accuse the press release announcing Dell EMC’s new integrated partner programme of being unequivocal about its importance to the company given the vendor used the term “historic” to describe it.

Despite the rhetoric, however, much in the actual scheme appeared to be less historic than merely to be expected, such as dividing it into three tiers, a deal registration programme, single partner portal, rebates and MDF, finance and credit, services, support, training etc, etc.

Nevertheless, Kevin Rhone, director, channel acceleration, Dell EMC Enterprise Strategy Group, claimed it went “above and beyond what we’ve seen previously in the industry in terms of partner support and recognition. No doubt this will be highly lucrative to partners and Dell EMC and will enable further growth throughout the industry”.

One area where things could have become interesting in Ireland was in distribution. Dell EMC revealed plans to consolidate its distribution partners in the new programme to work “more closely with key global distribution partners who are placing bets on the company”.

Could that have consequences for Ireland? The vendor stressed it would “maintain a smaller set of local distribution partners by country” and – in keeping with that statement – the distribution situation in Ireland remains the same as it was before the new programme was unveiled.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the announcement was the launch of an Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) Incumbency for commercial accounts. This is intended to expand on the existing Line of Business (LOB) Incumbency for Storage programme, launched in October last year.

LOB Incumbency was designed to recognise “the relationships partners have established with customers based on historical business performance with the goal to minimise direct conflict and ensure alignment between the Dell EMC sales team and the incumbent partners”.

The ISG Incumbency covers all ISG lines of business, including server, networking, storage, backup, converged/hyperconverged and solutions on qualifying accounts. Dell EMC argued ISG Incumbency would “provide more predictability than ever before to enable partners to aggressively grow their business with Dell EMC. ISG Incumbency allows us to mutually play to win with our partners.”

It claimed the ISG Incumbency would “protect the entire data centre solution and enable cross-selling of the full ISG portfolio. In addition, partners are provided the opportunity to earn incumbency on new customers or new lines of business on existing customers across the ISG portfolio”

This sounds like a really good idea. In theory. Granting partners a recognised incumbency to prevent the Dell EMC direct sales team from targeting their accounts is admirable. But will it work?

While I don’t believe there will be too much of an issue in policing incumbency when it comes to potential conflict between the channel partner and the Dell EMC direct sales team, I wonder what will happen when it comes to competition between partners?

Enforcing an incumbency for a single product line sounds simple enough but how do you apply that to multiple products and solutions? What happens, for example, if a LOB incumbent tries to make a land grab for other parts of the ISG portfolio but there are other channel partners selling those products into the customer? Who is best qualified for the ISG Incumbency? And how does Dell EMC make that decision?

And if Dell EMC grants ISG incumbency to a channel partner, is it locking others out of the process of bidding for contracts with that customer? If so, does that constitute anti-competitive behaviour? What will the customer think about Dell EMC deciding which channel partner it should deal with for all its ISG products?

You might counter that Dell EMC won’t be forcing customers to do any such thing, but if it nominates a preferred partner as an incumbent that has to stand for something. If it doesn’t and there’s no difference to customers between an ISG incumbent and any other channel partner, why should anyone bother with it? You could overcome this problem by having more than one ISG incumbent, but wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?

Dell EMC says that “operationalising” (what a horrible word) the ISG Incumbency programme “is actively being worked [on] with details to follow”. Until those details emerge, we won’t know how the ISG Incumbency will operate in practice but it will be incumbent on Dell EMC to make the scheme work in a way that keeps everybody – vendor, partner(s) and customer – happy.

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