This week is Dell’s analyst event and today is Michael Dell’s time on stage. This is somewhat historic because yesterday was Dell’s birthday, which is clearly an interesting time for the company because it is going through a massive transformation.
The fascinating thing about this transformation is that Dell is going in a direction that is quite atypical of a hardware company; one that technology buyers should like but one that isn’t without risk.
To facilitate this change, Dell has moved from executing just a few acquisitions to cranking out 8 in about 12 months - becoming one of the most aggressively changing companies in the technology segment.
In its morning session Dell was primarily focused on their most recent acquisitions but I’ll try to point out some of the major themes. Build Products folks Want to Buy This may seem obvious, but the normal approach for a technology company, Apple aside, is to have engineers create a product, toss it over the fence to sales and marketing, and then drive it into the market whether the market initially wants it or not.
The initial "ah-hah moment" in today’s presentation was from the Kace unit and the need to flip this to finding things folks want to buy and then building that.
This tends to create an enviable problem of not being able to fulfill demand and after being aquiried by Dell Kace sales have increased 400% as Dell’s channel was able to step up and solve the channel limitations that a small company like Kace could not. Solve Problems – Don’t Create Them Boomi, another recent acquisition, showcases this mind set as a product, which breaks from the typical hardware approach of approaching the market with a forklift upgrade. Boomi integrates what they already have and technology buyers - which I think many technology sellers don’t understand - aren’t staying awake at night trying to figure out how to buy more things but on how to get the things they already have to work together.
Boomi addresses this need and the interesting thing is that folks that can free up resources because they have achieved increased efficiency through integration are actually more likely to buy new hardware. Serve and Protect One thing that clearly is keeping folks up at night is the level of attack on information stores highlighted by the Wikileaks disclosures and the recent Sony security breach.
SecureWorks, another recent acquisition, is focused on counter cyber insurgency. Kind of the Dell version of an FBI, this is more than a "technology only" approach, as when attacked, this unit mobilizes to eliminate the threat. Make Data Fluid Finally, the last presenter in this session was Compellent. They are driving the Fluid Data initiative which builds on the idea of using a combination of what companies have and new technology to assure that data is protected and goes where it is needed - wherever that is.
Data management remains a very high concern and with the massive number of acquisitions and mergers the complexity of the resulting data infrastructure which exists in many companies has become nearly unmanageable. Compellent is driving a cross company initiative to provide solutions to this problem. Wrapping Up: Overarching Strategy – Be Customer not Product Centric The overarching strategy across all of these units is to find ways to make things that folks already have work better and develop relationships with customers where, unlike many other vendors, the customer looks at Dell as a problem solver, rather than a source of more problems to solve.
What is also subtly part of this initiative is that many of these solutions were identified and first deployed to solve Dell’s own problems with regard to the acquisitions they have made, and to better integration problems which Dell acquired along with these companies. Using solutions that are found to address problems the vendor shares with its clients is one of the best ways to understand and communicate the benefits of acquired offerings - both accurately and honestly - because they become legitimate advocates, rather than shills for their own products.
It is surprising how many technology companies don’t deploy their own offerings and don’t understand why their customers, when they learn of this, don’t trust them.
What Dell is doing goes beyond just eating your own dog food; it is more buying food you’d prefer to eat yourself and then sharing the food with your clients. Personally I like this latter approach better. A belated Happy Birthday to Dell! If they keep on this very customer focused path, the next 27 years should be amazing.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.