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By | Kelly Fiveash 26th May 2009 08:02

Dell channel boss turns lights down low for partners

Searches for intimacy amid desktop decline

Dell has admitted it will never be the number one computer manufacturer within the channel, where Hewlett-Packard remains at the top of the pile.

The vendor, which saw a dramatic 22 per cent drop in PC shipments in the first quarter of this year, is instead hoping to be seen as the best rather than biggest "gorilla of the channel", according to Dell's new UK channel boss Paul Harrison.

Speaking at last week's Channel Expo event in Birmingham, Harrison outlined to The Register his plans for snuggling up to resellers in his new role that he described as "the greatest job in Dell".

At the end of the last financial year Michael Dell decided to reorganise the company's entire business by stripping it into segments, a little over a year after Dell finally slipped into an ice cold bed with the channel.

The result led to management casualties including the sudden departure of Andy Dow as Dell UK channel boss, who was replaced by Harrison.

Now, a few months down the line since Harrison took on the mammoth task of convincing the channel that Dell was serious this time about embracing the indirect business model it had shunned for years, the firm faces an uphill struggle to retain its share in a choppy market.

Harrison is convinced that being up close and personal with Dell's partners is the best way to woo what has, up to now, been a fairly lukewarm channel.

"I use the word several times, it’s intimacy - the channel's intimacy with their customer and our intimacy with PartnerDirect [Dell's channel programme] and our partners, because every situation is different and we want to acknowledge that," he said.

But is Dell really feeling the channel love yet?

"What I’ve noticed is that some partners who are entrenched with other manufacturers have approached us because we’ve now passed a milestone where they think right, Dell’s been involved, they’ve got the track record, it’s time to have a conversation," Harrison told El Reg.

"That’s manifesting what we’re hearing and seeing everyday in terms of real incremental growth in our partner community, especially from solution and big branded partners."

So what about that nasty 22 per cent drop in shipments last quarter, then?

"The reality is that IDC has downgraded the year and what we're seeing is a lot of growth in things like virtual desktop, which means you don’t need to have the PC on the desk," said Harrison.

"We’ve got a big drive as well to get our customers to have mobility, so laptops, virtual desktops and so on are all going to be eating away at what was once the barometer of the market in terms of PC shipments. The market economy is evolving and every vendor is following that trend."

Harrison admitted that Dell still has a great deal to do to convince the channel it can support its indirect partners in the same way other hardware vendors already do.

"It’s only now that we’ve been able to embark on integration with the channel following the reorg we went through in Q1," he said. "That’s key - that is the business, it’s making sure we’ve got the traction and the proposition. Lining up all the ducks to make that happen.

"We’ve got an integrated model, these are customer choices: they want the option to be serviced through our partners or through our segments and we’ve got to make it happen, and we will." ®

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