Nine Signs Michael Dell Will Be the Comeback Kid

14111426889_67f83375a7_zA couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Dell’s annual analyst conference (DAAC), an event I’ve attended for many years. The big difference this year, of course, is that this is the first DAAC since Michael Dell took his now 30-year old company private several months ago.

As a longtime Dell watcher, I’ve been tracking Dell’s journey from hardware vendor to become an end-to-end IT solutions and services provider (see my 2011, 2012 and 2013 perspectives). The event persuaded me that Dell is well on its way to accomplishing its mission to reinvent itself and offer customers a differentiated, more cost-effective and easier-to-use IT experience.

Why? Because Michael Dell has not only unchained his company from Wall Street’s myopic quarterly demands, but because he is also building a powerful value proposition for customers that puts Dell on a solid comeback trail. Key evidence for Dell being on the right track include:

1. Customers increasingly view Dell as a key partner. Dell’s mission to engage in deeper conversations with customers of all sizes is paying off. At DAAC, customers used superlatives to describe how Dell is delivering more complete solutions, higher value, lower costs, and a better customer experience. For instance, Ted Colbert, Boeing CIO, discussed how the Dell relationship has expanded from day-to-day operations to some of the most strategic initiatives. He also described working with Dell as “purposeful,” in contrast to a more scatter shot approach of “just throwing hardware at us like some other vendors.” Exasol CEO Aaron Auld talked about how Dell “provided them with the support they needed to win new business and grow,” and Jenkon Director of Information Systems, Steve Shinsel described Dell’s end-to-end solutions support as “phenomenal.” Yes, I know vendors handpick customers to attend these events, but in addition to the unprecedented level of enthusiasm I heard from these customers, Dell’s aggregate NPS (Net Promoter Score) of 52 and 90% customer retention are best in class.

2. Business is growing. Since going private, Dell says it has added 18,000 new customers to its ranks and is seeing steady growth in it’s software and services businesses, among others. In fact, the company’s PC business has enjoyed five consecutive quarters of market share growth. I think customers were naturally anxious as they waited to see how things would play out, but are now giving Dell a vote of confidence with their wallets. Furthermore, the company appears to be headed toward profitable growth, according to CFO Tom Sweet, who told us the company paid down $1 billion of debt in the first quarter of this year. Dell’s goal is to get back to “investment grade” status within the next four years.

 Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.54.52 PM3. Entrepreneurial DNA runs deep and can now fully surface. Check out Michael Dell’s twitter handle! He knows what it takes to build a company from scratch, and being self-employed suits him. Freed up from Wall Street constraints, Dell can again operate in both a more strategic and agile fashion, and infuse employees with the entrepreneurial spirit as well. Dell’s high-level strategy remains the same to bring complete IT solutions to customers, be accessible and listen to what customer want. But the company can now more easily place some new bets to fulfill this mission. For example, Dell is investing to become a value-added cloud broker, positioning itself as an advisor to customers, rather than an OEM. In a very cloudy world, Dell’s Switzerland approach should be attractive to many customers. Furthermore, Dell has upped itsR&D spending from 1.6% of revenue to 2.1%. Last but not least, its hard to think of a more socially savvy tech CEOlistening ears are on!


14296498661_36be143384_z4. Execs and employees are all in.
 Other than customers, employees are any company’s best advocates. But, when there’s a lot of uncertainty in corporations, employees usually look for the nearest exit. But Dell is an exception. Despite a long, drawn out, uncertain and contentious (aka Carl Icahn) privatization process, Dell retained many of its top execs, such as Karen Quintos Senior VP and CMO; Jeff Clark Vice Chairman, Operations and President, Client Solutions; and Tom Sweet, Senior VP and CFO. Dell also attracted the fresh talent required for its transformation, including Andi Karaboutis, CIO; John Swainson, President, Software; Suresh C. Vaswani, President, Services. Renewed energy, excitement and loyalty were palpable in my conversations with employees too: when I asked how and why they stayed the course, they said they believed in Michael Dell’s vision—and several told me they bleed “Dell blue.”

5. Investment in a collaborative partnering model. Dell’s direct connection to customers provides Dell with many advantages, and will continue to be a key route to market for the company. But, Dell is investing in the channel to ensure it can sell to and service customers in today’s increasingly omni-channel world.  Dell has bridged what has sometimes been a gap in trust between it and the channel with a more collaborative partnering model. Dell is integrating regional channel and direct sales structures, paying Dell sales more for sales via the channel, and linking up regionally and locally with partners to pursue joint opportunities. Dell’s expanded portfolio also provides more partners with more headroom to grow with Dell. The results? Channel sales grew faster than direct sales in last quarter, and attach rates for channel sales are now within 3 to 4 points of the attach rates with Dell direct sales.

dell legacy of good6. Ethics, sustainability and diversity. In May, Dell was recognized as a 2014 World’s Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute, an independent center of research promoting best practices in corporate ethics and governance. Quoting the Institute, the EI award is given to companies “that continue to raise the bar on ethical leadership and corporate behavior.” Dell has also been recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability for many years, and recently upped its commitment when it announced its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. Among the 21 corporate responsibility goals outlined in the plan, Dell has set 12 goals specific to environmental sustainability. Building on existing initiatives, these 12 environmental goals focus on three areas: reducing the environmental impact of company operations, driving social and environmental responsibility in the industry and supply chain, and promoting technology’s role in addressing environmental challenges. Finally, Dell’s executive team and workforce are diverse. Dell has also stepped up to help women entrepreneurs via Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). Recent research from The Intelligence Group’s Cassandra Report indicates that among millennials, 59% say that a company’s ethics and practices are important factors in deciding what brands to buy. Pretty powerful stuff—and very tough to fake.

14113197698_5fef929bdb_z7. Stringing pearls instead of looking for one big rock. Dell has been investing strategically to acquire the IP and expertise it needs to package software and services in a more digestible way. While the theme at last year’s DAAC centered on the 12 acquisition Dell made, this year, the vendor spent more time discussing progress to integrate them and bring more complete solution value to customers. For instance, John Swainson discussed how, in the mobile management area, Dell combined Wsye, KACE and other assets for a single enterprise mobile management (EMM) solution to manage PCs, Macs and mobile devices. The vendor is looking to doing something similar in the cloud, giving customers a way to manage public, private, multi-cloud environments with open, scalable solutions. More recently, Dell acquired StatSoft, and intends to leverage this to reduce entry costs and barriers for customers in the analytics area. Just as important, Swainson emphasized that Dell will follow “the 80/20 rule,” to keep its software solutions as simple as possible to acquire and use.

14113201388_6075815e58_z8. The PC isn’t dead! There’s no question that the traditional PC market is declining, but Jeff Clarke took the stage to the tune of “we are not dead yet” from Monty Python’s movie Spamalot to deliver his “Top 10 reasons the PC is (not) dead” message. Good news for Dell, as PCs are the entry point for 70% of new customers. Of course, Dell also offers a growing array of other client devices—from Wyse thin clients to Chromebooks to tablets and laptops.

9. SMB growth and focus. Good segue from #8, as Dell’s fastest growing client business is the SMB market, which grew 28% in the last quarter. In my opinion, the “personal” in PC translates into Dell’s capability to expand SMB business into other solution areas. Furthermore, in an age of technology consumerization, consumer, prosumer and small business are inextricably linked. PCs provide Dell with a launch pad to expand SMB business into other areas. Dell’s direct model, which enables Dell to reach deep into SMBs, its continued focus on listening to customers, its new, collaborative partnering model and vision to sell more value at lower cost, should help keep Dell on this SMB growth trajectory.

In a nutshell, this isn’t your father’s Dell—or Wall Street’s Dell. It is Michael Dell’s Dell now, and it’s starting to benefit not only from being a private company, but also from the fact that as a private entity, it can more fully capitalize on the equally advantageous qualities summarized above.

 

Six Surprises That May Change Your View of Dell

Dellworld 2013Dell’s journey to transform itself from a hardware company to a solutions vendor has been ongoing for a couple of years. To achieve that, the company has been acquiring, building and blending hardware, software, services, cloud and open standards to broaden its technology footprint. But, much of Dell’s progress has been buried in the drama of the fight to take the company private.

As the first major event since the company’s tumultuous–but ultimately successful–struggle to go private, Dell World 2013 promised to be somewhat of a bellwether. Would Dell, newly freed from Wall Street’s constraints, reframe itself as innovative, end-to-end solutions provider?

Of course, one event won’t change things overnight. But Dell is off to a good start. At Dell World, the company unleashed, unveiled and underscored a comprehensive, innovative vision for its future. If you still view Dell as a stodgy hardware provider, here are six things it is doing that may surprise you–and prompt you to look at the company in a new light.  Consider that Dell is:

  1. Becoming an über-cloud provider: Except for its role as an arms supplier, the cloud has been a murky space for Dell. But at Dell World, it announced that Microsoft, CenturyLink, Dropbox and Google are on board with its expanded Dell Cloud Partner Program which is designed to give customers more choice and flexibility in the cloud, and to provide end-to-end support for offerings from multiple cloud vendors. For instance, customers gain the ability to manage single or multiple public, private and hybrid clouds through one pane of glass via Dell Cloud Manager (formerly Enstratius).
  2. Enabling customers to build open, private-cloud solutions based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack PlatformDell is the first OEM vendor to collaborate with Red Hat to provide businesses with co-engineered solutions and dedicated support and services for OpenStack. The goal is give businesses more confidence in using OpenStack as an alternative to proprietary IaaS and PaaS (infrastructure and platform as-a-service) alternatives.
  3. Consolidating channel and direct sales teams into one organization: To support its transition from hardware maker to solutions provider, Dell announced that it is combining direct sales and partner sales into a single organization–and providing a 20% “compensation accelerator” to motivate direct sales to work with channel partners on seven solution areas. Dell also announced expanded profit and coverage opportunities for partners, including turning over 200,000 named accounts to the channel.
  4. Innovating in industries: I knew that Dell is a top technology provider in the healthcare industry, much of this a result of its acquisition of Perot Systems. But didn’t know that it is the top IT provider in healthcare, and is helping pioneer change in this quickly evolving industry. For instance, Dell Services helped launched a state exchange for the Massachusetts Health Connector, and manages and secures Dell Cloud Clinical Archive, one of the largest (with nearly 7 billion images) cloud-based, vendor-neutral medical image archives in the world. At Dell World, te company announced a new cloud-based hospital administration system (HIS), which will launch first in India. Dell is also increasing its focus on other industries, including finance, where it has launched digital transformation frameworks and payment transformation services to help banks reduce costs, retain customers and improve compliance. In the insurance area, Dell has won more than 10 multi-million dollar contracts in the last eighteen months with its Third Party Administration platform.
  5. Going mobile. Sure, you know that Dell has mobile devices–from the new convertible (laptop to tablet) XPS 11 and Venue 11 Pro tablet to the newly released Dell Chromebook 11 (designed for the education market). But, building on prior solutions , Dell announced Enterprise Mobility Management, a unified mobile management solution to managed devices, apps, and content, and Secure Remote Access Gateway to protect endpoints, which will be available through the channel in 2014. I also learned that Dell Services offers custom mobile app development.
  6. Extending its investments in innovation: In his keynote, Michael Dell unveiled two new programs designed to foster innovation. First, Dell has created a research division to pursue organic innovation with a five to ten-year focus. Second, Dell has upped its investment in Dell Ventures with a $300 million dollar Strategic Innovation Venture Fund, a five-fold increase over its initial $60M investment. The Venture Fund invests in early to growth stage companies in the technology areas that Dell is focusing on–storage, cloud computing, big data, data center, security and mobility. Dell’s model is to co-invest with venture capitalists, serve as a board advisor, and provide product and go-to-market resources to the companies it invests in. Dell also reaffirmed its pledge to provide a broad range of entrepreneurs with technology, financing, networking and knowledge via the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. It highlighted this focus with Dell Pitch Slam which attracted 6-8 late stage startups from several regional events to Dell World, where they pitched their ideas to Michael Dell and other judges. Check out the winners–Guavus, Neverware, and Fantoo.

Summary and Perspective

M DellMaybe as important as the collective weight of all the announcements offered at Dell World 2013, Michael Dell deserves high praise for not only retaining so many employees, but for inspiring staff to stay the course through the trials and tribulations of the privatization process.

As Dell stated in his keynote, “I feel I’m part of the world’s biggest start-up.” His attitude seemed to be contagious among employees, creating a sense of excitement that I hadn’t seen at the past two Dell World events. This renewed commitment and energy from within is the essential first step to a successful transformation, and getting customers and the broader market to view Dell in a new light as well.

Disclaimer: I attended Dell World as an invited media guest.

Carving A Green IT Pathway for SMBs

electric_circuitIn today’s always-on world, we are all using more technology. Chances are, you rely on several devices – smartphones, notebooks, tablets, and PCs. You’re also probably connecting to more servers to access more apps, and using more storage to house all the information you need to access.

Our appetite for technology is likely to continue unabated because, simply put, we like it. It helps us runs our businesses better, work more productively, stay in touch with friends, and get through holiday shopping more quickly. However, our increasing reliance on technology has environmental consequences. From devices to data centers, technological products require metals, minerals, wood products and chemicals, and energy.

Unfortunately, we are not using these resources in a sustainable way. A case in point is our handling of e-waste: just 27% of the e-waste generated in the U.S. in 2010 was recycled. Consider also the fact that, most servers run at utilization rates of 25% or less, but require just as much energy as if it they were being used at 100% capacity. This means that when a server is only performing about a quarter of the work that it ‘s capable of, it still uses the same amount of power as if it were operating at full tilt.

As I discussed in the first post of this two-part series, Dell’s Green IT Growth Path: Paving the Way for SMBs, both technology vendors and consumers have an important role to play in curbing the negative environmental impact of technology. In this post, I discuss how Dell is raising the bar yet again, and how SMBs can follow suit.

Dell Raises the Green IT Bar

delllogoDell has been recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability for many years. Last month, it significantly upped its commitment when it announced its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. Among the 21 corporate responsibility goals outlined in the plan, Dell has set 12 goals specific to environmental sustainability. Building on existing initiatives, these 12 environmental goals focus on three areas: reducing the environmental impact of company operations, driving social and environmental responsibility in the industry and supply chain, and promoting technology’s role in addressing environmental challenges.

Specifically, Dell’s ambitious goals include plans to:

  • Reduce the energy intensity of its product portfolio by 80%
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from facility and logistics operations by 50%
  • Reduce Dell’s use of fresh water in water-stressed regions by 20%
  • Ensure 90% of waste generated in Dell-operated buildings is diverted from landfills
  • Develop and maintain sustainability initiatives in 100% of Dell-operated buildings
  • Ensure 100% of product packaging is sourced from sustainable materials
  • Reduce the energy intensity of its product portfolio by 80%
  • Use 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in its products
  • Ensure 100% of Dell packaging is either recyclable or compostable
  • Phase out environmentally sensitive materials
  • Recover 2 billion pounds of used electronics
  • Identify and quantify the environmental benefits of Dell-developed solutions

Slide1A Green Pathway for SMBs

“OK,” you may be thinking. “Dell is a big company and a major technology producer, so its strong environmental commitment can have a major impact. But for me as an SMB —using technology, not creating it—what role do I have in all this? And why should I bother?”

The answer is:  every business has a role, and reasons to go green. Most businesses waste not only environmental resources, but money and time as well. Often, these are resources that could be invested in developing new products or services, or to hire and train employees. In fact, even if you aren’t a tree hugger, it makes good business sense to green your IT environment and culture.

No matter the size of your business or where you’re starting from, you can take steps to go green and save green. For example:

  • Shop green. When buying new products, shop with vendors that walk the Green IT walk. Look for certifications from ENERGY STAR, the U.S. EPA’s mark designating energy efficiency; and from EPEAT, the mark of sustainability for electronics from the Green Electronics Council, which looks at multiple environmental criteria. Check out this video to learn more about EPEAT. TCO, a Swedish eco-label, is used mostly in Europe, and includes ergonomics, energy consumption, and recyclability factors. Whenever possible, buy from vendors that use eco-friendly packaging to reduce packaging waste, and put recycled plastics to work in their products.
  • Virtualize. Since hardware itself is relatively inexpensive, even SMBs often find themselves with server and storage sprawl. As mentioned above, these systems require the same amount of power at 25% utilization as at higher levels.  Moreover, managing 20 servers at 25% utilization is more complex and requires more people than i managing 10 servers at 50% utilization. While you have to invest in initial startup costs, virtualized server and storage resources typically take up less space, require less power to run, and help simplify maintenance. For instance, at just 12 inches wide and 19 inches high (30cm x 48cm), Dell PowerEdge VRTX is a simple and affordable way to run high-end, on-site applications with local storage, standardized infrastructure and centralized management. Incorporating Fresh Air capabilities, VRTX is made for the office environment. It uses standard 100V – 240V AC power, and doesn’t require any specialized cooling.  You can just plug it into the wall, and it runs as quietly as an air conditioner.
  • Reduce paper and ink waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year. Even in this digital age, paper use in the average business is growing by 22% a year; at this rate, you’ll double the amount of paper you use in just 3.3 years unless you make a conscious effort to reduce. Switch from paper-based marketing, forms and faxes to digital solutions for email marketing, invoicing and other functions whenever possible. Buy remanufactured toner cartridges and get personal ink cartridges refilled to save money and cut waste.
  • Decrease power consumption. When buying new equipment, look for ENERGY STAR ratings of 5.0 and above. Use “set it and forget” tools, such as smart power strips, to automatically turn off peripheral devices when you turn off the main device.
  • Recycle old equipment. The U.S. EPA estimates that only 27% of electronic waste was collected for recycling in 2010. But it’s getting easy to recycle. Dell’s Asset Recovery Program offers an environmentally appropriate and convenient way to dispose of computer equipment. Or you can donate unwanted devices via Dell and Goodwill’s Reconnect Partnership—Goodwill gets the proceeds and you get a tax write-off.
  • Replace travel with web conferencing. Web conferencing reduces fuel consumption and saves time and money. Ecopreneurist estimates that if every small business owner in the United States were to conduct one teleconference in lieu of a domestic business trip, we would save $25.4 billion dollars in travel expenses and 10.5 million tons of C02 in just one year.
  • Embrace telecommuting. While it may not work for every employee or business, research network Undress4Success estimates that the United States could save $500 billion a year, reduce Persian Gulf oil imports by 28 percent and take the equivalent of 7 million cars off the road if workers were allowed to telecommute just half the time. Collaboration tools—from Google Apps to Microsoft Office 365—make working from home and staying connected easy.
  • Think thin. Thin clients are cheaper and simpler for manufacturers to build than traditional PCs or notebooks—and cheaper for you to buy and operate. For instance, Dell Wyse cloud clients use just 7 – 15 watts of energy on average when in full operation. In contrast,  a PC uses 80 watts of energy or more. In addition, it takes fewer materials and less energy to produce a thin client than a PC. Thin clients run Web browsers, and/or remote desktop virtualization software, so you can use the desktop environment that you’re used to. Desktop virtualization also frees users from being tied to a specific workstation and creates greater security because it is centrally stored on servers, instead of on local clients.

Perspective

Technology vendors such as Dell are leading the charge to design server, storage and client devices that consume less energy, build and package computers with eco-friendly materials, and provide recycling programs to reduce ewaste.

But creating a sustainable business isn’t just for big business. Everyone needs to think about the environmental impact of technology, and how they can put green technologies and practices in place to contribute to environmental sustainability. As an SMB, you can start taking steps today— not only to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, but to gain significant business and IT benefits as well.

This is the second in a two-part series sponsored by Dell that discusses why green IT is important, and how SMBs can develop and benefit from their own green IT initiatives.

Dell’s Green IT Growth Path: Paving the Way for SMBs

Slide1We are all becoming increasingly dependent on technology–connecting more devices to more servers and networks to communicate, collaborate, automate and get our jobs done. New mobile and cloud technologies put more information and resources at our fingertips than ever before. We’re updating solutions, devices and infrastructure sooner rather than later to leverage technology that can help us to improve employee productivity, attract new customers and streamline operations.

But we also need to think about the resources required to develop and use technology. What chemicals, metals and synthetic materials are needed manufacture and package bright and shiny new technology devices and systems? Where do these materials come from? Where do they wind up when we discard them for newer ones? How much energy does it take create technology products? And how much power is required to cool massive cloud and corporate data centers–or even just a couple of servers in your office?

While we tend to think that only IT vendors and big businesses can have a significant impact on the environmental impact of technology, all businesses, regardless of size, can use green technologies and practices to contribute to environmental sustainability–and at the same time, reduce costs.

What Is Green IT?

Green IT is the practice of managing technology resources in a more efficient and environmentally responsible way. Relevant areas include:

  • Reducing e-waste. Many metals, minerals, wood products and chemicals required to make and package technology devices. According to the Foundation for IT Sustainability (http://www.ffits.org/), ten percent of the world’s gold production is used in electronics, but only 30 percent of this gold is recovered from scrap. Even worse, only 10% of the copper used in electronics is recovered. Overall, the U.S. EPA estimates that in 2010, just 27% of the 2,440,000 tons of e-waste generated in the U.S. was recycled. This means that 73% is sitting in someone’s attic or trashed–potentially oozing into the soil and eventually into rivers, streams and oceans. In addition, many of these resources are not renewable–so we hasten depletion of a finite supply if we don’t reuse them.
  • Decreasing energy consumption. Consider the energy used to power our devices and data centers. For the most part, this energy is generated through coal-fired plants, which creates the greenhouse gas emissions that are a major cause of global warming. According to this Digital Power Group report, today’s technology and telecom ecosystem now consumes almost 10% of the world’s electricity-about 50% more energy than global aviation industry.
  • Solving environmental issues. Technology solutions can help us understand and remedy and/or prevent environmental issues. For instance, climate change modeling requires super-fast computers to crunch through data to calculate things such as a how fast sea levels are rising, or the likelihood of hurricanes and storms becoming stronger.

According to a recent BLS Green Technologies and Practices (GTP) survey, 57% of U.S. businesses use green technologies or practices to improve energy efficiency within their establishments, and over half use these green IT to reduce waste materials.

SMBs that want to start or build on a green IT strategy should consider not only how they can use technology in a more sustainable way, but also purchase solutions from vendors with a commitment to developing green IT solutions and services.

Why Dell Cares About Green IT

delllogoTechnology vendors have a major role to play in green IT. They can build computers with more environmentally friendly materials, design them to consume less energy, provide recycling programs to dispose of old systems, develop virtualization and cloud computing alternatives, and provide service to help businesses that want to go green.

Dell embraced green IT from early days, when it began its “Design for Disassembly, Upgradeability, Serviceability” initiative. In 1994, Dell became a founding member of the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star Program, integrating energy efficiency into every product line.

The company’s impetus is to make it easier for customers to be green. Dell makes it a point to design with the environment in mind and by embracing sustainability in its own practices, it helps customers reach their own sustainability goals while taking control of resources that create value.

Since then, the company has become an innovator in environmental sustainability.

In its fiscal year 2013, Dell has achieved several environmental milestones:

  • Doubled use of green electricity in Dell facilities. In 2013, 16 Dell facilities purchased 100% renewably generated electricity, more than double the number doing so in 2012.
  • Slimmed down packaging. By switching to padded envelopes for more than 500 items, Dell has reduced shipment weights by 73% to decrease packaging waste.
  • Increased use of recycled plastics. Dell has put 7.8 million pounds of recycled soda bottles and other plastics back to work to create backings for monitors and housing for desktops.
  • Expanded its EPEAT program. Dell customers can now recycle over 200 products, including printers, in nine countries. Dell has recycled more than 1 billion pounds of electronics since 2008.
  • Grew its employee work from home program. 20% of Dell’s workforce now telecommutes, saving an estimated 13 million kWh of energy, and 6,785 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions–and save $14 million annually on facilities expenses.

Spreading the Green Around

Dell has extended its sustainability initiatives well beyond its own internal operations and goals. For instance, in 2013, the company added social and environmental (SER) criteria to its global supplier selection process, including criteria for clean water and air discharges.

In addition to broadening its EPEAT imitative, Dell is helping customers build proactive, sustainable IT strategies that not only benefit the environment, but save money and streamline operations. Dell Services helps customers assess current technology practices and determine options to green up existing practices, and/or develop new approaches to meet sustainability and fiscal goals.

With each new generation, Dell products consume less power. For instance, Dell has reduced energy consumption in its desktop and notebooks 25% since 2008, and Dell servers are warranted to run for extended periods at up to 113°F/45°C with only fresh air cooling.  Dell KACE Appliances offer green IT management capabilities that conserve energy by controlling how quickly desktops go into low power states.

Taking a green IT approach can also provide companies with benefits beyond energy reduction and cost savings:

  • The University of Nebraska-Omaha slashed energy use by 93% and also increased student access to client computers by replacing traditional desktops with Dell Wyse thin clients.
  • Amerijet cut facility costs by 60 percent through energy efficiency and reduced the time to print a manifest and close flights by 96 percent by implementing a virtualized data center and new business processes.

Perspective

Dell and other IT vendors have a huge role to play in ensuring that we use consume and use technology in a more sustainable way.

But the green IT story isn’t just for Dell and other big businesses. SMBs can develop green IT strategies to reduce their carbon footprint, and gain business and IT benefits in the process.

In the next post in this series, I’ll provide some practical tips to help you get started or continue on the path to help your business reap the benefits of going green.

This is the first in a two-part series sponsored by Dell that discusses why green IT is important, and how SMBs can develop and benefit from their own green IT initiatives.

Agile Self-Ownership: Network Redux’s Growth Story

baroquon_Add_MoneyMany people associate startups with venture capital funding. But, according to a recent Kauffman study, venture capital is the exception, with only 1% of new businesses getting funded by VCs. In addition, many entrepreneurs don’t want to relinquish control and decision-making to investors.

While some entrepreneurs can bootstrap their businesses with their own funds or via bank loans, many startups–especially in the tech industry–need to find alternative ways to fund infrastructure required to build and grow their businesses.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Thomas Brenneke, founder and President of Network Redux about the innovative approach he’s taken to create and grow an “agile self-ownership business” in partnership with Dell.

Network Redux’s Innovator’s Dilemma

nr_logo_300dpiNetwork Redux was founded in 2004. Initially, the Portland, Oregon-based company provided inexpensive, shared web-hosting services for very small businesses. Demand for services was strong, and the business grew. But the market for low-cost services was quickly commoditizing, and according to Brenneke, “becoming a race to the bottom.”

However, as some of Network Redux’s clients grew, they began asking for dedicated hosting services. This offered Brenneke the opportunity to develop new, more profitable business. But it also posed the challenge of funding the much larger capital outlays required to build a dedicated hosting environment for each new client.

Complicating matters further, the timing couldn’t have been worse. It was 2008, and even though Network Redux was profitable and had deals on the table, most banks just weren’t lending to small businesses.

Finally, Brenneke didn’t want to cede control and decision-making to external investors. As he puts it, “We built the business on an outsourcing model from the outset. We didn’t hire a lot of people, we outsourced when possible to avoid debt and interference from investors. I wanted to continue to grow the business, and maintain an “agile self-ownership” model. ” But, Brenneke adds, “I threw my hands up in the air. To execute on these high value contracts, I needed to invest in infrastructure, but I didn’t have a way to fund the investment.

Financing Agile Self-Ownership

Network Redux had been a Dell customer since day one, standardizing on Dell servers and storage. Over the years, Brenneke had formed a strong relationship with his Dell account team. “I looked at Dell more as a partner than a vendor. When I started the company in my twenties, my business experience was limited. I learned so much from Dell about everything I needed to provide strong shared hosting and private cloud services,” notes Brenneke. “I could just pick up the phone and ask, “How do I do this?”, and Dell would teach me. There’s no question that our relationship with Dell helps us provide better service to our customers.”

Brenneke was confident that Dell’s products would continue to provide the cost, reliability, performance and support he would need for competitive, high availability dedicated hosting business. Now, Brenneke decided to share his financing dilemma with Dell. “I explained to my account rep what I needed and why. He connected me to Dell Financial Services (DFS). I had a long conversation with the Dell credit rep, and they looked over my financial statements and business model. For the first time, I had a lender explain to me what they were really looking for when they evaluate loans, and the best way to structure them.”

After due diligence, Dell approved Network Redux for its first, 36-month term loan, tailored to coincide with the lifetime of Network Redux’s client contracts. Four years later, Network Redux has borrowed over $1 million dollars from DFS. “We get the money we need for infrastructure to bring on new clients. As we grow and pay down our loans, Dell raises our loan ceiling, and we keep growing,” explains Brenneke.

Membership Has Its Benefits

dell founders clubIn 2012, the partnership got even deeper. Network Redux’s Dell account manager thought the company would be a good for Dell’s Founder’s Club, a hand-picked group of innovative entrepreneurs. Unlike Network Redux, most Founders Club members are funded by a venture capital or angel firm. However, all Founder’s Club members view technology as critical to future growth, and have significant technology needs. In addition, according to Brenneke, “Founder’s Club members want to be owners, not exiters.”

Members can take advantage of many benefits, such as concierge-level support, expedited shipping, the opportunity to network with other fast-growing startups, and the Dell Innovator’s Credit Fund, a $100M credit financing program. The idea of the fund is to give entrepreneurs access to technology to help fuel growth, while helping them to preserve equity capital for other business needs. Just as important to Brenneke, “We are treated like a global player. We have access to the best and brightest technical and business resources at Dell for advice and guidance.”

The result? This close vendor partnership has helped Network Redux to increase revenues 100 percent year-over-year. As Brenneke puts it, “This is mutually beneficial–Dell wants us to be a healthy business.”

Perspective

There are many ways to fund a startup and one size does not fit all. However, some startups may not even be aware of external funding options beyond traditional venture capital firms and banks. Furthermore, as this case illustrates, non-traditional financing sources may be a better fit for some businesses.

Network Redux’s technology and financing partnership with Dell illustrates that a synergistic financing partner can provide a startup with more than money. The right partner can also provide services and guidance to help young companies better capitalize on market opportunities.

Be the Change: Paying It Forward with Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network

Anonymous_GenderAlthough the number of women-owned businesses is rising, women still face a steeper uphill climb than men when it comes to starting and running businesses. In the U.S., for example, women own about 30% of all non-farm, privately held U.S. firms. Women-owned businesses are concentrated in industry sectors where firms are usually smaller, and average sales/receipts for their businesses are only 25% of average sales/receipts for businesses that men own.

The gender gap is even wider in other countries. But the reasons for this gap are common across geographies. One of the most significant challenges women face is under-representation in the finance community in general, and that they are barely a blip in the venture capital investor community. Only 4 women were listed on the 2012 Midas List, an annual list of the top 100 tech investors.

Another key barrier is the fact that men continue to outnumber in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and jobs. This is at a time when business innovation is increasingly tied to technology innovation. A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce found only one in seven engineers is female, and that there was no growth of women in STEM jobs since 2000.

Creating the Ripple Effect

But women are increasingly realizing that they can create new social and capital networks to support each other. These women are asking how can I help other women, and how can we help each other?

Dell DWEN imagesTo that end, Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network held its fourth annual event in Istanbul in early June, which I had the opportunity to attend (thank you, DWEN, for hosting me). Since the inaugural DWEN event in Shanghai four years ago, interest in and attendance at the event has spiked. More than 150 women entrepreneurs from 13 countries and an online audience took part in this year’s conference.

As with past DWEN events, 2013 offered attendees businesses with a unique opportunity to develop relationships and grow their businesses. It featured an amazing roster of speakers who offered pearls of wisdom about how women can better leverage innovation, brand, capital and technology to grow their businesses, including:

Paying It Forward

But DWEN’s commitment to helping women collaborate and grow their businesses goes far beyond this annual event and its attendees. DWEN is taking things to the next level with several very visible, powerful initiatives. DWEN’s 2013 sums it up: Pay It Forward. Pay It Forward is the catalyst to collectively mobilize established women entrepreneurs to share their skills, experience, money and mentoring with women just starting up the entrepreneurial ladder.

pay it forward imagesAs Karen Quintos, Dell’s Chief Marketing Officer noted during opening remarks at the conference, “We’re hoping to reach 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2015.” DWEN is challenging its 10,000 members in DWEN, Dell’s Women Powering Business community and the Wise Dell team to help one million aspiring women entrepreneurs by the end of 2015.

DWEN calculates that if each woman helps at least 10 fledgling women entrepreneurs, who then go on to help 10 more women, it can reach this goal. Established women entrepreneurs can donate time, money, support and encouragement to women entrepreneurs who are starting down the entrepreneurial road.

Expanding the Circle of Trust

Like-minded organizations have joined forces with DWEN, adding more fuel to the mission. The United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, Girl Scouts of the USA and the Dell Social Innovation Challenge have stepped up to help with the Pay It Forward initiative.

Elizabeth Gore, resident entrepreneur at the United Nations, spoke at the conference, and underscored that helping more women successfully start businesses not only empowers women, but also helps children and families and communities, and ultimately, on a country’s economy.

By combining forces, these Pay It Forward charter members can amplify and multiply support to help girls and women execute on their entrepreneurial dreams and goals.

From Aspiration to Action

empowering womenDell is taking action to turn this goal into reality with its Empowering Women Challenge, a global competition to encourage university students from any country, male or female, graduate or undergraduate, from any field of study, to propose initiatives to help empower women and girls.

Launched at DWEN, the goal is to inspire at least 100 innovative ideas from around the world, a special emphasis increasing entrepreneurship in developing markets. Once Judges select the 50 semi-finalists in September, DWEN members will provide them with direct mentoring. One member from each of the top three teams will receive an all-expense paid trip to pitch their team’s idea at a special awards event in December 2013. Winners and the 10 most promising projects will share a total of $35,000 in cash prizes.

The Empowering Women Challenge is a spotlight challenge of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, which asks university students to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Finalists in the Empowering Women Challenge will be automatically entered as semi-finalists in the 2014 Dell Social Innovation Challenge, Dell’s umbrella competition focused on social entrepreneurship.

Painting By Number

As former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and DWEN panelist Cheryl Mills noted at the event, “If you wait long enough, sometimes the data catches up with what you know.”

indexDuring DWEN, Dell released the Dell Gender-GEDI Index, the first gender-focused, global entrepreneurship index based on the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI). The index measures high-potential female entrepreneurship based on individual aspirations, business environments and entrepreneurial ecosystems. By providing a cross-country comparison, the Index helps countries see where they are lagging so they can improve.

Gender-GEDI is made up of 30 indicators and ranks 17 countries. Research findings ranked the U.S. as No. 1 for having a solid institutional foundation and entrepreneurial environment for women. Other top-ranking countries include; Australia (No. 2), Germany (No. 3), France (No. 4) and Mexico (No. 5).

The research does in fact support what we already know: that governments need to give women access to the knowledge, networks, capital and technology they need to start a business and grow it. Social and cultural norms play a role as well. For instance, although Japan scores well in many areas, it has the lowest percentage of female managers (9 percent) compared to other countries. U.S. As a result, fewer women in Japan have the experience, skills and confidence to start their own businesses.

Perspective

whirling dervish imagesWe are finally at a point when it everyone from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Warren Buffet are shining the spotlight on the fact that although women represent 50% of the world’s human resources, they are still under utilized and under valued in the business world.

As it enters its fifth year, DWEN’s now established network can serve as a collective resource to advance the role of women in business by fostering entrepreneurship, and in turn, raising income levels and quality of life of families and communities.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” So what are you waiting for? Check it out and Pay It Forward.

Dell’s Boston Think Tank: Big Ideas for Small Business

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate in Dell’s Boston Think Tank for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses (#smallbizboston) at the Cambridge Innovation Center. Dell billed the session as a chance for business owners, startups and others to come together to listen, learn, collaborate and share.

dpictInstead of talking heads, the day was interactive from start to finish, with speakers who realized that they have as much to learn from attendees as the other way around. And instead of PowerPoint slides, dpict.info’s scribe captured the story as it unfolded, building this great infographic to sum up the day’s key conversations and insights.

Dell_Boston_2013_printDell’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt (who I spoke to in this video interview) kicked off the event some interesting stats about how Boston small businesses view the current business environment and their ability access to capital, talent and technology. Whitney Johnson (@johnsonwhitney), Author of Dare, Dream, Do and Harvard Business Review Blogger and event moderator, introduced the 4 different themes for the day, each facilitated by a local small business expert:

Dell sessionFrom my perspective, some of the most interesting takeaways from the day were that small business owners:

  • Struggle to find qualified people who are also a good fit for the company’s culture. Although small business owners believe that talent and expertise are the most important contributors to business growth, they find it difficult task to access the talent they need. The investment required to recruit, hire and train someone looms large for small business, and the risk of hiring someone who doesn’t work out is a big one. While people have had success outsourcing smaller jobs to contractors via sites such as Elance, TaskRabbit and Zirtual, “you reach a point where you need talent that you can trust, commit to and hire.” Practical advice included to “go where the talent is,” for example, check out http://www.meetup.com/ and go to meetups where you’re most likely to find the types of people you’re looking for, and learn some of the lingo they use so you can engage in a meaningful conversation. Other suggestions included writing down and codifying your corporate values so that you can clearly articulate them to the candidates you interview. Finally, look for people with complementary skills to yours, and those who can do the job as well or even better than you can.
  • See technology as both a blessing and a curse. One the one hand, the Internet and mobile solutions have made it much easier for people to collaborate and connect. On the other hand, small business owners are in information overload when it comes to sorting through all the thousands of available technology solutions and determine which can really help them achieve their business goals–growing revenue, being more productive, and operating more profitably. Dell’s survey indicates that 41% of Boston small businesses see technology needs as becoming increasingly complex, yet only 1 in 10 have full-time dedicated IT people. This mirrors SMB Group’s North America research findings. Most small businesses see the value of technology in making their businesses successful, but need a lot of help to identify which solutions will have the biggest impact on business results.
  • Believe telecommuting and working remotely enables productivity. Sorry, @Yahoo Melissa Mayer, but I think its fair to say that you are swimming against the tide. The general sentiment seemed to be that although live, face-to-face meetings are ideal for some things, the ability to work remotely has given small businesses more flexibility and access to talent. For instance, Sharon Kan, an entrepreneur with four successful start-up exits, kicked of the Access to Technology session by saying she runs her businesses with “a phone and a laptop.”
  • Typically pull their businesses up with their own bootstraps. Only 3% of Boston small businesses relied on venture capital and angel investors to get off the ground. Personal savings are the top source of funding at 44%, followed by banks and credit unions at 23%. Amy Millman of Springboard Investors, which has funded a raft of innovative start-ups, including Zipcar, iRobot and Constant Contact, gave business owners insights into what investors are looking for. First, you must be able to clearly articulate how your company is going to make money, and “learn the language of funders and investors”. More pointedly, when a prospect says “wow”, take it a step further. Find out the “why and how of the wow” and use that in your pitch to investors.
  • Need to get more strategic about using social media. According to Chris Brogan, who led the social media breakout, all businesses must think like “fledgling TV stations and create their own media” and “build trust at a distance.” The challenge is how to do this effectively. SMB Group’s 2012 Social Business survey indicates that of the 53% of small businesses using social media, less than half use it in a strategic way. According to Chris, small businesses need a home base, such as a web site or blog, and two “outposts.” One outpost should be the social media site that’s the best fit for your story and how you want to tell it (I would add that it also needs to be a place where your prospects hang out) and the other is email marketing: bad email marketing may be dead but good email marketing isn’t. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin–concentrate on using these three to help you “articulate, reach, trust, engage and echo” to meet your business goals.

dell session 5Overall, the interactive format, access to experts and eclectic mix of small business owners added up to an event that gave attendees information and inspiration, and new connections with people to get help from and vice versa.

Dell put a lot into the event. In addition to Ingrid and a number of Dell marketing and AR staff, Dell product strategy, management and technology teams were also well represented. With its listening ears on at events such as this, Dell is taking the right steps not only to help small businesses succeed, but to also ensure that it has the insights it needs to provide small businesses with the solutions they need to move ahead.

The Boston event was the last stop on Dell’s inaugural Think Tank tour of nine cities, but I’m told that Dell intends to follow-up with a new tour schedule soon.

Dell World 2012: An Update on Dell’s Journey

Just before the holidays, I had the opportunity to attend Dell’s second annual Dell World user conference. Here’s my take on  Dell’s progress towards becoming an end-to-end solutions company, and its directions in the small and medium business (SMB) market.

To put things in context, Dell has been on a journey for a couple of years to transform from a hardware company provide businesses with open, flexible and easier to use IT solutions that can scale up or down as needed. Dell is leveraging cloud computing, open standards, and a blend of hardware, service and software offerings to build more comprehensive solutions. And, Dell has pegged midmarket business requirements as its design focal point to ensure scalability for organizations of all sizes. As I discussed in The New Dell and What it Means for SMBs: Takeaways from Dell’s 2011 Solutions for a Virtual Era Event, Dell has also made many acquisitions to turn this vision into reality, including KACE, Boomi, Wyse, SonicWall, Quest and AppAssure and others.

On Track for Transformation

Dell has taken a lot of heat for not turning around fast enough to please some analyst and pundits. But, at the event, Dell provided a status report on its progress, and unveiled several new strategies, products and services that I believe will continue to propel it forward.

For example, Dell reported that cloud revenue has increased 30% year for Q3 FY 2013, and that its x86 server shipment growth outpaced the industry overall (and HP and IBM in particular) according to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Q3 2012 Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker. In addition, security revenue for Q3 FY 2013 rose 16% year over year. Dell now processes more than 30 billion events every day, and is growing its footprint in the security area. Perhaps most importantly, services and consulting now account for roughly one-third of Dell’s sales.

Among the many announcements that are part and parcel of any vendor user conference, several highlighted how Dell is turning its vision into reality, including that Dell has:

  • Chosen OpenStack as its open source cloud platform of choice for public and private cloud. This extends Dell’s commitment to open, standards-based solutions. While it will still provide customers with solutions on other cloud platforms, the vendor has endorsed OpenStack as the most open, flexible way to implement a hybrid environment and move workloads between private and public clouds.
  • Added new solutions to its Active Infrastructure converged infrastructure portfolio. Dell announced new blueprints for VDI and unified communications and collaboration applications and workloads. This builds on Dell’s goal of helping customers to streamline IT deployment and management with Active Infrastructure solutions. These combine servers, storage, networking and infrastructure systems management into integrated solutions that zero in on specific workload requirements to speed deployment, cut costs and energy consumption, and simplify operations.
  • Unveiled the CIO Powerboard. Using Boomi, Dell has knit together management tools from Quest, KACE, SonicWALL and AppAssure to provide IT with a unified view and metrics across their IT environment–another proof point of Dell’s ability to provide more integrated, end-to-end solutions.

We also got a glimpse into the strong potential that Dell’s Wyse acquisition has to propel Dell into the mobile management space from the very energetic Tarkan Maner, Dell Wyse President and CEO. Maner demoed the Pocket Cloud web service, which allows users to search all of their physical, virtual systems and clouds. As I discussed here, Dell recently launched Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager (CCM), which incorporates Pocket Cloud technology, and provides businesses a centralized mobile management platform with an SMB-friendly price tag.

Stepping Up Support for SMBs

Beyond new solutions and technology directions, Dell took the wraps off of two new initiatives designed to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

For starters, Dell launched the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, headed up by its Entrepreneur in Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt. In this video interview,  Ingrid discusses how the community is built by and designed for entrepreneurs. One of the program’s key goals  is to help entrepreneurs secure capital to invest in the technology they need to grow. Dell Financial Services and the Dell Innovators Credit Fund supply credit and leasing options, and the site also offers webcasts, videos and case studies from Dell, industry experts, and a community of entrepreneurs sharing their experiences.

With former President Bill Clinton on hand as the event’s marquee keynote speaker, Dell also announced that it is sponsoring this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University and support the entrepreneurship theme at CGI U 2013, which will be held at Washington University in St. Louis in the spring. The track is designed to help students and young entrepreneurs get the grounding they need to launch, run and grow a business, and the increasingly vital role of technology in building a successful business.

Quick Take

Yes, Dell still has to figure out how (or maybe even whether) to really differentiate and innovate in the client and particularly the mobile device battle.

But Dell World served to highlight that Michael Dell has crafted a strong vision and is sticking to it, building it through a series of strong acquisitions (compare this to HP’s Palm and Autonomy debacles) and solid technology directions. Combined, Dell has assembled many of the building blocks it needs to achieve its vision. And, Dell will keep filling in missing puzzle pieces, as evidenced just a few days after Dell World, when Dell completed its acquisition of Credant Technologies to fortify its data protection capabilities.

Meanwhile, Dell’s continuing commitment to provide solutions that scale up and down from the midmarket bode well for growing its footprint in the SMB market. In addition, Dell’s new initiatives to support entrepreneurs are a natural, given Michael Dell’s credentials as a poster child for entrepreneurial success. Through these programs, Dell will not only help young companies benefit from technology, but forge engagements with entrepreneurs that will fuel future directions with fresh insights.

Overall, Dell World 2012 demonstrated while Dell still lacks a magic bullet for the client device side of its business, it is making steady progress in its goal to supply the end-to-end IT infrastructure solutions and services that businesses need to support them.

Dell Cloud Client Manager–A Wyse Move For Mobile Management

Earlier this year, Dell acquired Wyse, arguably the pioneer in thin-client computing. Together, Dell and Wyse have wasted little time in putting Wyse expertise to work to launch Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager (CCM), which is designed to help companies address the increasingly vexing problem of managing mobile devices and applications.

Dell is delivering CCM as a cloud-based, self-service offering that gives businesses a centralized mobile management platform from which they can:

  • Manage thin client and mobile devices. Supported devices include Apple iOS, Android, and Dell Wyse thin clients, whether they’re using 3G, 4G or wi-fi networks.
  • Provide users with secure remote access to content on servers, laptops and desktops. Using Wyse Pocket Cloud technology, mobile users to remotely and securely access and manage content stored on home or office computers.
  • Set rules and policies to automate provisioning. CCM enables IT to create rules and permissions to streamline provisioning, and ensure that appropriate policies are applied to devices and users.
  • Real-time monitoring, analytics and reporting. The solution provides real-time feedback on users’ mobile activities, and the ability to send alerts in case of user non-compliance.

Since CCM is a cloud service, you don’t need to install any additional hardware or software, and can be up and running with CCM in less than an hour. As critical, CCM works regardless of your company’s mobile procurement and provisioning policy. Whether your business provides and manages all employee mobile devices, supports a BYOD program, has an employee self-service model, or some combination of these, CCM enables you to centrally manage how employees access corporate data and apps from their mobile devices, and create containers to separate corporate and personal apps.

The price is right for cash-strapped SMBs: Dell offers a free Starter Tier for smaller companies, which has all CCM capabilities except for group-based management. The Pro Tier comes with granular group management capabilities, and pricing starts at $5.50 per month for one user and up to three devices.

Mobile Management is a Top SMB Challenge

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the growth trajectory for mobile solutions is soaring. So it’s not surprising that SMBs are going mobile: SMB Group’s 2012 SMB Mobile Solution shows that 83% of small businesses (1-99 employees) and 76% of medium businesses (100-999 employees) already use mobile solutions in their businesses.

Much of this growth has been driven by consumer demand for new and better devices and apps. As we use mobile more in our personal lives, our expectations for applying mobile solutions in our business lives also rises. But this rapid escalation of mobile use combined with a dizzying proliferation of devices and apps has led to a management dilemma.

As they go mobile, SMBs are taking different approaches in terms of how they provide mobile devices to their employees (Figure 1).

Figure 1: How SMBs Provide Mobile Devices to Employees

Source: 2012 Small and Medium Business Mobile Solutions, SMB Group

The velocity of mobile adoption and the convergence of mobile device use for personal and business needs has led to a rash of security and management issues for IT, who must manage a mushrooming and increasingly hybrid mobile environment which extends beyond devices to apps and services (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Top SMB Security-Related Challenges In Using Mobile Solutions

Source: 2012 Small and Medium Business Mobile Solutions, SMB Group

The result is that many SMBs have yet to address the mobile management challenge (Figure 3).

Figure 3: SMB Use of/Plans for Mobile Management Solutions

Source: 2012 Small and Medium Business Mobile Solutions, SMB Group

Dell’s Answer to Managing the Bright and Shiny Mobile Challenge

The mobile management challenge will only intensify, especially given the industry’s proclivity to churn out bright and shiny new devices and apps–and users’ desire to get their hands on them. Dell CCM gives companies a secure, affordable and accessible way to manage through this inevitable churn, regardless of mobile policies, virtualization technologies or device choices.  CCM offers both device and app management, and supports Citrix, Microsoft, VMware and other virtualization environments.

CCM also offers management tools to automate and streamline management and offload routine chores. IT can create role-based rules and permissions for users or user groups, which allow or prohibit the use of specific apps. Once a user’s permissions are set up, the user can register devices on their won via the self-service portal. New devices automatically inherit the appropriate policies, configurations, and apps of the user. Employees also can use the portal to reset system passwords, and, if a device goes missing, lock or wipe corporate data. The platform delivers analytics and reporting, including audit trails to help IT monitor user compliance.

CCM provides added through virtual desktop capabilities in Wyse PocketCloud Remote Desktop (a new web-based version is in beta now), which lets users securely access and manage content stored on home or office computers from their mobile devices.

Perspective

CCM doesn’t have everything in it yet, and it competes with many other MDM and mobile management platforms, including other DIY services and fully managed services. But Dell’s approach is solid, and it has removed pricing as a barrier to entry for budget-conscious SMBs with its free version.

Over time, Dell intends to evolve CCM into a one-stop shop for device-agnostic, all-inclusive management of whatever combination of mobile and traditional devices companies choose to use. If it stays true to putting flexibility, ease of use and affordability at the top of the priority list, CCM will provide a very good answer for the mobile management challenges that SMBs face.

Furthermore, CCM represents another step forward for Dell’s vision to transform from a product-centric to a solutions centric company. Although achieving the vision is still a work in progress, Dell’s Wsye acquisition (as with Boomi) demonstrates Dell’s ability to assemble the right building blocks and expand its footprint in cloud computing and remote services.

Drinking From the Dreamforce Fire Hose: Part 1, The Big Picture

Dreamforce, like Salesforce.com’s ambitions, just keeps getting bigger. This year’s event in San Francisco claimed 90,000 registered attendees and 250 media, analysts and bloggers. The pageantry surrounding the event—from MC Hammer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and from Tony Robbins to Colin Powell—is also on the rise, seemingly in direct proportion to Salesforce’s enterprise ambitions. Anyway, with so much erupting from Mt. Salesforce, I need to write a two-part blog post. This first post covers the Salesforce.com’s vision and announcements, and my perspective on them. The second post, which will be up in a few days, will cover how Salesforce’s ever-expanding ambitions translate and apply to small and medium businesses (SMBs).

The Big Picture

CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote featured the success stories from marquee customers, including Activision, Burberry, Coca Cola, Commonwealth Bank, GE, Virgin Atlantic and Rossignol. Through these customer vignettes, announcements, demos and, interestingly, IBM’s 2012 CMO Study, Salesforce made its case for enterprises to buy into its version of the social enterprise. While Salesforce isn’t the first vendor to come up with any of the ideas put forward, Benioff and team continue to aggressively extend the Salesforce footprint along cloud, social, and platform themes, and its push beyond CRM into other functional areas. A drink from the fire hose includes a slew of new directions and offerings. A few are available now, but most are slated for general availability later in 2012 or in 2013. They include:

  • Added social selling capabilities. Salesforce Touch and Data.com Social Keyadd new social and mobile oomph for sales people. Salesforce Touch puts Salesforce on any mobile device, giving reps anytime, anywhere mobile capabilities. Salesforce Data.com Social Key integrates data from social networks with company data to provide companies with a more comprehensive view of their customers.
  • Social marketing. Salesforce Marketing Cloud brings social listening, content, engagement, advertising, workflow, automation and measurement into one place through the combined technologies of (recent acquisitions) Buddy Media and Radian6.
  • Platform Push. Salesforce announced Salesforce Identity, touting it as the “Facebook for the Enterprise.” It will provide a single, social, trusted identity service to manage multiple apps and includes single sign-on across apps; social identity to enable Chatter to push information from multiple apps to a user in one feed; and centralized identity and access management to make it easier for administrators to provision and manage users across applications.
  • Work.com: Rypple is now Work.com, and Salesforce is positioning it as a social performance platform to manage performance reviews and provide recognition, rewards and feedback to employees.

As important, in just a few years, Salesforce AppExchange has grown to become a mature ecosystem for developers. Over 350 partners attended Dreamforce 2012, and Force.com development partners such as FinancialForce, BMC Remedyforce and Xactly Express are enjoying a great growth ramp on Salesforce’s coattails. In the analyst Q&A, Benioff explained that Salesforce is trying hard to move from geek speak to talk and walk like the new breed of IT customer, the CMO. In both the keynote and the Q&A, he reiterated that IT spending will increasingly shift from IT to CMOs. He also underscored that Facebook has become the most popular app on the planet because it is so intuitive, and his belief that all business apps will eventually need a Facebook-like activity stream because that is the interface users know and will demand.

Perspective

Really, what could play better into Salesforce’s hands as it tries to expand its enterprise footprint against stalwart ERP vendors? Larger enterprises have pretty much taken care of business in the back office. And smaller companies top priorities most often center on revenue growth and customer acquisition. With a CMO-centric view of the world, Benioff & co. can position Salesforce as chief mentor and leader in the next wave of IT innovation—in the front office, collaboration and user interface arenas. For example, I think that Benioff is spot on with his statement that all business apps will need a Facebook-style feed interface to take the friction out of using them and facilitate user adoption. Meanwhile, compelling customer success stories and strong partner growth underscore that Salesforce is ready to take its game to the next level. Unlike some of its competitors, Salesforce also has social in its DNA from the top down, which should prove to be an enormous advantage. However, rivals are not going to yield turf easily. In fact, it’s ironic that, in addition to helping to fuel Benioff’s agenda with its CMO research, IBM already walking much of the Salesforce talk. IBM coined the “social business” term before Benioff coined “social enterprise,” and many of the solutions that are in the works at Salesforce bear a close resemblance to IBM solutions such as IBM Connections, Smarter Commerce and SmartCloud—all of which are available now. Meanwhile, many of Salesforce’s newly announced offerings won’t be ready for several months or more–and are somewhat lightweight compared to comparable offerings from the competition. But sometimes, lightweight is better. Some apps are so clogged with feature bloat that they actually hinder getting work done instead of enabling it. And, I’ve said many times, Benioff is a marketing genius. He has an uncanny knack for winning by articulating a new value proposition better than anyone else in the industry. While he may need to play catch up in terms of getting his solutions to market, it’s likely that his messages will be the first to come through loud and clear in many corporate boardrooms.

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