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Dell EMC turns it up to 11

Spinal Tap liked to push the speakers as far as they would go and Dell EMC looks like it might be trying to do the same, according to Billy MacInnes, with its partner programme

Readers of this site will be well aware that Dell EMC unveiled its unified partner programme last week, which the vendor described as “built from the ground up while preserving the best of two world-class legacy programmes”.

Dell EMC claimed the new scheme established an “extraordinary new programme that addresses the needs of partners today and into the future”. Developed in collaboration with partners globally, the programme’s primary tenets were “to be simple, predictable and profitable”.

The press announcement, which referred to the programme as “historic”, revealed the scheme would include a globally enforced partner code of conduct to protect partners that “actively promote Dell EMC’s products and solutions to their customers”. There would also be a unified partner portal, “rich rebates & MDF”, country specific benefits and requirements, deal registration, quoting and purchasing tools, as well as services and support resources.

The vendor also outlined plans to consolidate its list of distribution partners in the new programme, “and partner more closely with key global distribution partners who are placing bets on the company. Dell EMC will maintain a smaller set of local distribution partners by country”. That could have interesting ramifications in some countries.

In addition, the vendor said it would widen its Line of Business (LOB) incumbency for storage to cover the Infrastructure Solutions Group portfolio, including server, networking, storage, backup, converged/hyperconverged and solutions on qualifying accounts. LOB was designed to protect the established storage relationships partners had with customers based on historical business performance, reduce direct conflict “and ensure alignment between the Dell EMC sales team and the incumbent partners”.

By extending it to ISG, the vendor claimed it 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”. That sounds quite enlightened in terms of reducing the potential for conflict with the direct sales team although the caveat is it could lock out rival partners even when they have an attractive proposition for customers.

But while all those announcements are significant, my attention was drawn to another facet of the new programme which may not have been noticed by many people, primarily because it reminded me of one of the many great scenes in This Is Spinal Tap. Anyone who has seen the film will remember Nigel the guitarist proudly displaying his custom made amplifier where all the dials go up to 11 instead of 10.

When the interviewer asks him what that means, Nigel replies: “It’s one louder, isn’t it?” The interviewer asks: “Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?” There’s an awkward pause before Nigel concludes the debate: “These go to eleven.”

I was reminded of this exchange by Dell EMC’s announcement that its new programme tiers “developed to elevate Dell EMC Partners over competitors and establish a clear path to level-up, include Titanium, Platinum and Gold, as well as a new status level within the Titanium Tier, Titanium Black”.

It’s not that long ago that nearly every vendor split its channel programme into bronze, silver and gold tiers. Now, with accreditation inflation, companies like Dell EMC have converted them into gold, platinum and titanium. Not just titanium, but also titanium black. At heart, there are still three tiers of partner accreditation but now they have been aligned with more precious metals. But does that really make them more precious? Or it just a case of turning everything up to 11?

This was last published in February 2017

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