Big ideas are commonplace in the IT industry but they take on even larger roles at vendors’ annual customer and partner conferences. That was certainly the case at the recent Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas. For the 13,500 customer and partner attendees, the presenting executives focused on how the company will help them pursue and make real what it calls “digital transformation.”
The concept of digital transformation has been around for a while, as has the related notion of “democratizing” IT so that effective new technologies and solutions are easily accessible in a broad range of organizations and industries. But interestingly, that central theme also relates to Dell EMC, especially the company’s traditional client PC group and the newer OEM/IoT business unit.
A New Age for Dell’s Client/PC Solutions
It’s hard to think of an IT hardware vendor more firmly rooted in personal computer innovation than Dell. That’s a valuable quality these days, since a common topic at the conference was how PC markets, especially for business client devices, continue to evolve.
Sam Burd, EVP of the Dell Client group, noted how the ongoing digitization of global businesses and continuing consolidation of IT markets and vendors are fundamentally shifting PC requirements. To succeed, Dell “Must continue to help IT organizations become more efficient, and also increase end user satisfaction.”
How will Dell achieve that? Through both technological advances and practical services. For example, Neil Hand, the group’s VP of Product Strategy and Innovation, discussed how Dell’s recently introduced Canvas solutions can be personalized for individual users, an important point for flexible workspace environments. He also described the increasing focus on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) solutions for businesses in areas, like oil and gas exploration, healthcare and manufacturing.
Rahul Tikoo, GM of Dell’s Precision Workstation group, echoed those points. According to Tikoo, Dell is investing heavily in VR/AR markets through three main product groups, underscoring the belief that Dell end users will, “Consume on Alienware, create on Precision and be served with PowerEdge.” Tikoo also noted areas where Dell is working with customers on cutting-edge solutions, including immersive environments for healthcare treatment and industrial training, and interactive tools for retail stores and marketing campaigns.
John Moody, VP of Dell’s Client Services organization, focused on the practical value of the new “PC as a service” and “VDI Complete” offerings introduced at Dell EMC World. In essence, these allow organizations to acquire packages of endpoints, peripherals and services with no upfront costs, and pay for them on a fixed, per seat/per month basis.
That focus on OPEX rather than CAPEX drastically reduces the complexity of buying PCs and, as Moody said, “Makes the (PC) acquisition, deployment, management and retirement process as simple and automated as possible.”
OEM/IoT – Dell EMC as a Partner/Enabler
I’ve closely followed Dell EMC’s Global OEM (original equipment manufacturers) and IoT (Internet of Things) organization since early 2012, when its current SVP and GM, Joyce Mullen, began leading the group. Mullen is a longtime Dell executive but her current work is also informed by her previous logistics and plant management positions with the Cummins Engine Company.
One of the OEM group’s larger markets is with customers who are using Dell technologies, such as PCs, servers and storage components, as the computerized “brains” behind arcade games, manufacturing floor equipment, medical scanning devices, digital advertising displays and point of sale (POS) terminals. Another is in providing customer-branded or co-branded solutions, like the systems employed by telcos and other service providers (SPs).
Dell EMC OEM provides numerous services, including development/design assistance, manufacturing and product support. The company also partners with many customers to enhance their marketing and sales efforts. For example, Dell EMC offers the option to sell customers’ products (with individualized SKUs) through its dell.com online portal. That support can significantly extend the market reach and impact of small organizations.
Mullen said that Dell EMC OEM continues to enjoy significant revenue growth. Like the rest of the company, the group doesn’t share financial information but she noted that a recent survey by VDC Research (on Merchant-Embedded OEM Global Share based on 2016 Dollar Volume Shipments) showed that Dell EMC has surpassed HP and is now the #1 WW OEM Provider.
Mullen also stated that the group is increasing its integration of EMC technologies after finding traction with solutions including Isilon scale-out storage and Data Domain deduplication. SPs, including telcos, are a key market for the OEM group, and EMC’s core storage portfolio is finding lots of interest among those customers. Another promising area is with start-ups that prefer easily managed appliances for supporting software-based service offerings.
The OEM group’s sister IoT organization has notched impressive wins and won design awards. However, the IoT market is still in its infancy and faces significant challenges, ranging from management complexity to security concerns to customer confusion. That said, Dell’s cold chain logistics solution (for maintaining optimally low temperatures in dairy and numerous other products during shipping and sales) is a notable success story cited in several conference presentations.
Like most IT vendor conferences, Dell EMC World focused enormous energy and attention on big-ticket strategies, like Digital Transformation. But the real value of those efforts is often found closer to the ground, among individual product groups and in customer testimonials.
It’s also well worth considering how and how well a company is putting strategic imperatives to work within its own organization. From my discussions with executives from the Client Group and the OEM/IoT organization, digital transformation is alive, well and growing among Dell EMC customers and within the company itself.