I (Peter O'Neill here again) had the pleasure of visiting Twickenham rugby stadium in London last week – sadly, not on the Saturday to watch my national team beat England but on the following Monday to meet Dell executives and hear about their Enterprise Spring Launch of new products and services. As I listened to the speeches about new servers, storage, networking, and end-to-end applications, I kept thinking to myself how difficult it is these days to sound different from other infrastructure vendors who do the same thing – and often with the same technologies. I remember making those same speeches over 15 years ago and it was difficult enough then! My colleague Richard Fichera has commented on the product details, so I’d like to review the most important one, for me: Dell’s solution program. As far as I am concerned, only those IT infrastructure vendors who market at the business technology level will enjoy success in the future – and that means solutions marketing with commitment.  

I got really excited when Dell execs started the “end-to-end application solutions” session with the story that they had surveyed 7,700 customers about their workload needs and this has led them to design several “workload solutions” as a combination of Dell technologies and products from other vendors. My ears pricked up when they promised a series of new solutions, some addressing legacy IT issues, some introducing more evolutionary changes, and some that would even be “revolutionary.”  Then came the list: vStart for Dell Private Cloud, a pretty standard Dell product stack; Dell Desktop Virtualization, two solutions, one small and one larger for provisioning/managing VDI environments; plus a data warehouse appliance with Microsoft SQL Server Database running on Dell with the chance to use Dell’s SaaS Boomi which integrates a warehouse to existing data sources (sort of ETL on demand). They also had a migration package for moving SAP ERP from Unix to Windows and something with Oracle in it.

I must admit, I couldn’t resist the temptation: “Which of these are revolutionary?” I asked. I can only hope that this is just the start. There must be so many other workload solutions that the 7,700 respondents listed that Dell could put together under one SKU. My other prevailing thought was: “Why is it always Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle?” Those three are always the strategic partners named by vendors – even when presenting their SMB solutions campaigns. There are other ISVs that are equally important in both enterprise and SMB segments, and not just on a regional basis; but they never seem to be noticed by IT infrastructure vendor solutions marketers. Somehow, firms like Infor, IFS, salesforce.com, SAGE, etc., seem to flourish without their attention.

And how can a relationship with, say, Microsoft be strategic if everybody has one? The thing is: Each of these ISVs and the vendors has invested so much it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are global relationship managers for both sides, supported by regional account managers and usually country relationship managers as well. They spend half their working life just meeting each other. But, as we see Apple making inroads into the enterprise, as IT becomes BT, and consumerization of IT means that applications users are now part of the buying center, it is time to modernize the idea of IT solution. I challenge tech solutions marketers to show a little more imagination.

Agree? Disagree? Need more details? As always, I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics.

 Always keeping you informed! Peter