Partner Focus: Aamir Paul, Dell
Small businesses depend more than ever on technology, but also face a growing challenge when it comes to managing their IT assets.
Controlling costs, but also staying on top of complexity is the key according to Dell, which has built its business around cutting the cost of computers by delivering directly to customers. You can grow your business by offering customers savings and simplicity says Aamir Paul, former head of Dell’s UK SME business and now the EMEA director for SMB advanced technologies. We asked him what your small business customers need and what changes you have to be prepared for.
ITEXPERT: How would you say, at the moment, IT is usually used by smaller businesses? And how can partners help their small business customers to get more from IT?
Aamir Paul: Smaller businesses struggle with the same challenges as larger businesses. A large percentage of their IT spend is going to maintenance. Seventy per cent of every dollar – or pound - spent on IT infrastructure is spent on keeping things on, and on getting those last minute fixes in place.
That helps to keep the infrastructure going but it doesn’t create disruptive or scalable innovation for smaller businesses. So moving money from maintenance and immediate requirement fixes to a plan that helps a business scale and helps lower cost is a challenge.
ITX: Would you say it’s true smaller businesses are more dependent on IT than they ever have been?
AP: When it comes to the notion of innovation without boundaries that drives new business processes and disrupts industries, IT is a great business enabler. It allows that entrepreneurial spirit that many small businesses started with to really seep through.
ITX: What’s the most important thing to recommend to a small business as part of their IT strategy?
AP: There are basics, such as how prepared you are in terms of your disaster recovery. We estimate 60 to 70% of SMEs have a catastrophic data loss every year, and that can be substantial. Downtime is just as important for SMBs as it is for a large bank. Once you get past that basic infrastructure the next step is ease of access and availability. Can they run a 24-by-7 business without having people available 24 hours a day?
ITX: How do investment levels in SMEs compare to those in larger businesses, and do smaller businesses spend enough?
AP: Broadly yes. You do have variances of course but I will go back to my point of where they spend the money. It’s a hard thing to do; small businesses have resource constraints and constraints on their time.
But when I speak to customers the one piece of advice I give them is to plan ahead. Work through the core, fundamental four or five pillars of your business you are trying to improve on: is it cost, is it process, is it customer experience, is it an expansion of your product set - and [then] bleed back in what your IT requirements and infrastructure needs are to do that?
Businesses ‘spot buy’ and whilst that is understandable it creates problems of an infrastructure that doesn’t scale, and isn’t resilient.
ITX: Dell started working in the channel in 2007. What made the company move away from its direct-only roots?
AP: Firstly, Dell’s direct model remains the foundation of the business. However, we have adapted and evolved our business over the last few years to meet our customer’s needs.
We listen to our customers and we realised we needed to give our customers choice; choice in terms of how they buy from us, and choice in terms of the degree to which they want to buy complete solutions specifically customised for their particular solution. Dell entered the channel to provide customers with more choice, flexibility and the benefits of the direct model.
ITX: Can you summarise Dell’s channel strategy today?
AP: PartnerDirect is Dell’s global channel programme, and it’s built on three main tenets of simplifying IT, reducing complexity, and the advantages offered by the Dell business model.
In effect, it avoids the complexity and bureaucracy found in competitive programmes, and is focused on building the success of each channel partner.
ITX: What makes Dell an attractive partner for IT consultants and resellers?
AP: We believe there are a number of attractions. As a partner, working with PartnerDirect is rewarding because Dell doesn’t have 30 years of channel bureaucracy to contend with. We are also committed to eliminating cost — not just with the partners but with their customers as well.
Plus we continue to listen to our partners. We hold regular Partner Advisory Council Meetings to understand key themes and issues, and we continue to listen and invest in our partners.
A recent example is the launch of our new and improved partner portal, making it easier for partners around the world to do business with Dell. With over 50,000 Dell registered channel partners worldwide (over 18,500 in EMEA) in 148 countries, and portals in 19 languages, it’s clear we are making excellent progress on our aim of being the vendor of choice for our channel partners.