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Dell EMC Chief Byrne: Centralizing the Channel Is Key

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Lynn HaberThere’s more to the new Dell EMC global channel chief John Byrne than his Scottish accent.

Byrne, who joined Dell in July 2015 as global vice president of sales strategy and operations – and just three months later when the vendor announced its intent to acquire EMC added “channels” to his title – was promoted to his current job as president of global channels in September 2016. “Officially” just a couple of months into the job, Byrne supplanted existing Dell and EMC top channel executives, Cheryl Cook and Gregg Ambulos, respectively. We caught up with Byrne at Dell EMC World 2016, held this week in Austin, Texas, to get his take on the selection process for the company’s channel team, delivery expectations, and what he’d like Dell and EMC partners – about 140,000 worldwide – to know about the company’s indirect channel strategy going forward.

Dell EMC's John ByrneHere’s a look at Byrne’s hand-picked global channel leadership team: Gregg Ambulos, North America; Alvaro Camarena, Latin America; Ng Tian Beng, Asia Pacific Japan; Michael Collins, EMEA; Pilar Schenk, sales planning and operations; Randy Huey, channel strategy; Cheryl Cook, channel marketing; Kim DeLeon, channel program; and Jim DeFoe, distribution.

Channel Partners: Tell us a bit about the selection of the Dell EMC channel team under your leadership.

Byrne: I believe that business is all about people. I want people who are trustworthy. There [are] a lot of smart people out there but you have to have character — especially when you bring together two companies, both industry legends in their own right, like Dell and EMC. Now both channel teams had a lot of tenure and when we did a culture study there were a lot of similarities at the companies, such as caring about culture, caring about winning, about doing the right things, technology leadership and innovation.{ad}

Nevertheless, you are asking people who’ve been with their teams for a long time to come and be one. So one of the things I looked for, other than a strong IQ – that’s a given – is what I call a PQ, or positivity quotient. Between the two organizations I’m sure we’ve all tried something at one time and it worked or it didn’t, but none of us [has] tried this as Dell EMC. We also looked at the capability-aspect things like track record of success, and I was looking for people who are wildly focused on the partner and the customer because that’s where the rubber hits the road, so I really wanted people who understood the channel DNA.

A few other things also happened: If you look at EMC’s channel structure, everything was centralized under Gregg [Ambulos] – and he’s done a great job – and all of the sales people were centralized to Gregg but the programs …

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… flowed up through marketing. If you look at the Dell structure, the sales people reported up through the divisions and not directly to Cheryl [Cook] but the program dollars reported up through Cheryl.

So we decided to centralize our channel immediately. So we centralized the sales teams, centralized the program teams, centralized the strategy teams. The strategy, program and operations teams have come together already; the sales teams come together in January and the channel program launches in February.

CP: Have you gotten any feedback from partners about channel changes?

JB: Well, first of all, look at the team I have – they’re the superheroes of the channel industry, i.e. Gregg running EMC, he’s come into North America with huge experience. Cheryl ran the Dell program. We have a massive gap in channel marketing. Our communication to the partner community isn’t agile enough; we’ll make a move and it takes us too long to get it dissected internally … Cheryl’s role — I want the market to know immediately. So, partners want to know that their contacts are still somewhere in the organization.{ad}

What I’ve heard from partners over the past six weeks: We’re listening, we’re being very transparent, we’re moving at the speed of light, and that we’re being very thoughtful in our decision process and that people are excited by what we’ve done in a short period of time.

CP: Do you have a road map for where you’d like to see partners and the program over the next few years?

JB: The way I look at it: EMC has 800 top-tier partners and of those, 400 are doing 80 percent of the business. And of those 400, 60 percent are already carrying Dell in their portfolio. And, you know that we’ve been on a tear to have more partners sell the full portfolio of products. On the Dell side, we have 3,500 partners who make up 60 percent of our Dell channel business. So one of the things that we’re thinking about is the criteria for both programs is significantly different — so in North America, to get into the top tier of the EMC program platinum level you have to be driving $100 million in revenue, plus all of the certifications, etc. At Dell it’s $5-7 million to get into premier plus.

So as you bring these environments together — you’re going to reward revenue and especially if I have share of wallet, you’re going to be rewarded. But then there are partners that currently have less of a threshold at Dell and what are you going to do with them? Now we want to be very transparent and loyal to partners — so the way we look at it is that we want partners to sell multiple lines of business, especially in the enterprise space; there are some partners who want to sell end-to-end, especially PCs. So I want you to sell multiple lines of business, I want you to be attacking …

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… the market, I want to treat you as if you’re my sales team, and I want exclusivity. So when partners put their faith, their trust in us and they want all in, then that requires some reward.

We will build the industry’s most lucrative and desirable channel program, but lets be clear about it — we have $35 billion in channel business and my share of wallet is low in the channel. My competitors are saying, “Hey, I’m moving from 80 percent to 87 percent channel,” or “Hey, I’m already 100 percent channel.” I’m [Dell EMC] growing faster than the market – I want all in, here are my products, you’re my partners lets go and attack the market. So when I’m looking at $35 billion, low share of market, I have the widest portfolio on the planet and I’m building a great program, the partners, they’re looking for growth engines, they’re looking at the top line and the bottom line.{ad}

CP: So about that road map?

JB: Let’s go to Feb. 1. By then all of the partners will be in the relevant tiers, the relevant tracks, they’ll know exactly the training, they’ll know exactly their earn and they’ll know that within months they’ll have to be on this trajectory because I will be creating tier envy.

Fast-forward to one year out: I fully expect the channel to be growing top line and bottom line, I expect to take market share, I expect to continue to grow faster than the market, and I expect very clear rules of engagement.

In two years, our machine has got to be humming. I expect the partners to be going nowhere but up. And, I do think that there’s a pot of gold in services.


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