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CRN Interview: Dell EMC Channel Chief Joyce Mullen On Driving More Storage Sales Through Partners An

Mullen On The Record

Dell EMC's new channel leader, Joyce Mullen, is hitting the ground running with big plans in store for solution providers in 2018 including new Internet of Things skill sets and enabling partners to meet their storage sales quota.

Mullen, an 18-year Dell veteran who is now president of global channels, OEM and IoT Solutions, replaced John Byrne, who now runs Dell's North America commercial sales.

In an interview with CRN, Mullen talks about enabling partners to drive more storage sales, the potential integration of VMware into the Dell EMC Partner Program, and her channel vision for 2018.

Can you tell us more about Dell's new storage-only sales quota and the impact it will have?

It changes our internal focus as a company. We have had tremendous performance in servers. We know how to sell servers all day long as the No. 1 market-share leader. We have really good capability in storage, too, but we're basically trying to focus our partners and our own sales teams to just pay more attention to storage. Just as we have had to figure out how to enable our direct teams with more knowledge and understanding of different storage workloads, capabilities and offerings -- you have to do that with partners. There's no better way to reinforce that than with dedicated compensation.

Are there any new specializations or certifications you're looking to launch in fiscal year 2019?

We don't have that developed quite yet, but some of the things the leadership team and I are thinking about is, 'What does the partner actually sell in IoT? How do we build solutions that actually help customers deploy IoT solutions and realize the benefits?' That's a piece of digital transformation, but digital transformation is also around big data and big data analytics. Think about native hybrid cloud, integrated platforms, think about VxRail, our gateways attached to [VMware] Air-Watch supported by Pivotal Cloud Foundry -- in those kinds of solution sets, we have a lot of opportunity with IoT and digital transformation to map that out to help our partners understand what the opportunity is in that space. Then having them get started on how to deploy and deliver the promise of those technologies.

What other types of new skill sets do you want to create for partners?

Security is another one because who's not worried about security? We have an RSA track in our program today, but there's room to figure out how to connect the dots and help our customers see how to put those things together with other assets potentially like AirWatch, for example. There's an opportunity for us to up-level. Our partners are well-versed in the products we sell, although I think there's more opportunity to understand nuances around storage, for example. But in general, it's really up to us to help partners make sure they understand what the opportunity is to deliver on these big transformations with their customers, and that's a lot of piece parts that all have to come together. There's no better company than Dell Technologies to help put this together. So think about IoT and competencies around the transformation -- those are two things you'll see more of from us.

Where should partners be investing in 2018?

One of the big focus areas is certainly storage because of the breadth of our portfolio and our market-leading position. We are really anxious and interested in making sure that our partners understand the technology really well, but also the options and the use cases because there's software-defined storage, there's traditional storage, a lot of hyper-converged -- there's a whole bunch of different kinds of ways to think about solving problems. Our goal is to make sure that, just like our storage specialists are extraordinarily well-versed in matching up the right kinds of solutions with the problem the customers are trying to solve, we want to make sure our partners do the same. That's the focus -- really making sure our partners are completely enabled in the storage space. So what steps should partners take to revamp their storage skill sets? We want our partners to be every bit as smart as our smartest storage specialist around our capabilities and our offerings. Step one is ensuring that they understand the portfolio and they can clearly articulate the value of the various elements of the portfolio to their customers. It's really hard to enter into this market and be supportive of customers who are trying to figure out how to look at this market without a real understanding of what the technology does. The next step is understanding from a profitability point of view that, not only is selling storage a great way to go, but the more you can figure out how to layer on even more services or maybe leverage Dell Financial Services -- it's a really nice platform from which to upsell and help bring even more value to our customers. Partners are all looking for different ideas of financing, better ways to support their customers and make the customer experience even better. Some of our services offerings and financing options help with both of those things. What's one thing you would suggest around Dell Financial Services for the channel? We have made some fairly innovative offerings in the Dell Financial Services organization available around flexible consumption models. We have these pay-as-you-grow and pay-as-you-go models that are for different ways to make sure the Opex streams match up to the revenue streams that our customers are seeing. We're trying to figure out how to help customers adopt a multi-cloud approach if they want it. We're trying to make IT purchases look more and more cloud-like in terms of Opex versus Capex. If their customers haven't looked at Dell Financial Services in a while, it's worth looking at again. We're all about trying to enable customers to execute those IT and digital transformations and that takes money to do it, but the value and the payback for customers is real. Will VMware's Partner Program be brought under the Dell EMC Partner Program in 2018? We have begun a process. We recently stepped up to becoming a specific distributor for VMware in a small set of countries and for a select type of customer. The reason we did that was we had plenty of partners saying to us, 'It's just convoluted. I'd like to be able to buy all this stuff from one place, but I want to enjoy the benefits that I get from the VMware program as well.' So that was an attempt on our part to figure out how to help make it a little bit easier to work with Dell Technologies. We're still kind of in the startup mode around that. We have a goal to make sure that it's easy to work with us. So we're going to continue to look for ways of doing that. So what's the future of VMware and Dell EMC? VMware is an independent organization and will remain an independent organization. VMware has to work with lots of different hardware suppliers and they'll continue to do that. We like the success VMware is enjoying because they're doing extraordinarily well, and Dell EMC is certainly a part of that, but it's not the whole thing. VMware has a lot of work to do out there in the market that has nothing to do with Dell EMC. What do partners like about the Dell EMC Partner Program? What I'm hearing so far is an unbelievable level of support. Our partners really like the strategy of Dell EMC and Dell Technologies. They like that we are working very hard to offer broad sets of solutions that are very focused on the infrastructure. Our execution tenets are clear: simple, predictable, profitable. They're also happy with the economics they've seen in the last year or so -- 70 percent of our partners are earning more payout and over half are growing year over year. What do partners not like about the Partner Program? There's an opportunity for us to get clearer around enabling our partners around these IT and digital transformations with specific training programs, so we're working on figuring out what that strategy looks like. There's also an opportunity for us to improve some of the tenets supporting the simple and predictable pieces of the operations backing up our partners -- we're working on that. We're going to continue to refine the program to make it even more simple, predictable and even more profitable. Why should Dell EMC partners be excited about 2018? There's no possible way I can be more excited about 2018 because of the momentum we saw this year, the foundation that John Byrne and his leadership team have built in the channel, and frankly, our differentiator position against our competitive field -- it's going to be a fantastic new year. We're seeing this momentum because our partners and customers are recognizing the value we bring given our intense focus on being the essential infrastructure provider, our broad array of patents and $4.5 billion worth of R&D we're spending, and the innovation that comes from our go-to-market with our partners. We are in such an enviable position. We just have to earn it every day. I can't think of a place I'd rather be right now.

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