James Arnold, Dell New Zealand boss, may be an Australian, but he’s happy to proclaim of the New Zealand Dell business: “We’re giving the Aussies a bit of competition – we’re ramping faster than they are.”
Arnold is referring to the company’s move into using local distributors. Ingram Micro was appointed as the company’s Australian distributor last year, with the local arm of the distributor gaining the New Zealand business late in the year.
“As much as I am Australian, on this one I’ll back the Kiwis,” quips Arnold.
Arnold joined Dell for the first time in 1997, one year after the company launched locally. Twenty years on, Arnold is the New Zealand managing director, a role he took up last year, and the company, like the wider industry, has undergone dramatic changes.
“Some things haven’t changed [in IT] but in other ways they have changed dramatically,” Arnold says about the industry in general.
It’s a statement that could equally apply to Dell, which is currently in the process of acquiring EMC.
The company has made the transition from being a PC company to an end-to-end solutions provider.
“Twenty years ago we didn’t have our storage range, our networking, we had servers, we didn’t have our workstation range but we did have desktops and notebooks. The conversation with customers back then was very desktop/notebook-centric, and just starting to broaden into our server range,” Arnold says.
“It wasn’t talking to workloads, it wasn’t talking to user scenarios, it was just how many desktops did you need, what were people doing – so we could figure out if they needed a desktop or notebook – and whether they needed high powered or low powered.”
Today, as for most, that conversation has changed from device-centric to business objective-centric.
“The acquisition of EMC is particularly exciting and pushes us down a path of becoming one of the biggest organisations in the globe that provides an end-to-end solution and truly represents capability into the enterprise and also into the SMB,” Arnold says.
“That’s really exciting for us and enables significant change for us. That’s the horizon we are looking at at the moment.”
For the channel, though, the biggest changes have come in the last few years, as Dell New Zealand’s push to be a channel-friendly organisation gathered pace.
“Our channel partners are a key element of our business success and for those relationships to remain successful we must ensure partners are inspired and enabled to succeed and be profitable,” he says.
Last year the company introduced its first New Zealand distributor, Ingram Micro.
It’s a move Arnold says is already paying off, as witnessed by his delight that New Zealand is ramping faster than Australia.
“Six months in, I’m very very happy with how it’s going,” Arnold says.
“We’ve exceeded our own internal revenue targets for the first two quarters, and are looking to exceed our revenue targets this quarter.
“What that says to me is that it’s ramping faster than we targeted ourselves on, and I think we were targeting ourselves realistically, but a little bit aggressively.”
Arnold says Dell doubled the size of its partner eco-system through net new partners on the back of the deal.
While Dell is happily focused on working through the channel these days, Arnold says its direct engagements with customers remains crucial.
“Because of our large sales force, we have an ability to get out and see more customers than perhaps any other vendor. So in the past 20 years, we’ve had more conversations with customers, I think, than any other vendor.”
That customer engagement enables Dell to understand what customers want and need, Arnold says.
“It’s given us some pretty good insights into the directions they’re going and how we can play a part in driving those directions.
“And it allows us to drive leads to the channel as well – and that’s something we’re really working on going forward.”
If last year was a year of change and establishing the direction Arnold – who took up the top job just last year – wanted to take the local business, this year is about execution.
“Last year was about ensuring we launched distribution, we really established ourselves in the channel as here to stay, and we launched our preferred partnership agreement with CCL in the South Island.
“It was a lot of steps to establish ourselves for execution this year.
“This year, we’re going to drive through with that we’ve done around the partner network, continuing the work we laid the foundations for last year.”
Arnold says the company will also continue to establish ‘more strategic’ relationships with Tier 1 players locally, something he says is progressing well, with much better engagement between Dell and the large resellers.”