Under normal circumstances, if the main attraction of a company's event is the keynote speech of a completely different firm's CEO, it is unusual to say the least.
But that is exactly what happened at this year's EMC World, with Michael Dell's presentation the must-see event of the week. Last October, Dell announced plans to snap up EMC in what is on track to become the biggest tech merger of all time thanks to its $67bn price. The plans are progressing, with certain countries' regulatory approval and a shareholder vote left to be completed before it is given the green light.
Since the deal was announced, executives at both companies have remained tight-lipped about future plans, meaning the Las Vegas event - which attracted about 10,000 partners and customers - was the first time any new information surfaced.
During his keynote speech, Michael Dell finally unveiled what the new entity would be called, introducing Dell Technologies for the first time.
"Our vision is to have a family of strategically aligned businesses, bringing together your entire infrastructure - from hardware, to software, to services - from the edge, to the core, to the cloud," he said.
"We're going to align our capabilities across our family of businesses where it makes strategic sense to deliver solutions.
"In thinking about what to call our new company, we really wanted to convey a sense of being a family of businesses and aligned capabilities. As family names go, I am kind of attached to Dell! So in that spirit, I would like to announce that after the close of the transaction, our family of businesses will officially be known as Dell Technologies.
"Dell Technologies will comprise the combined technologies, companies and brands of Dell, EMC Information Infrastructure, VMware, Pivotal, SecureWorks, RSA and Virtustream."
Dell's client solutions business will remain under the Dell brand, and the enterprise offering - in which EMC will sit - will be named Dell-EMC, Dell said.
The new name is not the only big change to the Dell-EMC business, with a new partner programme on the cards for 2017 too.
In a media Q&A session, Michael Dell said both firmsare channel fans, which the new partner programme will reflect.
"In both companies we have a number of people who have very significant experience in the channel," he said. "One of the interesting things we have observed is that channel partners have already completed the integration. They're out there selling EMC, Dell and VMware as one solution. As you know, in the last six, seven or eight years, the channel has become an increasingly large part of the Dell business. And it is an important part of the EMC business. We have observed that if you take the EMC channel programme and the Dell channel programme and put them side by side, they're actually very similar. We are going to combine them together and have one Dell-EMC channel programme. I see the same and more excitement from the channel as I do from customers and it will be an important part of how we reach customers."
Although EMC's existing Business Partner Programme is still relatively new - it came in at the start of 2015 and this January got a significant facelift - a new scheme combining EMC's and Dell's partner programme offering will come into force in as little as eight months, in time for Dell's new fiscal year starting 1 February 2017.
At the Global Partner Summit segment of EMC World, the vendor's channel chief Gregg Ambulos told partners that the new programme will mark a significant step away from both firms' direct-selling heritage.
"Here's something we have in common: we both began as direct-selling companies," he said. "Our founder coined the phrase ‘a pitbull would let go before an EMC [direct] sales rep'. And on the Dell side, Michael Dell literally wrote the book on direct selling. A best seller, by the way. It's called Direct From Dell.
"The direct model worked because we were pretty much one-product companies and all of our sales teams were subject-matter experts. They were trained from Day One to control every aspect of the deal. This was our model - our way of life. And it worked! Money was flowing in.
"But the mark of true leadership is knowing that success can be your enemy if you become complacent. Our businesses began to shift and both companies realised that we needed a change in selling models. We couldn't be experts in everything and we knew that if we combined our strengths with all of yours, we wouldn't have to. We began to transform our businesses.
"It was tough moving from direct to channel - we had our bumps in the road. In the early days, we were voted - by all of you, by the way - as the worst partnering organisation in the industry. There was a lot of scepticism about whether or not Dell could change. But if there's one thing I can honestly say, it is that we listen. Today, the channel is not just important, it is essential to our business models."
Ambulos added that along with the new programme - which at the moment has no name - Dell Technologies will work hard to ensure that no conflict arises between the two channels colliding. A separate, dedicated deal-registration programme will be launched, in which execs will cross-check registered deals with one another and "address any conflicts head on". Further, "robust incentives" to drive cross-selling will come into play, and a centralised global channel structure will be put in place to "ensure consistency worldwide".
EMC's existing Business Partner Programme was first announced at EMC World in 2013, before coming into force last year, representing an almost two-year period in which the new scheme was thought out and built.
The Dell-EMC deal could close any time between now and October, meaning a time period of between three and 10 months could be all there is to bring in the new programme in time for the 1 February deadline.
EMC's EMEA channel boss Philippe Fosse said this is not a problem because of the similarities between the two.
"I think it is going to be easier than you think," he said. "The reason is that the feedback we got from the people who are already looking at the two programmes is that they are not conceptually very different. They all have thresholds, certification requirements, and both look to reward incremental business in new accounts. So I am not worried about our ability to merge the channel programmes. We think it is going to be easy. We are going to take the best out of the two programmes."
EMC's Business Partner Programme vs Dell's Partner Direct
- Annual sales threshold for Silver (lowest tier)- $1.25m
- Annual sales threshold for Gold - $8m
- Annual sales threshold for Platinum (top tier) - $45m
- Other considerations: training and number of specialities achieved
- Percentage of EMC's global business done through the channel: 60 per cent
- Annual sales threshold for Registered (lowest tier) - none
- Annual sales threshold for Preferred - $200,000
- Annual sales threshold for Premier (top tier) - $1m
- Other considerations: number of competencies achieved
- Percentage of Dell's global business done through the channel: 40 per cent
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