DELL as a Start-up

First I must say that I worked for DELL in its EMEA Finance center for 2 years, so my views are not entirely unbiased and are affected by my personal experience with the company.

When I recently read about the statement from Mr. DELL about (company) DELL becoming the world’s biggest start-up I thought to myself that this is the right way for the company and that DELL surely has the potential to crawl up the ladder to its former position and glory. But then, the second thought … isn’t DELL and Start-up a contradiction? What would need to happen with the IT giant (that some think it is in its decline) to turn into a fast growing, market acquiring start-up?

There are some thoughts of mine on this matter.

Loose some of the fat (bureaucracy).  Like many giant companies around WW … be it from industry or banking, DELL has grown a lot of bureaucracy through the years or growth. In many cases all the standards and procedures are right in place and really needed to steer a company stretching among several continents and with a head count of 110k employees. But this is the point … for many of the start-ups, one of the secrets to success is the LACK of bureaucracy. When there are rules (and those who enforce the rules), there are cases when procedures takes too long for a fast decision needed to answer market demands, when talented people need to wait years for a promotion, when customers won’t get what they really need because of an (even long obsolete) internal regulation. Last but not least, with many levels of management in place decision from high-up need long to reach all the (long) way to the bottom … and all the great ideas from the field take too long to reach decision makers, if all.

Use the potential of employees outside of US. DELL has many sites around there world and here I am speaking from own experience, there are many talented and motivated people out there, waiting for their chance to show what difference they can make for the company. Creating a forum where their voices will actually be heard might surprise the company about what potential is there that just waits to be used. A successful start-up uses all its sources – including human resources – to all its potential, making no difference between APJ, EMEA or AMER.h

Defragmentation. Again, one of the illnesses of big corporations is the fragmentation to SBUs, segments and other horizontal or vertical lines. While it certainly is needed to some degree, with a company where sales and services are fragmented too much – the final service/deal for the customer might be lacking some of the fine tuning. Fragmentation often means separate sales positions (general sales person – ISR/AE, technical sales representative – TSR, specialist for that – SFT, specialist for something different – SFSD), tight with this are separate incentive goals for (let’s say) PCs,  servers, software solutions, gadget1, integrated solution2 …). Adding pain to injury … when there is (let’s say) not a good cooperation between some of the fragments, a respective sales representative might skip even to try to sell whatever1 together with the bunch of whatever2 to the customer only because he thinks that it will not be worth the hassle with the segment whatever2.

Innovation and risk. What makes a distinction between a start-up and a classic new company? It’s the level of innovation they try to bring to the market. The image of DELL is one of an conservative company that missed some of the big trains (tablets, smartphones, integrated solutions …). TO change the image, DELL needs to bring new innovation on the market and above all … do not be afraid of risk. With risk comes failure but success as well. Many start-ups risk a lot, invest a lot of money (even if the scale can not be compared with DELL) in a single product or solution … and fail. But they do not give up, but quickly learn from their mistakes and try it again … and again. Do not look for selling stars of today, but for ideas for tomorrow.

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2 Comments on “DELL as a Start-up”

  1. Pat Potts says:

    Spot on. To get there, Michael Dell needs to split the company into smaller, more nimble pieces.

  2. Thanks for the comment Pat. Splitting might be a way to go, but since matters … there are sure advantages coming from the big size of now-a-days DELL. To name just one – shared services. Once DELL would split into several parts, saving from using shared services across the company would disappear and each of the new companies would have to establish this functions on its own.


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