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Why Dell has a subtle, secret strategic advantage

Rob Enderle | June 3, 2013
The company is more focused on fixing your problem than selling you a product.

Asking customers "What's the problem?" is actually hard. Companies often release RFPs that simply focus on the hardware, software and services the company itself has determined it needs. Such an approach makes it incredibly difficult and unnatural for a vendor to ask that critical question and instead focuses the proposal on the specific products let out to bid.

IT may deal with a problem once, but a vendor with Dell's size and scope may deal with this same problem with other clients several times a year. That means it has more expertise in which solutions actually work, and/or whether a customer needs to approach a problem from scratch, since the tools available now are often vastly different than the set of tools the IT department believes will be the case.

Figuring this out puts Dell in a unique and powerful position, but the question is one you should want every vendor to ask. Frankly, your own people should analyze the problem before letting the RFP go and bringing in vendors to see how well they can solve the problem.

Focusing on Tools? You Still Haven't Found What You're Looking For
If you focus on the tools, the old saying applies: "To a firm that builds screwdrivers, every problem is a screw." That's the problem when starting with the tool, not starting the problem to be solved. You can't get to an ideal, lowest-cost outcome by starting with the tool. You can only get there if you first analyze the problem and then craft a solution that's best matched to that problem.

When you do this, what you end up with is vastly different, but also better and cheaper over the long run. This is because the solution is matched to the problem. This just isn't possible if you pick the tool before you analyze the problem.

This is Dell's subtle, secret advantage. It asks the question before pitching the solution. That's a huge difference..


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