Dell sees route forward in digital transformation
Business Management

Dell sees route forward in digital transformation

One way to try and understand the hugely complex creation of Dell Technologies is to think about another complicated affair, the emergence of digital transformation as a defining challenge for the current generation of CIOs. These people need to lead the charge in the way that their organisations will market themselves, sell and participate in value chains for the coming years; Dell wants to serve them by providing all, or at least most, of the parts that companies need to transform.

Who better to share his knowledge of these twin strands than Rob Lamb, the cloud business director of Dell EMC, having joined the new megacorp via EMC. Lamb knows both sides of other fences too: he was formerly the global IT director for the pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly. And he’s also in an interesting place geographically, having responsibility for the UK, currently dealing with the aftershock of Brexit and now braced for a flash general election in June. I sat down with Rob recently at the (rather excellent) Scandinavian Kitchen in London’s Fitzrovia to talk about transformation.

Research conducted late last year by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Dell paints a picture of general uncertainty and fuzziness and it would be a surprise indeed if similar numbers wouldn’t be generated today. Item: 38 per cent of UK businesses “don’t know what their industry will look like in three years”. Item 2: 65 per cent see digital start-ups as threats and a third fear their firms being made obsolete by them.

These are unsurprising findings in the ‘Uber for X’ economy as we set sail for the “fourth industrial revolution” beloved of conference speakers. What might be more of a surprise is that 65 per cent feel they could be doing more. This might be the state of the game today though: a general sense that we should be transforming our businesses combined with management’s reluctance to commit capital expenditure, worsened by the fact that the world (and certainly the UK) is at an odd juncture that makes predicting the future very tough indeed.


A CIO perspective

As a former CIO, Lamb says that many organisations will welcome the option to have “one throat to choke from an enterprise support point of view”. Of course, in the past they could always choose an all-rounder such as IBM or HP but those companies are comparatively vertically integrated, he says. Today, companies are looking for software-defined infrastructure, abstraction and convergence “and ultimately it all sits on infrastructure”.

IT chiefs want choice but nobody wants 100-supplier rosters, he says, and Dell’s model of a family of federated tools and services fits the bill. “You’re not hindering that choice; you’re offering something more optimised …  the buyer is not being herded one way.”

IT chiefs want fewer reps and the option to pick several pieces from a vendor, he says, and this also offers a route to IT-business alignment – the promised end that is so rarely achieved in reality.

For Lamb, digital transformation is partly about the need to invest in more innovative ways to deal with IT to inspire innovation. He particularly likes the notion of the workplace of the future where people of all ages combine hard-earned wisdom and new knowledge. “If you’re a young company it’s very easy to make that transition [to having a flexible model for creative thinking] but for mature companies it’s tougher,” he says.

It’s a question of realpolitik and pragmatism. Large companies see the appeal of building a hyper-scale business but, realistically, hybrid cloud will be the way forward, at least for the medium term. “It’s a question as to what your legacy estate looks like,” he says. “Most people wouldn’t start with what they have now in a green-field environment but they have no choice.”

Public cloud remains a powerful notion but it won’t be for everyone.

“We see a bit of a backlash already because you need compliance and all those traditional IT operational attributes to enable innovation.”

Lamb hopes that Dell will offer a convenient option for those that despair of maintaining paper mountains of individual agreements and need some visibility without being compromised or locked in.

“No-one is saying ‘I need to get more stuff from more people’,” he says. “We will provide consultancy at the infrastructure level but also in business processes remapping. They want risk sharing and a path to innovation.”


Also read:
The new Dell chases giants
Dell-EMC: The simple guide to a complex deal
Dell re-brand hides complexity
Dell, EMC and the rush to the New Computing
Dell-EMC: What happens next?
Software at heart of Dell’s attempted renaissance


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Editorial Consultant for IDG Connect

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