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Analysis: Dell reinventing itself, but support issues linger

By Agam Shah
December 17, 2007 12:00 PM ET
"You can acquire all the technology you want, but Dell will send hardware out blindly," Kaplan said. It will be a challenge for Dell to deliver what it calls "IT in a box" -- its terms for packages of products and services -- to SMBs and enterprises, Kaplan said. Dell has traditionally delivered mostly standardized systems, Kaplan said. While Dell has built systems-to-order by letting users select from a menu of options, it does not have in-depth experience offering customers services over the lifecycle of products, he said.

Jeremy Cole, owner of Proven Scaling, a small consulting firm with offices in the U.S. and U.K., said Dell has internal staffing issues that affect its support services.

"Dell's sales structure is really strange. They tend to bounce your company around to a new account representative every few months, who are wildly differing in experience, intelligence and understanding of the Dell sales system," Cole said.

Cole is satisfied with Dell equipment, but said the company needs to show more support for open-source applications and the Linux OS. "It's clear that Dell cares about Linux, in that all their server-class hardware is well-supported by the Linux kernel and they have many people dedicated to making sure that's the case. However, it's not good enough just to boot," Cole said.

Though generally positive about Dell's support, Jason Dunn, who runs Thoughts Media, which publishes Web sites for technology enthusiasts, couldn't resolve certain LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor problems with Dell offshore support representatives. He had good experiences with Dell's PC and HDTV support representatives, so the experience varies, Dunn said.

Other users have had a good experience with Dell's strategy to simplify IT. Dell's efforts have paid dividends for Bikeworld.com, a medium-size retail business in San Antonio, which saved money by cutting its internal IT person. The company uses Dell systems with Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System, connected to multiple offices via a VPN (virtual private network).

"Businesses are in a belt-tightening mode. You can't have extra people on payroll," said Whit Snell, general partner at Bikeworld.com. Bikeworld has resolved IT problems with Dell remotely and has a contact readily available to help with problems.

Dell officials were not available for comment on support issues.

Overall, Dell is trying to be more proactive and helpful, said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates. Dell's new enterprise support services to simplify IT, like remote management services, could, if successful, trickle into the consumer segment, which could benefit end-users, Scherf said.
Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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