In a move designed to expand the company's present in the increasingly popular small-business-computing segment, Dell Computer is launching a set of services in early 2003 designed to bring IT expertise to companies with fewer than 200 employees.
According to Chris Hilderbrand, director of strategic service initiatives for small and medium businesses, Dell is trying to reach two customer sets with the initiative, which is already running in a pilot program.
"We've found that there are two types of small and medium-sized businesses: those with no IT experience and those with a minimal IT staff," he said. "In both cases, they don't want to have IT experience -- they just want IT to drive their business." According to market research commissioned by Dell, nearly 70 percent of small businesses do not have an IT staff. Combine that with the sheer size of the small-business IT market -- AMI Partners estimates that small-business IT spending will reach $31.7 billion in 2003 -- and you've got a market opportunity that Dell couldn't refuse.
The four service initiatives are:
- Network design, where Dell consultants will work onsite to design a network. The process begins with a 30-40 minute phone consultation, followed by a $199 site onsite consultation
- Installation of the network and any other computing tools. This includes desktop PCs, laptops, servers, networking equipment, and storage systems.
- Online training, where one employee will have access to all 340-plus Dell online training materials. This service will cost $99. In addition, Dell offers certifications for Dell hardware, Microsoft (MCSE), Novell engineer (CNE), and Linux.
- Multivendor support, where a Dell help desk will support computer equipment and software from both Dell and other vendors. In addition, Dell will offer regularly scheduled network system-administration service, where a Dell rep will arrive on site to perform regular network maintenance.
These services will be rolled out in early 2003.
The thread running through these services: Dell is serving as a single point of contact for the small business. "They don't have a lot of time to evaluate who the best-of-breed partners are in the IT world," Hilderbrand said. "They look to Dell to bring in these partners and driving the entire solution to a price point that fits their needs.
"That's very important to the small business. They don't have time to track down who is responsible for a specific problem in their network."
In some cases, such as the help desk, the services will be performed directly by Dell employees. In others, Dell will contract out the work to a partner, although Dell will always be the single point of contact for the small company. Because much of this work will be subcontracted, Dell doesn't expect to significantly add workforce on the small-business initiative; in addition, Dell officials will not reveal how much revenue the company expects to realize from this initiative.