A fresh approach to enterprise innovation

IT industry leaders at Dell World saw a bright future for the PC, the cloud and creative innovation on top of standardised solutions.
3 January 2012
Michael Dell, Dell, says the company has been especially focussed on finding out how to connect legacy applications and cloud together.

This year’s inaugural DellWorld in Austin, Texas, featured more than a few celebrity speakers.

Delegates heard Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, former Federal Government CIO Vivek Kundra, Paul Maritz of VMware, Paul Otellini of Intel, Marc Benioff of and, of course, Dell chairman and CEO Michael Dell. The CEO said the company today was a very different business from what it was ten years ago.

“We started as a product company, but customers wanted us to get closer to their businesses,” said Dell.

“The new Dell is an end-to-end solution provider. Over the last 18 months, we have been very active on the acquisition front, finding solutions to solve our customers’ biggest pain points, especially finding out how to connect legacy applications and cloud together. But we still care about the client device.”

In his keynote address, Microsoft’s Ballmer said the death of the PC was highly exaggerated.

“At 350 million units shipped per year, the PC is still the most popular smart device on the planet.”

He also made mention of Microsoft’s considerable growth in the business applications market.

At 350 million units shipped per year, the PC is still the most popular smart device on the planet.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft

“We have had strong ERP and CRM growth, not because of a rip and replace approach, but by identifying how to solve new business workloads and also working with larger enterprises to solve specific business application needs.”

If there was an overall theme to DellWorld, it could be summarised as: how can a CIO use standardised and consolidated hardware infrastructure together with cloud services to be more agile? As Steve Schuckenbrock, president of Dell Services, pointed out, speed of innovation is the new driver, not consolidation and efficiency. Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the Federal Government, in his address ‘Harnessing Technology to Innovate at Scale’, shared some challenges he had when inheriting the largest IT budget on the planet.

“We asked how we could change how the US government worked with IT,” said Kundra. “On day one, I was presented with 12 000 major systems, including social security, defence, and disbursements with a total budget of $77 billion. When I took over, $27 billion worth of those projects were behind schedule or over budget. Why isn’t it all as simple as buying a book online? Certainly not because of a lack of funding: the Federal Government has spent $600 billion on infrastructure over the last ten years.”

Kundra found efficiencies in infrastructure spend, saved money by using cloud services where he could and added accountability to his divisional CIOs by creating a public dashboard showing their financial and project performance.

One approach to the conundrum of how to promote innovation and creativity using the same standardised infrastructure and services as everyone else was described by Brad Anderson, Dell’s senior VP of its enterprise solutions group.

“A few years ago, the coach of Oakland Athletics’ baseball team knew that although he couldn’t spend on the scale of his much richer competitors in the major leagues, he could take a statistical approach to efficiency in the game. He worked out his team would need to win 99 games in a season, not in the glamorous way by hitting many home runs but in the mundane ways of stealing and simply getting on base.”

Oakland’s competitors laughed, said Anderson, until they won 98 games in a season, including a record-breaking 20 in a row. The coach’s exploits are described in the book (now film) Moneyball.

“Dell is sticking to open, capable, affordable hardware, but letting you innovate on top of that,” he said.