Dell EMC: making history
On September 7 2016, history was made when Dell and EMC merged in what has been named the biggest ever acquisition in the technology sector. Dell declared its intention to make the purchase in October 2015, paying a huge $67 billion in cash and stock, or $24.05 per EMC share.
The two companies had worked together since 2001 when a strategic partnership was formed for Dell to sell EMC storage products, a relationship which later expanded to the combination of complementary technologies. This is a merger which has been 15 years in the making, and while naysayers and competitors were sure that business for both Dell and EMC would suffer during the almost year-long deal negotiations – even falsely communicating into the market that production for both companies had ground to a halt – they were proven wrong.
“Obviously when you’re combining two organizations of this size and scale, there’s a risk as you come together that you’ll lose focus,” says Rob Lamb, Cloud Business Director at Dell EMC. “So from the time that the deal was announce, through to it formally closing on September 7, and once the integration is complete on February 1 2017, we’ve maintained a mantra of ‘customer first’, ensuring we don’t do anything that’s going to disrupt our interactions and engagement with them. If we get distracted, our customers suffer.”
According to Lamb, despite the inherent disorder involved in merging two businesses, getting in front of the product road maps remained the priority. Most importantly, Dell EMC ensured that engineering teams continued to push the research and development agenda, spending around $13 billion on R&D.
“The intention is to continue that level of spend,” says Lamb, “but that takes planning and effort to ensure we’re not confusing the customer or the large sales force. It’s hard work, but if you look to the day the deal closed on September 7, we also overtook HPE as the largest provider of servers worldwide. People were thinking we’d get distracted by the deal, when actually we took market leadership in one of our core products. That gives you a feel for how maniacally focused we are on making sure we’re not disrupting the flow of business.
“You’ve only got to look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant and our market shares to realize whilst we’re working on a number of parallel streams, we’re making sure they’re all delivering to one aim.”
Lamb is on his third career path with IT, having previously tried out life as a military police officer and a farm manager. Prior to Dell EMC he was on the client side of IT for 13 years, and now he brings that experience with him as a former EMC legacy member.
“There’s a reason my hair is this color,” Lamb wryly states. “Unless you’ve been around the block a bit there are a lot of mistakes you can make, particularly as we move into digital transformation and the era of cloud computing where we are now.”
One of the reasons Lamb and his team at Dell EMC have handled all of the changes so well is the company-wide ethic of positivity and employee care both companies are known for. Each carries this culture, and EMC has been a participant for many years of the Great Place to Work scheme. Dell, too, has long had a family-centric culture and began expanding its Connected Workplace program to encourage flexible working. Both have combined to create the best possible environment for staff.
“In 2016 Dell completed a study of employees, speaking to over 1,000 in the US, finding out how many remote work days they were taking per month as well as commute distances,” Lamb explains. “We looked at the data to see what improvements we could make, and by encouraging remote working we estimate that we’ve saved over $12 million in fuel costs and avoided around 136 million miles of travel per year. We don’t force people into an office if they don’t need to be there.
“People assume that a large company like this will be an aggressive place to work, but I’ve been here for six years and there’s such a positive atmosphere at Dell EMC, hence the culture of it being a great place to work.”
You may be forgiven for thinking that a business of this size – before or after the merger – would be resistant to moving with the times. On the contrary, one of the largest global concerns of the past decade – sustainability – is high on Dell EMC’s priority list. Both companies have historically held a key role in moving towards a low-carbon economy, and Michael S. Dell (Dell CEO) in particular has always been instrumental in driving sustainable business practices.
“These products don’t have a finite life cycle in terms of how our customers buy them and depreciate them,” Lamb explains. “They can have a long-term impact if you’re not looking to recycle them at the end of their lives, which means producing them as effectively and efficiently as possible.
“Looking back at when Michael started producing PCs, when Dell was purely a PC company, he always set out to ensure that the computers were easily recycled; that philosophy has been driven through both sides of the business as we came together. That’s how you retain a high green ranking like ours. Heritage Dell reduced the energy intensity that it takes to create the product portfolio by 43 percent since 2011. Heritage EMC, at its Centre of Excellence in Ireland, achieved 100 percent renewable energy in 2015. Dell EMC aims to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. These are really impactful statistics.”
It’s not just the manufacturing process which helped Dell EMC achieve its impressive green ranking, but making small changes to its data centers has made an incredible difference too. Small elements such as switching from fluorescent light tubes to LEDs, upgrading air conditioning and building management systems, and improving the plant machinery itself to ensure it’s as efficient as possible have all positively impacted the company’s energy consumption.
“One our newest examples is a data center in North Carolina, which was commissioned in 2012, and has flywheels rather than batteries,” says Lamb. “They sit under the floor spinning away and building up energy, meaning that in the event that the power fails, batteries aren’t required. From a sustainability perspective, batteries are pretty harmful to dispose of, but the flywheels provide short-term power before standby generators kick in.”
And this kind of power reliability is important for Dell EMC’s customers, for whom information loss is a major concern when choosing a data center provider. In Lamb’s words, “2015 and 2016 have been the years of the data breach,” with some high-profile companies suffering the consequences. However, the cause of the vast majority of such issues has been human error within private cloud environments, meaning pockets of vulnerability are left open for hackers.
“All of our partners hold a significant number of recognized compliance and security standards,” Lamb affirms. “You’ve got to have and maintain that level of security to reassure customers, particularly when dealing with regulated industries. You can’t afford for people to lose faith. We’ve learnt from our time in the industry that you actually need to be moving away from the traditional model of hoping standard protections are going to keep the bad guys out, because they won’t.”
Differentiating itself from competitors is one of Dell EMC’s biggest successes, and rejection of the traditional is part of that. Focusing on R&D, energy efficiency, and maintaining a positive working environment remain key to the company’s triumph, and merger or not, Dell EMC has not lost focus on the most important elements of its business.
“Combining the expertise of heritage Dell and heritage EMC means we have a significant influence on social and environmental responsibility across the IT sector,” Lamb concludes. “From our perspective, it’s an exciting time.”
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.