Recent acquisitions have taken Dell from being a customised PC assembly firm; into the markets of ‘Cloud’, virtualisation, big data storage and big data analytics and iOT (Darrow, 2016). Dell has recently taken on $58 billion in debt to buy EMC [storage] and VMWare [virtualization software]. Cash flow is also under pressure, due to debt interest and the costs of integrating many recent acquisitions including the biggest takeover in IT history – that of EMC (EMC, 2016). R&D resources are thus limited and spread across a wide variety of technologies.
Research indicates that there is no direct correlation between R&D spend and a firm’s success (Hessedahl, 2014). Nonetheless, IT is very competitive and a certain level of R&D and innovation is necessary (Gerybadze, 2007). R&D spend is 2% or less than other large IT integrators (BCG, 2017a). With a heavy debt and a 2 % net profit, Dell must use its R&D expenditure wisely.
This transformation now means Dell is of the 5 largest IT services firm world-wide competing in many disparate consumer and business markets (BCG, 2017b). The firm has gone from a customized consumer based-PC assembler, to a large integrated Corporate IT Services firm competing with IBM, HPE, Fujitsu, Oracle, SAP (Lev-Ram, 2017). There are positives and negatives to Dell’s transition which this consulting report and project will consider.
follow site Table 1: Dell’s organization overview
|Structure||Went private in 2013, largest shareholder is founder Michael Dell. Recent acquisitions such as Pivotal, EMC and VMWare trade on the NASDAQ under the name Dell Technologies [DVMT]. It is privately held.|
|Years in Operation||Founded 1984.|
|Location HQ||HQ: Round Rock, Texas USA
|# of Staff||140.000 (Dell, 2017a)|
|Main Products, LOB||· Services [25% of revenues]
· PCs [25%]
· Mobility [25%]
· Servers/Storage [23%]
· Software [2%]
(Businesswire, 2016; CSI Market 2016)
|Revenue and Profits||· 2016: Revenues $54.8 billion loss of $1.1 billion
· 2015: Revenues $58.1 billion, loss of $1.2 billion (Calnan, 2016)
|Cash flow||· Weak. Cash and Equivalents on hand year end 2016: $ 6.5 billion or just 6 years at current loss rate (AmigoBulls 2016).
· In 2016 retired $5.8 billion in debt, but total debt still $56.8 billion (Matsumoto, 2016).
|Firm Driven mainly by||· Innovation, market share, customising solutions to market demand, Cloud (Dell, 2017b).
· Also, Silver Lake and Temasek Holdings were the main financiers of the $64 billion for Dell’s acquisitions and the $24 billion to take the firm private in 2013. They will want an ‘exit’ strategy to get their money out.
|Organizational structure||§ Hierarchical-role based, Complex Matrix, Independent Lines of Business Divisions, Product-Geographic mix (Dell 2016 Key Facts, Child, 1972)
§ Dell has a privately held Nasdaq-listed company [Dell Technologies], which contains its recent acquisitions of EMC, Enstratus, Pivotal, VMWare and Quest Software
§ Remaining private, allows Dell to pursue long term strategic plans and objectives.
|CEO’s role||Michael Dell is active and is moving the firm away from PCs into the Private Cloud.
The CEO Michael Dell is the critical driver of transformation through mergers, acquisitions and a new focus (Darrow, 2016). His vision is Dell being the world’s biggest IT services and hardware firm, co-opting large corporations into the Dell ‘private cloud’, in which firms will use Dell for cloud computing, storage, backup, disaster recovery and to outsource their hardware and infrastructure needs (Burt, 2016). For consumers, Dell has plans to ‘remake’ the PC and add in new and novel functionality to make the PC is even more customised, and performant (Dell, 2016). Dell is thus a company in deep transformation.
Section 2: Internal Environmental Analysis
It is necessary to consider the strengths, weaknesses and threats that Dell possesses and faces; and how these impact the proper usage of R&D spending.
- Important and recognized brand name
- World’s No. 1 seller of storage systems, No. 2 of servers, and No. 3 of PCs (Lev-Ram, 2017)
- Leader or challenger in many market segments (Lev-Ram, 2017)
- Direct channel model aids in building client relationships (Voight et al 2016)
- Diversified Revenue streams; 50% US based, 50% ROW (Dell, 2017a)
- Extensive and diversified, globally based, Consumer and Corporate businesses (Lev-Ram, 2017)
- Organizational structure [LOB focus, mostly a private firm] (Merced, 2016).
- Dell is moving into the ‘private cloud’ market with EMC, VMWare acquisitions (EMC 2016)
- In 2013 the firm went private citing weaknesses in its main business units and lower margins (Weinberger, 2015)
- Huge Debt from recent acquisitions, totalling over $50 Billion, weak cash flow and net loss per annum of $1 billion (Amigo Bulls, 2016)
- Has had difficulty in managing and integrating acquisitions eg Perot Systems which was sold to NTT (Paredes, 2015); and Dell Software sold to other private equity firms
- Cultural unity would be difficult to achieve across all Lines of Business (Rogers 2016)
- EMC is the biggest M&A in IT history and it will be years before the benefits can be realised (Weinberger, 2015)
- The public cloud market [AWS, Azure] could pose a threat (Weinberger, 2015)
- Dell is involved in many markets, countries, and product lines, and its product-market mix is huge and complicated to manage (Marketline SWOT, 2016)
- PC business is low margin and still 25% of revenues, software which typically has 30%+ margins is only 2% of revenues (AmigoBulls, 2016)
- Dell is rapidly diversifying away from just customized PC sales (Merced, 2016)
- Dell is very skilled at using internet technology to lower its costs and reach a wide customer based (Voight et al, 2016)
- EMC, Virtustream and VMWare are market leaders in storage and virtualisation and strongly entrenched in the corporate market (FRPT 2016)
- RSA is a market leader in security a fast growing and important market segment (Fisher College, 2016)
- Data Storage, Private Cloud, iOT and Big Data markets are growing and Dell has the assets to be a big player in this market (Darrow 2016)
- Increasing software and services revenues around the private cloud, migrations, hosting, storage (EMC 2016)
- The trend in IT is towards smaller, more agile firms. Why does Dell believe that bigger is better? (Kavadias et al 2016)
- Many competitors across a broad landscape of products and services (Darrow, 2016)
- Organizing each line of business properly to counter these threats is difficult (Stuart, 2006)
- Customized PC market is shrinking (Marketline, 2016)
- Public clouds could pose a risk to VMWare and EMC (Merced, 2016)
- Internet or Cloud technology could put pressure on some of Dell’s business units (Daniel, 2016).
- Integrating and managing the $67 billion EMC and VMWare acquisition (Vizard, 2016)
- Paying about $2 billion per year in interest costs alone, for the debt incurred to buy EMC and VM Ware (Marketline, 2016)
By going private Dell can transform itself into an IT Services and Cloud firm; which can compete with other large IT service firms and not worry about profit margins and stock prices. This is an advantage to the firm in many ways, as it digests some enormous takeovers, and goes through the painful process of cultural and organisational change (Shahzad et al 2012). Moving into the private cloud including ‘big data’, is also a smart strategy, since both private and public cloud markets are growing at 25% or more per annum and the private cloud market constitutes a market size of about $7 billion world-wide (Daniel, 2016). Dell possesses market leading brands in many key IT sectors as well.
Weaknesses and threats include deep competition, a huge debt, the challenge of integrating acquisitions, changing processes to focus on the ‘private cloud’ and maintaining margins in a declining PC industry which is still 25% of sales (Weinberger, 2015). As well Dell’s services, software and private cloud revenues are far lower than other huge IT services firms such as IBM, HPE, Fujitsu, or NTT. Debt and low margins will put pressure on R&D spend and usage (BCG, 2017a).
In spite of the weaknesses and threats, it is clear that Dell had to expand its business beyond customized PCs which is a shrinking and margin-poor market (Darrow, 2016) and become a larger and diversified firm; more focused on the fast expanding Cloud markets (EMC, 2016).
From 2005 -2012 IT hardware and peripherals faced heavy competition, lower margins and a rapid increase in consumer expectations (Gartner, 2015). For Dell, this meant an erosion in profits and stock price (AmigoBulls, 2016). Dell was forced to change its model from a publicly traded customized hardware assembly firm; into a private IT services firm, focused on Cloud computing, and large corporate budgets (CSI 2016). A PESTLE analysis supports this (Banham, 2010).
http://oceanadesigns.net/images/granite/sahara-gold/sahara-gold.jpg Political: Dell’s business is regulated in every country by federal and local government agencies in both consumer and business practices. Dell is impacted by trade agreements, tax levels, regulatory costs and sourcing/supplier laws. Any political policy which reduces consumer or business income and confidence, or which raises taxes, regulations or costs of trade and supply, can impact Dell (Marketline, 2016).
Importance: Given the amount of taxes it pays and number of people it employs, Dell has a lot of bargaining power with governments. If a government raises taxes for example, Dell can threaten to leave that jurisdiction and take its data centres and offices elsewhere (Darrow, 2016).
follow link Economic: Diversified across geographies, market segments and product lines. The PC business is related to general economic conditions and the ability of consumers to buy PCs and peripheries. Business clients can also be impacted by economic downturns, which can result in reduced spending (Lev Ram, 2017).
Importance: Dell’s business is global and is split roughly 1/3 consumer and 2/3 business. It is well positioned to survive regional economic declines or tax and trade changes (CSI, 2016).
Social: Dell has the capacity and experience to use social media to help its channel strategy and connect with consumers (Vizard, 2016).
Technology: Dell’s consumer business depends on direct to consumer-internet channels and easy to use web systems. Its business products are technology leaders in many areas [Rogers, 2016]. Technology is also used by Dell’s competitors and major shifts in computing such as ‘Cloud’ are both opportunities and threats to Dell (Marketline, 2016).
Importance: Dell is well positioned to take advantage of technology, to reduce costs and make efficient and globally interconnected supply chains. It has a long history of doing so and a culture which embraces technology (Dell, 2017a).
Legal: This includes legal contracts with both businesses and consumers, along with compliance to various international, national, and local statutes. Dell has no large outstanding legal issues.
Environmental: Dell is very conscious of its responsibilities, including recycling, reuse, limiting pollution and conforming to eco-standards across the globe (Dell, 2017b).
Market forces and declining PC margins forced Dell to transform itself from a low margin hardware assembly operation, into a higher growth and higher margin ‘Cloud’ and storage company (Daniel, 2016). Since Dell is a global brand name, buying best of breed firms in areas like storage, virtualisation, hosting and related cloud markets is a logical strategy. It costs less to buy a market leading firm then to build it up internally (EMC, 2016). By going private Dell can compete with other large IT service firms and not worry about margins and stock prices. This is an advantage to the firm as it digests enormous takeovers, and goes through the painful process of cultural and organisational change (Shahzad et al, 2012).
Since 2012, Dell has pursued this aggressive strategy at diversifying its business. In its 5 main business units Dell is engaged in a wide variety of markets and products which respond to, but can also change, market and industry structures (Merchant, 2012). Given the extensive competition it faces across a wide variety of products and geographies, Dell must be extremely productive in its use of R&D and limited resources to:
- Sell more products to existing customers
- Create new products and services to sell to existing customers
- Develop market penetration with existing products into new markets
- Create new products and services to new markets and market segments (Warrilow, 2011)
Within IT R&D proficiency is a very important source of competitive advantage (BCG, 2017b).
Utilization of R&D and internal resources properly, is an important part of market competition (Kellermans et al 2016). Dell has $54 billion in new debt and spends 2 % of revenues on R&D. Dell must pay off its debt, but still invest in innovation to be competitive. Resources are thus constrained (Hessedahl, 2014).
Dell’s limited R&D Resources would include: physical assets, people and products (Penrose 1959, p. 60), along with functional skills, cultural capabilities, product availability & quality, Dell’s brand, innovation, and change management (Hall, 1993). R&D therefore encompasses knowledge capital; creativity; the firm; physical assets; and Hall’s intangible assets.
There are 3 key aspects of R&D value (Amit and Schoemaker 1993):
- R&D which adds value to customers in either utility, or cost-reduction;
- R&D developing intellectual property or ‘inimitable’ assets and;
- Innovation which cannot be easily substituted (Barney 1991).
A Resource Based View (RBV) and framework applicable to VLEs is that used by F. Bridoux (2004) who integrates RBV with external factors: ‘After excessive swings, first, towards industry structure and, second, towards the firm’s characteristics, I think, in line with Henderson and Mitchell, that the time has come to find a balanced position integrating the firm in its environment.’ (Bridoux, 2004:2)
The relevancy to Dell, is that In Bridoux’s framework a firm’s resources will inform its strategy. This is turn will interact with the competitive environment, generating new information which can in turn produce new ideas, and resources (Bridoux, 2004: 8). This is summarized as:
- Understanding the competitive environment[s]
- Comprehending the resources that the firm has at hand including cash, people, skills, brand, market leverage, channels, products, R&D depth
- Competitive positioning including capabilities, motivations, and awareness of market changes give 1) and 2) above
- Action Response[s] to #3
- Competitive advantage developed as an outcome of step 4) including new products, services, IP, ideas and market segmentation
- Performance measurement of the changes enacted from the above (Bridoux, 2004)
This is an iterative model. Since Dell is a complex firm competing in multi-product markets, Bridoux’s model is more applicable than classic RBV theory (Appendix B contains a critique of RBV).
In Bridoux’s model, Dell possesses the resources to be aware, motivated, and capable of deploying IP, especially in an iterative cycle with the market (Bridoux, 2004). Dell can develop, co-opt, copy, or buy IP which makes it easier for clients to remain with Dell. R&D and innovation would thus respond to market demands and competitive factors (Bridoux, 2004).
A second benefit of Bridoux’s integrative model is that R&D and innovation can develop a vision which excites the client and describes a ‘journey’ to Dell’s Cloud eco-system, keeping the clients engaged and the competition out, while improving service and decreasing client costs (Kabukin, 2014). Applied integrative-RBV can force Dell to constantly seek out new and better Cloud services in storage, virtualization and in colocation-private cloud hosting. These innovations could quite likely reduce costs and increase margins as well (Kim & Mauborgne, 2004).
In practical terms, Dell possesses the resources to deploy innovative IP, especially in an iterative cycle with the market (Bridoux, 2004). R&D and innovation should thus respond to market demands and competitive factors which is a very important aspect of remaining competitive in the IT industry (Subal et al 2010).
The key change is to focus limited R&D resources on producing value to clients; and be culturally and organizationally open to competitive and external factors. This entails aligning R&D with both current business strategy and market demand.
Per Knott (2012) the most important factors in R&D is the strategic alignment between R&D and the business, along with a culture of innovation (Knott, 2012). The issue is that both concepts are hard to measure and change. Some practical measures to achieve this are:
- Make R&D a profit centre at the business unit level; and create systems to analyse R&D’s impact on revenues for each business unit (Goldbrunner et al 2006; Gerybadze, 2007).
- Open up R&D at the business unit level to external stimuli, even competition (BCG, 2017b).
- Have clients interact with R&D to create market-based innovation (Kohler et al 2012).
- Allow external stimuli from universities and ‘co-opetition partners’ to stimulate innovation (BCG, 2017a).
- Create, fund and be involved with incubators in major markets around the world. New ideas and inventions might be gathered (BCG, 2017b)
Best of breed practices to re-align R&D with the business would include; 1) efficient inter-and-intra-corporate innovation using an idea selection process; 2) transforming good ideas into projects for specific clients; 3) implementing commercial products. The main idea would be to cover R&D costs by having clients paying for them (BCG, 2017a). New IP can then be used across the business as given in Table 2.
In order to effect R&D organizational and cultural changes a change management model is necessary. Kotter’s methodology provides a useful checklist (Kotter, 1996; Kotter 2012). It would have to be used and amended to mitigate on its demerits found in Appendix C (Lauchlan, 2007).
Table 2: Change Management
|Kotter’s Change Management Steps||R&D Transformation Suggestions||For Dell’s R&D – organisational changes/issues|
|1. Urgent change advocated||R&D is limited, competitive landscape||Dell has enormous debt and a 2% net profit margin. It must use limited R&D resources wisely.|
|2. Change agent builds a team||Transformational leadership||R&D should be Business Unit specific, targeted and very transparent.|
|3. Team and agent create the vision||Develop a market-based vision for R&D||R&D is a creative process and must be bi-directional.|
|4. Communication with stakeholders to get buy-in||Multi-channel, Simple, practical messaging||Communications with clients and the market in general by Business Unit.|
|5. Empowerment to generate action||Open up R&D to stimuli||R&D should be tied into Business and Revenue success, with rewards reflecting this change.|
|6. Build short term wins||Simple innovations for specific clients||Work with clients to build innovative ideas at the Business Unit level.|
|7. Reinforce the change plan||Rewards, public acknowledgement||Part of the cultural adjustment.|
|8. Consolidate the changes||Link R&D to corporate success||Make the more open R&D a permanent feature of the organisation.|
(Change Management Blog, 2009. Amended)
Managing internal and external stakeholders is a vital element of change management. The change process needs buy in from Dell’s stakeholders or it will fail (Kotter, 2012).
Using Kotter’s model we can summarize the management of key stakeholders.
Table 3: Stakeholder Change Management
|Top Management C Suite||R&D change Steering Committee||Vision, Strategy, Rewards, Communication|
|Top Management Business Unit||BU R&D Steering Committee||Reflecting above|
|Top Management R&D||Implementing BU strategy, tying in R&D budgets to BU||Practical innovation, cultural changes, sharing IP as needed|
|R&D process owners||Implementing BU product innovation||Based on BU requirements|
|Business Unit process owners||Committee interacting with BU R&D management||Feedback from the market, workers|
|Marketing and Sales||BU level, feeding into R&D and BU R&D Committee||Market feedback and getting clients to pay for the R&D|
|Managers of external groups: Clients, Universities, Incubators, Partners||Committee set up to provide BU R&D feedback||Collaborative tools used with R&D|
(Hannon & Smits, 2015; Gerybadze, 2007)
It is vital to have clients pay directly for as much R&D as possible. This makes the process more practical and focused (Goldbrunner et al., 2006).
Kotter identifies that change management must be related to metrics, including measurement of R&D success, budgets, compensation, and culture (Kotter, 2012). R&D for instance should be measured in revenue output (Knott, 2012). This means that new product revenues, along with R&D costs, should be a part of a Business Unit’s budget. Other metrics include:
- Using the Research Quotient Index to measure R&D (Knott 2012); though limitations on this calculation should be acknowledged.
- Booz & Company, PwC, BCG and others, provide comprehensive R&D surveys including a detailed set of reports and metrics. Dell should use these reports and see where they can improve the effectiveness of R&D.
- McKinsey (Hannon & Smits, 2015) measures R&D outcomes by multiplying a project’s gross contribution, by the rate of maturation (amortization) and then dividing this by the project’s total R&D cost. Dell can also adopt this since it ties in with the idea of making R&D part of the Business Unit’s budget structure.
R&D measurement, metrics, success stories and can help refashion the culture. Aligning Dell’s R&D with practical business outcomes, by making R&D open to competition and ideas, is very important in the highly competitive IT market domains in which Dell competes. In order to measure the impact of R&D changes Dell should implement a software application that automates the reporting of both Key Performance Indictors and a Balanced Score Card in R&D spend by business unit. Research indicates that less than 25% of firms use proper software to manage change making it difficult to assess results (Buckingham & Goodall, 2015).
Given its large debt load, Dell needs to more effectively utilize limited R&D. Dell needs to make its R&D organizationally responsive to market demands. This includes changing the organizational structure to move specific R&D into specific business units; make R&D a budget item and track revenues and profits by R&D project; have clients and external parties fund specific R&D projects, and integrate R&D with market demands and stimuli including incubators, universities and client R&D departments [co-operative R&D] (Goldbrunner, 2006).
A vital factor in having a productive R&D is the strategic alignment between R&D and the business, along with a culture of innovation (Knott, 2012). The key change therefore is to align R&D with both current business strategy and market demand and integrated more firmly with clients and market competition (Subal et al 2010). The report has outlined how this can be done, including how Dell can use a detailed change management model to create the necessary organizational improvements within R&D and open R&D to competitive factors, along with aligning R&D and innovation to specific business units and objectives (Buckingham & Goodall, 2015).
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