The Story Behind Dell’s Simplify IT Initiative

Last month Dell went on record saying that Information Technology (IT) is too complex, and we have launched significant programs to simplify it.  The reactions from the marketplace – especially customers, analysts and the media – have been overwhelmingly positive.  This is certainly a ‘moon shot’ kind of goal, and a risk on Dell’s part. But it is a worthy initiative that can generate huge benefits for IT organizations and the companies in which they work. 

Update 12/5: I saw that Adam Lashinsky recently questioned our Simplify IT strategy. I agree that there’s much more detail we need to share as we have new developments to discuss. That’s the reason that I (and others on the team)  will blog about new developments as they occur. it’s not so much a question about old systems vs. new systems. It’s more about industry standard vs. proprietary architecture.  We will work to make our new systems easier to deploy and manage, but that’s only a part of the idea behind Simplify IT.

What you might not know is the genesis behind this program.  It is so much more than a just a business move or some kind of fancy marketing ploy. Instead, it gets down to the very core of what millions of customers tell Dell every day. They want IT to be easier to get, run and grow, and they want someone to do something about it.  Dell listened and vowed to do just that. 

We see the overall issues breaking down into five core are:

  • Simplification is needed today:  IT gets more complex every day, and the market is asking vendors to do something about it now.  Rather than making technology proprietary and mysterious, vendors are being asked to make IT simple to deploy, use, manage and update.   So Dell is focusing on the key components of simplification that will reduce complexity in the infrastructure:  Standardization, consolidation and automation, from the desktop to the datacenter.

  • Maintenance is killing innovation:  Companies tell us they want to spend a lot less time on maintenance and a lot more on innovation (more interesting projects).  But they can’t because maintenance – just keeping the lights on in IT – requires most of the resources that could otherwise be used on innovation projects.  For these reasons, Dell is focusing on those components of the IT infrastructure that can be commercialized, which just happen to be the maintenance components that drive IT people crazy and waste the most time and money. 

  • Most IT projects should not require an army of consultants:  Sure, consultants are needed for complex projects or one-time deployments.  But basic infrastructure activities like email, image management, databases, virtualization, power & cooling, security and systems management should be easy enough to be managed by internal resources if a company chooses to do so.  Consolidated and automated tools with simple wizards and dashboards, along with standardized design, should be available to manage most of IT.  The goal is to use the fewest resources and deploy in the shortest time possible. Dell already provides these kinds of solutions and tools, and is working to streamline your path even more.  Dell’s services model is also radically different, focusing on getting you to the finish line rather than keeping a hand in your pocket.

  • IT can and should have a minimal environmental impact:  Today, more companies are looking to juggle the need for greater computing capacity with the desire to manage power costs and datacenter space.  The computing needs of the organization always come first, but IT can address all these issues and still go greener.   Dell was the first to offer servers and PCs with dramatically lower power use, but the mission didn’t stop there.  Dell is the leader in power assessment and use, thermal management, eco-manufacturing and recycling. If you want to know more, check this out.

  • IT wants to drive their own agenda and have more choice:  Proprietary technology locks an IT department into a never-ending cycle with a small number of vendors.  Over time this vendor lock-in makes it virtually impossible to change vendors or upgrade without expensive costs for hardware, software, and services.  This, in turn, creates an ongoing cycle of greater complexity.  Dell has always been about standardization and choice, with seamless upgrade paths. 

So the next time you talk to your technology vendor, ask them what they are doing to simplify IT.   More importantly, let us know if we have these core tenets correct.  If we’re missing something, let’s add it to the list. 

About the Author: Jeff S. Johnson