Dell Curates a Cloud for Small Business Apps

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted November 21, 2012

Dell was an early pioneer in outfitting small and midsized businesses (SMB) with PCs, servers and storage. It makes sense that the company would now help them transition their businesses to the cloud.

Incidentally, it could mean that SMBs end up purchasing less of the aforementioned hardware from Dell. Dell doesn't seem very worried, though. In fact, the massive IT vendor is rolling out the red carpet in the form of Dell Cloud Business Applications.

But here's the twist. Instead of stuffing every software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that it could find into its cloud portfolio, Dell plans to help SMBs to do more with less, said Bill Odell, senior director of marketing for Dell Cloud Business Applications.

Little Choice in the Matter (and It's a Good Thing)

Odell told Small Business Computing that Dell Cloud Business Applications is a "family of best-of-breed SaaS applications and services that we have curated for the small and medium sized business marketplace."


Small businesses may be flocking to the cloud, but few are benefitting from its business-enhancing on-demand delivery model and its cost-savings structure, explained Odell. It's also not uncommon for a small business to rely on a hodgepodge of business and consumer-grade services, a mash-up that can crimp productivity.

Worse, he added, is that SMBs are often ill-equipped to navigate the cloud services market, requiring them to devote some of their tight budgets to consultants and IT integration services.

Dell tackles these challenges by making "it simple to select an application," said Odell. "We don't believe in a cloud marketplace [model] for SMBs," he stated. So, all of the Dell Cloud Business Applications have gone through an exhaustive evaluation process, each "selected and carefully curated," he said.

Currently, Dell Cloud Business Applications comprises these applications:

  • Salesforce Sales Cloud - Sales, marketing and CRM
  • Salesforce Service Cloud - Customer service and call center services
  • Pardot Marketing Automation - Lead and marketing management
  • Dell Boomi - Application integration services
  • EchoSign - E-signatures for electronic contracts
  • Conga Composer - A Salesforce-compatible, business-to-business (B2B) proposal platform

"We make it easy for SMBs to acquire the application," said Odell. For customers, Dell serves as a "single point of purchase," meaning that one contract covers all the subscriptions. Dell also lends its own expertise by offering support and implementation services, along with expert-driven guidance and best practices to help small business owners get up and running quickly.

Does Dell's strategy work? One startup swears by it.

Cloud Business App Sherpas

Scott Crawford, the COO of Emotive, is too busy growing his business to get bogged down by planning and implementing a CRM system. The Oakland, Calif.-based startup's cloud-based mobile application development platform gives developers the tools need to mobilize workforces by crafting iOS and Android apps that hook into business applications and services. To match the blistering pace of innovation in this hot market, Emotive needed an integrated CRM solutions set, and the company needed to get it off the ground fast.

Emotive turned to Dell Cloud Business Applications, in large part, "because of Dell's focus on SMBs," stated Crawford. Although the simplified billing and lowered IT costs attracted Emotive's attention -- "I didn't have to buy hardware and software," Crawford said -- the clincher was Dell's support organization.

As a lean startup, Emotive has neither the time nor the inclination to devote resources to CRM specialists. The service allows Emotive "to leverage the smarter people" at Dell as Crawford's team gets up to speed on the apps.

Crawford added that they "continue to give best practices," lifting that research-intensive burden from his shoulders. "My focus is driving as much pipeline as I possibly can," he said. In just the first few weeks, Emotive is already making huge strides in email campaigns and lead scoring. On other platforms or left to its own devices, the company would still be in the planning and implementation stages.

The Dell Cloud Business Applications suite is available now. And according to Bill Odell, it will soon expand into cloud analytics. The goal? "Helping SMBs understand their business performance," he said, adding that most offerings on the market "never really work for the little guy."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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