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Dell chief is mapping out best route to firm’s future success

Client solutions president and orienteering fan Sam Burd says the way forward is putting user experience ahead of IT cost, writes Louise Kelly

In orienteering, each participant is handed a map marked with a series of points in order to navigate some chosen terrain. Working through each of these points, in order, in the fastest way possible, is the game’s objective.

For Dell’s Sam Burd, president of the client solutions group, his own passion for the sport, which he has enjoyed since childhood, has enhanced skills he applies to his daily role at the tech firm.

“Orienteering engages you physically plus you have to think and plan ahead of where you’re going, think through all your options, figure out when you need to take risks or when you need to play it safer,” he told the Irish Independent.

Running the client solutions business for Dell Technologies alongside Limerick man, Senior VP and CFO David Kennedy, Burd said their strategy follows a similar trajectory.

“You’re trying to move quickly, you don’t have all the information and you’re trying to sort out which path you’re going to take there. And the simple straight one is often not the best path to take.

“You’ve got to figure out which of the other options look good. You commit and you continue on to make it work. Then you get to go do another task so you learn from that, you plan ahead and you make better decisions in the future.

“Just like orienteering, you can set the team on the right path but you’re going to make mistakes. But, if you learn from them, it’s good to make mistakes. You just need not to make the same mistake five times in a row.

Customer demands, unsurprisingly, are ever-changing, with the digital transformation that’s currently occurring across all industries. Speaking to me at Dell Technologies World 2018, Burd said that his team listen to these demands and combine that with what their technological capabilities are. And, right now, the demands are all about the edge.

“We talk a lot about transformation, but what we’re seeing a lot in the workforce is CIOs [chief information officers] and IT really caring about the experience they create for their employees. The trend started several years ago and it’s a wave now where IT, which was previously measured on cost alone, is now being measured on user experience.

“This is where companies started coming to us to get what they need for edge technology, to put great tools in the hands of employees, to help improve offer acceptance rates with HR, to help improve employee retention.

In a workplace era where foosball tables, slides and free lunches are becoming the norm, at least in the creative and tech arena, Burd said that employees are rating edge technology most important; and employers are jumping on board to facilitate.

“Employees want a great tool to do a really excellent job, to make a difference at their company and build themselves a great career. Cost matters but there’s a big trend in businesses around getting people the right technology versus getting the 25-year-old PC.

“When you’re not winning the war on having great talent at your company, you’re losing, as you’re competitors are getting those people. It’s seems to be the renaissance of edge computing and the importance of the edge and edge devices across the industry.”

There are three macro factors that are driving these devices and the workplace of the future, according to Burd.

Immersive experiences which “ultimately cut the wire” in the move from the keyboard, mouse and trackpad interface to touch, pen, inking, voice, etc; the collaboration of minds and talents, with all decision-makers at the table, regardless of their location for “co-creating in a seamless kind of way” and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning “to anticipate and think about things that we want to go and do before we’re already doing it”.

“We’re just scratching the surface in terms of intelligence but we see immersive experiences, collaboration and intelligence being huge trends shaping where devices are going to go in the future,” said Burd.

The importance of AI and ML – and non-volatile memory express [NVMe] – for Dell Technologies was highlighted at the Las Vegas event earlier this month as additions to their existing server portfolio and a range of new data centre products targeted at customers looking to further embrace IoT and other emerging tech were officially launched.

The new products are largely aimed at helping the tech giant’s customers to make sense of the wealth of data being collected and to stay aligned with real-time analytics.

Of Dell’s constantly evolving hardware range for the consumer, commercial and gaming sectors, with CFO Kennedy ensuring a five-to-ten year budget strategy is in place to consistently fund innovation, Burd has one particular favourite

Aside from the Latitude 7000 Series, that he teases (without quite disclosing) we should expect exceptional things from its next gen quite soon, he has a soft spot for the XPS 15 2-in-1.

“Taking what we did with the XPS 13, shrinking the size of the system down so all you see is the screen, and puts it in the 15-inch form factor. It’s good for me as, although I aspire to be a millennial, I can’t see small text as much as I used to!”



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