Driven by Dell’s initiatives to increase product leadership, globalization and customer experience, Dell Training and Certification embarked on a path to create a world-class enterprise certification program. In June 2002, Dell launched the Dell Certified Enterprise Engineer program (DCEE), designed to help system administrators implement, manage, maintain and optimize Dell’s server, storage and software solutions.
In the process, Dell’s team learned a few things about certification, studying the IT training and certification market, adapting e-learning and classroom strategies, learning the value of getting enterprise customers certified and then conducting a complete business analysis to design, launch and sustain a competitive program. The Web site, www.Dell.Com/Training, is a key component of this. This article will set some context, reveal some strategies that helped along the way and discuss some new enhancements that will help Dell scale for the future.
According to data released in the third quarter of 2002 by a major industry analyst firm, more U.S. customers purchase industry-standard servers from Dell than any other company. These figures mirror a trend that another research firm has also shown for the six quarters prior to October 2002. That same firm cites the following statistics: Dell achieved 28 percent year-over-year growth in 2001 to 2002 in all U.S. product shipments, compared with a 2 percent increase for the rest of the industry. PowerEdge server volumes were 24 percent higher year over year from 2001 to 2002, and nearly five times above the rate for the rest of the industry. Revenue from Dell enterprise products—servers, storage systems, network switches and workstations—was up a combined 27 percent from 2001 to 2002.
This attractive growth allows Dell to use its sales reach, its services focus and its Direct model to create value in the industry. Complementing this positioning for Dell is a suite of professional, support and managed services, helping Dell customers get the most out of their Dell investments. These highlights, coupled with a rigorous training offering and DCEE certification program for customers, are indicators to Dell’s customers that it is definitely serious about providing solutions.
The DCEE program is an initiative that opens the door for Dell customers to get hands-on experience with some of the latest enterprise technology prior to implementation on-site, while helping them improve their industry status, income potential and job performance. This is one of Dell’s first strategies to help drive customer success. A recent customer testimonial from a Dell training course reminds us in general that if we do good work, we will see solid results:
“Dell’s trainer really listened to our problems and suggestions, giving us the exact training we needed,” said Christian J.W. Booth, an infrastructure services Windows server lead in Seattle, “not wasting our time on learning about network protocols and software installation, but getting to the points we wanted to better understand. From a management aspect, training can end up costing more than the course fees when you begin to add up the time away for training. Dell offered us in-house training on our current servers. They sent us one of the many extremely technical and talented trainers to walk us through our issues, even giving us some information on how we can better use our current systems. As a systems administrator and a supervisor, you can’t ask for more than that!”
Second, Dell has set a target to certify 10,000 people by 2005. The strategy was originally to get as many people as possible interested in the Dell program via online learning opportunities, then bring them into the lab for the hands-on, performance-based work. To the great enjoyment of Dell’s training and certification team, Dell’s customers were very interested in the hands-on part of the program from the start!
Third, this prompted an immediate build-out of a world-class training and showcase facility launched on Nov. 8, 2002. This facility is currently equipped with three full storage area network (SAN) labs, featuring:
- 10,000 square feet
- Two enterprise technology showcases
- Two conference rooms
- Three classrooms:
- Configured to serve up to 14 students per classroom.
- Supporting more than 70 Dell PowerEdge Servers.
- Containing almost 20 terabytes of storage.
- Serving 505 network nodes (plus wireless network connectivity).
- Handling up to 2,700 students each quarter, a 250 percent increased capacity over Dell’s previous training lab environment.
- Providing state-of-the-art remote-access capability.
- Enabling realistic and experiential hardware simulation training.
This also shows Dell customers that it is serious about DCEE certification and scalability—delivering high-quality instructional environments while helping to reduce the system complexity and price of training delivery.
Another strategic decision Dell made was that the program must be simple to navigate and must challenge learners to maximize their performance capabilities on Dell systems. Here’s the path developed for customers:
- Choose a DCEE track: PowerEdge Server, Systems Management, Business Continuity or Network Storage.
- Get started with online Foundation-level training, and pass the related exams at any of the 3,500 Prometric testing centers globally. This puts you at the Foundation level of DCEE.
- Take a performance-based hands-on course on Dell hardware solutions at the Dell Technology and Education Center in Austin, Texas, or delivered directly at the customer site.
- Pass the related exams. This puts you at the DCEE Associate level.
- To enter the Master level of the program, Dell requires a broad and deep understanding of the n-Tier architecture and at least two of the DCEE Associate level certifications, along with Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Linux or equivalent vendor certifications.
As you can see, this isn’t a program for the weak at heart. This requires a certain level of experience and skill with Enterprise solutions. With DCEE, Dell has challenged the world to come learn about Dell and the features that help enable its customers to be successful. Dell is currently focusing the program on solutions for common enterprise challenges like managing SANs, developing business continuity strategies and server and software management.
Some guiding principles Dell’s training and certification team tries to follow include:
- Allow course development to be scalable by using modular design strategies.
- Make it easy for the customer to find, purchase and track learning paths for DCEE.
- Create business interlocks so business development, sales, marketing, operations and management can all see the program progress in real time.
- Follow up with customers to ensure their satisfaction at every stage of their learning experience.
- Drive DCEE penetration internally and externally.
- Learning and performance drives the customer’s IT capabilities, so focus on performance-based learning activities in the classroom.
- Program growth can be enhanced with effective business planning and organizational design.
- Think globally, act locally.
Planned Program Enhancements
Some of the program enhancements that Dell has planned include:
- A security offering.
- A Linux offering.
- A networking offering.
- Leveraging non-Dell certifications online.
- Creating a community of DCEE participants with a global conference.
- Globalization efforts, currently rolling out DCEE to APAC, EMEA, Latin America and Canada.
- Incorporating the Dell Servi