Dell exec ties company success to Internet

Elated by yet another quarter of strong financial results that his company announced on Tuesday, Dell Computer's Vice President and CIO of global services, Michael Clifford, told attendees at the Planet Tivoli conference here that the secret to the company's success is no secret, it's the Internet.

Presumedly invited to speak at Tivoli's annual conference because Dell is a shining example of an e-business -- and because the direct PC vendor uses Tivoli's tools -- Clifford explained to the audience how making the best of the Internet has helped boost the company's bottom line.

Today Dell does 30 per cent of all of its business over the Web, Clifford said. The company opened the doors of its virtual store in 1996, and since then has found that the Web model fits well with the company's direct philosophy: Don't make customers deal with anyone but Dell.

"The Web is the ultimate direct vehicle," Clifford said.

But Dell's not content. The company's latest goal is to do 50 per cent of its business over the Web within a few years, Clifford said. Instead of focusing on what it has achieved, the company concentrates - perhaps obsesses over - what it hasn't yet done, he said.

Clifford does not appear to believe that Dell stumbled upon some deep, dark secret to success. By following some simple guidelines, most companies can make the most of the Web, too:

-- Get customer feedback at every opportunity.

-- Develop a Web channel strategy that is part of the overall business framework, so that the Web site is aligned with the company's goals.

-- Engage your existing sales department, don't compete with them.

-- Deploy your Web site at a time when customers are ready to use it.

-- Encourage your site to be the first point of contact a customer seeks.

-- You may think that Web sales will cannibalize existing channels, but "if you don't cannibalize yourself, your competitors will."

-- A site is "more than a pretty face," make sure it performs.

-- Lastly, despite the current Internet stock boom that is pinning astronomical market capital to companies that haven't yet turned a profit, Clifford said that companies must stay focused on making money.

"At Dell, we think profits count, no matter what you read or who tells you otherwise, he said. "At the end of the day, you've got to be profitable."

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