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戴尔复兴寄望内部二次创业

Anne VanderMey 2011年12月02日

戴尔为了与惠普、甲骨文和IBM等提供全方位服务的科技巨擘展开竞争,正在回归它的创业期本质。

    佛里斯特•诺罗德对于创业可谓轻车熟路。在五年前,他创立了一个新的业务部门,为大公司设计计算机数据中心。当时诺罗德部门的装备非常简陋。有一次他们的团队找不到尺子,只好临时用纸币来测量服务器机柜的长度。还有一位工程师在自己的车库里制作了一个特别的机壳。还有一次,有一名员工只能用胶布来固定电源。

    诺罗德波可不是在为什么小型初创企业打工。他当时正在为大型计算机公司戴尔(DELL)效力,负责成立一个新的业务部门。戴尔公司(Dell)总裁迈克尔•戴尔给他发布了什么指令呢?28年前,迈克尔•戴尔在德克萨斯州立大学(University of Texas)他自己的宿舍里开办了同名公司。迈克尔•戴尔要求诺罗德复制他的创业模式,用来运营数据中心的业务。

    戴尔公司曾经是全球首屈一指的个人电脑制造商。现在公司位居普惠(HPQ)和联想之后,排名世界第三。在公司计算机业务方面,戴尔的竞争对手包括惠普、IBM(IBM)和甲骨文(ORCL),这些公司提供的是包括硬件、软件和服务的更宽泛的产品组合。

    因此,戴尔公司也开始向新的业务领域推进,比如网络安全、数据中心设计和管理等。公司高管容许这些业务部门的运作更具创新性,少一些官僚主义习气,从而能够让公司回归到创业的根本。戴尔个人及中小型企业部门总裁史蒂夫•菲利斯称:“我们公司主要是因为制造计算机而为人所知,而现在我们要转变为一家提供解决方案的公司。这种转型在很多地方都需要创新。”

    戴尔采用的是放权的方式。现年46岁的诺罗德执掌的业务部门位于戴尔公司帕默南部园区,距离德克萨斯州圆石城的公司总部有八英里远。他说,他已经得到许可,可以拒绝公司总部提供的某些“帮助”,比如绞尽脑汁编写出来的产品发展纲要等等。诺罗德称,创建一家公司“只需要一支能够在餐巾纸上画画的蜡笔。”现在,该业务部门已经拥有大约500名员工(最开始只有10个人左右),年销售额超过10亿美元。与此类似,戴尔公司去年收购了系统管理服务商KACE,这个部门同样拥有独立的总部和管理层。

    并非所有内部创新的努力都能成功。戴尔公司曾有一支独立管理的移动通信业务团队,在去年智能手机业务失败后宣布解散。斯坦福大学(University of Texas)教授巴巴•诗夫称,实际上,很多大公司都试图在公司内部营造初创企业的思维模式,但都不成功,因为大公司并不喜欢冒风险。

    但是对戴尔公司来说,重拾创业精神可能是打败大型科技企业竞争对手的最佳方式。幸运的是,戴尔公司已经拥有像迈克尔•戴尔和佛里斯特•诺罗德这样的楷模。

    译者:李玫晓/汪皓

    Forrest Norrod knows all about running a scrappy operation: Five years ago, when he started a business to design computer data centers for big corporations, Norrod's outfit was so lean that his team used dollar bills to measure server racks when they couldn't find rulers. One engineer built a special chassis in his garage. Another time, an employee used duct tape to attach a power supply.

    But Norrod wasn't working for some little startup. He was launching a unit for Dell (DELL), the computing giant. His marching orders from CEO Michael Dell? To manage the data center business much the same way Dell did when he founded the eponymous computer maker in his University of Texas dorm room 28 years ago.

    Dell Inc., once the No. 1 PC maker in the world, now ranks third, behind Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Lenovo. In corporate computing Dell finds itself competing with HP, IBM (IBM), and Oracle (ORCL), which sell broader portfolios of hardware, software, and services.

    So as Dell pushes into new areas, such as cybersecurity and data center design and management, executives are allowing those businesses to operate more creatively and less bureaucratically -- returning the company to its entrepreneurial roots. "We're moving from a company that is predominantly known as a PC company to a solutions company," says Steve Felice, a Dell group president. "A lot of this transformation requires innovation."

    Dell is taking a hands-off approach: Norrod's unit is housed at Dell's Parmer South campus, eight miles from headquarters in Round Rock, Texas. The 46-year-old executive says he has permission to ignore some of the corporate office's "help," such as painstakingly crafted product guidelines. When you're building a company, Norrod says, "you need a crayon drawing on a napkin." Today the business boasts some 500 employees (up from about 10) and more than $1 billion in annual sales. Similarly, Dell last year acquired KACE, a systems-management firm that has separate headquarters and management.

    Not every internal innovation effort is a success: Dell's independently managed communications group disbanded last year after its smartphones flopped. And in fact, many big corporations fail when they try to infuse startup thinking because they are allergic to risk, says Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford University.

    But for Dell, acting more like a startup may be the best way to outmaneuver bigger tech rivals. Luckily the company has role models like Michael Dell. And Forrest Norrod.

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