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Hello, I’m Michael Dell

Michael Dell has spent this week at EMC World, meeting with hundreds of partners. customers and employees. The most refreshing thing about his approach?

Dell typically navigates a room without depending on handlers to run interference for him. Sure there’s at least one employee around to keep Michael on schedule. But other than that, Dell is approachable and in listen-mode as partners, customers and employees approach him with thoughts and questions.

And yes, there have been plenty of questions. For most of the conference, Dell addressed questions about the $67 billion EMC buyout. Some skeptical media pundits want to know how he will address potential product overlap. Others want to know how Dell and EMC will stay nimble even as they merge into a giant, complex company. Michael Dell and EMC CEO Joe Tucci tackled those questions — and more — during this interview session.

Yes, Michael Dell had stage time during the EMC World keynote. He had stage time at media sessions. And he had stage time at EMC Global Partner Conference 2016 (held in conjunction with EMC World).

But more importantly, Dell was “present” when he wasn’t on stage. He stopped by an Avnet Technology Solutions  gathering and spoke one-on-one with a range of attendees there. Not in private conference rooms. Out in the open. He replied to emails from a range of attendees, a few of whom I know. And he navigated the halls of the Sands Expo as if he was just another attendee.

Jordan, Jackson and Dell…

Only, he wasn’t just another attendee. In some ways, the international media was star struck by Dell. It wasn’t Michael Jackson mania. Nor was it Michael Jordan mania. But many journalists stopped and posed to take pictures with this Michael. Others listened in as Dell answered side-room questions from partners and customers.

And here’s the point: At a time when so many CXOs pop in — and out — to deliver conference keynotes, Dell was fully present and engaged at EMC World. That’s smart, considering how high the stakes are.

Many technology partners — including several major distributors — are praising the Dell-EMC business combo even before the deal is finalized. And frankly, the business combination makes sense on paper to me. But I’ve been wrong before. Very wrong.

When M&A Turns Ugly

When Symantec purchased Veritas more than a decade ago, I praised the deal because security and storage made sense under one roof. Total data protection. It sounded great… until both Symantec and Veritas largely missed the cloud and mobile waves.

I also saw some value in HP’s buyout of Compaq more than a decade ago. Only, I didn’t see the dot-com implosion coming. Nor did I expect HP to suffer so badly from so much CEO turnover.

The point is this: The mood around Dell-EMC is extremely positive right now. Michael Dell is talking a good game. And the integration teams are working hard to ensure the combined company — to be called Dell Technologies — hits the ground running later this year.

Still, there are challenges. Dell and EMC didn’t exactly lead the cloud and mobile revolution. Now, Dell has to prove they can lead the IoT, big data and “next platform” revolutions.

That’s quite a challenge. But Michael Dell is present — and listening. A lot. That approach could be the difference between a successful business combination vs. yet another M&A deal that never fulfilled its promise…

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