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Dell to ramp up Scottish operations

After enjoying success in Ireland, Dell now sees Scotland as fertile ground to grow its sales and support operations

Dell, whose operations in Europe have centred on Ireland to date, is looking to double its workforce in Scotland.

The PC maker plans to take advantage of a large pool of skilled IT people in Scotland who have previously worked for companies like IBM and HP.

Dell began setting up its operations in Scotland around December 2004, according to Josh Claman, Dell's vice-president and general manager for the UK. This was around the time IBM announced it was selling its PC business, part of which was based in Scotland, to Lenovo.

In May 2005, "we started moving some people to Glasgow," Claman told ZDNet UK. "We moved a lot of technical support into Glasgow for our commercial business, and we moved a lot of salespeople into Glasgow and hired a lot in Glasgow.

"So we went from zero to 500 people," Claman explained. "That will continue to ramp up, and we will have about twice that many in the next 12 to 18 months."

IBM employed thousands at its manufacturing plant in Greenock before selling it to manufacturer Sanmina-Sci, and HP divested itself of its plant in Scotland some time before that. It appears to have been IBM's decision to sell its PC business to Lenovo in December 2004 that prompted Dell to move in.

"There are a lot of good skills in Scotland," Claman said. "We hit the ground running and we do three months of training, which is a lot in our industry. That is both in technical support and in sales."

Dell has been hiring more support staff in the UK and Scotland, but Claman acknowledges that a minority of the support for the UK market will continue to come from India.

"Quite a lot of our consumer and very small business [support] has gone to India," Claman said. "Very little of the business I am responsible for has gone to India, although parts have. Back-office functions have gone to India, with great success. They are actually better than they were in the UK — because of quality and customer satisfaction."

Claman admitted that in the past "Dell has got in trouble" through outsourcing, but believes that "other companies have had the same problems". The problems came along becausd Dell was "trying to go too far, too fast", Claman said.

"Instead of saying 'we are going to do this function and we are going to do it well'," companies need to be "obsessive about the transitional detail, the training, supervision and the incentives to staff, and meeting the local cultural requirements," Claman said. "When we do that, when we do it at the right pace, we get best-of-breed results."