Ingram Micro CEO: Our Partners Are ‘Right In The Middle Of Everything We Do’
‘My message to the [business] owners is really lean in and understand, don’t just hand it off to your operations people to go manage your business. This can help you be a more effective business and help you run your business more efficiently,’ says Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay.
Whether it’s evolving the Xvantage platform, helping partners with talent or offering more professional services, Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay said that the distributor’s partners are in the center of it all.
And it’s still all about relationships.
“The complexity of how technology services are delivered is still going to remain,” Bay told CRN in an exclusive interview. “I think it’s actually going to continue to be more complex, and we’ve got to have people to be able to move forward with that. We’ll continue to build out, as we call them, engines that will drive value for partners. But we’re going to have our partners right in the middle of everything we do.”
One way it’s helping is through its newly-launched Staff Assist Program where partners can hire Ingram Micro employees at offshore locations and make them a part of an MSP’s team.
Partners will be paying 30 to 50 percent less, conservatively, than that of hiring talent in the U.S. for cloud, NOC, server administration, network administration and cybersecurity.
They also have the flexibility to hire as many or as few as they want as the service can be scaled down to serve the SMB market or scaled up to enterprise levels. The hiring cycle typically takes about 30 to 60 days.
“Being a global company and having the reach, we have the visibility into where the talent lies and then working with our partners to help them understand the needs they have and where we can fill those gaps,” Kirk Robinson EVP and president of North America for Irvine, Calif.-based distributor Ingram Micro, told CRN. “You may think some of the larger partners out there have all the needs and all the engineers but nobody has everything. We’re always looking at where do we fit in, regardless of the size of the company. Where’s the talent needed and how can we provide that on their behalf?”
CRN sat down with Bay to discuss the Staff Assist Program, the Xvantage platform and why partners are in the middle of it all.
Where do you want to see Xvantage a year from now?
Well, it’s endless. We have a roadmap and there is no end state because we’re going to continue to innovate. It’s going to happen over and over and over again. We take 2.4 million requests just in the US alone on order status and tracking. That used to be a very manual process in this industry, phone calls and emails. Now just at the click of a button you have that answer. We’ve just given back, not only to our own team members, but to our partners to go have a different conversation. We’ve got many levers that we’re going to continue to build out over the next year, but I will tell you we’re going to continue to iterate. You’ve got to go through change and it doesn’t have to be big change. It can be small, incremental changes along the way. We’ll continue to build out, as we call them, engines that will drive value for partners. But we’re going to have our partner right in the middle of everything we do. We know what our 12-month roadmap is, we’re getting feedback and we’re going to start that process of when we get to the roadmap, what’s going to be even more important. We’re excited but this a continuous evolution that we’ll have as a company. It will be part of our DNA as opposed to there’s an endpoint with Xvantage.
Xvantage will soon be launching into a mobile app. What excites you about that?
If you take a step back, we had this conversation literally a year ago. We had announced Xvantage and there were pilots going on with handfuls of customers. Now we’re talking about tens of thousands of customers on a global basis. We’re creating a singular experience on a global basis. Nobody that I’m aware of in this industry has been able to connect that digital experience to a true app. When we talk about consumerization of distribution and the technology industry, we’re sitting right in the middle of that. Now you can do it anytime, anywhere for the best experience. That was one of the things that partners raised their hand and said, ‘We’d love to be able to do this. We’re out in the field. How can I have that same experience on my phone?’
What an experience those partners get to give to that end user to be able to say, ‘Yeah, let me address that right away.’ Then get on and be able to have that inner-connective conversation as opposed to, ‘Let me pull up my notebook and get on the Wifi.’ I don’t want to discount the fact of how hard it is to be able to create an app that ties back into the main machine. This is real time. We’re really excited about it. In true digital fashion as we continue to move forward to become a platform company, this is just Sanjib [Sahoo, EVP and chief digital officer] and his team being able to listen to the customer and respond. When Kirk [Robinson] and his team come back and say, ‘This is one of the number one priorities,’ they come back with a timeframe to be able to deliver that and in a very short order. We’re super excited about being able to give that experience to the partners.
Ingram launched a Staff Assist program to help partners with talent. Talk to me about the opportunities around that.
We say we’re not going to standardize anything, we’re going to personalize at scale. What that means is that our partners have the opportunity. Everybody goes to market a little bit different and they’re going to have different needs. So when you have a company behind you that’s serving the largest market around the world, we have the opportunity to augment resources and scale up, as opposed to if you had a smaller customer, you may not be able to make those investments. We’re going to make those investments on their behalf and be able to scale it. This world’s becoming much flatter where those are delivered because a lot more comes from a virtual perspective now than they are physically. We’ll have feet on the street but we’re also going to be able to take those competencies and deliver them on a global basis.
What’s your overall message to your vendor partners?
Stay close and understand what we’re doing. I’ve had conversations with three of the top CEOs and executives over the last few weeks and we know something’s working because we’re getting feedback, and it’s not just asking for the feedback. We had one customer tell us that it’s basically changing the way they do business each-and-every day and freeing up time. Another customer said that it’s simple enough for a five-year-old to do it. That doesn’t mean it’s not complex, but that’s exactly what we want. That to me means it’s more about consumerization and making it easy to use.
For vendors, they’ve got to understand the journey from what we’re doing on the customer side, and then how they can participate on the vendor side. When you take supply and demand and make that as touchless as possible, it starts with the vendors, the supply, and getting the data so we can make sure that we provide that experience all the way through.
And what’s your message to your IT services partners?
It’s still a relationship business. All this technology that we’re implementing, people are still important to this conversation. They will be. The complexity of how technology services are delivered is still going to remain. I think it’s actually going to continue to be more complex, and we’ve got to have people to be able to move forward with that. We’re excited about that, the people that we have and that there’s still going to be a very human element with regard to how we go to market. The idea behind Xvantage isn’t to take the people out. It’s to streamline the operation from supply to demand and free up time to go have different conversations. For partners, I would also say they need to lean in and understand where those opportunities are and the fact that we have different personas that we can provide. As an owner, you’ll be able to have a different look at your business within Xvantage. As a procurement person, as a salesperson, we’re providing that experience for the right person at the right time so they can manage their business. My message to the owners is really lean in and understand, don’t just hand it off to your operations people to go manage your business This can help you be a more effective business and help you run your business more efficiently.