Ingram Micro Exec To MSPs On AI: ‘Think Big, Act Small With The Power Of Data’

‘Data is the oxygen and the blood for AI. It will not work without that,’ says Sanjib Sahoo, chief digital officer for Ingram Micro.


Sanjib Sahoo believes that AI needs curiosity as it’s the “mother of all innovation.”

“If we don’t have curiosity, we cannot innovate,” he said.

Sahoo, EVP and chief digital officer at IT distribution giant Ingram Micro, spoke at Ingram’s One conference in Nashville, Tenn. this week about the benefits of AI and why businesses should know why they’re using AI.

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“Most of us think AI is automation of jobs and all that,” he said. “That is actually not what AI is. And AI will exponentially increase because that is the focus of every organization.”

He said in one year there will be more AI systems than the global human population. By 2030, there will be an estimated $2 trillion global spend on AI, versus $136 billion in 2023, Sahoo said.

[Related: Ingram Micro Launches Staff Assist Program To Help Partners With Offshore Talent]

“AI is machine algorithms, but humans have a lot of intelligence,” he said. “So how does AI and human intelligence intersect? AI is nothing but mimicking human intelligence with machines at scale.”

But without the data, AI is pointless, he said. “So the channel should be focusing on pitching data more than AI. Data is the oxygen and the blood for AI. It will not work without that,” he said.

“If your data is not great, AI is pointless,” he added. “The real focus is you’ve got to improve your data, clean your data, harmonize your data, and that is a lot of work. That means moving your applications to cloud. That means harmonizing data on the cloud. That is an opportunity for the channel because that is the backbone to actually build a better AI, because without data AI doesn’t work at all.”

Today, he said 45 percent of SMBs are using AI for their marketing and sales initiatives and 77 percent of all devices are using AI today.

And as the channel does research and procurement, it goes from a pull model to a push model using AI.

“You can use AI to push solutions and understand the customer,” he said. “That is the biggest opportunity that you have to understand how you can leverage AI to understand your customer and push solutions, not wait for them to tell you what they want to build. This is the opportunity that you have to leverage AI.”

With so many different models of AI, such as predictive analytics and data processing, Sahoo’s advice to MSPs is to not jump into all of them at once. The first step is to look at use cases such as onboarding new customers, supporting customer inquiries and order management and identifying which AI model best fits the need.

And MSPs must focus on how to use AI as an experience enhancer first, he said.

“Curiosity and innovation and speed is what the entire organization need right now,” he said. “That is where creativity comes. That is essentially what MSPs can do. They have to make AI part of their DNA. Keeping them separate and doing some fancy algorithms is not going to work. They have to constantly take business problems ask the questions, learn from the data, improve the data, predict and solve.”

His message to MSPs is learn every day and define the new offerings being brought to customers.

“Think big, act small with the power of data,” he said. “Where data goes, AI flows.”

James Rocker, founder and CEO of Bohemia, N.Y.-based MSP Nerds That Care, said he likes that Sahoo emphasized the importance of data in AI and how it can be used to improve business.

“He highlighted that AI is nothing without data and showed us the value of how important your data is and will continue to be in the future,” Rocker told CRN. “His talk allowed me to think deeply about how we can take the data that we’ve been gathering for many years and use it to make better decisions for our business.”