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Gaining The Xvantage: Ingram Micro Brings Big Data To Partners

C.J. Fairfield

Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay says the company’s new digital experience platform will make it easier for partners to do business with the distributor and deliver the insight to propel their conversations with customers into the future.

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Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay

When Bruce Lach, president of Success Computer Consulting, looks at Ingram Micro, he sees a distribution partner that is helping him elevate the very nature of his business.

With Ingram Micro’s new Xvantage digital experience platform—the most ambitious development project the distributor has ever undertaken—the company is enabling Lach and thousands of solution providers like him with big data insight they can use to recommend new breakthrough solutions to customers.

“What I want to know is what’s going to happen in the future,” Lach said, speaking about the predictive analytics he expects to get from the new Xvantage platform, which launched in the U.S. and Germany on Sept. 7 and will be rolled out globally through early 2023. “That combination of the data and the visualizations is going to guide us so we’ll spend more time solution-selling. … Once we have that insight, we can develop really good road maps for each and every client,” he said.

“We’re probably getting about $1 out of every $3 spent on technology with our own clients,” Lach added. With the insight from Xvantage, he thinks Success Computer Consulting, an MSP based in Golden Valley, Minn., can grab even more. “To have that insight and have that knowledge and then be able to plan for it, that’s absolutely powerful.”

With the new platform—the result of 15 months of work and a $550 million investment just to lay the foundation— Ingram Micro seeks to give its solution providers and vendor partners a dramatic advantage in the market.

Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, Xvantage provides a personalized experience with data insight tailored to each of Ingram Micro’s solution providers and their customers. That’s on top of the real-time transactional benefits such as up-to-the-minute order status, proactive renewal tracking, product and subscription billing, and customer service capabilities.

Lach, who beta-tested the Xvantage platform, said by merging transactions with data, Ingram Micro is bringing partners into the big data insight era.

“To be honest, the dirty little secret is a lot of MSPs really don’t know what their clients have,” Lach said. “It’s just hard. It’s hard to keep track of assets, and we’ve worked really hard to get that [information]. I like the insight portion of what I’ve seen [from Xvantage].”

Lach is not alone in his praise of the platform. Other Ingram Micro partners have also been wowed by the ability to leverage Xvantage’s big data insight to grow their business.

Mark Essayian, president of Lake Forest, Calif.-based MSP KME Systems, which already had four employees using Xvantage ahead of its official launch, said the new platform provides partners with a “crystal ball” for their existing clients and prospects. He said he will now be able to proactively see what kinds of products and services customers will need down the road.

With Xvantage, Essayian said, he also can back up his solution recommendations with data insight from Ingram Micro. If he can show a customer a road map of how it can double in size and how he’s going to support that, KME Systems is going to win with that customer, he said.

Bottom line, said Essayian, is Xvantage is powering big financial gains for his business. “Ingram is no longer a website and a warehouse,” he said. “They’re actually helping me transact business faster. … I’m a big fan.”

Essayian also has been impressed by the everyday improvements that come from the new platform, like no longer having two separate bills from the distributor—one for cloud services and one for products. “That’s gone,” Essayian said. “What is happening is friction—primarily sales friction—is being reduced. When I can reduce sales friction, customers buy more and they buy faster and they buy from me. … Ingram gets that.”

Essayian expects to be able to increase his customer base by as much as 20 percent to 30 percent as a result of the new sharper sales focus that Xvantage is providing his business.

Ingram Micro calls the Xvantage platform its digital twin, making it easier for partners and customers to do business with it.

“We’re going to consumerize distribution, remove a bunch of friction and accelerate value for our customers and our vendor partners,” said Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay. “The net of it is we really want to make it easier to do business with us.”

That goal means helping partners make the right product choices to deliver key business outcomes for customers.

There are “lots of different products and many different skill sets that [solution providers] have to ultimately focus on to deliver that end customer business outcome,” Bay said. “If we’re focusing on business outcomes, [you have to look at the] amount of effort partners have to go through to get the certifications with those solutions. If there are a half-dozen products that make up a solution, how do they go about that process? It’s all about being able to provide that at the right time—the right offering at the right level and the right pricing, and that’s going to help take that friction out. It’s going to allow them time to have a different and even further business conversation with the end user. It’s going to allow us to be, as we say, the business behind the world’s leading brands.”

Xvantage provides a single-pane-of-glass view that offers partners a next-generation digital platform to navigate the increasingly complex technology solution landscape, from on-premises and hybrid solutions with a wide array of device choices to the untold number of subscription- and consumption-based offerings. “There are so many ways for us to go about solving for a business outcome and us being able to allow that at the right time,” Bay said. “One of the biggest opportunities we have as an industry—and what we’re going to be able to do with the data and the insight—is help partners, with their end users, make real-time decisions.”

Xvantage is focused squarely on eliminating the “wasted energy” that is slowing down the IT ecosystem, said Bay. “We want to be able to take that headwind and turn it into a tailwind,” he said. “It’s [looking at] how we take and embrace digital and sharing best practices and lessons learned across the industry to be more efficient and effective. There’s a lot of energy that’s spent on [being] reactive, from an industry perspective, versus automating that, driving process improvement, driving operational excellence and freeing that up to be more proactive.”

Bay also sees the Xvantage platform unleashing a new wave of opportunity for partners building services capabilities around emerging technologies. In fact, he said, Xvantage is going to allow partners to leverage the full breadth and depth of Ingram Micro’s solution muscle. “[It’s about] where can they lean on us to provide and augment their solutions and offerings? Areas where we continue to invest are if they have solutions, more certifications, whether it’s around security, IoT, data center and what’s currently going on with 5G,” he said. “It’s really understanding where those opportunities are and then focusing and using Ingram Micro to bring everything together.”

Bay is urging both its solution provider customers and vendors to work with Ingram Micro to accelerate the Xvantage opportunity. “My ask of the channel, collectively of both the vendors and our customers, is how do we work together more quickly to accelerate the opportunities we have in front of us,” he said. “We still have a lot of reactive friction and manual processes in how we do business, and as we go to help our customers solve those end-business outcomes and solve for those challenges, we have to work together more quickly and at pace.”

Xvantage comes to market as the industry is moving quickly to adopt new technology to drive better business outcomes for customers, said Bay. “It’s an exciting place to be,” he said. “That’s why I love where I sit at Ingram Micro, because we sit right in the middle of this, and we have the opportunity to continue to add business value to both our customers and our vendors.”

Planning For Transformation

Sanjib Sahoo, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Ingram Micro, said the focus of the digital transformation journey has changed from automation to experience. “That’s a huge shift,” he said. And it’s all about the “why.”

“If you get the ‘why’ right, along with your employees, everybody will be much more participation-focused,” he said. “Then after the why, you can follow with the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ and then later you can do the ‘wow.’”

Xvantage is a business model transformation, “rather than an IT project,” he said.

Sahoo said the key to success for partners implementing Xvantage is to “perform while you transform.”

“You cannot stop your current business,” he said. “But how do you create a plan that really makes you incrementally transform as you’re performing? You have to make portions of your business incrementally transform as you’re building. … You will have many initiatives. Focus on value, focus on ROI and really focus on the customer. Once you do that ROI and the value and you measure it with data, then you will automatically show progress.”

The beauty of Xvantage is it is a self-learning, personalized platform, Sahoo said. “It looks at how you are interacting with the platform to drive an experience,” he said. “As you are doing it, it customizes, and it’s doing it for you so it makes it easier.”

The platform is bringing consumerization into distribution, Sahoo said, echoing Bay.

“We are used to consumerization in the B2C world,” he said. “We are bringing this kind of technology experience of B2C consumerization into distribution to make this experience much easier and more seamless.”

Xvantage is helping customers digitally transform, but it doesn’t come without investments, challenges and the need for manpower, according to Sahoo. “We on our own are working on a digital transformation issue that is pretty challenging,” he said. “It’s very large scale, in multiple countries around the world, and we are growing at a pretty fast speed.”

Sahoo implored partners to think creatively about using the Xvantage platform to drive business benefits for their customers.

“How do you create that spirit, that mindset change in customers and their organizations?” Sahoo asked. “How can you architect in such a way that you can perform as you transform? How do you communicate in a way that it creates excitement and also focus on value? ... Digital is not about IT or technology. It is more about people, it’s more about spirit. It’s more about solutions than technology.”

Why Xvantage Is A Game-Changer For Partners

Xvantage solves one of the perennial problems of distribution: efficient order tracking, said Kirk Robinson, executive vice president and president of North America at Ingram Micro.

“The thing that we’re building is something that the industry basically struggles with: tracking shipments,” he said. “What Sanjib has built with order status and tracking [capabilities] is using AI and ML to implement the vendor data.”

As an example, Robinson said Ingram Micro used to get “hundreds of thousands of calls” from solution provider partners asking where their product was and why it had yet to be delivered. The distributor has now tied a solution into Xvantage where customers can look up order status on their own.

Through the efficiencies of the platform, partners are also going to be able to look at their own team and see where time is being spent, said Robinson. “The way we look at it is when you do a time and motion study on where your employees or associates are spending [time], is it of value or non-value?” Robinson said. “Partners will be able to do that too when they come across the platform and see where things are more automated and simplified.”

Xvantage is going to “simplify the process for our customers,” Robinson said. “We believe that the better experience we drive and the more complexity we take out, the more we’re going to win from a competitive standpoint.” Xvantage ultimately provides Ingram Micro with a huge competitive edge, said Robinson. “This is not easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it,” he said. “This is because every partner is different, and every partner has different capabilities [in terms of] what they can do when given data. … They want to look [to] us for where they are in their journey and how we can support them, whether that’s through data insight, creative financing or how to migrate data.” ‘We are used to consumerization in the B2C world. We are bringing this kind of technology experience of B2C consumerization into distribution to make this experience much easier and more seamless.

Partners Monetizing With Xvantage

James Rocker, founder and CEO of Bohemia, N.Y.-based MSP Nerds That Care, said Xvantage’s capabilities are going to help him drive revenue growth.

“It’s newer, faster, quicker when delivering the product or service to the customer,” he told CRN. “It’s faster than ever before, and it’s just going to drive more efficiency. That’s automatically going to drive higher revenues and the ability for us to take on more clientele. That, of course, gives us the ability to scale.”

Xvantage’s single pane of glass is key as MSPs have many tools to manage. “We’re not really looking for another tool,” he said. “This is going to replace what’s happening now at Ingram as well as other tools that we’re using to see the data.”

Rocker said Xvantage is a “next-level” platform that is going to empower MSPs like Nerds That Care to streamline operations across multiple technology partners.

“Ultimately, it’s going to build a lot more efficiency and clarity into our day-to-day operations,” he said. “This is pretty cutting-edge. There aren’t many distribution or manufacturer partners that have this available in this capacity to MSPs. I don’t think there’s anything that comes close to it. … There’s probably going to be a tremendous shift of business from competitors over to Ingram. For those who have left Ingram to go somewhere else, I’m sure they are going to regret it when they see this in the market.”

David DeCamillis, vice president of sales and marketing at Denver-based MSP Platte River Networks, is excited to see the impact Xvantage will have on his business. He expects Ingram Micro to “crush it” when it comes to business acceleration.

“I know they’ve been working hard in expanding their digital footprint, I know they’ve been working hard on making the online experience that much easier for partners like us, and I know they’ve invested a lot into it,” DeCamillis said. “There’s a lot of research, a lot of time, a lot of hours, a lot of money, a lot of people and a lot of expertise.”

Xvantage also will help ensure the vendor community is getting matched with the right solution providers amid the fast-paced digital transformation that is reshaping the channel.

“When we look at Xvantage, it’s so different, such a different way of doing things,” Robinson said. “We understand there are roles that are yet to be defined to support our partners and our vendors. This is a [big new opportunity] for the vendor side in terms of the data that we’re going to be able to share with them.”

That’s why Xvantage is so transformative, Robinson said.

“It’s going to change us in ways we don’t [yet] know, [as well as] how we use data and virtual reality,” he said. “IoT will come into play in different ways from a solution standpoint, and we’re just excited about what all those opportunities are.”

Embracing The Digital

For partners, Xvantage represents the next big leap forward, said KME Systems’ Essayian. “Ingram is helping me reduce my internal costs and helping me go to a client where I can do things smarter, better, faster,” he said. By reducing internal costs, Essayian said he will be able to hunt for more new business.

“It’s going to enable me to go after more operationally mature clients,” he said. “Do we see growth? Absolutely. But it’s double growth. It’s additional dollars from existing clients, and it’s additional dollars from new clients that see we can do business better.”

Ultimately, Xvantage reduces frustration across the board, said Essayian. “Reducing that frustration level is going to be huge for us because then my people are happier, customers are satisfied, my team is satisfied and Ingram is satisfied,” he said. “Everybody can then grow at different levels, faster.”

Lach, meanwhile, sees the same big growth benefits from Xvantage. Success Computer Consulting will finish this year with $20 million in revenue, 80 percent from services and 20 percent from product sales.

“That’s about $4 million in product, that represents a third to 25 percent of what my clients spend,” he said. “If I can capture half of that, take another third, I can grow another $2 million in product, which is good.”

Lach sees the big data insight that comes from the platform powering Ingram Micro and its partners into the future. “This will allow Ingram Micro to serve more demand with less inventory,” he said. “They’ll have the types of data not just that they have, but the types of data they’ll get from the channel, like us. If they can aggregate it, they’ll be able to have the right inventory at the right time in the right place.”

Bay, for his part, could not be more excited about how Xvantage is going to help both partners and vendors increase sales and profits. “We have over 40 years of data within Ingram Micro,” Bay said. “That data and how we use it with our business intelligence is a differentiator for us today. But I would tell you it’s going to be a game-changer for us tomorrow.”

CJ Fairfield

CJ Fairfield is an associate editor at CRN covering solution providers, MSPs and distributors. Prior to joining CRN, she worked at daily newspapers, including The Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey and The Frederick News-Post in Maryland. She can be reached at cfairfield@thechannelcompany.com.

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