Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay: ‘Our People, Our Experience And Our Execution Are What Differentiate Us Today’

“It’s not like we’re just starting this journey,” said Bay. “We made a real company investment both organically and through acquisition to set that foundation to help us accelerate what we’re going to do with Xvantage.”

With a $550 million investment to lay the foundation for the Xvantage digital experience platform, Ingram Micro is set to accelerate how it does business and bring more value to its partners.

Xvantage is a personalized platform that uses automation intelligence and machine learning to help partners perform a multitude of tasks for employees and customers, such as order and status tracking and customer service.

“It’s not like we’re just starting this journey,” said Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay. “We made a real company investment both organically and through acquisition to set that foundation to help us accelerate what we’re going to do with Xvantage.”

Ingram Micro’s trove of customer data and how the distributor uses it is a “differentiator for us today,” he said.

“But I would tell you it’s going to be a game-changer for us tomorrow,” he said. “We’re here, and we’re that business behind the brand.”

Bay spoke with CRN for an exclusive interview to talk about the Xvantage platform, the supply chain, the distributor’s culture and more.

Edited excerpts of the conversation follow.

What are you most excited about when it comes to Xvantage?

This is one of the biggest opportunities we have at our company in creating a digital twin. We’re going to consumerize distribution, remove a bunch of friction and accelerate value for our customers and our vendor partners. The net of it is we really want to make it easier to do business with us.

There are three areas we want to focus on that start with our customer, what we’re doing internally and with our vendors. We’re enabling our team and customers to work faster, smarter and more collaboratively. We’re doing that at scale and around the world too. I think that’s an important element of what we’re doing. We’re able to do this on a global basis, so it’s not country-specific and we’re not trying to do it country by country.

How will Xvantage transform how partners do business and make money?

It’s being able to take the friction, manual processes and the complexity of our industry out. If you’re a solution provider, the challenges that they have today … they have many di­fferent choices, lots of different products, many different skill sets that they have to ultimately focus on, and that end customer and business outcome. If we’re focusing on business outcomes, the amount of effort they have to go through to get the certifications with the solutions, there’s a half-dozen products that make up a solution, how do they go about that process? That’s 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.

Why is digital experience transformation so important to Ingram Micro and its solution provider customers?

It goes back to how we’re going to serve our customers and the cost of service today in our industry, and being able to have that single pane of glass. I go back to the complexity of this industry: … 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. 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 with the data.

What growth opportunities do you see for your SMB partners?

First is being able to add their services, so where they’re going to be specialized and where they’re going to add their services. Also, 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. It’s really understanding where those opportunities are and then focusing and using Ingram Micro to bring everything together. I get asked all the time what I wish this industry and ecosystem would do, and I go back to [the idea that if] it takes many products to make up a business outcome or solution then how do we make sure that we’re able to provide that service for them? They’ve got to be able to focus on partnering with each other and being able to provide that outcome. The focus is working partner to partner. Global is becoming more of an opportunity that we hear many of our solution providers of all sizes asking of us and the vendor community—to show up with a persistent and predictable model of how we can deliver on a global basis.

How have supply chain issues changed your partners’ behaviors?

The partner behaviors have been getting more narrow in terms of o­fferings and what they’re trying to solve for. It’s a cleaner supply chain even now with work-from-home and even from some of the higher-end, more technical products. The business is still challenged, whether it’s chips or whatnot, from a supply chain standpoint. Partners have gotten even more specific and laser-focused on taking that end-user opportunity and how that works back through Ingram Micro and ultimately out to the vendors. You may have a business outcome that takes seven, eight, 10 products to fulfill, and if you’re missing one or two products you have to sit and wait for those two remaining products. It’s about how do we help figure out what the technologies can be too­ set that. It’s making sure that we have a much cleaner ecosystem than we’ve had probably a dozen years ago from an industry standpoint.

How would you describe Ingram Micro’s culture?

We’re a people-first culture. We start with the customer and work our way back in and make sure that we have the best talent. It’s still a relationship business that we’re in, so it’s about making sure we have the right people and the best talent, and that’s super important as a culture that’s led by the people, our customers and our vendors.

Susan O’Sullivan (pictured) was recently promoted to vice president of DEI at Ingram Micro. Why is DEI so important to the company?

DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] is super important, as is ESG [environmental, social and governance] from a company perspective. Having someone with the skill set and the experience of Susan that comes out of sales and has been with Ingram Micro for so long is important for us. We want to make sure we’ve got the right diversity throughout the industry and the company and are making sure we’re leading with what the opportunities are. We’re super excited that Susan took on this opportunity after wearing the sales hat and being the Bu­ffalo, [N.Y], leader. What Susan has done for so many years—having that experience of making us a better company as we go out and recruit—has been awesome.

What do you think makes Ingram Micro better than its competitors?

Our people, our experience and our execution are what differentiate us today and why we lead in the industry. Ingram Micro is the business behind the brand of both the established, largest technology companies, whether it’s vendors or customers, and also emerging companies. We’ve brought to market many emerging companies on a global basis. We’re that business behind their brand. We stand behind them 100 percent. Together with our partners we’re reaching 90 percent of the global population, so it’s our reach in being able to help and invest in their future and the health of their business on a go-forward basis and being that indispensable business partner. Our reach is the broadest in our industry.

What will we see from Ingram Micro through the rest of the year and into 2023?

You’re going to see a huge e­ffort in getting Xvantage launched at scale with our partners in many countries. It’s a global rollout that we’re doing. You’re going to see us continue to deliver a consistent experience for both our vendors and our customers in being that global leader. We’ll continue to focus on operational excellence and new business every single day and also on how we make sure we’re helping our partners capture this business value for all. We’re going to invest in the areas where our partners are looking for the help to supplement and augment business needs that are out there and do it at scale for them.