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Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay: 'We’re Making Investments With Our Partners’

Ingram Micro used an event this week for major announcements including the summer release of its Xvantage ‘digital twin’ platform and an expanded partnership with Amazon Web Services.

Paul Bay, Ingram Micro’s CEO of about four months, wants channel partners to know that even amid a time of great change for the IT distributor, Ingram is investing in resources to help partner business customers take advantage of the demand for digital transformation – including reaching a recurring revenue business model, reducing complexity, improving cloud security and gaining training and certifications.

“Our average product set has six different products and services to deliver one business outcome,” Bay told CRN in an interview. “Multiple vendors, multiple services – whether software, hardware, cloud, delivered. And so that creates even more complexity, which creates opportunity for us to help take that complexity out of the market for our partners.”

Bay spoke to CRN during the company’s Cloud Summit 2022 event held in-person in Miami Beach. Unlike major vendor events held during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were online-only or featured an online component, Ingram Micro held its summit only in-person without any sessions streaming online.

[RELATED: AWS, Ingram Micro To Expand Public Sector Offerings For Partners]

Ingram Micro used the event this week for major announcements including the summer release of its Xvantage “digital twin” platform and an expanded partnership with Amazon Web Services to bring initiatives and joint investments for worldwide public sector organizations to thousands of channel partners.

Bay was named CEO of the Irvine, Calif.-based distributor in January, replacing Alain Monie, who became executive chairman. Bay headed up Ingram Micro’s North America business for nine years and has been with Ingram Micro for 24 years. For the past two years, he also served as president of the distributor’s Global Technology Solutions business.

He takes the helm just six months after Ingram Micro was acquired by Platinum Equity for $7.2 billion and rivals Tech Data and Synnex merged to form TD Synnex, the world’s largest IT distributor. Partners who spoke to CRN praised Bay’s appointment.

“I’m more excited now than I’ve ever been in this industry because I think technology is driving the opportunity from a global perspective to help,” Bay told CRN.

Brad Cheedle, CEO of Otava – an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based member of CRN’s 2021 Solution Provider 500 and 2022 Managed Service Provider 500 – attended Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit and told CRN in an interview that he wants to see Ingram Micro and the other distributors be a force in fostering partnerships, connecting partners with vendors and preventing channel conflict.

“One of the biggest things in our ways is channel conflict, to be honest,” Cheedle said. “Direct versus indirect. And we all have that.”

He continued: “It’s about partnerships. … but it often fails in execution or ego or other things like that. I think I would say, as long as you’re reinventing and reimagining, let’s go all in to figure it out.”

Here’s what Bay had to say.

How’s the adjustment to the CEO position? 

It hasn’t been a huge adjustment. I’ve been super fortunate because I was leading a big percentage of the business before. I’d worked for a long period of time, and I had worked with Platinum through the whole acquisition. And being through COVID, that took a little bit longer, just because of the challenges that we had in getting through the process.

And I’ve worked with many of my direct leaders – who had worked for me in previous roles – in addition to working very closely with counterparts like Mike Zilis, the CFO (chief financial officer). So, if anything, it’s been great from a support perspective because I’ve worked around before or with many of the people that are on our executive leadership team.

What’s the future hold for Ingram Micro?

I think this industry – I use the words, has a lot of ‘human putty’ still in it.

So the things that go on behind, quote unquote, the ‘virtual curtain.’ What we have to do to satisfy the complexity of this industry is still way too much in this industry.

And that’s where we’re focused – we’re externally focused on our partners and our partners delivering a better experience to the end user. … Our average product set has six different products and services to deliver one business outcome.

Multiple vendors, multiple services – whether software, hardware, cloud, delivered. And so that creates even more complexity, which creates opportunity for us to help take that complexity out of the market for our partners.

And through that, things like cash flow – so if youre trying to go to a recurring revenue business, we have the opportunity to help our partners get through that cash flow would be a number of different programs, too.

So I’m more excited now than I’ve ever been in this industry because I think technology is driving the opportunity from a global perspective to help. Everythings being blurred between personal, professional, and technology plays a key role in that.

Are cloud vendors seeing the importance of the channel in software? 

There are stats that show they’re actually more important now because the technology itself – in terms of I am vendor A, B or C – is less relevant to, How does vendor A, B or C fit into that solution?’

So what value are we all providing ultimately out to that end-business outcome and that creates more opportunity for us, too.

So its less about – I have this physical product and it has this name or bezel on it. It’s aboutz, Hows that fit into the solution?’

And the industry is recognizing that, too. Vendors are recognizing that, too, because we’re seeing a much more collaborative ecosystem in terms of people knowing they have got to work with multiple different partners along the way.

How does Ingram Micro stand out from the competition? 

I want to focus on our customers, and so we’re 100 percent externally focused on our partners and reducing the complexity and (making it easier to do) business so they ultimately can provide a better outcome and focus on those outcomes with their end users.

And thats why we’re making investments with our partners to have things like customer success. It may sound fluffy – Oh, customer success. Iis my customer successful?’

No, lets have a conversation about – we deployed a business outcome, we said this is what it’s going to do, technology is driving it, and am I getting the return on the investment I made?

We’re all doing that. It doesn’t matter how big of a company you are or how small of a company you are – it’s that youre looking for what that return is on that investment.

And if you dont focus on that outcome and make sure it’s being delivered properly and then being consumed properly, not only are you not going to have an opportunity to do more with that end user, youre actually going to probably lose what you we’re doing with them before. So it’s more critical now to make sure that what we’re deploying is actually giving the return on the expected investment.

What’s your message to vendors on how to work better with Ingram Micro? 

Continue to give us opportunities to better understand future roadmaps and let us participate on the front end of the conversation as opposed to – a lot of times – strategies, technology are developed, and then they try and figure out how can distribution play in that role.

And so let us be the eyes and ears and the voice of the channel and the partner community on what they’re looking for because we spread across so many different segments that we can help those vendors understand and shape their strategies as opposed to trying to tuck into their strategy that they’ve already shaped.

What’s your message to partner businesses who are your customers? 

We want to be the business behind your brand. Let us support you on this journey. And then lets lean in on this together and accelerate the growth opportunities that we know are out there today.

Big news from this week is Ingram Micro’s upcoming Xvantage platform. What made you decide to build that over buying? 

We did buy some of it. We’ve invested over $550 million in our CloudBlue technology, both through acquisition and organically. So we’re bringing that together. And I’m glad you asked the question because it’s really important to know – as we get excited and continue to talk about this Xvantage platform, we’re not just talking about a platform and showing it on PowerPoint.

We’ve actually got a half a dozen, close to a dozen years within the cloud foundation that’s powering that digital journey that Sanjib (Sahoo, Ingram Micro executive vice president and chief digital officer) is on.

So we’ve done it both organically and through acquisition, and we’re starting off with over a $550 million investment that we’ve made as a company and not just talking about how we’re going to go build it because its already got a very solid foundation.

What can we expect to see Ingram Micro acquire next? 

It will be (in) skill sets and what we can do to help better our partners so we’re always asking feedback from our customers. Tell us what skill sets and talents are a challenge in the industry in general but where are opportunities for us to help continue to build out skill sets … The big ones are services, anything wrapped around cloud security, those types of things.

Are we seeing Ingram Micro invest more in cutting edge technologies, like virtual reality? 

We have an amazing state of the art IoT (internet of things) center in California. … And we're going to have some upcoming announcements about some really cool stuff we’re doing.

And so I would say absolutely IoT and what we're doing in some of these platforms that we’re developing will help power those opportunities we have in that segment, too. So those are absolutely areas of focus for us. And we've made investments around that, also.

What’s a differentiator for Ingram Micro compared to other distributors? 

What we've done to recruit, to enable, to pass the certification – for us to be able to do that on a global basis through our centers of excellence is a differentiator for us.

And to be able to deliver that at scale. And it was five times more seats and eight times more in revenue, too, (for partners that participated in a joint Ingram Micro-Microsoft program around training).

So it's pretty exciting. We’re not just talking about it, we’re actually delivering on it. So … the training aspect, and we can do that at scale, too.

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