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Ingram Micro CEO: We Have To Go From Transacting To Interacting

CJ Fairfield

‘Everything we‘re doing is scalable on a global basis and focused around our partners and their ultimate experience to the end user,’ says Paul Bay, CEO of Ingram Micro.

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Ingram Micro is doubling down on their transaction-to-interaction approach to help partners free up time and focus more on delivering services.

“When we automate and free up all that time, it‘s going to allow for a much more productive conversation and allow our customers to go talk to those end customers about the business outcome and results that they’re looking for,” Paul Bay, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based distributor Ingram Micro, told CRN. “[We want to] be a business partner. That‘s when we talk about being the business behind the world’s brand. It’s allowing our customers to go have a different conversation with the end customer.”

The distributor’s new Xvantage platform is doing just that in helping partners move quickly and efficiently to deliver value to their customers.

Through automation intelligence and machine learning, Xvantage, which launched in September, provides a personalized experience with data insight tailored to each of Ingram Micro’s partners. That’s on top of the real-time transactional benefits such as up-to-the-minute order status, tracking, renewals, subscription billing and real-time customer service capabilities.

“This is not just a new e-commerce system,” Bay said. “This is truly a platform business and the power that‘s behind it. We have different personas, so if you’re the purchasing person you have a different view into the system for your business. If you‘re sales you have a different view, if you’re HR, if you’re finance. What we’ve really done is looked at it and not just say, ‘Here‘s the e-commerce system, go buy your products and services and have them delivered.’ Now it’s about what‘s important to your business and what you’re trying to solve for in your business.

Every week, more and more capabilities are added to the platform, which already has more than 40,000 users.

This isn‘t about a country-by-country deployment. Everything we’re doing is scalable on a global basis and focused around our partners and their ultimate experience to the end user,” he said.

CRN spoke with Bay at Ingram Micro’s IngramONE conference this week in Orlando about the Xvantage platform, his 2023 outlook and why it’s important to lead with an interactional approach.

 

 You're coming up on one year as CEO with the company. Where do you see Ingram Micro one year from now?

 We‘re on the journey to be a platform company. What we’re doing is to help take out complexity and friction in the industry and continue to focus on our customers. So put very simply, we want to go from transacting to interacting. As we do that, there‘s lots of challenges and legacy in this industry, over 45 years for us. We have lots of partners and 170,000 customers on a global basis. Over time, we create processes and systems that may not be as efficient as we’d like them to be. So we continue to look at how we can do that, and we‘re doing that through our platform Xvantage. It’s going to be a place, I call it a single pane of glass, where our customers can come, our vendors and our associates all in one platform to run their business each and every day. So we’re focusing on how we can be a better partner for our customers.

 

You mentioned going from transacting to interacting. Why is that so important for partners?

 It‘s going to free up time. We do 2.4 million order status calls a year, just in the US. So somebody’s picking up the phone and asking, ‘Where‘s my order?’ Then you put pricing availability, then you put price discounting on it, then you follow the process of when it’s actually delivered. All of that time is energy that we‘re using as an ecosystem that we want to free up to go have a different conversation with the end user. [We want to] be a business partner. That’s when we talk about being the business behind the world‘s brand. It’s allowing our customers to go have a different conversation with the end user. So when we automate and free up all that time, it’s going to allow for a much more productive conversation and allow our customers to go talk to those end customers about the business outcome and results that they‘re looking for.

 

Ingram Micro has done 40 acquisitions since 2012. What's your acquisition strategy going forward? And do you see another 40 acquisitions in the next 10 years?

 So we don‘t really put a number on it. What we look at is where are the competencies and the opportunities to accelerate the partner for our customers. And many of those recently have been around tuck-in acquisitions. I call them aqui-hires. We’re bringing in skill sets. There‘s not a lot of systems wrapped around it. One could be a cloud deployments company, they may have a small group of certified individuals and they’re very narrowly focused in an area. So we go acquire that company and the talent that‘s associated with it as opposed to a major acquisition where you’re bringing in P&Ls and you‘re looking at all the bigger things that an acquisition looks at. So it’s really around talent acquisitions and how we bring those skill sets in and take those on a global basis. If we can accelerate the opportunity and support of our customers, then we‘ll be looking at those type of acquisitions, let alone the traditional types of acquisitions that we’ve done in the past.

 

With talks of an economic downturn, what is Ingram doing to help partners recession proof their business?

 What we‘re doing is to help acquire new skill sets. [Our engineers have] 11,000 certifications on a global basis. We’re proud of that number. Some of that‘s come through acquisition, some of it’s been organically training people up in skill sets. Partners can look at us to augment it. So if they’re looking at their bench, it’s making sure they‘re getting maximize utilization out of all of their resources. That’s what we need to do in any company that you run, no matter what size. It‘s all relative to the size of the business but we all have to make sure we’re driving as much productivity. In addition, we‘re looking at things of how we can finance. As the industry is pivoting more towards recurring revenue, annuities, subscription, that takes a balance sheet and it takes the opportunity from creative financing and how our partners can go to end users. So we’ve got really good programs to help them go through that process as they go out and deliver more consumption-based technologies and services.

 

What do you foresee as your biggest challenge in 2023?

The biggest challenges are the ones that I can‘t control. So I can’t tell you what‘s going to happen from a macro environment. I can’t tell you what‘s going to happen from a geopolitical standpoint. What I do know is we’re going to be focused on our partners and continue to invest ahead, like we‘ve done previously. We’ve invested $550 million in our cloud business both organically and through acquisition, and that set the foundation for us to go be successful from a digital standpoint. So as we‘re building out Xvantage, that’s the baseline for what we‘ve invested over the years to get us to where we need to be.

 

What makes Ingram stand out from competitors, specifically TD Synnex?

 We don‘t really talk about the competitors but I would say we’re focused on the customers. We‘re externally focused on everything we do and the investments we’re making is based off of the feedback that our customers have provided us. That goes back to some of the challenging reactive pricing and availability, ‘what are you doing from a programmatic standpoint,’ because an average solution for us is made up of six vendor solutions and services. Many of those require certain certifications. They require skill sets by each of those vendors and many times wrapped around the entire solution. We‘re able to help knock those barriers down and provide that back, and on a global basis. In addition, it’s our reach, we are able to serve 90 percent of the world’s population. We‘re in 200 countries. So we really have to reach and scale to be able to do this on a global basis.

 

What can partners expect from Ingram in 2023?

 Continued investment. We will continue to make sure that we put the partner in the middle of everything we do and we will continue to invest. We’ve got a multi-year plan that‘s backed by our partner Platinum Equity, and they’ve been a great partner. They‘re committed to investing in the future and making sure we’re delivering on that desire for us to be the business supporting the world‘s brand. We’ll continue [to invest] in cloud. The investments we made around cloud, not just the technology, but we have 34 million seats that we manage on a global basis. So cloud is real for us. Then, even further, as we wrap around consumption it‘s not just going to be about cloud. It’s going to be about the subscriptions and the annuities and hardware-as-a-services and bringing that together from that experience standpoint. We‘re continuing to invest in our advanced solutions area. We’ll continue to bring on additional resources from a skills standpoint, and we think advanced solutions will continue to be a successful business.

 

 

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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