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Ingram Micro's Paul Bay: Create A Unique Value Proposition, And Don't Hesitate To Ask For Help

As IT becomes increasingly complicated, it is important that solution providers show clients their unique value and to seek help with technology, support, and financing to fill in holes in how they present their value to those clients, Bay said at Ingram Micro One.

Ingram Micro's mission is not to be just a distribution partner to the channel, but to be a business partner that can create sustainable value for solution providers and their customers.

That's the word from Paul Bay, Ingram Micro's executive vice president and group president for the America's business, who used his Tuesday keynote at this week's Ingram Micro One conference in Denver to say that sustainable value requires partnering to deliver on a consistent and continual basis.

"If you leave with one thing here today, it is that true sustainable value can't be created by one group unless it's created for all," Bay said.

[Related: Ahead Of The Curve: How Ingram Micro Is Helping Partners Thrive]

Bay said Ingram Micro wants solution providers to think about their own value propositions and what they can do to make their businesses both indispensable and sustainable.

Bay cited a recent report in the Harvard Business Review, which said that value creation is based on the economies of creativity, mass customization, bringing new products and services to market, finding solutions to customers' problems, and improving how products are sold or delivered.

"That sounds like what we all do in the ecosystem every day," he said.

Of those components of value creation, the key three are creativity, mass customization and how products are delivered, Bay said.

Creativity comes from finding a new way to help solve a customer's problem where the customer actually sees the value, Bay said. Typical solutions get installed but are hidden in the day-to-day operations. But real sustainable value comes when the results of the solution can be seen in real time to be providing value, he said.

Sustained value is also created with mass customization and differentiated customer experience, Bay said. He cited Ingram Micro's 2016 acquisition of NetXUSA, a small distributor with a proprietary software Device-as-a-Service and custom unified communications and collaboration that Ingram Micro has since added improved customer experience capabilities.

"You're able to deliver it as your own solution, a custom-branded messaging, packaging, all delivered as a plug-and-play … That's customer experience as a service," he said. "And the best part? You don't have to be a UCC expert."

The third key to creating value, having the right delivery models to bring the right solutions to customers to solve their problems, is important to partners looking to provide valuable operational excellence and go-to-market capabilities, and this has been a big focus of Ingram Micro in the cloud market, Bay said.

Bay cited Ingram Micro's support to Six Nines IT, an Oakland, Calif.-based AWS premier consulting partner with DevOps, Microsoft software, and digital transformation capabilities, as an example of how to provide operational excellence.

"They have governance," he said. "They have security. They have cost optimization and consulting all wrapped around it, and they're providing client consumption that matches their budget. ... And what that equals is less churn. And as we know, churn is one of the number-one costs from a cloud solutions perspective."

Ingram Micro works with Six Nines to do things like craft their go-to-market strategies around its Microsoft Azure business despite Six Nines being Microsoft and AWS experts, Bay said. This included engaging Six Nines with Agency Ingram Micro, or AIM, to craft its go-to-market message, and then helped it navigate a custom roadmap to become Microsoft Gold and Expert MSP status, he said.

"And then we went out together and helped win their first Azure opportunity, which was a competitive opportunity," he said. "So now they basically have two different options that they can deliver, both with Azure and also with AWS. So the message is, ‘We're here to help you design your go-to-market and help craft that message around your cloud services practice.’"

Bay said that Ingram Micro is making several investments in 2020 around automation and customer experience to improve its ability to support partners looking to deliver their unique value and improve customer experience.

Automation is key in a number of areas, and Ingram Micro is focusing on automating highly manual processes, he said. For example, the company has to manage millions of emails every year, and would like to work with its vendor partners to implement APIs to automate the handling of those emails.

However, Bay said, this is not easy because of all the legacy systems in place.

"We just celebrated our 40th anniversary," he said. "A lot of us have been working with partners for tens and dozens of years. There's lots of processes built up along that system. But we're looking at ways we can automate and work together to actually make that easier for all of you."

Another area is demand planning and inventory, where Ingram Micro is investing millions of dollars in making systems more proactive versus reactive and in turning its people into demand planners who can make sure it has the right product at the right location with the right allocation, Bay said.

"The first and foundational pieces we have to have is have the systems right," he said. "And then we're focused on making sure that we're helping upgrade and enhance our skill sets as they relate to giving you that better experience, and things like product tracking and RMAs."

Another area is technology and resource investments in new areas like IoT, which can be tough to understand in terms of how to make money because most deployments are still unique, Bay said.

"We've got a dedicated team focused on digital transformation that cuts through the hype and helps you give solutions, service assessments, and blueprints for you to own your own business and the solutions you sell," he said.

Financing is another area where Ingram Micro is investing as a way to help partners differentiate both the distributor and its partners, Bay said. "We're helping put our balance sheet to work for helping many of you in the room as we continue to help pivot to that opportunity of more recurring revenue this year."

Internally, Ingram Micro is focused on five areas where it can help it grow for its partners, Bay said.

The first is end-user insights for increased visibility into end-user trends. Channel partners are increasingly specializing in areas based on their own capabilities, and depending more on Ingram Micro for help in supplementing and augmenting other areas, Bay said.

The second is solution portfolio and expansion as solution providers look to expand their capabilities into such new areas as security, Bay said. Ingram Micro works with multiple vendors and MSSPs, or managed security service providers, who can help partners with such things as building security operation centers or recovering from ransomware attacks.

"Hyper-converged, hybrid, deeper cloud portfolios, we're giving you more options for your end-users, and more sales potential," he said.

The third, partner enablement, is Ingram Micro's way of telling partners to lean on its team for help in reducing costs and expanding into new markets, Bay said. The distributor is adding technology practices and partners in Europe to help expand U.S. partners' reach, while its SMB Alliance provides ever more abilities for smaller partners to network with each other, he said.

Ingram Micro is also providing new, more flexible financing capabilities such as Direct Express, which handles partners' invoicing for services, help for partners who want to provide their own intellectual property to their peers, and help pay up-front costs related to managed services contracts to free up partner capital, he said.

The fourth internal investment is in global go-to-market strategies, including the software tools, automation, cloud and security assessments, and more across multiple countries to lower partner costs, Bay said. "We want to make sure we're an influential business partner, advocating for all of you on a global basis."

This year also represents the second year Ingram Micro is investing in its Comet program to identify ISVs in over 30 countries developing solutions to meet channel needs, Bay said. Ingram Micro vets the top solutions to make sure they provide value to solution providers, he said.

Finally, Ingram Micro is investing internally in value creation to help it become an indispensable part of its partners' businesses, Bay said.

"Think about what you need to do to differentiate yourself and drive that value creation," he said. "Play to your strengths to be the best way you can be. Then ask Ingram Micro how we can help do that. Talk to us. Challenge us."

Bay's comments on the need to find a unique value proposition and use it as a way to differentiate a company with its competitors is very much in line with the current plans of TechWorx, an Erie, Pa.-based MSP and Ingram Micro channel partner.

"This is something we need to do because most of what we are selling is commodities, which can be purchased anywhere,” said TechWorx President Stephen Reichard. "I have to find that value proposition, what differentiates me from everybody else."

As an MSP, TechWorx focuses on doing projects and then handing them off to its help desk team to manage them going forward, and then offer reporting and meetings so customers see the value it is adding, Reichard told CRN.

For TechWorx, a key differentiator is full transparency, Reichard said.

"It's unheard of and unprecedented in an IT company," he said. "We give clients access to everything, passwords, documentation, everything, so they can take it all and leave at any point. Our value proposition is the fact that we have total transparency, and with that we're not going to hide anything from you. If you're going to walk away from us because of dollars and cents, then you're not the partner we're looking for in business."

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