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Ingram Micro's Paul Bay: Partnerships Key To Helping Customers With Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a top priority for businesses looking to better engage with their customers, and solution providers who can't find a way to help their clients with digital transformation will see someone else taking their place, Ingram Micro's Paul Bay said.

The IT industry is in the midst of a massive move towards digital transformation, a move that will require solution providers to find the right partnerships with vendors and with each other in order to be successful.

Paul Bay, executive vice president and group president for the Americas at Ingram Micro, told attendees of the Ingram Micro One conference, held this week in Washington, D.C., that customers are driving businesses to transform digitally.

Despite the pressure from end-user customers, the biggest barrier for many businesses to complete their digital transformation is that adoption of the relevant technologies take time, Bay said.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Ingram Micro CEO Monie On Distribution, Market Changes, And The Joy Of Being Private]

"The biggest part to selling these new technologies is adoption. … We're fulfilling your solutions, and you're seeing if customers use it," he said.

A couple of key global trends are forcing the pace of digital transformation, including the need for businesses to gain a competitive edge and the complexity that comes with dealing with up to five generations of workers in an office, Bay said.

"[These employees] want to interact," he said. "They have their own buying habits."

Technology trends are also playing their part, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud, data analysis, and IoT, along with the need to secure the connectivity between them, Bay said.

Channel partners looking to take advantage of customers' digital transformation plans can start with technologies where they already have experience and which form a common starting point, including storage, networking and cloud services, Bay said.

It is also important that solution providers do not have a single-provider mentality, but instead move to a connected ecosystem, he said.

"Our commitment to you is we are going to build the ecosystems so you all win. … Those that are breaking down barriers and using Ingram Micro as the conduit will succeed," he said.

Ingram Micro has unique capabilities to help partners with digital transformation, including the ability to let partners leverage the distributor to finance the solutions from hardware, to services, to recurring revenue, Bay said.

The distributor is also ready to turn nearly everything into a service, he said. "Partners are still working with traditional offerings," he said. "But they're also showing up with everything as a service. I would encourage you to show up with both solutions."

From 2018 through 2019, Ingram Micro is pursuing several new strategies tied into changing how it works with partners, Bay said.

For instance, Bay said the distributor in March hired Tom Peck to serve both as its chief information officer and chief digitalization officer with a mission to make it easier for partners to do business with Ingram Micro, Bay said.

The company is also looking to make it easier for partners to work with it via several new services and programs unveiled at the Ingram Micro One conference, Bay said.

These include RenewVue, a new self-serve, on-line portal to help partners streamline their renewals; a new secure on-line business management portal, Partner Now, for speeding up the sales cycle via automation, with Cisco as the first vendor partner; Ingram Micro Partner Connect for helping channel partners build digital marketing campaigns; and an expanded relationship with CenturyLink to host private clouds.

Everything Ingram Micro does is to improve channel partners' experience, Bay said. "We're investing in new ways to fill in skill gaps and reduce the cost of business so you can grow and expand," he said.

Bay wrapped up by noting that technology and digital transformation is still, at is heart, all about people.

"You have your customers in mind," he said. "Now is the time to be bold. … Please tell us what you need. We want to make it easy for you to do business with us."

Bay's comments about digital transformation are spot-on with the market, said Mark Hawkins, vice president at I.T. Works, a Houston, Texas-based solution provider and an Ingram Micro channel partner with a focus on security and managed security.

"We're very much in the transformation from an on-premises focus to where the market is going with the cloud," Hawkins told CRN. "I can't say how far we are in the process. But I can say we are behind."

Hawkins said he was encouraged to see how much growth opportunity there is in the cloud, especially with security.

"So we are well positioned to take advantage of the growth," he said. "I feel we have ground to grow in the cloud."

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