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Ingram Micro: Work-From-Home Quickly Became The ‘Center Of Everything’

‘ We went to work-to-home and we all realized how that business exploded from a technology standpoint. So we’re looking at all the technology that fits in that center of everything to help support the growth of our partners. We’re also diving deeper into gaming, into health care with telemedicine, and into mobility with 5G,’ says Ingram Micro’s Kirk Robinson.

While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic made 2020 a year no one could have planned for, it became a year that made it possible to take a new look at what the future holds for the IT world.

Kirk Robinson, senior vice president and U.S. chief country executive at Ingram Micro, told solution providers during CRN parent The Channel Company’s Best of Breed virtual conference Wednesday that 2020 was a chance to reset priorities.

“I know when I’m done with my career at Ingram ... I’ll look back and be most proud of how the team shifted to a work-from-home environment and didn’t skip a beat,” Robinson said.

[Related: 5 Things To Know About Ingram Micro’s Acquisition By Platinum Equity]

Ingram Micro’s two priorities during its move to work-from-home were the health and safety of employees and to continue to reach out to partners to help and support their business, Robinson said.

“Even though we had some revenue challenges in 2020, our profit overachieved plans so we ended up having a great year,” he said.

A focus on customer experience helped Irvine, Calif.-based Ingram Micro grow in 2020 and is an important part of future growth, Robinson said. Indeed, customer experience is so important to Ingram Micro that the company last year moved 20-year Ingram Micro veteran Tyler Coughlin to the role of vice president of customer experience. Coughlin reports to Robinson.

One way Ingram Micro focuses on customer experience is with the growth of its financial programs, including the Ingram Micro Direct Express program, Robinson said.

“[Direct Express] allows Ingram to look at the backing of the end user financially, not just [at] the reseller, and allows the reseller to win the deal with the end user with them not knowing Ingram’s involved,” he said.

Ingram Micro has found that partners who use the distributor’s financial programs are growing 11 percent, while those who do not use those programs typically have a lower rate of growth, Robinson said.

Ingram Micro approaches customer experience in a number of other ways, Robinson said.

One of those is digital experience. Rather than just another industry buzzword, the importance of digital experience and digital transformation became obvious early last year with the move to work-from-home with its virtual face-to-face meetings and conferences, Robinson said.

“Ingram put on a global virtual conference for the first time,” he said. “We followed the sun around the globe. [My] team did a fantastic job of pulling off a conference that we had never done before, including musicians, keynote speakers and great content. And we couldn’t be more thrilled with how we pulled that off.”

Ingram Micro is also looking at investing in advanced solutions for technologies like edge computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, high-performance computing and containers, Robinson said.

Another area of investment for Ingram Micro is business and consumer solutions under the leadership of Craig Birmingham, the distributor’s vice president and general manager of business and consumer solutions.

“We went to work-to-home and we all realized how that business exploded from a technology standpoint,” he said. “Now it’s being looked at as the center of everything. It’s where we work. It’s where our children go to school. It’s how we shop, with online shopping going through the roof. It’s where we’re entertained. It’s where we’re doing our fitness. So we’re looking at all the technology that fits in that center of everything to help support the growth of our partners. We’re also diving deeper into gaming, into health care with telemedicine, and into mobility with 5G.”

Ingram Micro is also advancing its digital experience with investments in its CloudBlue B2B e-commerce platform, Robinson said.

“And we continue to invest in our Cloud Marketplace to make it easier for you to transact cloud business with your end users,” he said.

Automation is another big investment, with the aim of increasing its efficiency and making it easier for solution providers to get the information they need to track orders in a much more streamlined manner, Robinson said.

On the services side, Ingram Micro is investing in aligning services with its Advanced Solutions business, Robinson said. This includes going beyond the wide range of assessment services to areas like deployment services around client and data center products while providing partners with 7x24x365 support, he said.

Ingram Micro has in the past year done a lot to improve its partner relationships, trust, support and creative ways to work together, said Dao Jensen, CEO of Kaizen Technology Partners, a San Francisco-based solution provider that works with Ingram Micro for its Amazon Web Services business.

Kaizen, which Jensen said is one of the top three resellers of AWS, is counting on Ingram Micro to help it continue to grow its cloud business, Jensen said.

“Ingram Micro brings a lot of visibility for us across AWS,” she said. “It helps us handle issues we have with AWS. And with our relationship, we don’t have to worry about paying AWS quickly if our customers need time.”

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