Tech Data, Ingram Micro Hone Digital Focus

The companies, well-renowned in computer reseller circles, have spent the past year building up their digital presence. Both recently made significant changes to adapt to lessons they've learned along the way.

For example, Tech Data plans to split its Digital Environments Specialized Business Unit into two groups: one for professional audio/video and the other on-premise security and control solutions. The move allows it to dedicate resources to each product category, says Karl Werner, director of Tech Data's Advanced Technologies Group. Previously, sales and technical support staff covered a broad line of technologies, which didn't allow them to become experts in any one area, Werner says.

"We found it difficult to explain [the SBU] when talking to vendors or potential customers," Werner says. "We wanted premise security to be a big part of our business, but we were not managing those vendors correctly. Now we have a seamless go-to-market strategy."

At least one solution provider feels IT distributors need to enhance their line cards before business with digital integrators can grow significantly. "Tech Data doesn't carry the products we work with. We've approached them a couple times over the last couple of years and said, 'Here's what we're buying, do you have this?' The answer has always been no," says Rick Rubenstein, president of RMS Business Systems, Buffalo, N.Y., a seven-year Tech Data customer for networking equipment. "It's a huge business and it makes sense for them to get into it, but at this point I don't know what their plans are."

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Tech Data, Clearwater, Fla., already has created traction with its premise security SBU by signing several vendors, Werner says, and will enhance its sales team focused on the pro A/V SBU because in many cases they are customers new to Tech Data or customers who do not buy other products, Werner says.

Meanwhile, Ingram Micro has made changes as well, says Irene Chow, category manager for digital home and digital signage at the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company. "We've learned the CE world today is a different animal than the IT channel. Many traditional CE vendors are more interested in getting into our channel because of the growth of digital content networks in the home," she says.

Ingram Micro is learning to balance its line card between big-box retailers, Internet retailers and the IT channel, Chow says, adding that LCD and plasma displays are the best example of a product crossing multiple customer segments. For that reason, Ingram Micro is incorporating higher-end digital signage solutions into its CE group. "The guys selling signage could be pro A/V types and looking to leverage their networking capabilities," Chow says. "The opportunity is that the common denominator is A/V, digital signage. The CE market and the IT market is truly converging and we think a company such as Ingram Micro is in a position to take advantage with the areas of expertise we have on the IT side."

Pro A/V integrators says it makes more sense for distributors to further refine their pro A/V programs to help attract new customers. "It's better when our buyers are looking for a specific A/V answer if we can call into a dedicated pro A/V environment," says Mel Blackwell, Southern zone sales manager at Troxell Communications, Phoenix. "Tech Data has always been good with customer support, but they have taken it to the next level, the level it should be for the pro A/V market."