Paul Bay, Execs: What The Future Holds For Ingram Micro

What's next for Ingram Micro?

Seven Ingram Micro executives took to the stage during Monday morning's general session at the company's ONE event in Las Vegas to discuss the distributor's strategies for its various North America divisions in 2015.

The executives touched on everything from Ingram's expanded professional services to its next-generation cloud marketplace to its "go to market" and rebranding programs for channel partners.

They also touched upon Ingram's new offerings in the retail and finance verticals, as well as new training courses for HP and Citrix.

More than 1,700 people -- including 900 solution providers and 150 vendors -- were on hand for the company's annual conference.

Paul Bay, President North American Technology Solutions

Ingram Micro's expansion of professional services -- particularly in the cloud arena -- shouldn't cannibalize channel partners, Paul Bay, the company's North American president, reassured solution providers Monday.

Bay said Ingram's services focus on supplementing business that has already been done by channel partners and lending assistance to MSPs and VARs that might not have sufficient expertise in-house or are looking to have a deeper reach. Ingram's enhanced services should help solution providers move products and services more quickly through the cycle, he said.

"At the end of the day, we want to make sure we're enhancing your business," Bay said.

Bay: What Can Partners Expect from Ingram?

Ingram does business with 40,000 North American channel partners on a monthly basis, and provides some two million quotes annually.

Bay said the company will be rolling out a new website in the upcoming months with more stability and functionality. Ingram also is conducting a pilot in Buffalo, N.Y., on its new phone system, and plans to unveil its new phone automation system nationwide in 2015, which is expected to be more responsive to customer needs.

"We are investing differently as a company to help you build a better business," Bay said.

Bay: What To Watch For Over The Next Five Years?

The channel should get faster, smaller, more complex and more service-oriented over the next half-decade, Bay told solution providers.

The technology life cycle is both speeding up and become more complicated with companies having to decide between on premises, off-premises and hybrid storage models, Bay said. Business should turn to the channel for migration assistance, Bay said, providing ample revenue opportunities.

"Wherever there's complexity, this industry has figured out how to thrive," Bay said.

And as the baby boomers gray, Bay said solution providers have begun looking for acquisition and partner opportunities. This M&A activity has resulted in partners being less entrenched in a particular area of technology.

Bay: Challenges and Opportunities

The rapid consumerization of products has squelched margins, Bay said, with 60 percent of end users having made a purchasing decision before calling a solution provider into the room.

"We are in a critical and competitive environment right now," Bay said.

Bay urged solution providers to focus on their core strengths and develop an operating plan – one that details which markets to focus on as well as a strategic plan that examines how to go deeper within markets and provide a complete solution.

"It's not just about selling products," Bay said. "It's about selling solutions."

Jennifer Anaya, Vice President of Marketing North America

IT decision-making is becoming a more involved process for most end users, Jennifer Anaya, Ingram's vice president of marketing said.

Anaya told solution providers that businesses are involving anywhere from five to eight people in IT purchasing decisions of less than $10,000, lengthening the amount of time required for channel partners to close a deal.

Ingram also is investing in "go to market" programs for channel partners, Anaya said, ratcheting up its marketing and social media offerings, and enhancing end-user lead generation. As part of this push, Ingram has helped 30 partners rebrand themselves in recent months, she said.

Solution Providers React: Bill Kirtisis

Omega Systems of West Lawn, Pa., recently became an Ingram partner, and owner Bill Kirtisis was attending the Ingram event for the first time.

Kirtisis said smaller companies like Omega lack the budget to sufficiently market on their own, therefore, he would be interested in taking advantage of Ingram's marketing prowess. Kirtisis expects marketing to become a priority for Omega in the coming years.

Reneé Bergeron, Vice President of Worldwide Cloud

Ingram Micro employed parallel software to roll out a next-generation cloud marketplace this summer across the United States and Canada, according to Reneé Bergeron, the company's vice president of worldwide cloud.

Bergeron said Ingram also is making a team of its dedicated cloud experts available to the distributor's top cloud reseller partners.

The company's field sales associates will help solution providers design and execute cloud strategies, Bergeron said, while its field marketing people will conduct lead generation campaigns.

Ingram has operated a cloud marketplace for a couple of years now, Bergeron said.

Solutions Providers React: Raju Venkatesan

Servum LLC of Mason, Ohio, is in the process of switching from being a service provider to being a cloud provider, said President Raju Venkatesan.

Servum, which operates primarily in the SMB market, is already signed up with a $100-per-month cloud marketplace, and is pleased with Ingram's redesign on its cloud portal, Venkatesan said.

In addition, Venkatesan said Servum would be interested in getting help from Ingram as the company explores a complete redesign of its brand and website. Servum has also found Ingram's new website to be more user-friendly, Venkatesan said.

Scott Zahl and Bill Brandel, Advanced Computing Division

Ingram Micro has recently expanded its training relationships with Hewlett-Packard, Citrix and IBM, according to Scott Zahl (pictured), vice president and general manager of Ingram's Advanced Computing Division.

The division also continues to expand partner-to-partner professional service opportunities through Link, Zahl said, and has assisted on multistate rollouts and deployments for major projects with a ProAV or digital signage component.

In addition, Ingram has worked with VMware to create a fast track offering for its white space accounts, according to Bill Brandel, the division's senior director. The partnership has generated lots of new business and attracted 800 solution providers, Brandel said, 391 of which have moved up a tier in VMware's partner program.

Jay Miley, Vice President and General Manager of the Advanced Technology Division

Solution providers are seeing high double-digit revenue growth from their security practices, said Jay Miley, Ingram's vice president and general manager of advanced technology.

"If you don't have a security practice, you need to develop one," Miley said, citing massive opportunities following high-profile security breaches at Target and Home Depot.

Chip and PIN EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) technology is making its way over to America from Europe, Miley said, meaning retailers must upgrade their store-front hardware prior to the liability shift in October 2015.

Ingram also invests in unified communications and collaboration, Miley said, and offers technical certification enablement to help channel partners manage a solution post-implementation.

Kirk Robinson, Senior Vice President of Commercial Markets and Global Sales

Ingram Micro is rolling out new vertical initiatives for retail and finance and bolstering its SLED (state and local government, and education) and health-care offerings, said Kirk Robinson (right), the company's senior vice president of commercial markets and global sales

Though SLED is Ingram's oldest vertical, dating back two decades, the company is enhancing its offerings by providing specific materials for the federal, state, local, higher ed and K-12 markets.

Ingram's health-care vertical was started in 2011 and is looking to examine opportunities in telemedicine, which Robinson said he expects to generate cost savings, and data analytics, because doctors are expected to be able to make better decisions with more information.

Tim Ament, Vice President and General Manger of Direct and Consumer Markets

Channel partners need to develop great expertise across all different solutions, according to Tim Ament (left), Ingram Micro's vice president and general manager of direct and consumer markets.

Ament said Ingram has the resources to help solution providers become all-around experts, offering everything from pre-sales technical support to professional services for deployment and assessments.

Ament highlighted opportunities in retail, where competitive pressures have forced shopkeepers to embrace digital signage and networking in hopes of improving the customer experience.

He highlighted how the Reebok location inside New Jersey's MetLife Stadium used LED lighting to change the look and feel of the store, depending on whether the New York Giants or New York Jets are playing.

Solution Providers React: Terry Rossio

CirriusImpact said it was pleased to hear about Ingram's digital-signage ventures and cloud investment since the Edison, N.J., company has been looking for a hybrid cloud solution for its large retail enterprises, said Chief Technology Officer Terry Rossio.

Rossio said global businesses would particularly benefit from point-of-sale services in the cloud to avoid having so much IT living on site.

Ingram has a good track record of not competing against resellers, Rossio said. He said he is confident that the distributor's new cloud services will complement what solution providers offer.