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How Ingram Micro Turned Itself Into a Platform Company

Ingram Micro’s Xvantage announcements at last week’s Global Cloud and Innovation Summit delivered on what global distribution companies must achieve going forward – becoming a platform.

Canalys chief analyst Jay McBain, said in a LinkedIn post last week, following the Ingram Micro announcements, that global distributors must become platforms for distribution and also come out of hiding.

But how exactly did Ingram Micro achieve this digital transformation into a platform company in so little time? The company was operating two different systems, technology solutions (hardware and software) orders and cloud orders separately. Plus, it operates on a global basis. The challenges of such a digital transformation seem like they would be daunting to anyone. ChannelE2E asked Ingram Micro’s chief digital officer Sanjib Sahoo to give us a behind the scenes look at just how this feat was achieved.

The Secret Sauce Behind the Xvantage Digital Transformation

Sanjib Sahoo, Ingram Micro CDO
Sanjib Sahoo, Ingram Micro CDO

Sahoo said he wouldn’t give us all the details, of course, saying that was the company’s secret sauce. However, he did provide some perspective on just how it was done operationally. He used the following four step process:

  1. The Spirit
  2. The Plan
  3. The Architecture and Tech
  4. The Governance

The Spirit

There are many legacy systems in this decades old distribution company. There is also a great deal of complexity because the company operates in many different countries, too, and there were many asymmetric processes. The systems were different. Because of how challenging this looked, Sahoo said he spent considerable time rallying the troops and evangelizing the project and vision.

“You have to get the people onboard,” he told ChannelE2E. “There’s a difference between building a platform to modernize the business and becoming a platform business. That’s a huge difference.

Sahoo said he had to evangelize how Ingram Micro was on a path to become a platform business and explain the vision and use a lot of design thinking. The design thinking starts with the customer experience, he said.

The Plan

Prototypes were a big part of this step, according to Sahoo. Ingram Micro built a small provisional prototype of Xvantage to showcase to stakeholders “because unless you see that we can talk about a single pane of glass, unless you visualize it, you cannot grasp it.”

The Architecture and Tech

On top of that there’s a strategy about the data engineering experience. Ingram Micro built a data mesh that aggregates data transactions, both OLTP and OLAP. The team created headless engines that can operate on their own, powered by the AI factory.

Then they stitched all the headless engines together to create a frictionless experience, Sahoo said. The result was streamlined processes/systems that incrementally moved to a cloud. That way the team avoided just trying to move enterprise applications to the cloud, according to Sahoo.

The Governance

Sahoo explained a couple of different groups working in different areas now. There’s now a DigiTech group that is engineering, data, program management, and more. There’s also a DigiOps group that is working on capturing the value for the digital business.

“You only focus on the things that move the needle for the company,” Sahoo said. “We actually improved our development process. Now we actually do releases every week. That’s how fast we move.”

Digital Transformation Challenges

Although he made it sound easy on stage, Sahoo admits the process was challenging, but he’s experienced in these massive projects. “This is not my first rodeo,” he said.

A key tactic was hiring the right talent – bringing in talent with new skills and mixing that talent with people who had been at the company for a while.

“Those are the two viewpoints, which creates a diversity of thoughts,” Sahoo said. That was something Ingram Micro showcased during a mainstage panel discussion of Ingram Micro employees, some of whom described themselves as digital natives, and others who described themselves as digital immigrants.

Finally, Sahoo said that bringing the people along with the project is very important for its success.

You don’t push your own story on them. You listen to their story and tell their story in a version that connects to them.

Jessica C. Davis

Jessica C. Davis is editorial director of CyberRisk Alliance’s channel brands, MSSP Alert, MSSP Alert Live, and ChannelE2E. She has spent a career as a journalist and editor covering the intersection of business and technology including chips, software, the cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. She previously served as editor in chief of Channel Insider and later of MSP Mentor where she was one of the original editors running the MSP 501.