In his first interview since returning to Australia, Ingram's new CEO speaks exclusively to ARN about the forthcoming year
Ingram Micro has been through a fairly complicated period in its history over the past few years, how different is the Australian operation that has emerged from the one in place when you left? What are its strengths?
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Our business has developed since I was last here. Our back-office systems are all new, we've got a great new e-commerce website, and we've got a new state-of-the-art Advanced Logistics Centre -- so there's been a lot of investment into the infrastructure of the business. A lot of work has been done to ensure we're in a good position to be able to serve our customers' needs efficiently and I think this gives us a very strong platform to provide additional value added services and respond quickly to what our customers need.
The traditional picture of Ingram as a box-pusher has changed radically as it moves into services, mobility, logistics etc., where do you see the key areas of growth for Ingram in 2013?
Mobility is obviously a key driver for growth across the industry -- and we're seeing that in areas such as tablets, smart-phones, and all the software and accessories that support mobile computing. That growth will continue in 2013 and there will be some exciting innovations in that market too. With the Brightpoint team joining us we gain additional skills through the talent of the organisation and we open up new markets to our vendors whilst also offering a wider portfolio of mobile products to our customers.
The services market is also a growing segment. We're continuing to see good growth in some of the enterprise technologies -- such as networking, security, virtualisation and data-centre technology - that supports service providers. Additionally we're seeing more interest in cloud solutions as our partners start to work with us to include cloud services as part of their offerings.
Convergence of technologies is opening up new opportunities as well. For instance mobile and smart screen technologies are creating opportunities in digital signage and related areas. We've built a really strong specialised division to develop this segment which has a lot of industry experience and knowledge. They have focused on educating the market, and working with resellers to demonstrate how these various technologies can be leveraged in a number of industry solutions -- in retail, education, government and other industries.
Also our Logistics services is an established and successful segment of the IM business model in many of the countries we operate in. Locally we have had some strong success in this area over the past 10 years, but were running out of room in our old distribution centre. Now that we have our new Advanced Logistics Centre at Eastern Creek we are able to focus on new opportunities in this space. We see Logistics Services as a natural extension of our other services -- using existing capabilities built up locally and in from overseas.
Do you think IM is playing catch-up still in terms of trying to get back some of the business it lost (due to the problems associated with transitioning to the new SAP ERP) in 2011/12?
The changes made needed to happen to ensure we took a long term view and had the right platforms and resources in place to move ahead.
We have now reached a point where our systems are operating well, business is growing, and we're in a great position to capitalise on the foundation put in place.
What is the key to 2013 for Ingram in terms of staying ahead of the pack and maintaining a competitive advantage?
Our focus centres squarely on ensuring we respond to the needs of our customers and enabling them to develop their businesses.
That means making sure we're continually improving operationally and leveraging the advantages we have from the investments we've made in systems and infrastructure. It means getting out and working closely with our customers to ensure we're delivering what's important to them and what helps them to grow, and really understanding their businesses.
That's a particular area of focus for me personally -- to get out and meet with our partners and talk to them about what's working well, and what we need to improve on and then acting on that feedback.
Will the company shift further into emerging technologies?
We've already invested in emerging technologies. Look at mobility for example. Brightpoint is a clear indication of the importance we place on the mobility market, so yes, as the market moves, we'll be moving too. It's a matter of keeping close to market trends and particularly, keeping close to our customers to ensure we are providing them with the platform, tools and skillset to leverage and grow from.
Looking slightly further ahead, what would you like the dominant focus of Ingram Australia to be by the end of 2014?
Where I'd like us to be, is to be the clear distribution partner of choice in the market. That means resolutely focusing on our customer service and understanding our customers' needs both now and looking forwards.
Part of 2012 was about moving more than 100 jobs to Manila, when do those positions in Manila come into play and how do they benefit the Australian operation moving forwards?
These positions are "in play" already -- and most have been operational for quite a while now. Using a regional resource centre allows us to be more flexible -- we can leverage specialist regional skillsets, and we can call on additional resources to handle peaks in demand, or provide additional cover for staff, or as we are doing in many cases providing proactive market development support for our vendor partners.
Perhaps most importantly it lets us focus better. Our offshore team can focus on managing back-office and operational functions, freeing up our local team to focus on getting out and working with their partners.
What is your message to resellers from Ingram?
That we see our relationship with them as a true partnership. We are here to engage with them, to help them grow their businesses and to work with them to adapt to a changing marketplace.
How do you see the channel in Australia and how do you think it needs to develop over the next 12 months?
We're seeing a lot of macro trends all impacting at once -- mobility, "consumerisation", businesses increasingly automating processes and transactions, and the rapid adoption of Cloud services. All those changes bring both opportunities and challenges -- for vendors, distributors and resellers alike. The key to making the most of the opportunities is to stay close to your customers and spend time understanding their businesses and being a true strategic partner.
What do you see as key areas of opportunity for channel players?
I believe a big factor for success is delivering continuous improvement in systems, processes and services in order to enable customers to increase their productivity and efficiency and help them lower the cost of doing business.
That's why we've invested, and continue to invest, in our back-office systems and on continuing to refine them to make them more and more efficient.
It's also about making sure you have the right people in the right places to deliver the advice and support that reseller's need in supporting their customers. That too is an area of focus for me heading forwards.
For resellers, the macro trends mentioned earlier are all opening up new opportunities for them to help their customers leverage technology and improve the efficiency and productivity of their businesses. Again it comes down to Resellers being close to their customers, understanding what technologies are going to have the biggest impact in terms of improving their customers' business efficiency, and being able to deliver that benefit.
What would be the one caution you would give them?
It's not a caution, so much as advice. That is, to understand what you're really good at. Appreciate what you can do better than anyone else. Know how to leverage skills/support from your partners to differentiate your business and stay focused on these things while at all times getting closer to your customers.
What can Ingram give the channel and its partners that nobody else can?
We have state-of-the-art facilities and systems that enable us to handle very large quantities of products quickly, efficiently and accurately.
As mentioned earlier IML is a natural extension of our service offering and an opportunity for our partners to leverage this investment. We are working closely with some vendors to provide a fully managed fee for service model -- removing duplication in their Supply Chain - lowering costs and increasing efficiency.
For resellers it means we can offer them access to the largest range of vendor products, services and solutions from a single supplier, combined with expertise across that entire spectrum of products.
How do you see the 2013 year, financially/economically? Are you expecting further impact from the various global financial crises? The onset of the recession Australia never really had? A tight fiscal year? As such is consolidation a vital component of 2013?
I don't think anyone can confidently predict how the global market will unfold in the next few years. We see certain segments of the market continuing to tighten and spending remains constrained. However, inevitably there will be areas in this industry that continue to grow and we see that today.
Consolidation will continue to play an important factor in our market as leveraging scale in a low growth market can enable companies to reduce costs and increase efficiency. However, it will always remain crucial for companies to focus on delivering to the needs of their customers.
Shifting to the personal, tell me what Matt Sanderson has been up to overseas and what he got most from his time in London?
On the personal side it was great to catch up with old friends and with family and to get around Europe.
From a work point of view it was a very interesting working in EMEA during the GFC. IT in certain segments of the market is being hit hard. However, you also get to see how investment in IT can support the market in times when there's a strong focus on cost reduction - and that is where investment in the right technologies through the right partners can effectively support growth with lower overheads.
How does it feel to be back in Australia? Do you have any personal goals for the next few years?
I'm delighted to be back in Australia after three years. The IT channel remains strong and for me the goal is to become the distributor of choice and to provide a platform that will continue to support the channel and allow both ourselves and our partners to profitably grow together and to take advantage of technology developments over the coming years.
What do you do to relax (hobbies etc)?
I'm passionate about business, so to a certain extent work is also a hobby.... Outside of that I enjoy spending time with my family and watching and playing sport whenever I have the time. Finally, a parting comment on Jay's time at the head of Ingram Australia and what he achieved.
It was a unique time, particularly over the past two years, that caused us to be more inwardly focused than we would have liked. Jay and his team put in some long hard yards getting the new systems in place and making the necessary changes.
For me it's about spending more time with our partners, so I'm grateful to Jay for leaving behind a solid platform, and we all wish him well in his next challenge back in the US.