LAS VEGAS – When longtime Ingram Micro exec Bill Brandel shuffled up from Buffalo last August to replace a promoted Mark Snider as head of Ingram Micro Canada, he was impressed with the smoothness of the Canadian operation. Now, as 2016 draws near its close, and after several months on the job, Brandel is able to take stock of how Ingram Micro Canada shapes up heading into the new year.
“We will see some significant initiatives in 2017,” Brandel told ChannelBuzz at Ingram Micro’s ONE event. “We intend to retain our retail, telco and CSP business, and not lose a dime of market share there. But we are already diversifying our portfolio. We are going back into SMB. We moved away from that a little bit, especially in our Advanced Solutions. We will also be building out more value-added services. You will see that come into Canada in force – where it makes sense. You will see Ingram Micro very aggressive and focused on growing our services business.”
Brandel also said Ingram Micro will be more forceful going forward in the Advanced Solutions space.
“My background is in Advanced Solutions, and while we have spent a great deal of energy and effort building it out in Canada, we will be reinvigorating that effort,” he said. “We were a little too methodical. I’d like to be more aggressive there.”
Not surprisingly, given its massive momentum in the industry as a whole, cloud will also be a top priority for Ingram Micro going forward.
“Cloud adoption is gaining momentum in Canada, although the U.S. is further ahead from a marketplace adoption perspective,” Brandel said. “We are probably about eight months behind the U.S., as Canada is still very retail-centric compared to the U.S., with proportionally more brick and mortar stores.”
“Even compared to the U.K. and Australia, Canada does tend to lag those two comparable TAMs,” said Jason Bystrak, Executive Director for Ingram Micro Cloud for the Americas. “There has been more cultural resistance in moving to a cloud model. However, Microsoft putting its two data centres in Canada earlier this year has really changed momentum around cloud.”
Brandel said that while Ingram Micro Canada has been successfully leveraging Bystrak’s organization in the U.S. to develop the cloud business, more needs to be done internally, as at present, Ingram Micro’s Canadian cloud business is too concentrated on Southern Ontario.
“We will see a very big focus on cloud, and this means that we have to shore up the east and the west and get some French speaking folks to have the conversation around [Ingram Micro Cloud] Marketplace,” he stated. “We don’t have someone focused solely on Marketplace for Quebec. We need to be able to deliver our Marketplace story better there.”
Brandel noted that Ingram had made an emphasis at the ONE event of leveraging partners themselves to deliver the distributor’s story about the need to restructure to grow their services and cloud business.
“On the main stage today, when partners got up on the stage and talked about changing their business, they can be our best advocates,” he said. “They can give a better example of our capabilities than some of our leaders do.”
The new cloud push will build on the cloud hires Ingram Micro made in Canada in 2016, which saw resources rise from two people at the start of the year, to eight, plus a director, Greg Onoprijenko, who had been a long-time Ingram Micro cloud partner.
“At a Calgary event, Greg gave his cloud pitch and I wanted to leave Ingram Micro and start my own cloud company, because he was so impressive!,” Brandel joked. “He has been a great hire.”
The Infrastructure-as-a-Service business is one aspect of cloud where Ingram Micro will be doing more, Bystrak said.
“One of the things that needs to be done is a better play in IaaS,” he said. “That has three pillars. One is creating partner awareness, but there are two more that we will increase investment in. We need to help them do the technology investments and design the architectures for an IaaS proposal. Beyond the certification, if you want more bench, more resources from us, we will do the assessments for the partner. We are doing that now in Canada, but we will scale it up.
“We also need to improve implementation capability, to enable partners to migrate, test, put it in a production environment and manage it,” Bystrak added. “We will make more investments there as well. We are doing this now with Microsoft, but we want to expand it further in Canada. Today AWS is just U.S., but it’s coming into Canada.”
Bystrak also pointed out that some of their global cloud spend is in Toronto – through the assets acquired in 2013 with cloud solutions provider Softcom.
“A fair amount of our global investments will be in Toronto, because we continue to leverage the team there from the Softcom acquisition,” he said.
Brandel addressed the issue of Ingram Micro’s pending acquisition by Chinese-based Tianjin Tianhai, which received clearance from CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] on October 31.
“This has pretty much been a non-issue in Canada, although in the U.S., getting the CFIUS clearance was important,” he stated. “I’ll be meeting with public sector folks in two weeks to talk about this.”
Brandel also emphasized that becoming part of a significantly larger organization won’t hurt the distributor’s ability to innovate.
“Leadership makes a huge difference,” he said. “I believe in Ingram’s leadership. Paul Bay has been leading the U.S. business for a very long time, directly or indirectly. We made a very conscious decision ten years ago to break the company into business units with full P&L responsibility, so they could make independent decisions. Our cloud business is a perfect example of this. You couldn’t fit cloud in in a traditional model and get the focus we have had. A significant amount of autonomy has also been granted at the country level.”
The result, Brandel said, is significant differentiation in how Ingram as a distributor goes to market.
“With our 3PL [third-party logistics] business, cloud, and Technology Solutions, we are very different in how we go to market,” he indicated. “We can offer different kinds of solutions. For example, with 3PL with breakpoint mobility fully integrated, we can provide services around mobility devices others can’t, like flashing and imaging, kitting, and forward and reverse logistics.”
It won’t be a surprise to hear that Brandel and Bystrak think that rival Tech Data’s pending acquisition of Avnet Technology Services will be good for Ingram Micro.
“We think their acquisition will create opportunities for us,” Brandel said. Some channel partners have expressed concern that the Tech Data-Avnet consolidation will lead to a consolidation of their channels, which will leave many partners on the outside looking in.
“Tech Data and Avnet also have two different platforms, and partners don’t know what one will rule,” Bystrak added. “Things can be very expensive if they guess wrong.”