Why channel collaboration is critical for tech innovation in Asia

Why channel collaboration is critical for tech innovation in Asia

Diego Utge shares how Ingram Micro is stitching together vendor solutions in the pursuit of innovation.

Diego Utge (Ingram Micro)

Diego Utge (Ingram Micro)

Credit: Ingram Micro

In recent years, the highly competitive technology market has seen a rise in the number of collaborations amongst vendors, distributors and partners.

This has led to valuable outcomes in complicated sectors such as cyber security, where partners can now work together to plug gaps in offerings or skills and offer a full stack of services, thereby providing better customer experience and increasing business retention chances in the process.

Such a rise in collaborations, as observed by Diego Utge -- executive vice president and group president of Asia Pacific at Ingram Micro -- has led to better business prospects for customers across the region. This is in addition to enabling distributors to encourage partnerships --  especially with Ingram Micro’s position at the intersection of over 1,600 vendors and 170,000 customers across 160 countries.

This may be why the pandemic hasn’t affected their long-term business strategy much and they remain on track with a multi-year investment plan for the region, as Utge told Channel Asia. To date, Ingram Micro is present in over nine countries across Asia Pacific., including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

“A few years back we asked, how can we really accelerate our investments?” said Utge.

Now, Asian partners can tap on a multitude of resources like its Technology Experience Centre in Singapore, a first in the region. Launched in 2021, the centre is open for both in-person and remote engagements such as training sessions, new customer meetings, and executive briefings.

Before customers purchase any solutions or services, they can experience proof-of-concept and proof-of-value for technologies such as cloud, IoT (Internet of Things), cyber security, and robotic process automation (RPA). Utge believes the centre, which houses integrated multi-vendor products and solutions, can offer partners “tremendous value add” to grow their business.

Fast forward to 2022 and the distributor launched an Open Source Centre of Excellence (CoE) to help partners capitalise on new enterprise-grade solutions and services. This was a move to help equip the channel with the “knowledge, resources and applied technology” to better “market, sell and support” open source offerings across the region.

Ingram Micro had also launched a cyber security CoE back in 2020 and with all the investments in Asia Pacific, Utge hopes it’ll result in “even stronger engagement” as customers demonstrate an increased desire for digital transformation.

‘Unique’ position to facilitate collaboration

Those business investments have also paralleled Ingram Micro’s expanding leadership team in Asia Pacific -- the business has recruited industry veterans into various country-level and regional roles, signalling their continued dedication and strong growth plans.

“At the end of the day, I would say everything is a platform business now -- and Ingram Micro is a platform company,” he said.

What he meant was that being “at the centre” of tracking vendors, resellers, customers and advancements in technologies, the business is at a unique position to help the ecosystem "grow, scale, and acquire" desired business outcomes.

Such heavy investments aimed in offering value-add to customers in the region may also pay off as research shows that beyond finding ways to grow annuity revenue, ASEAN partners in particular are focused on areas such as attracting new customers, enhancing end-user experience levels and building new revenue streams and products in the post-pandemic world.

Last year’s EDGE Research -- commissioned by Channel Asia and delivered in partnership with Tech Research Asia -- found that 61 per cent of partners ASEAN-wide are undergoing a “significant change” in how business operations run, with 71 per cent developing a new strategic plan to grow revenue as a direct result of COVID-19.

“Value-add is a moving target,” said Mark Iles, executive analyst of Tech Research Asia. “But increased focus on customer experience is a welcome addition to partner priority lists, especially given the need for reinvention in a digital and remote world. Likewise, customers are seeking new solutions and different ways of innovating, meaning partners have to respond with new products and offerings.”

One way that partners can innovate is through collaboration with others in the distribution network -- this can result in a bigger product portfolio. Traditionally there was only two ways of doing so, either through following customer demands or simply taking up whatever vendors have to offer.

“The in-between, as it becomes more focused on the ecosystem, is resulting in competitive vendors at times partnering together in a solution, because not every vendor has a full stack to supply the whole solution for a new customer,” said Utge.

In some cases, this can lead to more innovation and creative solutions with input from both vendors and partners, bound together by the glue of distribution.

Improved business value proposition

What’s more, with its extensive sales and distribution network, Ingram Micro can help “stitch” vendors and offerings together at the benefit of partners and customers.

“The broader your portfolio, the more capabilities you have to stitch things together,” he said. “When you put it all behind a layer of services, that’s a much more powerful value proposition.

"At times, many of our customers identify business opportunities, but they don’t have the capabilities or need another partner to support them because the core knowledge is something different."

For instance, in the past if a company wanted to build out a data centre, they may have to heavily invest on a project themselves, including sourcing out the right tools and expertise. Now, the customer can buy what they need as-a-service, partner up with companies with a different set of skills and possibly roll out new technologies in the process.

“Two or three years ago, partners were pioneering with one technology or one vendor,” said Utge. “Now when they come to us, they see all the opportunities [to collaborate] and when they have a conversation with a customer about whether they can offer a solution, they may say, ‘no, but you can look into Ingram Micro who has a cyber security solution that can help you’. That’s where we can add value and maximise our partners’ services.”

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