According to Gartner, Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.1 trillion in 2021, an increase of 8.4% from 2020. For many end-user organisations, and crucial sectors such as healthcare, finance and education, the channel has played a pivotal role over the last fifteen months: locating, securing and shipping critical technologies to those who have needed them the most.
It’s well documented that throughout the pandemic, many businesses transitioned to remote working, and channel organisations were no different. Many professionals had to adjust their working environments, while making significant changes both to their homes and social lives. However, with dependency on technology increasing at a dramatic rate, clearly the macroeconomic disruption that many experienced in 2020 challenged organisations to embrace new digital strategies. Indeed, with challenge comes a new opportunity for disruptive innovation and agility.
The global health crisis clearly highlighted the importance of technology. A survey by the Global Distribution Technology Council found that the top trends set to impact distribution through 2025 include security, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics. But how does this impact partners?
In a world being disrupted by emerging technologies, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Customers require more support than event and digitalisation initiatives have proliferated. As such, companies like Ingram Micro and Schneider Electric have continued to help IT solutions providers, Value Added Resellers (VARs) and Managed Services Providers (MSPs) stay on the cutting edge of digital transformation. In recent years they have radically changed they way they work with partners, using data-driven insights to help identify new customers, uncover new market opportunities, drive demand generation and importantly, accelerate growth.
On the recent IT Channel Perspectives podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Tim Suhling, VP of Global Business Intelligence at Ingram Micro, about the global distributor’s long-term partnership with Schneider Electric; and how their data-driven insights has helped offer the right solutions to our IT channel partners during the transition to working from home, and as we head into the new normal.
Analytics and Data Science have long been pivotal to channel success, and through analytic targeting, Ingram Micro has cemented its global position as a dominant force within the sector. The company has worked alongside its vendor, and channel partners to offer strategic demand generation solutions that have delivered great results, and the difference is in how the data is utilised.
“Ingram Micro leverages advanced analytics to identify new opportunities, share of market, and total addressable market for both end-users and channel partners,” said Tim Suhling, VP of Global Business Intelligence at Ingram Micro. “That allows us to marry up potentially known and unknown customers with resellers, and enables us to bring the complete value proposition from vendors such Schneider Electric, and deliver them directly to the end-user”.
This approach allows Ingram Micro to create tighter relationships with channel partners, as it hands them opportunities in which they can grow. For example, with the return to the office there is a need for IT modernisation, and for new IT, servers, racks, storage, power and cooling.
“Our ability to model and predict behaviour – when the customer will have demand, and when a reseller will need of a set of solutions based upon end-to-end visibility – gives us the opportunity to drive demand generation,” continued Tim. “The ability to send content that is relevant, then communicate the key benefits of a solution is what helps to influence and drive purchasing behaviour. It’s something that’s allowed Ingram to expand its reach to both the reseller and end-user communities.”
Business intelligence is ultimately the future for the channel – especially where demand generation campaigns are concerned. At Schneider Electric we have seen the benefits first-hand and know that a data-driven approach can help uncover, or highlight, demand in specific verticals or segments.
For example, today we know today that only 27% of IT channel partners offer a Managed Power Service, globally. Such digital services include the remote monitoring and management of physical infrastructure, including uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and distributed edge computing infrastructure.
We also know that by adding a Managed Power Services offer, partners can generate revenue up to 40% of an assets initial cost, per year. So, this helps us understand where there is clear opportunity for our partners to generate new recurring revenue. Further, by combining that opportunity with clear and present data on which segments are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives, we’re able to guide and inform partners on where they can address customer pain points fastest.
“We have all of our internal sales data, but we also purchase a significant amount of external data sets, which allow us to understand how a particular customer is behaving, to understand their digital footprint, to look at what is most important to them as they migrate through their IT journey,” continued Tim. “We’ve looked at customers and analysed their growth trajectory. We want to make sure that we’re along that journey with them. To that effect, when we think of solutions that Schneider Electric bring to an offering, we’re ensuring that Alliance Partners, such as HP and Cisco really fit into that story.”
Scaling for growth
Interestingly, Tim cited that understanding behavioural traits is an area where Ingram Micro is focussing its efforts. By doing so it will enable the company to gain better insight into what activities work best, and how to replicate them globally. This data-driven approach has been a key factor in the distributor’s growth, while enabling them to scale in line with customer feedback and demand.
Such an approach will be essential moving forward, especially with a hybrid sales model. A common challenge that many channel professionals faced in the last 18 months, for example, is that sales teams went digital. Identifying and developing opportunities without that face-to-face discovery has been a clear challenge, but by establishing a long-term partnership and gaining access to strategic business intelligence, we’ve been able to simplify the demand generation process for partners, and add considerable value.
Such intelligence helps us gain a better understanding of where they can look for demand, what challenges end-users are facing now, and enables close collaboration, working together to drive growth.
Looking forward, it means we can tailor partner programs, such as our Edge Software and Digital Services Program, and evolve in line with partner demands – helping them transition to digital service based revenue models that drive growth and add long-term value.
Being there for partners during critical times holds enormous value for the IT channel. And through intelligent collaboration, the channel will remain strong.
To listen to the latest episode of the IT Channel Perspectives podcast, featuring Ingram Micro – click here.
To learn more about the new mySchneider IT Solutions Provider Partner program – visit the website.