Ingram Micro global CEO, Greg Spierkel, was in Australia in January to meet with vendors and customers to set the distributor’s agenda for 2010. He, along with Australian vice-president, Jay Miley, caught up with NADIA CAMERON to discuss the company's strategy and investment priorities this year, the impact of HP and Cisco’s changing go-to-market strategies, cloud computing and the evolving role of distributors and channel.
What’s the purpose of your trip? Greg Spierkel (GS): I have really put a lot of emphasis on trying to see most of our operations on a global level at least one a year. That’s the main reason for me being here – there’s no major acquisition, no closure or catalyst. I’ve been visiting a large number of customers and vendor partners just to understand what we are trying to do together.
What are your key priorities for this year? GS: Like every company, the biggest thing I’m going after right now is how we get on a growth path. It was a tough late 2008 and 2009, and the whole IT sector went down further than the overall GDP growth rates – typically, IT expenditure runs at a better rate than GDP rates do, but when there are recessions, as there have been recently, IT goes down much further. There is variable capital and people won’t spend as much on product, which is what has been happening in the last 18 months. People are running systems hotter and longer, and rather than let people go, they decided not to put as much into IT infrastructure. That has been a phenomena across the board and what we’ve seen from our VAR and vendor community.
Most of the ugliness of the last 18 months is really behind us. What we had been focused on was what we could change internally to be more efficient, so there was a lot of focus on that in the last three quarters. All our sights and canons have been shifted from running a lean operation to getting the most out of the improving market. A perfect example is here in the region, where in about half a dozen key vendor relationships we are all saying we struggled a bit last year, but all have new plans for the new year. And that’s exciting, because everyone feels like they’re back on to something after a tough ride.
There are a few big catalysts that are helping – the movement to mobility has been consistently a high priority, you’ve got Microsoft bringing out some good software that’s getting good traction early, as compared to Vista. Again, a lot of customers of ours are working off Office 2003.
Where does Australia sit in terms of your growing point-of-sale (POS) and solution businesses? GS: The mostrecent acquisition of Vantex filled a gap in the portfolio here, relative to the global initiative we set-up three years ago. But that gap is filled very nicely and we’re the largest play in A/NZ because we bought a good player and they’re executing well six months into it.
We’ve also been putting emphasis at a global level on differentiating between what I’d call a volume transactional capability in a broad-based model, and solutions. We’ve gone down a divisional structure in a more focused manner over the last four or five years and had some significant initiatives, point-of-sale being one of them. In the VAD space, we are doing a broad decoupling of product management, solutions-orientation from the volume, commoditised products. There has been a big emphasis in Australia, but there’s also stuff going on across the globe. It’s a significant change for the company and has lots of implications on the business unit structure we are putting in place, compensation, solutions and technical centres that are sharing resources. There is a lot of investment going on in that divisional company structure to help us be as good as any specialised player in a solutions context.
All the acquisitions we have done over the last two years – and we have done eight acquisitions, some multi-country in nature – are all about supporting this value versus volume structure and go-to-market. A lot of VARs have been asking us to help them move up the value stack in their own business models. So much is going on, for example, with virtualisation and virtualisation as a practice has really taken off in the last three years and we’re a strong player there. A lot has been going on with players in storage, and with Cisco going into the market differently – from Flip video in the consumer space through to telepresence, VoIP and now the datacentre around the networking backbone they have, but adding compute.