CRN asked Jay Miley, Ingram Micro’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, when Techlink services would return to normal and to explain the objectives behind the SAP upgrade.
CRN: Many resellers are unhappy about long call-wait times and the loss of details in the Techlink portal. The feeling seems to be if it ain't broke, don’t fix it. Why did Ingram decide to upgrade from Adonis to SAP?
Miley: Since 2009 our transaction volume has experienapced a lot of growth and quite frankly in order to continue in our growth path, changes to system infrastructure were required. Annually Ingram Micro processes over a million orders and 300 million parcels on behalf of our customers. We are very linked into the technology supply chain.
Changes were required for us to grow and serve the needs of the community. We’ve been operating for 20 years on the same system; for us to serve our partners for the next 20 years, we need to update and change our systems.
Many solution providers in this industry know that a system change like the one we are embarking upon is difficult. I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. These are difficult transitions, they are difficult on many fronts. Those same partners will tell you that no matter what preparations you take, unanticipated challenges arise. Given the size and scale of our operations and our customer base, even small issues can have larger than anticipated downstream impacts.
I and the company acknowledge that customers are experiencing issues with us now. Our customers aren’t bashful, many are communicating directly with us. We are aware that they are experiencing issues from a Techlink and from a shipment perspective.
CRN: Can you tell me more about these two issues?
Miley: Most are having problems doing something in Techlink that they were used to doing before. Or [for shipments] I am used to ordering by 4 and it shows up the next day no problems. We have had some delays in the shipment cycle. Those are the primary things that have surfaced through the direct communication with our accounts.
That’s the core of our business, we have to do that well. But we are across those issues. We are also aware that the wait on the phone times, what we call our average speed to answer, has increased. They are all compounding, these are all interrelated.
What I want to tell your readers and my customers is that we will continue to take appropriate measures and we acknowledge there has been some deterioration in customer service levels. I would like to say thank you to the customers that are being patient with us during this period of change.
CRN: When will service return to normal?
Miley: Our immediate focus is the issues that we are identifying as quickly as possible. I would like to thank our customer base for their patience. The message is that we are open for business, the system is functioning. We are processing thousands of orders every day by the web, EDI and over the phone. In terms of getting back to normal we are doing everything possible to return our service levels to normal as fast as we can.
CRN: A New Zealand reseller told CRN that Ingram Micro New Zealand is still having problems after its SAP upgrade a year ago. How long did it take New Zealand to return to normal trading?
Miley: It’s hard to comment on something like that without knowing the specific situation of that reseller. In the New Zealand business things are back to normal. I’m not suggesting that every customer in the New Zealand market would agree with that but from the perspective we have and based on the metrics we look at, things have returned to normal, and they returned to normal quite quickly.
I’m optimistic that we will be able to have a similar outcome here as well. Within a couple of months they were back to volume levels that we consider normal.
However, you’ve got to understand that markets are radically different in New Zealand and Australia.
CRN: What resources have you dedicated to dealing with resolving the SAP upgrade?
Miley: We have right now our Asia Pacific CIO is in country and the program director is in country, we have quite a lot of resources here - this was intended as part of the initial plan. They are helping us knock one by one every issue. We have a global team that is literally connected 24/7. If you were to come down to what I call command central you've got videoconferences from different parts of the world that are working on everything as priority one.
CRN: How can resellers contact you?
Miley: If folks have feedback that they want to send us I urge them to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org which we are reviewing on an hourly basis. The feedback we are receiving on that we are making real-time fixes on those. We have made several fixes already on some of the issues that have been identified through that mechanism and we will continue to do that.
We will continue to do that. I encourage partners that have suggestions for us to proactively email them to that address. I’m personally reviewing the feedback and we are prioritising things accordingly.
CRN: What benefits will resellers see from Ingram moving to SAP?
Miley: In order to scale for the next 20 years we need a system that we can interconnect with our partners and customers. Adonis wasn’t that platform, SAP is. One of the things that customers will gain from this if they choose to engage with us in this fashion is a much more integrated electronic data interchange. The variety of methods we can use to connect with our partners from a reseller perspective is orders of magnitudes different in terms of how SAP works and a system like Adonis.
One of the main reasons we want to change is that we can interconnect much more readily with our user base. Once the transition is over and we get through this teething phase, albeit not trying to downplay the challenges with this teething phase, we believe that several benefits will arise.
We believe this investment in SAP will allow us to improve our flexibility and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the channel. The SAP platform has an ecosystem and that ecosystem evolves with the IT channel. As the needs of our IT partners change, a partner like SAP will help us address those issues.
CRN: Can you give me a specific example of this improved relationship?
Miley: For example once we get this platform down, partners can choose to deal with us in real-time XML transactions. We will be able to do that. We have not historically been able to do that. It’s one mechanism that customers choose to interconnect with their partners.
CRN: What can you do with real-time XML that you can't do with data feeds?
Miley: It’s hooked into your system in real-time. It’s as if you were gaining a view directly into the Ingram ERP system without having to manage the interface itself. It's a real live connection. That’s one of the specifics.
Additionally some of the benefits will be realised in terms of Ingram will become more efficient. Really, information is key. We believe that ultimately SAP will improve the quality and the timeliness of the information provided to our customers.
CRN: What are the benefits of tying into the global Ingram ERP system (which has standardised on SAP)?
Miley: We have many partnerships that are global in nature on the vendor side and on the customer side. As we roll this out to more and more regions over time those benefits will be realised. I think that around the world there will be a lot of best practice.
When you were on a standalone system like we were, we were on an island, no pun intended, isolated from the rest of the Ingram ecosystem and being connected to them by a standard platform will allow us to share some best practices and investments they make in other parts of the world.
They made investments but we couldn’t reap the benefits locally because we weren’t on a common platform.
CRN: What type of investments?
Miley: Some of the things you see in North America such as Ingram Services initiatives and cloud computing initiatives. That's one example. We will be able to tap into those types of things without having to replicate those investments locally.
CRN: Can you tell me more about these initiatives?
Miley: Not at this time.
CRN: The Sandy Bridge chip recall was unfortunate timing given Ingram’s SAP upgrade. Has Ingram run short of the old stock?
Miley: We have plenty of good inventory for the local market here.
NB: Ingram Micro has posted an FAQ document on Techlink which is being updated regularly. Click on "Latest Techlink Modifications" on the Techlink front page.