Kevin Murai: Ingram Micro President & COO
Kevin Murai has been one Canadian who has seen virtually all the changes at the distributor since establishing roots in Canada. But in 2005, the rapid pace of change at the broadline distributor was more than headline-makinghe question isn’t whether Ingram Micro has been making headlines over the past year, but when hasn’t it? From the re-emergence of its North American sales strategy, to the firing of top Canadian execs, to offshore outsourcing that led to job cuts, it’s been a busy year for the broadline distributor.
CDN spoke to Kevin Murai, Ingram Micro’s president and COO, about the news that made headlines over the past year.
“I’ve been with the company a long time and I’ve seen it all,” said Murai, who has been with Ingram for 17 years. “One thing I’ve learned is you always have to stay ahead of change.”
Over the past year, change came in the form of establishing a unified sales infrastructure for all of North America to create a more focused management team with consistent business practices. This idea was actually introduced by Murai back in 2001, when he was president of the Canadian subsidiary.
“The real objectives behind creating a North American region were to better serve the market but also draw on resources from a consolidated, larger organization so we’re better equipped to serve our vendors and customers,” said Murai. This approach, he added, will help channel partners in its VentureTech Network (VTN) tap into new technologies and markets.
“The North American strategy itself was not just because of VTN – that was certainly one factor, but it’s beyond that,” he said. “We need to have as a company a consistent go-to-market strategy.”
This consistent go-to-market strategy, however, resulted in the firing of Murray Wright, the Canadian subsidiary’s general manager and vice-president of sales, and Dave Walsh, its vice-president of marketing.
Keith Bradley, the newly appointed president of the North American region, visited Canadian headquarters for the first time on May 19 and promptly fired Wright and Walsh. Bradley said in an earlier interview with CDN that the two Canadian execs were running a profitable business. While rumours still circulate about what really happened, Wright has since gone on to become president of Lenovo Canada.
Ingram promoted Martin Kalsbeek, who has been with the Canadian subsidiary 14 years, to vice-president and general manager, and Mark Snider, who was a senior sales manager at Dell, is now in charge of VAR, government and education sales.
“I’ve known Murray for quite a long time, we did work together for a few years … and I do know Dave pretty well,” said Murai. “Both of them I have a ton of respect for, they’re both great executives, they’ve done a lot of good things for the company.”
This news came on the heels of an earlier announcement in April that Ingram would lay off 550 employees, about 140 of those in Canada. In June, the distributor announced it was in negotiations with Progeon, a subsidiary of Infosys Technologies Inc., to outsource certain job functions to the Philippines and India.
“We looked at outsourcing as an opportunity for us to reduce our overall cost base, not just maintaining it but over time enhancing our ability to service the market,” said Murai. Ingram claims the outsourcing deal will save the company US$25 million per year. It’s in the midst of its third and final deployment phase, which will be complete by the end of this year.
The distributor also rolled out its V7 monitor line, a house brand that will compete in an already crowded market of 50-plus vendors. In an interview with CDN in the August 5th issue, T.J. Trojan, president and COO of NEC Display Solutions – one of Ingram’s vendor partners – said NEC’s only concern was if it lost customer and reseller relationships because of it. “According to Ingram they are not doing that,” he told CDN. “They are focused on the incremental value opportunity. I am not sure what that is.”
Murai said the value proposition is providing a quality product at a value price that doesn’t necessarily cannibalize sales with key manufacturers in the same product categories. “V7 is a big success in Europe where it started a few years ago,” he said, “and we’re having good successes with it here in North America.”
The distributor also started marketing its digital home concept to resellers, which involves products in the area of digital convergence as well as high-end consumer electronics (which require some amount of integration). In July, it announced an agreement to purchase AVAD, a home-technology distributor based in Hollywood, Fla., to strengthen its position in this market.
“We’re a better business today than we were a number of years ago.”
Robert Courteau: CEO, Bell Business Solutions
He used to run one of the country’s biggest independent systems integrators. Now VARs have to keep an eye on him in his role as Bell Canada moves onto their turfIntegrating three company cultures into a brand-new organization is top on the list of accomplishments for Robert Courteau after his first eight months heading up Bell Business Solutions (BBS).
“I think people really feel that they are now part of this new business, and believe in this business, so building the culture is what I’m most proud of,” he said.
BBS, created from the amalgamation of Nexxlink Technologies, Charon Systems and CSB Systems, was formed to offer integrated IT solutions to Canada’s small and medium businesses. Courteau, formerly chief executive of Nexxlink, was named its CEO at its founding in April 2005.
“The second thing I’m most proud of is the reputation we have within Bell, within the Bell enterprise group and within the Bell SMB group,” he went on. “They feel that if we partner together there is definitely a strong momentum.”
“It was a very smart move from Bell’s perspective, creating BBS as a separate unit. We are fast and nimble and customer-focused – the best of both worlds.”
Courteau’s ambition is to be what he calls the Virtual CIO (VCIO) for his customers based on BBS’s five focus areas: professional services, procurement services, management services, application services and telecommunications.
“Our focus as a corporation is to make sure we can handle whatever business processes or IT-specific projects that are less strategic for our customers, mostly from an operations standpoint, mostly from a rollout standpoint, mostly from an IT expertise standpoint that some of our customers may not have in-house, or may not be required to have full-time in-house. We come in and we complement what the customer is doing with that expertise.”
Early successes have come from unexpected places. Courteau recounts that a year ago, his team suggested an ASP package for municipal governments.
“My initial reaction was to tell them that I didn’t think municipalities were the hottest market to go after from a full managed services VCIO-type of offering, due to the fact that their governing bodies are made up of different players and their decision-making processes are often longer than they are elsewhere.”
Today 31 municipalities are fully outsourced to Bell Business Solutions. “We offer applications, we offer Internet-based services, we offer help desk services, and also in certain cases do business process outsourcing like the management of municipal elections,” Courteau said.
In the recent municipal elections in Quebec, for example, BBS, in partnership with Bell, was one of several suppliers providing services, and Courteau noted that his team’s rigorous planning and fully redundant setup paid off. “Half of the municipalities had major problems with electronic voting, but ours was flawless, not because we didn’t have any flaws, but because whatever flaws we had, we had the backup in place to make sure that we took it over. It’s a beautiful example of what this virtual CIO is all about, and how we position it. This year we’re going to do more than $100 million in solutions and services.”
Pleased so far
Courteau had set targets for BBS co-engagements with Bell, and while the new opportunities coming were fewer than expected, overall he’s pleased with results so far. “The Bell relationship with customers is very strong. Together, our win rate is much higher that we had before.”
And for the future? Courteau’s plan is to continue expansion in 2006, going after more complex, longer-term contracts. Where four years ago, Nexxlink’s average contract was four to six weeks, BBS is signing up to five-year contracts for fully managed services.
“My vision for the future is to provide the IT dial tone. The same way you pick up the phone and you know it’s going to work on the other end, we need in the future to do the same thing on a technology standpoint,” he said.
“Some people define business as two things: trust and make money. And some people say, ‘and have fun’.”
“When you’re passionate about what you do, you have fun when you’re winning in the marketplace. But it comes as a result of the first two, because you have the satisfaction of partnering seamlessly with your customer, and making sure you are building a business that is on solid foundations going forward. Popping a bottle of champagne by yourself in a hotel room is not my definition of fun. It’s winning as a team, and celebrating success as a team, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Michael Murphy: Symantec Canada GM
He helped us deal with Nimba, Sober, Sasser and Zotob worms, but perhaps Murphy’s biggest job was to help oversee the integration of Veritas partners into the Symantec foldIt’s a risky move from an IT security perspective, but Michael Murphy does it anyway: just before he takes part in a panel on how users should protect their data, he hands over his BlackBerry to an associate.
“I don’t want it to go off,” he says, before explaining to his colleague what signals would indicate an incoming message is really, really important.
Murphy, vice-president and general manager of Symantec Canada, is always focused on the really, really important issues.
Sometimes they’re the finer points of creating IT security policies, or how CIOs should integrate Symantec products to combat bots, worms, viruses and other forms of cyber-attack.
Sometimes it’s the issues around Symantec itself, such as the way the security firm will fully digest the product line, skill sets and customer relationships it gained last year through its US$13.5-billion acquisition of storage software specialist Veritas.
Murphy says he knew some users from both companies would be scratching their heads over the merger.
“Security vendors usually buy other good security vendors, or they buy broken security vendors in order to fix them,” he says.
“This was a real crossing of the chasm of two disparate market sets, but it’s one that addresses both the protection and the availability of data. Information that is secure but unavailable is useless. It’s like having a safety deposit box that you can’t get into.”
Although most employees of the two firms are still adjusting to the combination of the two organizations, Murphy says he felt the synergies when it was announced on 12 months ago, having assisted with the details of the integration plan. “For most people, for all intents and purposes, it was probably April,” he says.
Murphy joined Symantec in the mid-1990s and held a variety of systems engineering positions before he became its corporate sales manager.
Since then, he has been the local point person guiding Canadians through a variety of threats to their most sensitive information, from Nimda and Sasser to this year’s Zotob and Sober.
As Canadian spokesperson for the company’s annual Internet Security Report to his regular appearances on CTV and conference sessions, his job has been as much about educating the user base as it has been selling product.
Murphy’s attempts to educate users about blended threats and zero-day attacks has taken him far outside his traditional relationship with the company’s network of Canadian resellers and even his IT manager base to government and consumers.
Last year, for example, Murphy assisted Ontario Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson in hosting an information session about online fraud schemes that cost unsuspecting Canadians millions of dollars.
In June, Symantec became a premier sponsor of Dalhousie University’s Computer Science Privacy and Security Lab. Last month, Murphy shared the podium with the Ontario Provincial Police as he released a Symantec-conducted survey in which 70 per cent of Torontonians said they did not feel safe about disclosing personal information online and 51 per cent said they were worried about identity theft.
“This was the year we really saw the change of hackers’ MO from one of simply creating viruses and malware to being motivated by financial gain,” he said, citing phishing schemes, bot attacks and zombie networks. “People aren’t just breaking into the network, they’re taking data and making extortion attempts in return for getting that data back.”
Murphy’s challenge, as with all security vendors, is helping customers quantify the impact of putting in security solutions, especially if they don’t suffer a major breach.
At a recent panel he likened the issue by that faced by households who buy insurance packages: there isn’t always the kind of return on investment you can put your finger on, but those who fail to think about the dangers in advance will be left wishing they could turn back time.
“Security is not just about something bad happening,” he said, though he suggested a healthy dose of paranoia may be a useful tool for many IT managers. “Murphy’s Law is going to prevail, and that’s what you have to think.”
One of his co-panelists couldn’t help but ask: “Was that Michael Murphy’s Law?”
Murphy laughed, as did the audience, because they knew Murphy’s role is fighting that particular law, and making sure it doesn’t win.