Digital transformation is a defining trend for businesses today. Businesses of all sizes, in all industries, and in all geographies are rethinking how they operate — and investing in new technologies, processes and talent — to drive growth in the digital age. But what exactly is digital transformation? And how can your business prepare for this new shift? The Chief Digital Officer at Ingram Micro, with over 35,000 employees and $50 billion in revenue, Sanjib Sahoo, shares his thoughts on driving digital transformation at scale.

This discussion includes these topics:

Sanjib Sahoo serves as executive vice president and chief digital officer for Ingram Micro Inc. His responsibilities include leading the digital transformation and modernization of the company’s customer-facing platforms, including applications, subscription services and consumption models for billing. Sahoo joined Ingram Micro in June 2021.

He has authored numerous technology models and white papers on Risk and Innovation Leadership, Leadership Development, Innovative Marketing, Open Source Architecture, and Mobile Strategy, and holds several patents on Dynamic Communications and Streaming for Mobile Devices. He is a member of the Forbes Technology Council and a contributor to Wired and the Harvard Business Review.

Transcript

Sanjib Sahoo: How can we be better? We're starting from our CEO and every single employee.

To attract the best talent, you need a vision.

About Ingram Micro

Michael Krigsman: We are speaking with Sanjib Sahoo. He is the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Ingram Micro.

Sanjib Sahoo: We are a $49 billion revenue company operating in 160 countries all across the world powered by more than 35,000 global associates. If you look at all of the technology, the brands (leading brands, emerging brands), we are the brand behind those businesses. We support tens of thousands of customers and vendors in technology.

There's another interesting statistic, Michael, to understand the scale of Ingram Micro. More than 80% of the technology in the world is touched by Ingram Micro. In the last 40 years, there may not be a single day in the technology world that Ingram Micro was not being used, so that's the way to understanding the scale of Ingram Micro.

I'm really excited to be at Ingram Micro. It's a huge company.

Michael Krigsman: Give us an overview of the nature of your business.

Sanjib Sahoo: We are a technology distribution company. We take from the biggest brands – hardware, software, services, cloud consumption – and distribute it to the resellers, value-added resellers, and customers.

That's what we do; we distribute technology. We're one of the largest technology ecosystems in the world. We distribute all kinds of technology: hardware, software, subscription, services, cloud, everything.

What is a Chief Digital Officer?

Michael Krigsman: You are the chief digital officer of Ingram Micro, and so of course, I have to ask what does being the chief digital officer mean at Ingram Micro, and where does the CDO role fit into the Ingram Micro world?

Sanjib Sahoo: In the chief digital officer role, I report closely and report to our CEO Paul Bay, our new CEO, and I spend hours and hours with him all the time talking. The CDO role is a strategic role where my mandate is to digitize all of Ingram Micro, you know, figuring it out everything that we do – our products, our services – and create new digital models, create new customer experiences, modernize some of our technology, and really create the newer Ingram Micro and the way we are going, so how we serve our customers, how we serve our vendors. Not only create technology.

There is one difference – I'll tell you, Michael – that we believe, and I personally believe, that digital or the CDO role is not just about technology. It is also an amalgamation of business value and technology.

There is a word about digital transformation, but I also believe more in digital operation like how do you create a digital operating model, how do you take all the technology, how do you take all the processes, how you combine together and figure out a way forward by data and digital to create new routes to market and show tangible value in terms of EBITDA or revenue growth. That's where my role fits in to create that intersection with both technology, digital technology, creating platforms with the product side, digital operations (how we create the value in the businesses using digital technology), and also then rolling out the new changes in a communication route that's fitting together the new digital ecosystem and the products we are building.

What is digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: That term, digital operating model, is quite interesting. Would you elaborate for us on what you mean by that?

Sanjib Sahoo: We talk about digital transformation generally, right? The digital transformation generally means that if there's something that needs to be transformed, there is a start date and an end date.

But in my mind, digital transformation is a spirit. It's a mindset. It's continuous.

Every company has some assets. Now, how mature they are, we can argue about that. Some have more mature assets. Some have less mature assets. Some have better products.

You have to continuously figure out, with the combination of processes (the digital technology and assets you have) improve your operating model in the way you actually serve your customers or your partners and create business value but also figure out always new ways to get to the market, stay ahead of the competition, leapfrog them, and be prepared.

The change can come from anywhere, Michael. For example, every company has either a performance gap or an opportunity gap. But if you look at the opportunity gap, whenever competition comes from, the operating model is taking those assets and creating as if it is an operating unit and continuously operating with a digital mindset.

As your digital assets mature, and you can show value in actual books, you are transforming. Instead of terming it as transformation with a start date and end date, I believe in how do we create a mindset and a spirit with a new digital operating model which is different and it is there today. You don't need a start date and end date.

Digital transformation challenges and goals

Michael Krigsman: Would it be correct, in your view, to say that digital transformation, therefore, is about rethinking the business and its operations from the point of view of what's best for our customers? Is that a correct way of looking at it, in your view?

Sanjib Sahoo: Absolutely. The digital transformation starts with the business value or outcome, which we predict will happen, and ends with a tangible business value and outcome. You fit technology in between.

It doesn't start with technology (in my mind) and it doesn't only end with technology. It starts with the business value and outcome and a result that you think you can demonstrate. You end or show the value that you get, and you fit technology in between.

Now, there are different ways to create value. It can be you're improving your automation and improving EBITDA by automating processes. It can be that you are creating a new platform with machine learning, AI, and new experience that service your customers better and create a new experience for your customers, or it can be that you are creating a new platform for your suppliers. But there's always a value proposition which you think you will get, and then you have to get that value realized and then use technology processes to do that.

One other thing, Michael. It's very important to focus on why. You don't jump into doing something digital or creating a new product. You figure out why and start with the customer journey, you know, how you serve your customers.

Your focus starts with why. Then you figure out what are we building. Then you figure out the how (the technology and the pieces). But I always say to end with a wow.

There has to be a wow in a digital transformation or digital platform where you really delight your end-users, your customers, or your partners. That's the wow because that's when you figure out, okay, it's easy to go that way.

Digital strategy and customer engagement

Michael Krigsman: Everything you're describing makes perfect sense. You start with the customer. You start with, "Why are we doing this? What is the expected business value and the outcomes?" Then we apply technology to help realize these goals.

Here's my question: Isn't starting with the customer kind of obvious and what every successful business has been doing, probably since the Stone Age, whether using writing on the cave walls up until now? What's actually different?

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes, you always start with the customer. At the same time, tying everything together that you have. Organizations are different, so there is a maturity of how you serve your customers today.

There are also limitations of your landscape which prohibit how you serve your customers. It might be you have legacy technology; you have legacy platforms. It might be that you are not utilizing data the right way. It might be that there are too many diversities of the business that doesn't allow you to serve back, but there are a lot of limitations.

The one thing is that even if you start with the customer, you have to figure out, in a very iterative way, how do you take all those barriers out. Today, technology has evolved to move your barriers. Technology has evolved so you can test more, a faster way, of what works and what doesn't work.

With the advent of cloud, you can push solutions much faster. With the advent of open-source, you can do that.

Yes, you start with the customers, but then you tie your processes in your business. You have processes internally. You have processes of how you go to market. You have processes in operations.

You also have to tie in, Michael, three areas. One is, yes, the voice of the customer. You also have to take in the voice of the business and the operations, like feedback loops. What are businesses doing? Take those operations and voice.

Then you also have to figure out the focus on value. One thing I'm very, very particular is how you do it.

We cannot just build another shiny new technology or platform. We cannot just do cloud for the sake of doing cloud because it's shiny. We cannot do machine learning for the sake of doing machine learning.

Focus on value. As long as you realize value can be revenue generation—it can be EBITDA, margin, whatever way—that's very important.

Michael Krigsman: Then would it be accurate to say that the customer is your end goal and providing those relationships, removing friction (as you described), whatever the goals are, but operations are the mechanism through which we get there and, therefore, digital transformation (as you're describing it) needs to encompass that entire end-to-end business lifecycle?

Sanjib Sahoo: Exactly. Let me give you an example of Ingram Micro.

We cannot just focus on only the customers' ideas. We start with the customers, understand the demand that we generate from the customers, how we serve our customers better.

But you cannot just serve the customers' understanding without figuring out a better way how you serve your suppliers and your vendors better because that's source. We have to figure out a better way, the process that our associates use.

As you said, it has to be an amalgamation of everything. Your processes, your vendors, your partners all tied together with customers being at the top of your value chain to figure out a way to interconnect everything to serve your customers better.

Michael Krigsman: We have a great question from Twitter. This is from Arsalan Khan. He's a regular listener and he asks wonderful questions. Arsalan, thank you for your questions and for listening.

Arsalan says, "We talk about value and the value of data. How do executives across the company view data as a valued asset which has the same value regardless of who is using it?" I think the broad issue he's raising is the issue of data, thinking about data as an asset, and does that value change depending on where you are in the company? How do you think about data as an asset?

Sanjib Sahoo: I think data, in my opinion, is the most important asset of digital transformation. Why? Because I think data fuels the whole digital transformation in a way that you can make decision-making easier. You can have a data-driven product model. You can use machine learning and AI to understand the whole ecosystem better.

For example, let's say we want to serve our customers in a very segmented way, understanding (in every segment) the nature and behavior of the customers. We want to build recommended solutions and match them to the customers. How do we do that? That's where data fits in; machine learning fits in.

Second of all, you want to create an operational oversight about everything, globally. That's what we're doing right now. You cannot do that without data.

Data is the backbone. Even in Ingram, data is a backbone of the entire digital transformation, the digital operation that we are creating right now.

It starts with data and data is the fuel. We call it Data Engine Experience.

It starts with data. It starts with harmonizing data, looking at data, creating machine learning, AI. Then we call it engines, which are business functionalities powered by that data. Then these chained together, we create a frictionless experience for our customers, for our vendors.

Even in the company, I think data sits at the top in the sense that even our executives look at data and make decisions. Data helps us make decisions. Data helps us make our go-to-market strategies better and the entire ecosystem better.

To answer your question, in my opinion, you cannot have a digital transformation without data. It's the most important asset for digital transformation.

Digital transformation and corporate culture

Michael Krigsman: That being the case, you spoke earlier about the spirit and the mindset, which implies the culture. What happens in a business that is transforming where, yes, digital data is the core asset but they're not used to thinking about data that way? What do they do?

Sanjib Sahoo: You have data, but it's also important how you strategically use data. Let's take an example, culturally, how we do it, especially taking Ingram as an example. When you're doing digital products or building solutions—as I said before, Michael—focus on why it's really important.

We do a lot of design thinking, so you bring different groups of people together. You figure out the problem that you're solving. You look at data as a touchpoint figuring out how you make your decisions about the problems and solutions you are building because if you take emotions out and focus on facts, that data helps you.

Then what do you is, together, understand different aspects of the journey in a 360 way from the aspect of customers to the aspect of operations, from everything: finance, operations, customers, business. We look at holistically how you are doing that entire journey.

As you then iterate around, as you start building the products and looking at things, then data helps you in figuring out adoption metrics. What is working? What is not working? It keeps us honest.

At the same time, take an example, Michael. We are building a solution. Without that detail, you cannot understand the pain points of the frontline managers or operations.

You look at and figure out, "Wow, really? This actually takes such a long time with so much manual to actually do that?" That is an intelligence for us to figure out, "Okay, let's solve the problem."

But if I keep going back to the first one I told you, that when you look at digital, there are two parts of the coin. I am very, very passionate about this. One, I call the value creation. One is value capture.

Value creation is, yes, you are building technology with all these inputs and data and modern technology. Yes, you are creating digital assets which have a promise of creating value. But if you do not complete the other side with data intelligence and business process transformation, operations, then it's incomplete.

You have to have the entire transformation to both sides. Start with value creation and also iterative value capture so that you can show that, yes, this is how you are creating true, tangible value to make it a true strategic agenda in the company. We can talk about digital transformation, digital products, but to make a truly strategic delivery, that value capturing is extremely important.

Michael Krigsman: Where does this idea of mindset, culture, spirit come into play with all of this, everything you're describing?

Sanjib Sahoo: It comes into play about two things. One, rallying the organization about the vision. Vision is, yes, we are digitizing with a digital strategy, but we are going to a better way to serve our customers. You are creating a new strategy.

First of all, create that culture of collaboration with all your customers within the company, across the organization – number one. Number two, you have to rally the organization with what you are building.

Basically, I talked about design thinking. We talked about communication. Communication is very, very important as we employ change, employ change management. Building the story about how this will help you, how this new platform (new tool, or technology) will help you across the globe. Figuring out a way of creating a plan that de-risks and balances the plan of operation that doesn't disrupt.

I call it “Perform as you Transform.” You cannot only perform or only transform. You have to do both. Creating a balanced plan is extremely important.

Also, taking the feedback loops. I call it empathy, Michael. Within digital transformation, this is my favorite line. I call it communicating with compassion but execute with passion. Really talk to everybody about, "What are your pain points? How can we solve them?" rather than, "This is a new tool and platform. Use it."

We have to understand how it creates value internally, tell that story, and make them understand to create that spirit and mindset. Once you get everybody hooked on from the start, the mindset is important. This is where, again, there is no technology, IT, or business.

This has to be together, joined in the hip from the start so it becomes one joint strategy. It's not another shiny tool or technology, but we are working on it together. That's where the spirit and mindset comes in.

Michael Krigsman: This then implies that an important part of digital transformation is the breaking down of silos (whether it's information silos, culture silos, product silos, what have you)? Is that correct, in your view?

Sanjib Sahoo: Yeah, absolutely. It's breaking silos and joining everybody together with a common spirit about: How can we be better? How can we serve our customers better? How can we be better at our operations? And overall, how can we be a better company?

It comes from the top. Paul, our CEO, is extremely about serving our customers better and strategically focusing on digital transformation, making sure we can do this better. It comes from the top and every great organization has to spend time to communicate, do demos of the platform, sit with the frontline groups, take their feedback. That's how it all goes together. That's how you break the silos with bringing them together.

Michael Krigsman: I realize that the focus for you is not primarily, not first and foremost, technology but rather the business outcomes and the value. But you've referred to the platform several times, so can you share with us the importance of the technology and the platform in this kind of digital transformation?

Sanjib Sahoo: It's both, Michael. We are working on technology and platform and business value.

For example, our focus, one of the focuses is we are doing a lot of work on data, building global data leads, and harmonizing data. We are building engines. We are building machine learning libraries. We are building new customer platforms, experience platforms, which we talked about experience, our vendor experience platforms. There's a lot of work happening in building technology, modernizing technology, improving our customer experience through this platform.

The point I was trying to make was that if you are building a platform and then waiting for it to get adoption and adopt it in the business and change, yeah, it might work. It works sometimes. But my philosophy is to do it together.

Engage the model about, if the platform is built, how is it going to improve our operations, both in EBITDA and tangible terms, how can we have a different go-to-market, and then proof of business. Bring that value proposition from day one and then jointly iterate the cycles of product development. Basically, you get the advantage of having feedback loops and input from the operations' and customers' feedback about building the technology on the product. At the same time, you can make sure that, when it is developed, you're not waiting for a long tail adoption.

The second point is, Michael, really when you are architecting. We put a lot of focus on architecture. For example, we are architecting solutions in such a way on cloud, building data clouds, building API-based, asynchronous ecosystems that can talk to each other, making sure that we have different data distribution techniques, making sure our customer experience platform is self-learning, data integration framework based, machine learning-based, but then changed based on segmentation and the persona.

These help us to pivot different ways and architect because the market is changing all the time so that is where technology comes in. Yes, technology is a huge power there, but you wrap it up with business value. That's how both of them come together.

What are key metrics and KPIs for digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: Shall we jump over to LinkedIn and take a few questions? We have some great questions on LinkedIn. I'll just take these in order.

This is from Anshuman Das. He asks, "How do you measure the maturity of digital operations at Ingram Micro, and can you share the metrics that you measure?" It's a great question.

Sanjib Sahoo: There are different ways to measure metrics and adoption. We call it a financial model. Without giving too many details over here, let me give you a broader framework that could be used to measure.

When you are building a technology or a platform, you can measure changes like volume against your revenue input. You could have margin. You could have pricing. There are different ways to measure the metrics.

What you do is figure out what incremental revenue this solution can bring through one digital channel. You can measure. Initially, if you are a traditional business, how much is your digital business, how much is digitization and not. Figure out the revenue and, as you automate, your operating income should be better because you're automating more at a higher EBITDA than a traditional business. Generally, it's how you think about it.

If you look at different ways to access, for example, let's say you're building a solution for providing recommendations for your customers. Now, every single recommendation will be an incremental volume acquisition for your customers which is purely through the channel, and that may be at a higher margin because you are not putting OPEX or human costs behind it. Then you can figure out, okay, if you grow this business at a lesser operation cost, that is profitable.

There is no one single metric. What we do is figuring out every single engine. There is a financial model that we are building to measure success and how you can make sure that that works.

It brings to the point about the whole digital operations and digital operating model that if you think there is a shadow business by itself, then it'll start measuring the revenue flowing through your digital channels, the operating income, and what are the levers through which you can show that the operating income is improving at a level better than over revenue. That's the way we measure it.

Michael Krigsman: In summary, you're looking at a range of really traditional business outcomes—including revenue, (I'm sure) customer satisfaction, a whole range of things—but they're not digital transformation metrics per se. They are business metrics, value metrics.

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes. In the value metrics, you figure out what is your access channel and how you measure it. There are different access channels. Some can be pure digital. Some can be blended because one of the traditional challenges, I know, is figuring it out.

Figure how to measure how much is truly digital and how much is an operating improvement. To start that model before, as a measurement, when you are building the product with that analytics model setup is easier so that you can measure it as a product is built.

The second point is (to answer your question) that as you are building the digital products, inject the measure of adoption there so that when it is live, you can measure those analytics and improvement. But the bottom line is very simple. If you are doing everything right, you will see the results in your books somewhere which shows, yes, everything we are digitizing, operating, is improving our EBITDA, margin, or revenue. It's as simple as that because there is no ... [indiscernible, 00:26:26] if we truly do digital right.

Michael Krigsman: We have another really interesting question from LinkedIn. You can see that I try to prioritize the questions that come in from LinkedIn and Twitter. Now they're starting to stack up, so we'll get to folks' questions.

Steve Jones on LinkedIn, Chief data architect at Capgemini, asks this question: "How do you get people to understand new outcomes when they are dealing with legacy systems?"

Sanjib Sahoo: People can visualize the experience much better than just a PowerPoint or story. Giving them demos of what the end experience will look like, showing prototypes of the product that you are building, giving them examples, taking one pain point of their day-to-day life of an associate or a manager or an operations, and showing them (in the prototype), "Look, this is your daily life today. This is what you could do. This is how you do a process today. This is what is possible."

Showing them the art of possible in a way that excites them, motivates them is very useful. One of the things that we do is a lot of demos of our experience platform we are building and the product teams do lots of demos and communication explaining.

Both ways, right? When we are doing design thinking, we understand that feedback. Absorb that with empathy maps and do that.

What I have noticed is that, in that approach, it helps a lot in creating excitement, understanding, and with empathy rather than talking about, "Yes, we are doing this technology," because yes, technology is important, but larger organizations really do not hear you use technology A or B, which is okay.

You can build the best technology platforms in the world. If it is not used and driving the business, it's pointless. Really starting with the users, demoing their experience, and engaging them in a way that works – to that point.

Michael Krigsman: Really, you are very rigorous, it sounds like, and very disciplined in terms of always reverting back to the core point, which is, where is the business value that we're creating? Are we doing something materially different that we can measure with customers? Is there a financial result? It sounds like you're really maniacally focused there.

Sanjib Sahoo: It's very important because other transformations fail and, in my mind – and I don't know the magic bullet – my understanding is that if we focus on value from the start and work on it together with people who are from the business, take them, engage them, have the message – I call it an informal communication network – to have that network in every company spread the message about the art of possible with digitization, engage them from the start, and really measure value, that's how you do true transformation.

Yes, a lot of the time we feel we have a shiny algorithm, a shiny object. But if you dive deep into looking at the balance sheet and the P&L, where does it show, you can't find them.

I think my point is, let's start finding that in the books. It becomes a true strategic lever, not just something that we are trying to figure if it works. If you start by solving the pain points and the business value and create the models early, then you are not really focused on adoption.

I don't now believe the word adoption because adoption means you first build a technology and then you are looking at adoption. I believe in operations. Build technology and operations in a continuous spirit every day so that you are improving every day how you operate using technology that you have. That, I think, is my mantra.

Michael Krigsman: You know I will say, last week on this show, we had a professor from INSEAD, the business school in Europe. He was talking about innovation and, like you, really emphasized collaboration with customers, co-creation of value, focus on operations and, like you, he really emphasized the importance of listening to the frontline workers because those folks are the ones who are actually talking with customers, and they know what customers are experiencing.

Sanjib Sahoo: Absolutely. I think the feedback loops, the voice of the business, the voice of the customers, doing design thinking, focusing on why, and starting there is a very important aspect.

If you build technology or product in a vacuum (because technology changes all the time), too often we get lost. I agree 100%, and that's why we are starting, in Ingram, from the start.

If you look at it, we now have the collaboration we started. We do a lot of design thinking. Our organization is hungry for change.

One of the things I love about Ingram is everybody, every single day, is not about, "Hey, this is changing." It's about how can we be better, and it's starting from our CEO and every single employee. That motivates me every day to come to work because how can we achieve it better, how can we change, and then understanding their voice.

"We have this problem, Sanjib," or any of the teams. "How can we solve it?" Then showing them those demos excites them. Now we are on the path of solving.

Really creating that digital operation about how we can navigate and create value in the business on day one, that's where we start from day one. We don't start a product and then adoption. That's where we are going.

Digital transformation and supply chain logistics

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. This is from Nick Haddad, who asks, "How do you leverage digital technology to mitigate against rising logistics costs, sourcing challenges, and supplier risks?" Really, the whole supply chain aspect.

Sanjib Sahoo: There are two aspects, we call it. If you look at our focus, there are two or three aspects.

One is obviously the entire customer experience that we talk about, creating the data, machine learning, segmentation, personalized customer experience. Then we are working on solutioning and a lot of stuff.

You cannot really digitize your experience, customer experience, without creating the entire automation in the digital value chain, which is really figuring it out like inventory replenishment. We're looking at making sure we source the supply chain better.

We are also working on making our platform and technology for our partners better. That makes it easy for them to integrate with us. It makes sure we can give the information better, give them the product information better, what works and what doesn't work.

All of this, we talked about the global data before, taking the data and figuring it out where are the issues, where are the challenges, where are the backorders. Figuring out all of that helps us.

To answer your question, there are three parts.

  • One is visibility to the problems. That helps us through data because you can be more prescriptive, predictive about your supply chain, and make sure you do that.
  • Number two is data creates you synchronously connect your suppliers with your customers and making sure your internal ops as well. That whole ecosystem is interconnected, so digital with modern message bus, service, bus. API-based ecosystems help you to connect back.
  • The third thing is action, so you are able to take actions, immediate actions, and optimize your cost to data.

Now, this cannot be all perfect. This is always an incremental process. There's no silver bullet with all the supply chain and logistics challenges we have in the world today. There's no silver bullet. But there's a constant process that we are working on right now to improve.

Talent management for digital transformation and innovation

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from Twitter. This is from Terri Griffith, who raises the important issue of talent. When you talk about culture, you must talk about talent. Can you weave that aspect in for us, please?

Sanjib Sahoo: To attract the best talent, you need a vision. What we are doing is we have a vision where we are going, and we tell our story to attract the talent.

The talent is very important, Michael, because, personally, when I hire, there are three quotients that I look at. I call it CQ, EQ, and IQ.

CQ is competency quotient. It means if you say that you are a product person, an engineering person, or a programmer, you better know your stuff, that you're competent. That's competency quotient.

The EQ is very important. It's how you connect with people today with a digital journey. It's very important that you collaborate, co-create. Like, Michael, we talked before that you need to listen to people. You cannot just build in the vacuum. That EQ, emotional quotient, about can you collaborate, can you talk to everybody, that's very, very important to judge.

The third thing is IQ, which is not traditional IQ, but can you focus on why. Can you connect the dots?

If you combine this, we focus on these three elements to attract talent. Now, obviously, talent is an issue right now. We are trying to go and attract talent and build, but also it's very important to re-engage and re-motivate your current talent.

One of the things that I tell our teams is, "Don't limit your challenges but challenge your limits." Sometimes, if somebody is doing a job for many years, just trying to give them a new opportunity and push them, you can get better returns from them. Then always attracting new talent.

Look. Today, in the age of AI, if machines can learn over time, why can't our employees learn over time? I believe in investing in figuring out can we give opportunity to our people to learn more?

There are two parts. One is re-engage, push, challenge your current talent to do more and get better. When you attract talent, look at these three quotients so that you have the right mixture of traditional talent who understand the business and new talent who brings in new ideas. As a leader, my job is to mix them, breed them together to create a culture that is sustainable.

Michael Krigsman: We've spoken about a lot of different aspects of digital transformation. Can you identify where the challenges are, where companies tend to get bogged down, what's hard, whether at Ingram Micro or at any other companies?

Sanjib Sahoo: The number one competition or hurdle of a company to transform digitally is the company itself. That's the number one competition because nobody can stop you from transforming digitally or doing something digitally, apart from you yourself.

Number one is coming up with a mindset about can we think newly, embrace change, and strive for the better?

A lot of companies struggle there because it's very difficult if you think that you have done something for many, many years, how to do it differently. Change is hard. Human minds generally do not accept change. It's very hard, so that's number one.

I think mindset is one of the biggest obstacles, I feel. That's why I talked about, in my mind, digital transformation operations should be a spirit that is every day. That's number one, Michael.

Number two, I feel that sometimes this differentiation between technology and operations, because many people think digital is technology. In fact, it is not technology and not only about technology.

Digital is an amalgamation of business operations and technology. If you do not start it soon, it fails because you are building some product, the customer changes, the operation changes, adoption doesn't work, then you do not succeed, and market conditions change. Really being able to do that is critical, so that's the second reason of failure.

Number three is focusing on a plan that balances your risk. You have to be able to take calculated risk. I call it perform as you transform.

You cannot stop performing. How you create that balance between performing but transforming and creating a plan that takes calculated risk is number three.

A lot of companies are doing silo transformations, performing in silos, transformation. You have to bring it back together, mainstream, where it's a balance.

I think those are the three things I can think of off the top of my head, what are the challenges why organizations fail in digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: We have one last question from Arsalan Khan. I'll ask you to answer it just in a sentence or two. "Do you see differences in digital transformation and culture from one region to another?"

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes, there are always differences in how you launch your product because regions are different. The spirit or how you adopt products are different.

It's very important to customize the message for the same platform or product in a way that you could connect and understand the pain points. That's the secret sauce of adoption.

You are right. Yes, the challenges and the opinions are different. But when you are building something globally, like as large as Ingram Micro (which we operate in 160 countries), we have to be able to translate back into what is meaningful for the region and the country. Otherwise, adoption will not happen.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. On that note, I have to say a huge thank you to Sanjib Sahoo. He is the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Ingram Micro. Sanjib, thank you very much for being here and taking the time with us today. I really appreciate it.

Sanjib Sahoo: Thank you so much, Michael. My pleasure.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching, especially for those folks who ask such wonderful questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our newsletter, check out CXOTalk.com, and we will see you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Thanks so much for watching. Bye-bye.

Sanjib Sahoo: How can we be better? We're starting from our CEO and every single employee.

To attract the best talent, you need a vision.

About Ingram Micro

Michael Krigsman: We are speaking with Sanjib Sahoo. He is the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Ingram Micro.

Sanjib Sahoo: We are a $49 billion revenue company operating in 160 countries all across the world powered by more than 35,000 global associates. If you look at all of the technology, the brands (leading brands, emerging brands), we are the brand behind those businesses. We support tens of thousands of customers and vendors in technology.

There's another interesting statistic, Michael, to understand the scale of Ingram Micro. More than 80% of the technology in the world is touched by Ingram Micro. In the last 40 years, there may not be a single day in the technology world that Ingram Micro was not being used, so that's the way to understanding the scale of Ingram Micro.

I'm really excited to be at Ingram Micro. It's a huge company.

Michael Krigsman: Give us an overview of the nature of your business.

Sanjib Sahoo: We are a technology distribution company. We take from the biggest brands – hardware, software, services, cloud consumption – and distribute it to the resellers, value-added resellers, and customers.

That's what we do; we distribute technology. We're one of the largest technology ecosystems in the world. We distribute all kinds of technology: hardware, software, subscription, services, cloud, everything.

What is a Chief Digital Officer?

Michael Krigsman: You are the chief digital officer of Ingram Micro, and so of course, I have to ask what does being the chief digital officer mean at Ingram Micro, and where does the CDO role fit into the Ingram Micro world?

Sanjib Sahoo: In the chief digital officer role, I report closely and report to our CEO Paul Bay, our new CEO, and I spend hours and hours with him all the time talking. The CDO role is a strategic role where my mandate is to digitize all of Ingram Micro, you know, figuring it out everything that we do – our products, our services – and create new digital models, create new customer experiences, modernize some of our technology, and really create the newer Ingram Micro and the way we are going, so how we serve our customers, how we serve our vendors. Not only create technology.

There is one difference – I'll tell you, Michael – that we believe, and I personally believe, that digital or the CDO role is not just about technology. It is also an amalgamation of business value and technology.

There is a word about digital transformation, but I also believe more in digital operation like how do you create a digital operating model, how do you take all the technology, how do you take all the processes, how you combine together and figure out a way forward by data and digital to create new routes to market and show tangible value in terms of EBITDA or revenue growth. That's where my role fits in to create that intersection with both technology, digital technology, creating platforms with the product side, digital operations (how we create the value in the businesses using digital technology), and also then rolling out the new changes in a communication route that's fitting together the new digital ecosystem and the products we are building.

What is digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: That term, digital operating model, is quite interesting. Would you elaborate for us on what you mean by that?

Sanjib Sahoo: We talk about digital transformation generally, right? The digital transformation generally means that if there's something that needs to be transformed, there is a start date and an end date.

But in my mind, digital transformation is a spirit. It's a mindset. It's continuous.

Every company has some assets. Now, how mature they are, we can argue about that. Some have more mature assets. Some have less mature assets. Some have better products.

You have to continuously figure out, with the combination of processes (the digital technology and assets you have) improve your operating model in the way you actually serve your customers or your partners and create business value but also figure out always new ways to get to the market, stay ahead of the competition, leapfrog them, and be prepared.

The change can come from anywhere, Michael. For example, every company has either a performance gap or an opportunity gap. But if you look at the opportunity gap, whenever competition comes from, the operating model is taking those assets and creating as if it is an operating unit and continuously operating with a digital mindset.

As your digital assets mature, and you can show value in actual books, you are transforming. Instead of terming it as transformation with a start date and end date, I believe in how do we create a mindset and a spirit with a new digital operating model which is different and it is there today. You don't need a start date and end date.

Digital transformation challenges and goals

Michael Krigsman: Would it be correct, in your view, to say that digital transformation, therefore, is about rethinking the business and its operations from the point of view of what's best for our customers? Is that a correct way of looking at it, in your view?

Sanjib Sahoo: Absolutely. The digital transformation starts with the business value or outcome, which we predict will happen, and ends with a tangible business value and outcome. You fit technology in between.

It doesn't start with technology (in my mind) and it doesn't only end with technology. It starts with the business value and outcome and a result that you think you can demonstrate. You end or show the value that you get, and you fit technology in between.

Now, there are different ways to create value. It can be you're improving your automation and improving EBITDA by automating processes. It can be that you are creating a new platform with machine learning, AI, and new experience that service your customers better and create a new experience for your customers, or it can be that you are creating a new platform for your suppliers. But there's always a value proposition which you think you will get, and then you have to get that value realized and then use technology processes to do that.

One other thing, Michael. It's very important to focus on why. You don't jump into doing something digital or creating a new product. You figure out why and start with the customer journey, you know, how you serve your customers.

Your focus starts with why. Then you figure out what are we building. Then you figure out the how (the technology and the pieces). But I always say to end with a wow.

There has to be a wow in a digital transformation or digital platform where you really delight your end-users, your customers, or your partners. That's the wow because that's when you figure out, okay, it's easy to go that way.

Digital strategy and customer engagement

Michael Krigsman: Everything you're describing makes perfect sense. You start with the customer. You start with, "Why are we doing this? What is the expected business value and the outcomes?" Then we apply technology to help realize these goals.

Here's my question: Isn't starting with the customer kind of obvious and what every successful business has been doing, probably since the Stone Age, whether using writing on the cave walls up until now? What's actually different?

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes, you always start with the customer. At the same time, tying everything together that you have. Organizations are different, so there is a maturity of how you serve your customers today.

There are also limitations of your landscape which prohibit how you serve your customers. It might be you have legacy technology; you have legacy platforms. It might be that you are not utilizing data the right way. It might be that there are too many diversities of the business that doesn't allow you to serve back, but there are a lot of limitations.

The one thing is that even if you start with the customer, you have to figure out, in a very iterative way, how do you take all those barriers out. Today, technology has evolved to move your barriers. Technology has evolved so you can test more, a faster way, of what works and what doesn't work.

With the advent of cloud, you can push solutions much faster. With the advent of open-source, you can do that.

Yes, you start with the customers, but then you tie your processes in your business. You have processes internally. You have processes of how you go to market. You have processes in operations.

You also have to tie in, Michael, three areas. One is, yes, the voice of the customer. You also have to take in the voice of the business and the operations, like feedback loops. What are businesses doing? Take those operations and voice.

Then you also have to figure out the focus on value. One thing I'm very, very particular is how you do it.

We cannot just build another shiny new technology or platform. We cannot just do cloud for the sake of doing cloud because it's shiny. We cannot do machine learning for the sake of doing machine learning.

Focus on value. As long as you realize value can be revenue generation—it can be EBITDA, margin, whatever way—that's very important.

Michael Krigsman: Then would it be accurate to say that the customer is your end goal and providing those relationships, removing friction (as you described), whatever the goals are, but operations are the mechanism through which we get there and, therefore, digital transformation (as you're describing it) needs to encompass that entire end-to-end business lifecycle?

Sanjib Sahoo: Exactly. Let me give you an example of Ingram Micro.

We cannot just focus on only the customers' ideas. We start with the customers, understand the demand that we generate from the customers, how we serve our customers better.

But you cannot just serve the customers' understanding without figuring out a better way how you serve your suppliers and your vendors better because that's source. We have to figure out a better way, the process that our associates use.

As you said, it has to be an amalgamation of everything. Your processes, your vendors, your partners all tied together with customers being at the top of your value chain to figure out a way to interconnect everything to serve your customers better.

Michael Krigsman: We have a great question from Twitter. This is from Arsalan Khan. He's a regular listener and he asks wonderful questions. Arsalan, thank you for your questions and for listening.

Arsalan says, "We talk about value and the value of data. How do executives across the company view data as a valued asset which has the same value regardless of who is using it?" I think the broad issue he's raising is the issue of data, thinking about data as an asset, and does that value change depending on where you are in the company? How do you think about data as an asset?

Sanjib Sahoo: I think data, in my opinion, is the most important asset of digital transformation. Why? Because I think data fuels the whole digital transformation in a way that you can make decision-making easier. You can have a data-driven product model. You can use machine learning and AI to understand the whole ecosystem better.

For example, let's say we want to serve our customers in a very segmented way, understanding (in every segment) the nature and behavior of the customers. We want to build recommended solutions and match them to the customers. How do we do that? That's where data fits in; machine learning fits in.

Second of all, you want to create an operational oversight about everything, globally. That's what we're doing right now. You cannot do that without data.

Data is the backbone. Even in Ingram, data is a backbone of the entire digital transformation, the digital operation that we are creating right now.

It starts with data and data is the fuel. We call it Data Engine Experience.

It starts with data. It starts with harmonizing data, looking at data, creating machine learning, AI. Then we call it engines, which are business functionalities powered by that data. Then these chained together, we create a frictionless experience for our customers, for our vendors.

Even in the company, I think data sits at the top in the sense that even our executives look at data and make decisions. Data helps us make decisions. Data helps us make our go-to-market strategies better and the entire ecosystem better.

To answer your question, in my opinion, you cannot have a digital transformation without data. It's the most important asset for digital transformation.

Digital transformation and corporate culture

Michael Krigsman: That being the case, you spoke earlier about the spirit and the mindset, which implies the culture. What happens in a business that is transforming where, yes, digital data is the core asset but they're not used to thinking about data that way? What do they do?

Sanjib Sahoo: You have data, but it's also important how you strategically use data. Let's take an example, culturally, how we do it, especially taking Ingram as an example. When you're doing digital products or building solutions—as I said before, Michael—focus on why it's really important.

We do a lot of design thinking, so you bring different groups of people together. You figure out the problem that you're solving. You look at data as a touchpoint figuring out how you make your decisions about the problems and solutions you are building because if you take emotions out and focus on facts, that data helps you.

Then what do you is, together, understand different aspects of the journey in a 360 way from the aspect of customers to the aspect of operations, from everything: finance, operations, customers, business. We look at holistically how you are doing that entire journey.

As you then iterate around, as you start building the products and looking at things, then data helps you in figuring out adoption metrics. What is working? What is not working? It keeps us honest.

At the same time, take an example, Michael. We are building a solution. Without that detail, you cannot understand the pain points of the frontline managers or operations.

You look at and figure out, "Wow, really? This actually takes such a long time with so much manual to actually do that?" That is an intelligence for us to figure out, "Okay, let's solve the problem."

But if I keep going back to the first one I told you, that when you look at digital, there are two parts of the coin. I am very, very passionate about this. One, I call the value creation. One is value capture.

Value creation is, yes, you are building technology with all these inputs and data and modern technology. Yes, you are creating digital assets which have a promise of creating value. But if you do not complete the other side with data intelligence and business process transformation, operations, then it's incomplete.

You have to have the entire transformation to both sides. Start with value creation and also iterative value capture so that you can show that, yes, this is how you are creating true, tangible value to make it a true strategic agenda in the company. We can talk about digital transformation, digital products, but to make a truly strategic delivery, that value capturing is extremely important.

Michael Krigsman: Where does this idea of mindset, culture, spirit come into play with all of this, everything you're describing?

Sanjib Sahoo: It comes into play about two things. One, rallying the organization about the vision. Vision is, yes, we are digitizing with a digital strategy, but we are going to a better way to serve our customers. You are creating a new strategy.

First of all, create that culture of collaboration with all your customers within the company, across the organization – number one. Number two, you have to rally the organization with what you are building.

Basically, I talked about design thinking. We talked about communication. Communication is very, very important as we employ change, employ change management. Building the story about how this will help you, how this new platform (new tool, or technology) will help you across the globe. Figuring out a way of creating a plan that de-risks and balances the plan of operation that doesn't disrupt.

I call it “Perform as you Transform.” You cannot only perform or only transform. You have to do both. Creating a balanced plan is extremely important.

Also, taking the feedback loops. I call it empathy, Michael. Within digital transformation, this is my favorite line. I call it communicating with compassion but execute with passion. Really talk to everybody about, "What are your pain points? How can we solve them?" rather than, "This is a new tool and platform. Use it."

We have to understand how it creates value internally, tell that story, and make them understand to create that spirit and mindset. Once you get everybody hooked on from the start, the mindset is important. This is where, again, there is no technology, IT, or business.

This has to be together, joined in the hip from the start so it becomes one joint strategy. It's not another shiny tool or technology, but we are working on it together. That's where the spirit and mindset comes in.

Michael Krigsman: This then implies that an important part of digital transformation is the breaking down of silos (whether it's information silos, culture silos, product silos, what have you)? Is that correct, in your view?

Sanjib Sahoo: Yeah, absolutely. It's breaking silos and joining everybody together with a common spirit about: How can we be better? How can we serve our customers better? How can we be better at our operations? And overall, how can we be a better company?

It comes from the top. Paul, our CEO, is extremely about serving our customers better and strategically focusing on digital transformation, making sure we can do this better. It comes from the top and every great organization has to spend time to communicate, do demos of the platform, sit with the frontline groups, take their feedback. That's how it all goes together. That's how you break the silos with bringing them together.

Michael Krigsman: I realize that the focus for you is not primarily, not first and foremost, technology but rather the business outcomes and the value. But you've referred to the platform several times, so can you share with us the importance of the technology and the platform in this kind of digital transformation?

Sanjib Sahoo: It's both, Michael. We are working on technology and platform and business value.

For example, our focus, one of the focuses is we are doing a lot of work on data, building global data leads, and harmonizing data. We are building engines. We are building machine learning libraries. We are building new customer platforms, experience platforms, which we talked about experience, our vendor experience platforms. There's a lot of work happening in building technology, modernizing technology, improving our customer experience through this platform.

The point I was trying to make was that if you are building a platform and then waiting for it to get adoption and adopt it in the business and change, yeah, it might work. It works sometimes. But my philosophy is to do it together.

Engage the model about, if the platform is built, how is it going to improve our operations, both in EBITDA and tangible terms, how can we have a different go-to-market, and then proof of business. Bring that value proposition from day one and then jointly iterate the cycles of product development. Basically, you get the advantage of having feedback loops and input from the operations' and customers' feedback about building the technology on the product. At the same time, you can make sure that, when it is developed, you're not waiting for a long tail adoption.

The second point is, Michael, really when you are architecting. We put a lot of focus on architecture. For example, we are architecting solutions in such a way on cloud, building data clouds, building API-based, asynchronous ecosystems that can talk to each other, making sure that we have different data distribution techniques, making sure our customer experience platform is self-learning, data integration framework based, machine learning-based, but then changed based on segmentation and the persona.

These help us to pivot different ways and architect because the market is changing all the time so that is where technology comes in. Yes, technology is a huge power there, but you wrap it up with business value. That's how both of them come together.

What are key metrics and KPIs for digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: Shall we jump over to LinkedIn and take a few questions? We have some great questions on LinkedIn. I'll just take these in order.

This is from Anshuman Das. He asks, "How do you measure the maturity of digital operations at Ingram Micro, and can you share the metrics that you measure?" It's a great question.

Sanjib Sahoo: There are different ways to measure metrics and adoption. We call it a financial model. Without giving too many details over here, let me give you a broader framework that could be used to measure.

When you are building a technology or a platform, you can measure changes like volume against your revenue input. You could have margin. You could have pricing. There are different ways to measure the metrics.

What you do is figure out what incremental revenue this solution can bring through one digital channel. You can measure. Initially, if you are a traditional business, how much is your digital business, how much is digitization and not. Figure out the revenue and, as you automate, your operating income should be better because you're automating more at a higher EBITDA than a traditional business. Generally, it's how you think about it.

If you look at different ways to access, for example, let's say you're building a solution for providing recommendations for your customers. Now, every single recommendation will be an incremental volume acquisition for your customers which is purely through the channel, and that may be at a higher margin because you are not putting OPEX or human costs behind it. Then you can figure out, okay, if you grow this business at a lesser operation cost, that is profitable.

There is no one single metric. What we do is figuring out every single engine. There is a financial model that we are building to measure success and how you can make sure that that works.

It brings to the point about the whole digital operations and digital operating model that if you think there is a shadow business by itself, then it'll start measuring the revenue flowing through your digital channels, the operating income, and what are the levers through which you can show that the operating income is improving at a level better than over revenue. That's the way we measure it.

Michael Krigsman: In summary, you're looking at a range of really traditional business outcomes—including revenue, (I'm sure) customer satisfaction, a whole range of things—but they're not digital transformation metrics per se. They are business metrics, value metrics.

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes. In the value metrics, you figure out what is your access channel and how you measure it. There are different access channels. Some can be pure digital. Some can be blended because one of the traditional challenges, I know, is figuring it out.

Figure how to measure how much is truly digital and how much is an operating improvement. To start that model before, as a measurement, when you are building the product with that analytics model setup is easier so that you can measure it as a product is built.

The second point is (to answer your question) that as you are building the digital products, inject the measure of adoption there so that when it is live, you can measure those analytics and improvement. But the bottom line is very simple. If you are doing everything right, you will see the results in your books somewhere which shows, yes, everything we are digitizing, operating, is improving our EBITDA, margin, or revenue. It's as simple as that because there is no ... [indiscernible, 00:26:26] if we truly do digital right.

Michael Krigsman: We have another really interesting question from LinkedIn. You can see that I try to prioritize the questions that come in from LinkedIn and Twitter. Now they're starting to stack up, so we'll get to folks' questions.

Steve Jones on LinkedIn, Chief data architect at Capgemini, asks this question: "How do you get people to understand new outcomes when they are dealing with legacy systems?"

Sanjib Sahoo: People can visualize the experience much better than just a PowerPoint or story. Giving them demos of what the end experience will look like, showing prototypes of the product that you are building, giving them examples, taking one pain point of their day-to-day life of an associate or a manager or an operations, and showing them (in the prototype), "Look, this is your daily life today. This is what you could do. This is how you do a process today. This is what is possible."

Showing them the art of possible in a way that excites them, motivates them is very useful. One of the things that we do is a lot of demos of our experience platform we are building and the product teams do lots of demos and communication explaining.

Both ways, right? When we are doing design thinking, we understand that feedback. Absorb that with empathy maps and do that.

What I have noticed is that, in that approach, it helps a lot in creating excitement, understanding, and with empathy rather than talking about, "Yes, we are doing this technology," because yes, technology is important, but larger organizations really do not hear you use technology A or B, which is okay.

You can build the best technology platforms in the world. If it is not used and driving the business, it's pointless. Really starting with the users, demoing their experience, and engaging them in a way that works – to that point.

Michael Krigsman: Really, you are very rigorous, it sounds like, and very disciplined in terms of always reverting back to the core point, which is, where is the business value that we're creating? Are we doing something materially different that we can measure with customers? Is there a financial result? It sounds like you're really maniacally focused there.

Sanjib Sahoo: It's very important because other transformations fail and, in my mind – and I don't know the magic bullet – my understanding is that if we focus on value from the start and work on it together with people who are from the business, take them, engage them, have the message – I call it an informal communication network – to have that network in every company spread the message about the art of possible with digitization, engage them from the start, and really measure value, that's how you do true transformation.

Yes, a lot of the time we feel we have a shiny algorithm, a shiny object. But if you dive deep into looking at the balance sheet and the P&L, where does it show, you can't find them.

I think my point is, let's start finding that in the books. It becomes a true strategic lever, not just something that we are trying to figure if it works. If you start by solving the pain points and the business value and create the models early, then you are not really focused on adoption.

I don't now believe the word adoption because adoption means you first build a technology and then you are looking at adoption. I believe in operations. Build technology and operations in a continuous spirit every day so that you are improving every day how you operate using technology that you have. That, I think, is my mantra.

Michael Krigsman: You know I will say, last week on this show, we had a professor from INSEAD, the business school in Europe. He was talking about innovation and, like you, really emphasized collaboration with customers, co-creation of value, focus on operations and, like you, he really emphasized the importance of listening to the frontline workers because those folks are the ones who are actually talking with customers, and they know what customers are experiencing.

Sanjib Sahoo: Absolutely. I think the feedback loops, the voice of the business, the voice of the customers, doing design thinking, focusing on why, and starting there is a very important aspect.

If you build technology or product in a vacuum (because technology changes all the time), too often we get lost. I agree 100%, and that's why we are starting, in Ingram, from the start.

If you look at it, we now have the collaboration we started. We do a lot of design thinking. Our organization is hungry for change.

One of the things I love about Ingram is everybody, every single day, is not about, "Hey, this is changing." It's about how can we be better, and it's starting from our CEO and every single employee. That motivates me every day to come to work because how can we achieve it better, how can we change, and then understanding their voice.

"We have this problem, Sanjib," or any of the teams. "How can we solve it?" Then showing them those demos excites them. Now we are on the path of solving.

Really creating that digital operation about how we can navigate and create value in the business on day one, that's where we start from day one. We don't start a product and then adoption. That's where we are going.

Digital transformation and supply chain logistics

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. This is from Nick Haddad, who asks, "How do you leverage digital technology to mitigate against rising logistics costs, sourcing challenges, and supplier risks?" Really, the whole supply chain aspect.

Sanjib Sahoo: There are two aspects, we call it. If you look at our focus, there are two or three aspects.

One is obviously the entire customer experience that we talk about, creating the data, machine learning, segmentation, personalized customer experience. Then we are working on solutioning and a lot of stuff.

You cannot really digitize your experience, customer experience, without creating the entire automation in the digital value chain, which is really figuring it out like inventory replenishment. We're looking at making sure we source the supply chain better.

We are also working on making our platform and technology for our partners better. That makes it easy for them to integrate with us. It makes sure we can give the information better, give them the product information better, what works and what doesn't work.

All of this, we talked about the global data before, taking the data and figuring it out where are the issues, where are the challenges, where are the backorders. Figuring out all of that helps us.

To answer your question, there are three parts.

  • One is visibility to the problems. That helps us through data because you can be more prescriptive, predictive about your supply chain, and make sure you do that.
  • Number two is data creates you synchronously connect your suppliers with your customers and making sure your internal ops as well. That whole ecosystem is interconnected, so digital with modern message bus, service, bus. API-based ecosystems help you to connect back.
  • The third thing is action, so you are able to take actions, immediate actions, and optimize your cost to data.

Now, this cannot be all perfect. This is always an incremental process. There's no silver bullet with all the supply chain and logistics challenges we have in the world today. There's no silver bullet. But there's a constant process that we are working on right now to improve.

Talent management for digital transformation and innovation

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from Twitter. This is from Terri Griffith, who raises the important issue of talent. When you talk about culture, you must talk about talent. Can you weave that aspect in for us, please?

Sanjib Sahoo: To attract the best talent, you need a vision. What we are doing is we have a vision where we are going, and we tell our story to attract the talent.

The talent is very important, Michael, because, personally, when I hire, there are three quotients that I look at. I call it CQ, EQ, and IQ.

CQ is competency quotient. It means if you say that you are a product person, an engineering person, or a programmer, you better know your stuff, that you're competent. That's competency quotient.

The EQ is very important. It's how you connect with people today with a digital journey. It's very important that you collaborate, co-create. Like, Michael, we talked before that you need to listen to people. You cannot just build in the vacuum. That EQ, emotional quotient, about can you collaborate, can you talk to everybody, that's very, very important to judge.

The third thing is IQ, which is not traditional IQ, but can you focus on why. Can you connect the dots?

If you combine this, we focus on these three elements to attract talent. Now, obviously, talent is an issue right now. We are trying to go and attract talent and build, but also it's very important to re-engage and re-motivate your current talent.

One of the things that I tell our teams is, "Don't limit your challenges but challenge your limits." Sometimes, if somebody is doing a job for many years, just trying to give them a new opportunity and push them, you can get better returns from them. Then always attracting new talent.

Look. Today, in the age of AI, if machines can learn over time, why can't our employees learn over time? I believe in investing in figuring out can we give opportunity to our people to learn more?

There are two parts. One is re-engage, push, challenge your current talent to do more and get better. When you attract talent, look at these three quotients so that you have the right mixture of traditional talent who understand the business and new talent who brings in new ideas. As a leader, my job is to mix them, breed them together to create a culture that is sustainable.

Michael Krigsman: We've spoken about a lot of different aspects of digital transformation. Can you identify where the challenges are, where companies tend to get bogged down, what's hard, whether at Ingram Micro or at any other companies?

Sanjib Sahoo: The number one competition or hurdle of a company to transform digitally is the company itself. That's the number one competition because nobody can stop you from transforming digitally or doing something digitally, apart from you yourself.

Number one is coming up with a mindset about can we think newly, embrace change, and strive for the better?

A lot of companies struggle there because it's very difficult if you think that you have done something for many, many years, how to do it differently. Change is hard. Human minds generally do not accept change. It's very hard, so that's number one.

I think mindset is one of the biggest obstacles, I feel. That's why I talked about, in my mind, digital transformation operations should be a spirit that is every day. That's number one, Michael.

Number two, I feel that sometimes this differentiation between technology and operations, because many people think digital is technology. In fact, it is not technology and not only about technology.

Digital is an amalgamation of business operations and technology. If you do not start it soon, it fails because you are building some product, the customer changes, the operation changes, adoption doesn't work, then you do not succeed, and market conditions change. Really being able to do that is critical, so that's the second reason of failure.

Number three is focusing on a plan that balances your risk. You have to be able to take calculated risk. I call it perform as you transform.

You cannot stop performing. How you create that balance between performing but transforming and creating a plan that takes calculated risk is number three.

A lot of companies are doing silo transformations, performing in silos, transformation. You have to bring it back together, mainstream, where it's a balance.

I think those are the three things I can think of off the top of my head, what are the challenges why organizations fail in digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: We have one last question from Arsalan Khan. I'll ask you to answer it just in a sentence or two. "Do you see differences in digital transformation and culture from one region to another?"

Sanjib Sahoo: Yes, there are always differences in how you launch your product because regions are different. The spirit or how you adopt products are different.

It's very important to customize the message for the same platform or product in a way that you could connect and understand the pain points. That's the secret sauce of adoption.

You are right. Yes, the challenges and the opinions are different. But when you are building something globally, like as large as Ingram Micro (which we operate in 160 countries), we have to be able to translate back into what is meaningful for the region and the country. Otherwise, adoption will not happen.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. On that note, I have to say a huge thank you to Sanjib Sahoo. He is the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Ingram Micro. Sanjib, thank you very much for being here and taking the time with us today. I really appreciate it.

Sanjib Sahoo: Thank you so much, Michael. My pleasure.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching, especially for those folks who ask such wonderful questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our newsletter, check out CXOTalk.com, and we will see you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Thanks so much for watching. Bye-bye.