Meet & Greet with… Sam Kamel

At Ingram Micro, we believe It’s the People that make this company great.  Next in our “Five Questions with…” series, we talk with Sam Kamel, senior vice president corporate strategy for Ingram Micro. We hope this gives you a chance to get to know a little bit about the people that make Ingram Micro tick.  

Meet & Greet: Five Questions with… Sam Kamel 

Sam Kamel

Sam is senior vice president corporate strategy for Ingram Micro Inc. As a member of Ingram Micro’s worldwide executive team, Sam is responsible for planning, market analysis and business development with particular emphasis on emerging technologies and opportunities in higher margin markets adjacent to the company’s broadline business.

Q:   What makes you most passionate about your job (or Ingram Micro)?  

A:   There are a few things:

Our Strategy Puzzle: The industries we serve are changing incredibly fast – which makes for a fun and enjoyable challenge of trying to learn and figure out our best path forward. Solving these strategic puzzles has me engaged with associates across Ingram Micro and numerous industries, companies and partners. I love being plugged into the global network of business and both sensing and thinking through how to make our winning moves. 

Our People: We have a wealth of engaging, motivated, fun and smart associates from around the world working at Ingram Micro. I enjoy the opportunity to interact daily with individuals who bring different and fresh perspectives to my work and life. And I highly value being part of the company’s worldwide executive team. I thank my lucky stars that I get to be part of such a capable group, where I have the opportunity to continuously learn while doing my best to contribute to Ingram Micro’s success.

Focusing on Innovation: Innovation has always been a key focus for Ingram Micro; a critical ingredient for being able to deliver ever-greater value to our customers and vendors in ways that will keep us ahead of the game as the world of technology continues to rapidly evolve.

Our Brand and Role in Technology: Working with a company that is so highly respected by its partners and customers is a great reward. We may not be a household name, but when I mention Ingram Micro to people who know our company, I almost always get positive feedback. I am absolutely passionate about technology of all types – from software to smart devices to how key trends such as ecommerce and social networks are changing how we shop, communicate and live.  I am thrilled to be working with a company at the heart of the IT world, partnered with all the great brands. We play an important role in bringing the power of technology to businesses and consumers around the world. 

Q:   Where will the IT distribution industry be in five years, and how will Ingram Micro look? 

A:   I see two key parts to this question: 1) How will IT be defined in five years and separately, 2) What role will distribution play in five years? Either way, I think it’s safe to bet that there will be change.

On the IT side of things, I envision a world far more mobile and cloud-driven, where current forces such as virtualization, ecommerce, broadband and mobility enable instant access to information anywhere, anytime and on any device.

I think Ingram Micro will be generating a greater share of our revenue and certainly our profits from our Mobility, Cloud and other service-based initiatives. I also think that Ingram Micro will be far more data and analytics driven. In this new world marked by massive disruption, everyone will need more insight to make better sense of what customers want or where they are going. We can provide that insight due to our unique place in the IT ecosystem. Ingram Micro is at the center of tremendous data flow, which, when coupled with smart analytics, will make us a critical link and vital provider of insight for vendors and partners to drive marketing, product design, sales and better supply chain management.

Q:   What keeps you up at night, and what are you doing about it?    

A:   Managing multiple priorities. For anyone in a strategy and corporate development role, time and the ability to focus and add value is the key constraint to manage. Hence, I am constantly working to make the right trade-offs and focus on the areas of biggest value to our company.

Cloud – Strategically, we are ahead of the curve in the distribution space and I am excited to see our Cloud businesses taking shape across our regions. Moving quickly in the face of disruptive change is a tremendous challenge for any company. 

Q:   What accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?   

A:   A few weeks ago, I was walking with my boy, holding his hand after playing tennis with him. At one point he calls up and asks me to come down to his level. I stop, bend over and say “Yes Jamie, what’s on your mind?”  He looks me in the eyes, cups my face in his little boy hands and says, “Papa, you are the best papa in the world… I just want you to know.”

That moment will ring true for me for a long, long time. It’s not just the positive feedback of my son to whom I am incredibly devoted, but representative of something fundamentally important to me: service leadership.

I’m proud that in leading my son — from his earliest newborn days through to his early boyhood — that I have been able to be the type of role model, coach and guide that has earned his trust and appreciation. In striving to serve his needs, helping him learn of the world and make sense of all there is in it, increasingly finding his own way and voice — that my “customer” feedback was so positive, generous and unrestrained in goodness — was quite literally my proudest moment.

I could look at my many other accomplishments in sports or academics or business or my military service and frankly, they all pale in the face of my own boy’s acknowledgement, his soft eyes looking into mine and his telling me that I’m doing pretty well in the pursuit of a mission to which I am completely dedicated.

Q:   Who or what has had the greatest impact on your life, and why? 

A:   I know it’s old hat, but I have to admit my dad and mom have had the greatest impact on me. Both of my parents came to the United States to live the American dream — my dad from Egypt and my mom from France. In the early ‘60s they fell in love and with the U.S. and all it stands for.

They embraced the United States, leaving much behind to pursue their dreams and ambitions. They had little to no help and faced incredible difficulties and challenges, but I will always remember their optimism and determination. My dad taught himself English, then computing and then business. He had a great career in the U.S. Navy before starting and running his own business called “Computer Technology International” and he ultimately became a senior consultant with IBM Global Services before retiring. He has always been tremendously grateful for all that coming to the USA allowed him to achieve, for himself and his family.

I am sure the U.S. was a big factor, but it was (and still is) my dad’s boundless optimism, endless curiosity, good and steady nature and can-do attitude and absolute integrity that really had the greatest impact on me. He always played it straight and would never give up despite the odds. He never lost his sense of self and family and gratitude for the many good things that his natural gifts and hard work brought his way. I couldn’t think of a better role model than my dad who, to this day is always teaching me something new and motivating me by his own passion for life … and technology.

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Ingram Micro Celebrates The Olympics

Getting into the Olympic spirit, the associates at Ingram Micro’s Santa Ana headquarters recently held an “Associate Appreciation Day” which celebrated the company’s winning spirit, athletes everywhere and the community.

As part of the ceremonies, Ingram Micro donated $10,000 to the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC).  We were lucky enough to have representatives from SOSC, including David Armendariz, regional director SOSC, and Stephanie Hardy, Gold Medalist from the 2003 World Games in Dublin, Ireland.

Associates also participated in their 1st ever Ingram Micro Office Olympics, complete with “Shoe” put, tricycle races and an egg relay race, to mention a few of the competitions.

Another highlight of the day was seeing an actual Olympic Torch, brought in by North America President Keith Bradley, who on June 14, carried the Torch in front of hundreds of cheering onlookers in Walkerburn, a small town near Edinburgh, Scotland, in what he described as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.  After Keith shared his experience of carrying the Torch, associates got a chance to see it up close.

A good time was had by all!

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Our New Series – Meet & Greet: Five Questions with…

At Ingram Micro, we believe It’s the People that make this company great.  In order to help get to know the people behind the company, we’ve started a new series, called “Five Questions with…” which will highlight one of our associates from around the globe.  Today, we’ve got Five Questions for Mario Leone, EVP & CIO.

Meet & Greet: Five Questions with…  Mario F. Leone

Mario Leone

Mario Leone serves as executive vice president and chief information officer of Ingram Micro Inc. Based at the company’s headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif., Leone is responsible for Ingram Micro’s worldwide information and business systems ensuring a stable, effective platform for profitable growth. He leads an information services organization that supports hundreds of thousands of transactions per day through operations on five continents.

 

Q:   What makes you most passionate about your job?  

A:   My passion comes from taking on new challenges and sometimes difficult situations and using the power of technology to discover innovative ways to grow the business and stretch individuals and teams beyond their comfort zone and expectations.

Q:   Where will the IT distribution industry be in five years and how will Ingram Micro look? 

A:   I have a very bullish outlook for distribution at a macro level in most economic scenarios even if there may be moments of trade and industry difficulty or major partner realignments. A very complex partner/ reseller/ end-user ecosystem is developing that will require smart investments and savvy business management across a significantly different and broad and global partner base.

Distribution channels will expand beyond the traditional ones to new large and smaller entrepreneurial competitors and product bundles delivered in more extendable forms. Ideally, this will mean more IP in the distribution channel from previous business networks. 

Ingram Micro should see more global growth in new markets, particularly Asia-Pacific and EMEA; growth in electronic software distribution and the advancement of significant cloud space partners. Also, many small, higher-value niche partners should fill out the line card for Ingram Micro.   

Q:   What keeps you up at night, and what are you doing about it?    

A:   Will we have the patience and steadfast determination to assess our business processes and organization quickly and deliberately in order to take advantage of the enormous technology investments we are making and capitalize on new market opportunities? Can we achieve the productivity improvements necessary to compete in a fast-paced and shifting competitive landscape?

Q:   What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?   

A:   The resiliency to bounce back from early hurdles in the scale-up of our early SAP implementations and  Web search functionality These are classic new product /technology introductions that showcase the company’s commitment to necessary change and the team’s fortitude and ingenuity to overcome adversity and deliver success. 

The improvements we have seen recently have come from business and partner-customer input and Ingram Micro executives and associates working together with fresh and independent rethinking of the problem to provide a very diligent and didactic assessment of the situation and lay out a plan for improvement. 

In the case of the Web, the team ably completed its work and then restructured the Web design to yield a tenfold improvement in search performance. It would have been very easy to give up and languish in the legacy solution. These moments are not for the faint of heart. They are where innovation and leadership emerge.

Q:   If you could have any other profession besides the one you have today, what would it be and why?  

A:   An astronaut — the reliance on a talented multi-disciplinary team and flawless execution in an endeavor that requires consummate vision, engineering mastery, no fear and smart attention to detail to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

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Social Media and the Workplace: There Are No Do-Overs

By Damon Wright
Executive Director, Investor Relations, Finance, Ingram Micro

Poke, Tag, Tweet, Like, Follow, Friend… While these words may bring back fond childhood memories of chasing classmates around the playground or a first innocent crush, today they are mainstream terminology thanks to social media.

While many people are connecting with friends and family via social media, these online sites have also become an integral part of the outreach and branding efforts by corporations across the globe and social media promises to continue to burrow its way into additional aspects of our personal lives and business careers.

Ingram Micro has embraced social media as a means of communicating with associates, partners and customers and utilizes sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The platform provides a new way to instantly communicate with individuals and large groups, but it is important to remember that unlike the antics of our childhood days, when it comes to using social media, there are no “do-overs.”

The learning curve for understanding the potential power of any new media or communication methodology can be steep and it is important to recognize the broad reach and permanence of a simple tweet, blog entry, YouTube video or Facebook post, particularly where it concerns your job. While it may be a stretch to anoint email as an early predecessor to the current social media sensation, each of us can recall at least one time when we hit “send” prior to fully vetting an email, replied to “all” by mistake, or shot back a terse response in the heat of the moment that became an instant regret. While definitely embarrassing, the risk of such hasty action via email is relatively controllable, as the recipients are generally known and limited. However, the permanence of the message remains a reality that can be forwarded at the whim of any recipient. And even though emails are only sent to a select group, they are not private; they are discoverable and in most companies, accessible by HR and senior executives.

Communication via social media ups the stakes exponentially. Once posted, the message is immediately alive on the Internet and in the public domain.

Depending on the content, communication via social media can also make its way into more traditional media outlets, as we are reminded daily when the latest misstep by a celebrity or politician spreads like a wind fed wildfire across the Internet.

Public personalities are not the only individuals at risk and anyone communicating via social media is fully responsible for their own actions. The business community was recently reminded of this as the Wall Street Journal covered the termination of the CFO of a publicly traded retail company for his use of social media. While it may be easy to dismiss his poor judgment of divulging Board conversations and other non-public, potentially material information as something none of us would ever do, this tale serves as an important reminder of the dos and don’ts of social media, particularly when it concerns your job.

If you are a business, no matter what size, put a social media policy in place to help guide your employees and protect yourself.  If you are an employee, take the time to understand the boundaries of what is permissible under your company’s social media policy.  And always remember that unlike the playful games of our childhood, there are no “do-overs.”

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Fitness & Friendly Competition

Ingram Micro is dedicated to the health and wellness of its associates.  Today, guest blogger Pam Kinas, senior director, payroll & benefits for Ingram Micro, talks about losing weight, friendly competition and the company’s Wellness Points Challenge.

Thanks Pam!

It seems everyone is trying to lose a few pounds and the road to weight loss is never easy. However, did you know that if you take on a health program with three others (coworkers, friends, family), your chances of achieving your desired health results and maintaining them nearly triple?

Here at Ingram Micro, we understand that friendly competition can be a powerful motivator. Group-based health challenges provide easy, fun ways for people to become fit through competition and accountability. 

This year, Ingram Micro associates throughout the United States are participating in a Wellness Points Challenge in which they compete to win prizes by earning as many points as possible. The competition involves completing a health risk assessment, having an annual physical, logging daily water, fruit and veggie intakes, completing on-line wellness workshops and logging daily strength and cardio exercises. 

 If an associate accumulates 50 points by June 30, he or she is eligible for a chance to win some great raffle prizes, including Wii or Xbox fitness games and assorted gift cards. Another raffle will be held at the end of September for those with 75 points.  At the end of November, those with 100 points or more will be eligible to be the lucky winner of a $5,000 travel voucher! There will also be prizes for the top five wellness point earners. 

Since the Wellness Point Challenge started in mid-April, we’ve received lots of positive feedback about all of the information and functionality on the Wellness website and the support Ingram Micro is showing its associates who want to improve their health.  Congratulations to those associates who are well on their way – and good luck to all! 

Tell us about your Wellness program and your success in helping motivate others. We’d love to hear from you!

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Paying It Forward

Now and again, you get the chance to peek into another person’s world, contribute to their needs, and rediscover how fortunate so many of us are. As part of a recent Ingram Micro leadership retreat, several executives and 40 representatives from key Ingram Micro vendor and top solution provider partners volunteered for a day at a school in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.  The Palo Escopeta School provides an elementary education for the children of the local ranchers and migrant workers that live too far away from town for their children to attend school. In an email home, one executive shared the emotions of the day, and the touching response of the school’s principal.

“There was not a dry eye at dinner last night when Paul Bay (EVP, Ingram Micro North America) announced the amount that was personally donated by executives and attendees on the trip totaled $27,500.  The next morning Paul announced that the original donation had been generously matched by Microsoft, bringing the total to $56,200.  So while we would have given the school 10 years of operating capital with our donation, the new total provides them with 20 years of funding.  It is going to truly transform the lives of not only the kids we met while we were at the school, but children who will attend this school for the next two decades.

It was an amazing experience to visit the Palo Escopeta School and meet the children there. The school was in the middle of the desert – at least 10 degrees hotter than the temperature at the beach resorts. It is a school for the children of migrant farm workers who move from farm to farm in the course of a week. They drop their kids off on Monday and pick them up on Friday, and the kids – nearly 50 of them – stay in a dorm room the size of most of our kids’ bedrooms.  While we were there, we painted the school inside and out, and the advance group who came the day before wired the school for electric fans and built cubbies where the kids can keep their belongings (before it was a suitcase or bag sitting next to their bed), among other improvements.

The education that these kids receive can change their lives and break the cycle of poverty by giving them a chance to go to college. Paul shared with us that as we rolled away, comfortable in high-end, air-conditioned vans, the principal of the school broke down in tears.  They had never seen so many people willing to help and do so much for children they didn’t even know.

This was the highlight of this event for many of us, and life altering for everyone who was there.”

Palo Escopeta School Welcomes Ingram Micro Group

All the supplies used for the build…

Team Cisco!

Team Juniper!

Team HP!

Team IBM!

Heavy lifting! Volunteers moving blocks to storage area of the school.

The team creating name tags to be placed on the newly built personal storage closets for the kids.

Team Microsoft!

Team Lenovo!

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The Heavy Lifting Ahead Of IT Transformation

Today, we are lucky enough to have a guest blogger, Chuck Hollis, Global Marketing CTO from EMC Corporation, talking about how Ingram Micro is transforming its business with strategic IT implementation.

Take it away Chuck…

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The Heavy Lifting Ahead Of IT Transformation: The Story of Ingram Micro

As part of my role here at EMC, I get exposed to some wonderful stories around how IT organizations have changed their strategies for the better.  I meet great people who are doing wonderful things for the companies that employ them.  Occasionally, I meet someone who’s motivated to share their story — how they’re working to drive substantive change in their world.  And I’m doing what I can to share those stories.

I’m sure many of you reading this would like to be in an idealized world where IT is run as a business, built on the perfect cloud, complete with an attractive catalog of competitive services with all the financial and security stuff just working — freeing the IT staff to work on the really cool stuff. 

But — very frequently — there’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done just to even broach that topic, let alone achieve it.  A wonderful house needs a strong foundation, and sometimes you need the earthmoving equipment to come in and do the prep work before you can even get started.

Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Anastasio Scalisi, who’s been working assiduously at Ingram Micro to create what I see are the necessary foundations for an ITaaS initiative. 

As part of the Ingram Micro team, his story is how a small group of motivated leaders can drive meaningful change in how IT is acquired, deployed and consumed — and building the groundwork for a full ITaaS model.

Ingram Micro

If you buy IT products, you know Ingram Micro.  They’ve been amazingly successful at building at $36 billion global business around value-added IT distribution.

Like any value-added distribution business, they care about efficiency and operational excellence.  They care about offering value-added services that their customers are looking for.  They want to offer the same great experience everywhere in the world.  During the interview, it was clear to me that — ultimately – their goal is to use IT in support these business goals, and not necessarily invest in owning a bunch of it.

Full disclosure: Ingram Micro is a great EMC partner in addition to being a valued customer.  But this story really isn’t about EMC — it’s about the heavy lifting that’s sometimes required just to get the right foundation in place.

Our Story Begins

Speaking to Anastasio, it was pretty clear how IT was done back in the day.  Each regional business unit was largely responsible for “their” IT.  Sure, there were a few centralized back-end corporate applications, but IT was largely seen as something that was sourced and deployed locally.  He describes a world of “global server closets” outside of the US, and an outsourced arrangement within the US.  The company hadn’t invested in a strong, centralized full integrated and networked capability.  Given the nature of Ingram Micro’s business and the state of available business technology at the time, this was not an unreasonable approach – but as the business grew in multiple dimensions, it was clear that a new approach was called for.

In 2009, they recruited a new CIO, Mario Leone, who had his work cut out for him.  In addition to facing an IT model that didn’t align with Ingram’s go-forward business strategy, there was an in-flight massive SAP project to wrestle with.  One of his very first acts was to change the name of the group from IT (information technology) to IS (information services).  Names are powerful things.

In January of 2010, Mario recruited Anastasio as a chief architect.  Brought in under the heading of “emerging technologies”, Anastasio instead went to work with other IT leaders at Ingram Micro to create a blueprint for a  go-forward IT strategy as defined by Mario Leone.  I would identify him as one of the key “change agents” on the team.  Should you ever have the pleasure of meeting him, he immediately comes across as a very smart, passionate and engaging person.

Elements Of The Go-Forward Model

One of the most impactful slides in his strategy deck is his four-part approach to building out an IT strategy.  Personal note: I believe that the validity of different IT strategies can only be judged in context.  Everyone is coming from a different perspective, and that’s good.  Based on what Anastasio shared about Ingram Micro’s situation, I thought he came up with an extremely good organizational fit.

In a nutshell, he broke the problem into four logical chunks.

First — and foremost — governance systems and processes.  From broader strategy to execution to measurement, Anastasio believed (as I do) that good governance and good IT go hand-in-hand. 

Second, a sourcing strategy.  What components of the IT environment create unique value for Ingram Micro, and which ones would be better done by others? 

Third, a high-level “strategic architecture”.  I put the term in quotes, because strategic is in the eye of the beholder.  Given that Ingram Micro has a global distribution business, the key strategic element in play for this iteration was physical data centers: where and how many.

Finally, a detailed technology architecture describing the desired components, functions and key standards they wanted to drive.

Was this a full-blown ITaaS model?  No – not yet.  Think of it as the necessary foundation of capabilities that need to be in place in order to move in that direction.  And to listen to his recounting of the team’s effort, it was no small feat.

Key Standards At Ingram Micro

In a world where almost anyone can make an IT purchasing decision, you end up with a lot of technology, but nothing that really approaches an architecture. 

Complexity increases to the point where it becomes almost impossible to move forward in any meaningful way.  All of IT’s efforts end up being spent simply keeping things running vs. building for the future.

Architectures are far easier to build when de-facto standards are in place, and the Ingram team made some key decisions that helped.

For starters, they established “single vendor” standards for CPU, server, hypervisor, network and management.  I know, there are IT traditionalists out there who think it’s ideal to have multiples for each of these categories, but the resulting complexities create inefficiencies that are orders of magnitude larger than anything you might save by pitting vendors against each other. 

Besides, the real job of IT is to deliver value, and not source IT components for the lowest possible cost.  That’s the job of the purchasing department.

Thinking About Data Centers

 Anastasio painted two pictures of how Ingram Micro was sourcing their data center infrastructure.  In the US, they had entered into a traditional outsourcing arrangement, and weren’t happy with the way it had worked out.  Outside of the US, there were a few big initiatives (such as a new e-commerce capability) that was forcing a re-thinking of the “distributed server closet” approach.

The Ingram Micro team eventually settled on a co-location approach; one where the in-house team was responsible for the upper-level management disciplines, and selected third party service providers were responsible for on-premises handling of the infrastructure when needed.  Today, much of this is fixed capacity, but they’re starting to experiment with variable on-demand capacity for a few non-critical areas, like application development and testing.

Because much of Ingram Micro’s value proposition is in delivering superior customer experiences around the globe, many IT resources have to be reasonably close to the people who were using them.  They finally settled on three corporate hubs: Chicago, Frankfurt and Singapore.  The goal is to have the Frankfurt site eventually provide DR services for the US corporate applications.  All good.

From IT Initiative To Corporate Initiative

When Anastasio first started presenting his recommendations to the team, there was a predictable amount of resistance.  It wasn’t that anyone thought the approach was structurally wrong; it was more skepticism that Ingram Micro wasn’t big enough as a company to justify an enterprise approach to IT vs. the in place decentralized approach.  Project Pegasus (as it was then called) quickly became a formal top-down corporate initiative vs. an IT-driven one.  That made all the difference.

For example, a top-down executive sponsorship helped greatly during the first phases of discovery and engagement as the team worked to build their governance model.  Over 150 stakeholders (IT and non IT) were interviewed as part of the initiative.  It was the first time many of them had engaged around the topic of Ingram Micro’s overall IT strategy.  It’s hard for me to imagine this level of broad engagement without strong executive sponsorship.

Where Are They Today — And What’s Ahead?

Anastasio estimates that the team is about a third of the way through their infrastructure and process refresh.  Understandably, there are a lot of migrations that need to be done from server closets to the new centralized managed facilities, and that takes a good deal of time and effort by everyone.  But it’s happening.

 A few of the more critical business-owned IT functions (such as Ingram Micro’s wonderful Advanced Logistics Center) are starting to use the shared services of the corporate IS group vs. investing their own resources.  That’s an important sign of trust, and a key milestone in any journey. 

The demand for different skills within the IS group is starting to become apparent.  Deep specialization at the infrastructure level is giving way to converged skills that are more about delivering services.  The IT team has started to construct their first service catalogs — defined around what people want to consume vs. how IT is traditionally organized. 

There are still some predictable challenges at hand: for example, establishing a showback model as a precursor to a more transparent financial model — as well as integrating security capabilities into the new services catalogs.  All perfectly normal and to be expected, based on my experiences. 

I think Anastasio has gained the same perspective I have when it comes to meaningful process re-engineering in an IT setting: it’s very important, and it’s not at all easy.

Back To Where We Started

Most of my stories around IT transformation have the benefit of a good starting point: strongly centralized IT functions, standardized technologies to build on, mature processes and so on.  I think what’s unique about the Ingram Micro story is that it illustrated that not everyone has the luxury of a convenient  starting point.  Very often, it’s a sizable amount of effort coupled with a strong leadership team just to build the solid foundations that some of us just take for granted. 

The best part?

 Even though Anastasio was billed as someone brought into the organization to look at “emerging technologies”, that’s not what his business card says.  He’s actually a management consultant. 

That should make more than a few technologists out there pause and think for a moment.  His role was to help the Ingram Micro team organize for success.

And it looks like he’s helping to do just that.

My personal thanks to Anastasio and the team at Ingram Micro for sharing a part of their IT transformation story — it’s very much appreciated.

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