Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Mike Vizard interviews Sanjib Sahoo, chief digital officer for Ingram Micro, about what it really takes to drive digital business innovation.



Mike Vizard: Hey folks, welcome to the latest Digital CxO leadership videocast. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today we’re talking with Sanjib Sahoo, who is chief digital officer for Ingram Micro. Many of you have not heard of Ingram Micro, but they are a Global 2000 company. Sanjib, welcome to the show.

Sanjib Sahoo: Thank you so much. It is my pleasure to be here with you today.

Mike Vizard: Ingram Micro is best known by many for being a primary source for people who resell equipment, and provide IT services. You are the backbone that makes much of the IT services economy work. But why do they need a chief digital officer? What’s your role there, and what’s changing? How are we thinking about the delivery of IT services these days?

Sanjib Sahoo: Absolutely. I think one of my roles, and what I’m working on, is primarily embarking on a digital journey which we are continuing. And continuing from last year, you know. Focusing on building the single pane of class for our customers, improving the customer experience, liberating the power of data to actually solve or take the complexity out of the business, modernizing our systems and technologies in such a way that we can actually improve a better, faster partner experience.

And then really build this whole better experience from customer experience, partner experience and _____ experience. So it requires technology. It requires modernization. It requires user data. It requires building digital technologies and platforms. So that’s all-encompassing in the digital world that I do for Ingram Micro.

Mike Vizard: And are you building a new platform to enable that to occur, or are you kind of extending the platform you have, or is it a little bit of both? What drives all this on your side?

Sanjib Sahoo: We are actually working on improving the experience. So really improving the experience for our customers, so basically the experience that we have today, how can we improve it better. So getting a single pane of glass, making sure that we can leverage data better for them to get a much more personalized and customized experience as they work with us.

Similar with the partners, leveraging data, API, different methodologies to actually work with our partners such that we can make their experience better. So we already have a lot of technology and systems and platforms; we are leveraging them to actually incrementally make it better for our customers and their experience.

Mike Vizard: A lot of your partners are IT services providers. They’re generally literate when it comes to digital technologies. But what are the challenges that you’re facing, and what are you guys thinking about in terms of asking those partners to do for you and you for them, to make this all work?

Sanjib Sahoo: I think integration has always been a challenge, right? How do you integrate with different systems, how do we talk to each other, and what are we trying to do is how can we, you know, use data in collaboration together to actually take complexity out and make integration much more easier. We look at it all the time. We look at different models that we are building. We launched our flexible subscription engine last year, November, to actually help them move subscription models and help them partner.

We also, the way we look at the experiences, it’s not only one way that customers can interact with us. There can be multiple ways. If we can actually you know, do that. Now, the complexity lies in you know, a lot of complex, this business is complex. There’s so much data. The different processes.

How do we untangle the complexity together with the virtual data, building business logic on top of that, and really figure out a way to make it easier to use for our customers, and make it really simple. So our goal is to actually make that customer experience simple, easy to use, and take the complexity out of that entire ecosystem.

Mike Vizard: So at the far end of this equation is the end customer. Do you have a goal in mind for what their experience should ultimately be like, as they work with your partners and the partners work with you? But all the way out to that end customer, how do you describe to your partners, what is the experience that that end customer should have?

Sanjib Sahoo: I think we should help our customers to help the end customer. So what we are doing right now is giving them, our customers the tools and widgets and experience, so that they can also manage the end customers better. For example, you have subscriptions. You have renewals. How can we actually manage them for the end customers to create that seamless experience so that even that can be tied to the customer success teams and other partners or the vendors.

So I think that is what is very important. We are constantly thinking about how we can actually create an experience which is kind of a blend between V2 VN V2Cs, so make that experience much more better and unique. You know, and such a way that it is easier to use. But there’s no silver bullet or one single answer to that, right? So it’s always, we have to keep on improving the experience every day.

We have already so much in our, the work that we are doing right now is we have a lot to do in improving this experiencing a _____ industry for our customers. And then I think by doing that overall eventually, you know, we can actually make that end customer experience much more better.

Mike Vizard: We have seen historically there are CIOs and CTOs. So what does a chief digital officer do that’s different than a traditional IT leader does, or for that matter, chief data officer, the CMO for that matter?

Sanjib Sahoo: More focus on value and marrying the whole operations of the business with the technology together. So this is kind of together, right? You have the, I call it the chief value officer, right? So we have to focus on value. A chief digital officer is more like a chief value officer, right? Taking the confluence of technology and building technology that is modern and more efficient, and using the power of emerging technology.

At the same time understanding the voice of the customer, the voice of the business operations, and then marrying them together. And with one focus on how you truly create tangible business value. And that’s where I think is a difference of a true chief digital officer, where the digital will never end. Transformation keeps going on.

But I think this angle of value is very important. How do you take all this technology and assets, and not really just building shiny tech? But take those technology and operationalize it to create true value. That’s where I think the chief digital officer, and chief value officer comes in.

Mike Vizard: What’s your best advice to either your fellow chief digital officers or aspiring chief digital officers about what should they be thinking about if they take on this role, or once they’re in this role, what would you tell them is the thing they should be focused most on?

Sanjib Sahoo: I think few advices. You know one is, there has to be really good balance between business and technology. They have to blur the business acumen and technology acumen. It’s very important to get the perspectives of both. Sometimes if you’re a technology professional, you are pretty much siloed and only thinking about IT and technology.

If you are a business or marketing professional, you are thinking only about business and operations and not really technology. So you really have to have a good understanding of both, and second you really have to focus on value. Like, how do you figure out, incrementally create true business values. So it’s not about you know, the shiny technology.

So I call it like focus on four ideas that can actually help. Number one is spirit. You really have to create a digital or an operational spirit in the organization, because you have to rally the organization around their spirit.

Number two, effective planning. By using design thinking, by understanding customer journeys; really be able to plan what is feasible, what is not feasible, and showcase that plan which actually matches to operational value, not just a technology roadmap. So that planning is extremely important.

The third is really use the power of architecture; today we have cloud, microservices, machine learning, AI. How can you take all of this together to really architect that you can divert, you can scale, you can scale for _____ opportunities. So that’s very important, you know. That architecture is extremely important.

And the fourth is governance. That a lot of the times, you are too much into technology and perfecting technology. how do you have a governance that there will always be temptations to do many things. How can you actually boil down to those few things that are very important, that truly move the needle for the company? That governance is very important. So these are the four advice that I’ll dive any CDO, or aspiring CDOs, to really focus on these four areas, and the bottom line, focus on value.

Mike Vizard: You of course were not always a chief digital officer. You’ve been at this for a year or so I think. What do you know now that you wish you knew a year ago, two years ago, you know, as you’ve gone into this job and you’ve kind of gotten some experience at it. And you look back at it and you say jeez, I wish I’d had a better understanding of that six months ago, a year ago, or whatever.

Sanjib Sahoo: So I think irrespective of the titles, in most of my roles I had to be closer with the business and technology. But with this chief digital officer role, at this level, one thing is very important. The importance of communication and effective communication and evangelizing.

Don’t underestimate the power of evangelizing an idea or a part, you know, to have a larger organization; it is very important. To actually keep on communicating, talking to the employees. Explaining them. Because it’s all about humans, so digital experience like you know, it’s also your employee experience, social experience. So really being able to engage with employees. Explaining to them, evangelizing them, communicating with them. It takes a lot of effort.

So I think one of the things that I’m realizing is that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of communication, the power of evangelizing an idea or a concept, even though it logically makes sense. But it will not work if the employees are not in it. And to make them you know, supportive and make it a joined vision, you have to communicate a lot.

You have to evangelize a lot. You have to spend the time and explain how it changes their lives, what is in it for them, how it makes their jobs better. It’s a very, very important part of this job.

Mike Vizard: Okay Sanjib, thanks for being on the show and sharing your knowledge and insights.

Sanjib Sahoo: Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me today.

Mike Vizard: And thank you all for watching our show. You can find this and other episodes on Digital CxO. We invite you to check them all out, and we’ll see you all next time.