B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 8 months ago

An Update on the Public Sector Business


There are new and exciting changes coming to the public sector business.

Logan Lyles speaks with Tony Celeste, Executive Director at Ingram Micro, to break it all down. They talk about:

- The impact of new ownership on public sector business

- 2021 trends in the public sector

- Fed buying season

- Greater scrutiny around supply chain security

For more information, contact Adam Springer (adam.springer@ingrammicro.com) or visit Ingram Micro’s Public Sector.

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk

Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website.

...you're listening to B to B tech talk with ingram Micro the place to learn about new technology and technological advances before they become mainstream. This podcast is sponsored by ingram Micro's imagine next. It's not about the destination, it's about going someplace you never thought possible. Go to imagine next dot ingram micro dot com to find out more. Let's get into it. Welcome back to be to be Tech talk with ingram Micro. I'm your host for today's episode Logan Lyles and our guest today is Tony celeste, executive director and general manager for the public sector division here at ingram Micro. Tony I am very excited to be chatting with you today. Welcome to the show. Hey, thank you. I'm excited to be here with you too. We've got a returning guest in in you today, Tony and we're gonna be talking about some changes, some updates since the last time you were on the show about a year back talking about the federal buying season last summer to kick things off today. Tony I wanted to ask you, it sounds like a recent acquisition is likely going to have a big impact on the public sector presence for ingram Micro. Can you tell us a little bit about that acquisition to set the stage for some of the things going on in this sector of the business right now. Sure. You know, I don't really know that that I'm going to be able to share that much about a platinum equities acquisition of the ingram Micro than what's already been shared in our press releases. But what but what I can share is that we're thrilled with our new ownership and that I've had the opportunity to meet directly with with them and brief them on our public sector business Now they clearly recognized the vital role that ingram micro plays in helping organizations innovate and adapt to changing market conditions especially in today's environment where I. T. Priorities are continuing to shift. E commerce is thriving and the pace of digitization continues to accelerate. So they are prepared to put their resources and experience to help you know, help ingram micro navigate these fluid times. You know, I'll also share that for the past five years. We've operated under a special national Security agreement with approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U. S. And we did so because of foreign ownership and that's no longer the case. Now ingram Micro is once again owned by a US firm and platinum equity, very interesting fluid times. I think that that is definitely the case needless to say Tony well what do you really think Tony are going to be the top three ways that this acquisition is going to impact specifically the public sector part of the business for ingram micro. You talked a little bit about, you know this partnership, some very specific ways that that is going to impact ingram micro in the business as a whole. But specifically as we dive into your specialty in the public sector. What are some of the top ways that you think this shift is going to impact that part of the business? Well, probably the number one is removal of the foreign ownership because it really addressed misperceptions that may have been in the marketplace that, oh boy, for certain markets, we can't do business with ingram micro because they're foreign owned. And so regardless of perception is reality. And so that misperception was something we were up against. So that's the number one. Number two, I would say, is the ability to leverage platinum equities expertise and their resources in our business and being able to draw on that. They have a lot of partners in their portfolio. They have prior experience dealing with a government contractor on the Systems integration...

...side. So they're familiar with with the public sector market, they're also familiar with distribution and we're going to be able to leverage that and then additionally, increased focus and commitment to the public sector market. Those would be the three things. And then I would say today the competition is gonna be have to need to be prepared for a fair fight. They will no longer be able to use our former foreign ownership to their advantage. So will now be competing on a level playing field and we're going to continue to remain focused on differentiating ourselves in the marketplace and delighting our customers and partners. I love that. That quote of perception is reality. I can remember that in journalism school just kind of being hammered into my head and it it's true in business as much as it is in news media. That perception is reality, isn't it? It's so true, truly is. And it all depends sometimes on your point of view, right? Where you're the perspective at which you're looking at the situation. Yeah. So, you know, you mentioned that that removal of foreign ownership is going to change the game. Kind of even the playing field because of that that perception in the past, being able to leverage platinum equities expertise in the public sector space and really being able To focus their so if folks listening to this Tony are they're kind of getting excited about this new opportunity, new resources that you mentioned with this relationship with platinum equity. How about trends in the public sector that partners need to be thinking about as they look more broadly. Okay, we've we've got an even playing field, we've got some additional resources now as we step out into the field and we start to have more conversations with customers in the public sector. What are some of the trends that they need to be aware of going on right now in 2021? So they don't get blindsided and some of those conversations with customers and potential customers. Yeah. Well, first I think when we look at the trends, we gotta talk about post pandemic and you know, some might arguably. What are you saying Tony? Are we really post pandemic yet or not? We're going to get into a whole other perception conversation but we're going to get there. So so here's the thing what we saw was a massive increase in client devices right? Is everybody scrambled to you know work and exist remotely and continue to communicate. It also revealed that we had antiquated I. T. Systems or you could think that is infrastructure that it really wasn't as fully prepared for this massive shift. And then the shift for tele work. The accelerated shift for telework has also now resulted in a cultural shift. There were organizations that were very resistant or reluctant to it for many reasons and that changed but that's also created some new challenges. The more devices you have out there the more connected devices it's increased the attack surface area now and so there's a greater need for cybersecurity and there's increased concerns in that area as well. It also created an increased demand for digital citizen services. So you couldn't just go to the government agency, you couldn't walk into the M. V. A. Now and renew your driver's license. So that became a new challenge and then you know these outdated I. T. Systems coupled with the increased complexity of more devices. This is all added to it. Then you've got remote tele work...

...more use of cloud apps and that revealed bandwidth limitations. So we're continuing to see a lot from a trends perspective and this is driving the you know the demand for digital transformation more so drilling down Logan from a technology perspective look, mobility, virtualisation, data center security, big data, ai cloud and then as a service they want to acquire technology in more of a utility model or consumption model. So those things are all continuing to evolve and develop as major trends. You know whether you would say we're post pandemic or we're in pandemic wave to wherever we are right in relation to when this pandemic started there are a lot of things that have changed and then are in kind of their second iteration, you know some of the things that you said there Tony I want to make sure people people catch especially in the public sector, they're you know an increased number of devices but also mixed with older devices. I like what you said about more surface area to cover. I think that that is a line that partners can use with their customers in the public sector to kind of paint the picture of their cybersecurity concerns that should be top of mind that could lead to some really great conversations and I think another one that partners could ask is that you touched on digital citizen services, what areas are you trying to create a better digital experience for your citizens? I'd imagine if they ask those two questions they're probably going to get into some good conversations with their customers in the public sector in my right Tony Yeah, they will because they are now moving themselves up the higher level into the thought of the agency or the organization. They're linking the technology to the mission or the mission outcomes. And so when you think about citizen services or in terms of the dependent upon the government agency, if it was improving healthcare outcomes for citizens or veterans, if it's protecting our first responders or warfighters or enabling our educators to teach remotely and students to learn and consume that way. These things make a big difference. And so where you're going to see more of that if you can align that way. Yeah, absolutely. It's a very different conversation from when is your service agreement up on, you know, x software or your devices are aging and they need upgraded. That's a very technical conversation. But if you're asking these sorts of questions about, you know, the enhanced surface area that they have to protect from a cyber security perspective citizen services, then you're aligning with the objectives and the mission of the organizations that you're selling to and you just you're able to have a higher level conversation as you put it. Well, Tony as we mentioned before, your repeat guest here on B two B tech talk and last time you were on we discussed how to be successful during the quote unquote Fed buying season, right that we all know hits during summertime. Anything you'd want to reiterate to listeners that we discussed last year. You know, things that you should always be doing this time of year as well as anything unique to this year during the Fed buying season. So one of the things and I want to reiterate it, we kind of just touched on it in the last question, which is this whole idea of looking at technology beyond what the capabilities of features, functions are in elevating the conversation to discuss how that is going to enable the mission. And that is always going to be critical and...

...you're going to need to keep doing that. So, so that is something that we've got to really shift back to more. So now we get into this, you know, the crunch time of the Fed buying season, a lot of that work has already been done. And so now it's the follow up work following up with contracts and the acquisition shops to see where these things are responding accordingly, updating proposals, updating pricing and quotes and you just need to be all hands on deck and really respond. The last thing you want to do is miss an opportunity that you worked on. So it's also important that you've established those relationships with the partners who have the appropriate acquisition vehicles, have access to this information that you're working tightly with those partners throughout this. And then you've got to be following the money because candidly, the government's been printing it largely due to the pandemic, but also for a number of other reasons and there's gonna be more and more funding available and I think we're going to see a lot of surplus money of funds that have not been allocated and the government's going to scramble quickly to spend those dollars because they never want to, you know, it's use it or lose it funds and so you need to be prepared with what those proposals are and be prepared to go in with them quickly when they call and they asked, hey, we've got this amount of money, we'd like to spend it on something, how do we go do it? And then more importantly it is that concept I guess of following the money funding is going to be available for infrastructure, more funding for broadband, more for smart cities. You're going to see a lot more. Great example was the emergency emergency connectivity fund. They put seven, a little bit over $7 billion American rescue plan. And this is for, you know, schools libraries to support remote learning and the funding is available through the Federal Communications Commission. And I'll tell you candidly this was one of the things that England, we don't, you know, lobby like you in the traditional sense of the word, but this is the 11 area where we did lobby the government directly and officials on, you know, funding the rate program and funding connectivity for the school systems. Yeah. That emergency connectivity fund. Is that something that agencies are still tapping into to make purchases this year? Is that something that's kind of come and gone already in? Something else has kind of taken its place Tony Well the deadline for school systems to file for the credit is this this month? So they have a limited window for getting in. It essentially gives them like $400 per if you want to call wireless and able type device. But I bet money on it that if those funds aren't getting fully utilized, they're gonna extend the deadline to use those funds. But you shouldn't take my opinion on that. I go I go work it as aggressively as you could. Yeah, makes sense. So emergency connectivity fund, you know, make sure that you're prepared to have conversations with customers especially in the education sector around that and Tony, I just want to reiterate what you're saying here that as you and I were talking off line and you mentioned the fax machine in your office. I shared with you that for about a decade I was in the office equipment business selling copiers, printers, document management software, that sort of stuff. And when I sold two...

...entities in the public sector, a key point of leverage, I always tried to keep in mind where what you're talking about here, existing state and federal contracts, funding programs that could apply to the technology that I sold. So you've talked about the emergency connectivity funds and that relations to the FCC any other programs or existing pre negotiated contracts, those sorts of things that that partners should be thinking about similar to the emergency connectivity fund over the next couple of months as they have conversations with folks in the public sector. Yeah, I mean the big areas are gonna be watching what, what's happening with the new funding bills around infrastructure, the budget, funding that's already been out there. But infrastructure is gonna be a big one. It's gonna put a lot of funds out there that will go to state and local governments infrastructure is going to include railways, roads, bridges, tunnels, but it also includes airports. It also is going to include things like broadband because it's so critical smart cities. So all of these things are going to drive drive technology and you need to be watching what's happening with them. Yeah, absolutely. Do you have any tips for listeners that you and your team used to keep their eye on those developments, is it? Hey, just make sure you're tuned into the news or there are certain places that you go to kind of watch for those developments. Yeah, the, the acquisition sale cycles complex. So you can't really rely on the end user's, you really, you work with your selling to that they understand it. You actually need to take a proactive approach to educating them to how to solve for it. And that means you've got to build relationships with the contracting shops and the acquisition shops and the partners to keep them looped in. You know, it's important to keep in mind that they don't like surprises. They don't want, you know, the acquisition side doesn't want end users overstepping their authority. So you really need to ask a lot of questions. You need to listen a lot to help them navigate the process, but more specifically to the broader things that are coming out in the marketplace. There's a number of, of great sources through the different Federal News Radio, through the Coalition for Government Procurement, Dell Tika. There's a lot of sources that digest this information and share it with the partner network at ingram Micro. We do the same thing. We take in information from a number of sources and then we try to share and impart it through multiple media channels to get it out there. So, so people have this information and know what to look for Absolutely. Like in podcasts like U B Tech talk right here, Right? Yeah, exactly. Well, Tony. I've got a few more questions for you before I let you go today. We've got some great things that we've already touched on. I've got several notes for listeners. But one thing I wanted to ask you before we start to wind things down is that I've heard that really greater scrutiny around supply chain security is something that public sector entities are thinking a lot about right now. And you know, we talk a lot about cybersecurity on this show. Supply chain security is something that comes up as well. Can you tell us a little bit about why this greater scrutiny around supply chain security and what partners should do to respond to this change in the market as well? Yeah. So you know, I'm gonna throw out a bunch of acronyms right off the bat just to kind of start the conversation. So when...

...they hear the the acronym it, they'll tie it to supply chain risk management. Supply chain security. So see MMC missed 800-1 71 Section 889 scrim. So that's s crm supply chain risk management. The cybersecurity maturity model certification. See MMC missed 800-1 71 was the standard that deals with controlled unclassified information. So the cyber threat is very real And the government is no stranger to it. They've been dealing with it for decades now. DHS has identified 16 critical industry sectors that are critical to national security. So, supply chain risk management is getting increasingly greater and greater scrutiny and it's it's one of the critical areas. So securing it is going to take a village adversaries. Nation states, bad actors have become increasingly sophisticated in their exploitation methods and society in general. We're all becoming increasingly dependent upon technology. Everything we do has a piece of technology in it. Somebody's got to, you know, some type of device on their wrist, something in their hand, something in their briefcase or their purse or their backpack. Their homes are wired connected. So everything is connected. And this is what increases that attack surface area. The other thing is that it's not just about being able to secure it and protect the information and data, but it's also about technologies availability and the resilience of it in supply chains. So supply chain risk management, securing the supply chain is a much, much bigger undertaking and is going to get increased security. So what our partners need to do is they gotta get their processes and their own houses in order first they need to train and educate their personnel. They gotta start by looking at their own systems and their own processes before they venture outside to their partners and their networks and and the best place they can start is really with nest and following the cybersecurity framework that they've outlined and look at the requirements for nist 800 dish 1 71 because it's a moving target today. But the scrutiny is only going to get greater. Absolutely. I like what you said there, break it down into two steps, get your own house in order and then take those learnings and take that confidence right and take that to customers as you start to to have those conversations. Well Tony every single guest on this show answers one question and we couldn't let you go without asking you this question. We asked it of you last year the last time you were on the podcast, can you tell us where do you see technology going over the next year? Yeah, I think frankly it's increasing demands for hybrid environments and what I mean by that is you're going to see more cloud, you know, more as a service, but you're also going to see more modernization of data centers and more data center optimization. And then you're going to see increased mobility, Network Bandwidth, connectivity and 5G and probably top of the list which we spent a lot of time talking about is cybersecurity and you're not going to be able to get enough of it absolutely Tony for anybody listening today. You know, we mentioned make sure you're up to speed on government programs and spending programs like the emergency...

...connectivity fund. You mentioned some resources even separate from ingram micro like the Coalition for Government procurement. Those were great. How about from the ingram team? Either resources, individuals like yourself to get in touch with or resources that the ingram team has online. Where would you point folks to go to go further on this topic and find some resources from ingram to learn more about what we've talked about today. Yeah. The best place to go is of course is the web and you can go to ingram Micro's website at imagine next dot ingram Micro dot com slash public sector and that's going to get you to all the resources you might want to find for the public sector area. Fantastic. Well Tony, like I said, I was taking fast and furious notes as you were talking today and I really some of my key takeaways where the fact that partners should be excited about the level playing field, the, the additional resources that come with the acquisition that we talked about and really for things that they can do as they start to have conversations with customers in the public sector one level up those conversations start talking to ask some questions that tie to the higher level objectives. You know, we talked about, hey, what are you doing for digital citizen services? What are some of your key areas that you're trying to improve their so that you can have higher level conversations as an example, number two, follow through during the Fed buying season. Don't just start those conversations and not follow through two part to that one and follow the money as you mentioned, look out for those programs like the emergency connectivity fund and others that we talked about at pretty good length. Number three really hit home for me. Don't assume that your day to day, contact your end user buyers know the rules of the game. They that they know all the programs. I literally as you were saying that Tony, I was just nodding and nodding. I know podcast listeners can't, can't see me doing that. But I literally had conversations with end users, I was selling to in the higher education system in Colorado for instance, and I said no, you can use this program and they said no, no, no, we can't. And so I went to the contracting office, I went to the procurement department as you're recommending and I was able to educate them and guess what? Those purchasing folks really liked that. I was helping their folks stay within the lines, color within the lines if you will. So that's just fantastic advice. I wanted to call out for partners and then that was really number four. Don't assume that the end users know what they can do and what they can take advantage of and then build those relationships with the procurement and contracting offices. So those were my takeaways. This was a fantastic conversation, Tony, Thank you so much for joining us today. Well, thank you Logan for the opportunity. I really enjoyed the discussion as well. Absolutely. Well for everyone listening, if you liked this episode or if you have a question, you can join the discussion on a two way street, not just one way as here on the podcast, join us on twitter. Look for at ingram tech Soul give us a follow there. You can also look for the hashtag BtB tech talk to join the conversation on twitter. As always, thank you for tuning in. Thank you for subscribing to be to be tech Talk with ingram Micro. You've been listening to B to B Tech Talk with Anger Micro. This episode was sponsored by ingram Micro's. Imagine Next B two B Tech Talk is a joint production with Sweet Fish Media and ingram Micro, ingram Micro production handled by Laura Burton and Christine fan. To not miss an episode. Subscribe today on your favorite podcast platform.

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