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CP Expo: Embracing Innovation Amid a Struggling EconomyCP Expo: Embracing Innovation Amid a Struggling Economy

Focus on solving problems because shiny tech is pointless without value.

Edward Gately

May 2, 2023

5 Min Read
Innovation Panel CP Expo 2023 in struggling economy

Fostering innovation during a struggling economy means focusing more on the experience than technology, and providing solutions that solve problems.

That was the main message during a Channel Partners Conference and Expo keynote titled “How Customers are Fostering Innovation During a Struggling Economy.”

David Wright, founder and CEO of Disruptive Innovations, moderated the panel discussion. Panelists included:

Tech Refocus Amid Struggling Economy

Amid a struggling economy, technology strategy should take a “little bit of a refocus,” Sahoo said.

“It is not just about modernizing the applications and focusing on what is technology,” he said. “I might sound a little bit different, but technology really doesn’t matter. What matters is the value that you are creating. So what is happening is in the organizations, especially even at Ingram Micro, we look at everything with the lens of a chief revenue officer. What will be the most value generated for the organization? That has been the focus. The next focus is we all talk a lot about automation, but digitalization has actually changed from just being pure automation to start with experience. It is all about experience today and experience driving automation.”

Improving the partner experience is an increasing focus at Ingram Micro, Sahoo said.

“Just pure putting apps and enterprise applications on cloud is not what we can talk about in the boardroom anymore,” he said. “Nobody cares. I mean, we do care, but the value is not about am I being more agile? Am I improving my relief times? It’s about show me what operating income and revenue growth you are generating through technology.”

Skills, Knowledge Still Important Despite Struggling Economy

Despite a struggling economy, it’s important to keep everyone’s skills and knowledge sharp, and especially awareness around technology capabilities, Lockett said.

“Even when we’re being asked to cut costs and tighten things up a little bit, we still need to find those opportunities to make sure that our people are learning and also feeling engaged because they like to learn,” she said. “They want to learn. They want to expand. And that’s where partners are a great resource. I love to bring them in to speak at our monthly team meetings to share and educate, and keep our teams aware of what’s happening and capabilities. And not just the technology people. It’s also the business leaders, helping them understand the capabilities and especially how those can be employed to help reduce costs and make things more efficient during times like this. They’re willing and open to those conversations.”

The pandemic really changed things for all companies, Hughes said.

“We went from working in an office one day to working from home and trying to figure that out,” he said. “And we’re now partially back. Some companies are fully remote and some have a hybrid environment. You have to adapt to that new environment because you lose that face-to-face contact. The ability for you and I to collaborate when we’re face to face is very different over a video call. And the technology is the enabler, but it’s not the end game. It’s getting people to use that technology and where partners can bring to the tables. Don’t just talk about the technology.”

AI ‘Polarizing Topic,’ Can Improve Customer Experience

The panelists also addressed artificial intelligence (AI).

“AI is kind of a polarizing topic,” Lockett said. “There is still fear and trepidation, so we’re in that education phase. Bring partners in to educate. Here’s what it is, here’s what it’s not. Here’s some things it could mean to the future of our businesses just to get them thinking about it. It’s a tool like any other. It depends on how we use it, so get people educated.”

When it comes to AI, humans and machines have to learn together, Sahoo said.

“If every new AI technology replaced humans, we don’t have any jobs anymore,” he said. “So the people will be the same, but the jobs will be different. So what it really means is you have to use AI to improve experience, and automation will come. We only focus on automation, automation, automation. But automation is irrelevant if you do not improve the experience, and machines can only know so much. But your humans and employees interacting with the machine can make it more intelligent. So we are leveraging a lot of AI in everything we do with our data, but we make those algorithms more intelligent by having a human analysis. Keep in mind, ChadGPT is very good, but it’s a new way of summarizing conversational AI or generative AI. But the real thing is how do you use it to improve your customer experience. And today your employee experience is customer experience. So focus on experience. Everything else will follow.”

In terms of cloud, cloud spending may have slowed, but not usage, Hughes said.

Among final thoughts, Hughes said when dealing with clients, emphasize collaboration and user experience. Lockett said “don’t lead with tech, lead with the process and the people.” And Sahoo said evaluate everything through the lens of value.

“Focus on solving problems because shiny tech is pointless without value,” he said.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Edward Gately or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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