In-depth

Q&A: Apay Obang-Oyway, Ingram Micro

We chat to the director of cloud and software about the important role cloud plays in business success

What does cloud mean to you and what benefits do you think it brings to businesses?

The interesting thing about cloud doesn't really have anything to do with the technology, but what it enables you to do. At its heart, it's about business transformation. It gives organisations the flexibility to react to changing conditions and frees up resources to focus on innovation rather than on just treading water and keeping the lights on.

Do you think the UK cloud industry has an advantage over other geographies? Are we excelling?

The UK has a deep heritage of technological innovation, and I think we're leading the way towards the fourth industrial revolution, in relation to cloud, but also a host of other next-generation technologies.

Last year was a record for UK tech investment and London is the technology capital of Europe, but it's clear the capital doesn't have a monopoly on tech innovation. We work with innovative technology companies throughout the breadth of the UK, and I think that's what makes the UK cloud industry so dynamic, but also so sustainable.

What else do you think needs to be done to champion innovation in the UK cloud industry?

There are broadly two elements that need to be looked at to further champion innovation in the UK. The first is digital transformation in the industry, ensuring organisations across all industries have a strategy that they are executing.

The second is centred on building a diverse and vibrant technology talent pool. We have a lot of homegrown talent, but there's a looming skills shortage in the UK that could stunt innovation in all parts of the industry. This will need to be addressed if we are to stay at the top of our game.

As a country, we need to do more to focus on STEM skills from an earlier age and encourage participation from all parts of society to build a more diverse tech workforce. Additionally, businesses need to invest in upskilling the existing workforce by improving access to dedicated cloud training.

Fresh blood is also important to the on-going health of the industry, so it's important that we can continue to attract the best possible talent internationally.

Please can you provide a bit more detail for those not familiar with your company?

Ingram Micro Cloud works with thousands of partners in the UK to help them responsibly transform their business through specialism, diversity, and innovation while helping end-users accelerate business outcomes from their technology investments. We've got partnerships with the leading innovative technology vendors in the industry, whose services we offer through the Ingram Micro Ecosystem of cloud, which provides partners with the ideal platform to deliver premium cloud solutions to their end customers.

The channel is an integral part of the Ingram Micro ecosystem of cloud and we recognise that we can only succeed as a business if we help our partners succeed. That's why we invest heavily in our partners, giving them the tools, capabilities, and knowledge they need to deliver transformative cloud solutions to the market.

Why have you decided to get involved with the UK Cloud Awards 2018?

This is the third time we've sponsored the UK Cloud Awards and we've been big supporters of the event since it was established for the simple reason that, as an industry, we've got a lot to celebrate!

What key trends/challenges are you seeing with your customers around cloud?

It's difficult to generalise. Some end users are already on their second and third wave cloud adoptions and are using cloud to springboard into next-generation technologies, like IoT, AI and Big Data. But many businesses are right in the infancy of their could migration journeys and need more assistance.

The same applies to the channel in some respects, and while some channel partners are leading the way in terms of innovation with a "cloud-first" motion, there's still a certain amount of education needed to get all partners on the same page.

How is your company helping customers address these challenges?

As a business, it's important that we can support our partners regardless of their stage of cloud maturity. We help our partners through envisioning, enablement, skills and a leading portfolio of cloud solutions offering within the Ingram Micro Ecosystem of cloud, all of which helps them to succeed. 

How do you think the cloud landscape has evolved in the past five years? 

Acceptance of cloud has grown exponentially, and for many end users, it's just another way that they do IT. There's been an enormous uplift in demand for cloud services from end users, which is great, but it's been a bit of a scramble for the channel to satisfy this growing demand. 

Selling IT-as-a-service is a very different proposition to selling it as an asset, and partners have had to make some significant changes to the way that they operate to accommodate it, changing things like commission structures and upskilling staff to be able to support cloud services.

We're seeing the partners that have embraced this change doing really well, but it's going to be increasingly difficult for those in the channel haven't gone to the cloud you've got to go where your customers are! Ultimately, partners have to understand they are in a services world.

What do you think has driven this shift?

The industry itself has definitely matured, which has helped to drive end-user acceptance, but I think there's also greater awareness of the business benefits that cloud can deliver. Technology is a key differentiator today, much more so than it was just five years ago, and businesses are starting to recognise that they can't thrive in the age of disruption by managing their IT in the way that they always have done.

The workforce is increasingly technologically savvy at all levels, and this will continue to contribute to the speed of cloud adoption. Flexibility and agility are the orders of the day in uncertain times, which is exactly what cloud provides. 

What other trends and patterns do you see around cloud computing and related technologies?

Cloud is the gateway to a whole host of other technologies, and you can't begin to explore things like IoT and Big Data in a way that is economically viable without cloud. We have been speaking about the IoT and Big Data for quite some time but, up until very recently, they have been the reserve of only the largest enterprises with enough available capital to invest in the computing resources needed to power them.

Cloud infrastructure, which offers the opportunity to successfully rent these flexible and scalable resources, effectively democratises the IoT and Big Data and lowers the barriers to entry for all organisations looking to exploit these technologies.

What role do you see cloud playing in business life a year or five years from now?

All of the upcoming technologies AI, machine learning, quantum computing progress, the IoT, chatbots, robotics will grow and develop, with cloud driving them. The channel absolutely needs to understand their role in the next generation of key technologies and to identify and realise the opportunities available to them. 

There are some businesses that are quite comfortable with where they are, and others who know they want to accelerate with the cloud. But only those who recognise how important it is to play a role in the future intelligence of cloud will truly thrive.

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