Case in Point

Bridging the Gap: Ingram Micro

Ask CIO Guy Abramo what's up at Ingram Micro these days, and he'll tell you he's blowing up the company's old management structure. He's not exaggerating. Abramo has been spending the past year rewiring the Santa Ana, Calif.-based technology distributor for the Net—and restructuring the company's culture in the process. His goal: Do away with the company's old departments, organized by business functions such as billing or purchasing, and replace them with eight different business project teams organized by process—such as pricing.

It's sweeping stuff. "In the past, when setting a price, purchasing needed to say what customers paid, operations had to weigh in with what the customer should pay and then sales would offer an opinion on what they thought Ingram should charge," Abramo says. "Everyone was working on pricing but nobody was working together because people were organized into departments." Now, though, with the help of a new in-house networking system, everyone works together as a team, digitally, to set a price. As a result, price-setting can be done in a fraction of the time. IM also hopes that in-house efficiency, customer response times and, eventually, revenues also will increase.

Why do this now? Abramo believes his new teams will help IM stay competitive in an industry where, in the past year alone, profit margins have dipped to as low as 1 percent on some products, and consolidation has shrunk the number of players from five to two—IM and Tech Data.

Sure, it's risky. But the hardest thing about rewiring IM is not the technology; it's choosing the right people for the right teams. IM rates people on their analytical and critical skills, and Abramo gives them personality tests to determine who's fit to be on a particular team and who's fit to lead one. "This is hard stuff," agrees Abramo. No kidding. Still, it's a lot easier to rethink an infrastructure than to build a whole new one from scratch.

Ed Sperling is a veteran technology editor and writer, and editor-in-chief of Sm@rt Partner magazine.

This article was originally published on 05-01-2001
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