It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship: Global Knowledge Network is seeking to cement its standing as the world's largest independent information technology training company. Mega-
distributor Ingram Micro Inc. needs to make comprehensive training available for its 5,000 resellers in the United States to enhance its customer service profile.
Now, with an agreement to join forces, Santa Ana, Calif.-based Ingram Micro will be able to provide the needed training. And Global, based in Waltham, Mass., will tap into Ingram's sales channels to open up the market for potential customers. Global has become Ingram Micro's exclusive U.S. classroom training partner, and that partnership may branch out into the international arena, where Global has already staked out a formidable presence.
"The fundamental question of technology is not how good it is, but 'Can anyone use it?,'" said Duncan Anderson, Global's vice president of marketing and alliances. "The No. 1 objection companies have to employing new systems is a lack of trained staff. We've eliminated that problem by producing the infrastructure."
Similar large-scale training efforts should be making headlines in the next year, as companies such as Ingram Micro find that it makes sense to outsource the work to enhance services for resellers, said Doug McBride, executive director of the Information Technology Training Association, based in Austin, Texas.
In fact, it may not be so bad after all to be like Mike - as in Mike Milken, the notorious junk bond trader of the 1980s. Reinventing his reputation in the 1990s, Milken and Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., put up $300 million to start Education Technology. Look for that venture to start acquiring U.S. companies this year, McBride said.
Oracle officials have estimated that the global training and education market is potentially a trillion dollar business.
In light of anticipated growth in outsourced infotech training, Global is looking to dominate the market. It maintains training partnerships with Oracle, Micro-soft Corp., Redmond, Wash., and Digital Equipment Corp., Maynard, Mass.
With international offices in 28 countries, Global's 800 employees train more than 100,000 people a year. For Microsoft, it trains more than 40,000 "students'' who develop and deploy new systems for the commercial market, more than any other worldwide for the Bill Gates empire. A privately held company, Global was formed in 1995 after the New York-based investment firm of Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe acquired selected assets of Digital's Learning Services Business.
Global fit Ingram's need because it can custom-fit training classes for the reseller. It also provides on-site instruction, which Ingram couldn't do - either the reseller came to Ingram or Ingram sent a contracted instructor to the reseller. This meant Ingram had no control over the training service provided. It also helps that Global doesn't franchise its training sites.
"The message is the same in every training center," said Ed Chappel, manager of products/program development for Ingram's value-added services division. "With the larger, franchised training companies, you don't get that consistency .... Global can provide this from the way they deliver the training to the way they have coffee and doughnuts during the breaks."
Ingram is the world's largest wholesale distributor of technology products and services, with 1995 sales of $8.6 billion. Formed by the 1989 merger of Micro D and Ingram Computer, it distributes more than 36,000 products to more
than 100,000 resellers in 120 countries. Ingram began public trading of stock in November, with the issuance of 800,000 shares of Class A common stock offered at a maximum of $24.375 a share.
In the last release of financial information, the company reported an overall 38 percent increase in net income for the first nine months of 1996 to $77.6 million, compared with $56.3 million for the same period in 1995, according to its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Started in 1995, the company's government division has worked with 160 vendors in federal, state and local government sectors. Among other services, Ingram helps vendors comply with federal requests for proposals by pinpointing products and part numbers that comply with government specifications. Company officials declined to reveal overall revenue figures involving public sector business.
Officials with Ingram and Global also declined to reveal terms of their pact. Essentially, Global will move into Ingram classrooms in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Chicago, taking over those assets.
Anywhere from 10 to 20 instructors will teach at those classrooms at a time, with a small percentage of them being former Ingram staff. The agreement kicked in earlier this month.
Global is optimistic that this pact will lead to other arrangements, including distributors similar to Ingram as long as future endeavors don't conflict with Ingram's customer and channel base.
"What we do for them would be for and only Ingram," Anderson said. "Outside of that, business will be business.