The Data Chief | Episode 4

Avnet's Max Chan on digital transformation and IT innovation

Max Chan

Chief Data Strategy Officer


Current EpisodeEP4: Avnet's Max Chan on digital transformation and IT innovation

Episode Overview

Today’s guest is Max Chan. Max is the CIO of Avnet where he is responsible for the delivery of all strategic business IT and digital transformation initiatives.

Max sits down with Cindi to discuss Avnet’s long history, digital transformation and innovation in IT, and why the companies that leverage data to find valuable insights are miles ahead of the pack. Plus, Max shares some of the strategies he’s used to keep his team sharp in today’s fast-paced technology landscape.

Key Takeaways:

  • A Little About Avnet. Avnet may not be a household name, but it’s a company that’s about to celebrate its 100th anniversary — and the technological components it distributes are in everything from your iPhone’s charging connector to various IoT devices.
  • From Collected Data to Insightful Data. How the technological leaps of the past five to eight years have allowed Avnet to truly leverage the wealth of data it has at its disposal.
  • Complimenting Your Internal Team with External Experts. The challenges faced when blending the hands-on experience of Avnet’s long-standing team with the technical savvy of external experts to utilize new tools in a way that’s best for business and morale.

Key Quotes:

Avnet has been a company for the last 99 years. We are really looking forward to celebrating our 100th year anniversary. Avnet, in short, is a technology distributor — one of the largest in the world. And in the last three, four years, what we have been doing is transforming ourselves to expand the business beyond just distribution to be a technology solution provider, specifically in the Internet of Things space.
I think data is really a lifeline of the organizations… and organizations that understand how to monetize data will be able to get ahead of the competition through digital transformations.
We actually have been building our existing system architecture and landscape in the last 25 years. You can imagine, through that many years, the amount of data that is generated. It’s also interesting that being a technology distributor, we basically connect the entire value chain of the industry from the upstream of the supplier all the way to our customers that subsequently flow into the living rooms of end-users.
There [are] just unbelievable opportunities out there for organizations who can leverage data properly.
For as long as I’ve been with the company, we have been talking about our ability to leverage the wealth of data that we sit on. It’s only the last few years where we see new technologies — AI, ML capabilities, cloud … and the increased compute power, the decrease in storage cost, etc. — that allow us to truly tap on those abilities.
Today, we are able to leverage technology — like what we are working on with ThoughtSpot — allowing us to develop datasets that, by leveraging artificial intelligence, generating insight dashboard reports on the fly as opposed to having people working day and night to come up with what questions need to be answered.
The upscaling is really helping the team understand that this is not an either/or scenario. We are not here to replace the skill set that they possess because one thing that I continue to remind my team who have been around for many years is what differentiates them from the experts that we can find externally. The external expert may be very attuned to new technology; the internal team has a wealth of knowledge of what the business is about; what we are trying to achieve from a business standpoint if we were to transform, how do we bring the old and the new together? I think that marriage is really what opens the eyes and as soon as they see that their positions have not been threatened, they are really adding capabilities to what they’re doing day to day. The uptake just shot up.
At the end of the day, especially in this time and age, change is the only constant. It’s inevitable. And we recognize that the speed of emerging technology popping up is so quick to the extent that… the number of emails from companies I’ve never heard of every day continue to pile into our inbox.

Guest Bio:

Max Chan is the CIO of Avnet, and was named a 2020 CIO of the Year. Max and his team work closely with senior executives to translate business strategies to IT roadmaps and drive prioritization of these initiatives through a global governance process.

Max joined Avnet in 2013 as VP of IT for the Technology Solutions business in Asia Pacific. In this role, he led critical system implementations and enhancements, helping build Avnet’s Global Development Centers, while driving process improvement initiatives in the region. Max was later transferred to Phoenix, Arizona to take on global application and business relationship management roles, before being promoted to his current role in Dec 2018.

Prior to Avnet, Max held several IT leadership roles including; CIO, Asia at VF Corporation, and VP, IT building efficiency, Asia at Johnson Controls.