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2006: The Year of the Solution

10 Jan, 2006 By: David Sweetnam imageSource

2006: The Year of the Solution

It’s nearly as certain as death
and taxes—the 2006 MFP marketplace will see the continued shift away from box
selling to solutions selling.

Just look at the print advertising campaigns that are being introduced by the
likes of Ricoh and Canon. There is little to no muscle-flexing of traditional
speed-and-feed might; instead, the focus is on the MFP as the hub of the office,
integrating hard copy and soft copy (electronic) documents into a seamless,
efficient workflow process.

Just try and find a piece of literature from an MFP manufacturer that does not
contain the words “integration” and “workflow.” The past few years have seen
every MFP manufacturer overwhelm dealers with an ever-expanding list of software
partners and supported applications.

Take a look at your primary supplier’s website, find the list of software
vendors and applications that are promoted, and now consider how many of your
staff could give you an accurate description of even 50 percent of the list.

They better start studying because 2006 will be the year of the solution. Here
are some issues to give consideration to in the New Year.

Time will become a bigger burden in

Whether I’m traveling to manufacturer dealer events, reviewing dealer response
forms, or listening to dealers over the phone, the same issues arise:

1. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get the sales and support staff
proficient in the software side of the business.

2. The profit model associated with doing so is dubious at best.

In the past few weeks I have personally spoken with:

• A government records and printing director who is in the market for an
electronic document management application to accommodate the storage and
retrieval of more than 600 cubic feet of paper per year.

• The superintendent at a technical college who has introduced a new OMR
(optical mark recognition) scanning application to streamline student test
result assessments.

• A hospital technical services director who has implemented a new scanning
workflow process that does away with traditional paper-based record submission
and retrieval.

All of these solutions involve MFPs, but the decision maker is focused on the
software and integration, not the hardware. None of the decision makers I spoke
to in the examples above worked, or are anticipating to solely work, with an
office equipment dealer to complete the solution purchase. So you may want to
find the time to get proficient in solutions sales and service.

If you have not already met, 2006
will introduce you to the CIO

There are few in the industry who would disagree that the MFP buyers of the
future will not be the same people you relied upon 10 years ago.

Over the years, the role of IT has grown and is now a critical aspect in the
sales process. But with the continued push towards workflow and scanning
integration, the shift is likely to go even further upstream with the prospect
of having to pitch to the Chief Information Officer now looming over more deals
at a corporate level.

If you thought trying to pitch to the IT manager was daunting, just wait until
the CIO starts impacting your business. For this very reason, we are hearing
about more dealers who are looking to form partnerships/alliances with knowledge
management and software workflow specialists so they can confront the IT manager
and CIO fully equipped.

The involvement of the CIO may sound like doom and gloom, but it shouldn’t be if
it is handled correctly. Remember that the CIO is a big picture thinker looking
beyond the price tag of one hardware device versus another, and instead is
considering the overall workflow and productivity status of the company as a

Go into battle in 2006 armed with a total solution mentality and the technology
partners to make it happen. That way you will be able to move beyond the petty
bickering found at the purchasing manager level—where arguing about a few
dollars or a perceived specification weakness has become an art form.

While the purchasing manager may be happy to negotiate with numerous suppliers
to get the best deal on a case by base basis, thus justifying his/her existence,
the CIO wants a single, professional, reliable, and comprehensive technology
supplier who treats the relationship as a partnership, not just another customer
to sell boxes to.

Don’t think of the local VAR or
systems integrator as your enemy

I have heard dealers say that the local VAR is now a competitor, and indeed, in
some instances they will be. However, remember that it is your business model
promoting print solutions that has been encroaching on their territory more so
than the other way around.

While there is some competition between the reseller communities, most VARs and
system integrators have no intention of entering the world of MFP servicing and
support. They are, however, being pressed by their customer base to look at
integrating MFPs into their workflow plans.

Now is the time to make partnerships that capitalize on both of your core
competencies, allowing you to go toe-to-toe with the manufacturer-owned sales
force or the mega-dealers who might have the resources to tackle more solution
sales in-house.

It’s a brave or reckless person that
goes it alone in 2006

When you stop to consider all the elements that go into being a total solution
provider—sales training, service training, additional service commitments, 24/7
critical response report, etc.—it is only the very brave or the reckless who
think they can do it alone.

In a recent analyst meeting, even the mighty Xerox openly admitted that, to be
considered a true global document imaging provider, it needed a strong backbone
of technology partners to extend its core competence.

Choosing those partners, however, can be difficult. There are a daunting number
of solutions and workflow options out there—enough to bring on a case of “deer
in the headlights” syndrome.

To avoid this, try focusing your attention on specific vertical sectors with
which you already have a good customer base or one with a wealth of
opportunities within your region.

Research the workflow practices commonly found in these vertical sectors, the
major software players that you are likely to be asked about, and start putting
together a short list of VARs, system integrators and independent software
vendors. You may be amazed at how receptive some of these resellers are to
working with you.

Good luck and have a prosperous 2006.

David Sweetnam is the vice president of research and content development
for BERTL, which publishes evaluation and analysis reports on copiers, printers,
MFPs, fax, color, and production devices. Visit www.BERTL.com or call

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