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Managed Service: The View from the Cloud

13 Jul, 2011 By: Rob Gilbert imageSource

Managed Service: The View from the Cloud

Once again, a shift in the office automation industry has taken shape, and Managed Services has been ushered in as the latest focal point in an ever evolving landscape of solutions based business models. Over the course of a handful of years, we have moved from equipment-plus-service to CPC (Cost Per Copy); to CPP (Cost Per Print) to TCO (Total Cost of Ownership); to MPS (Managed Print Services) to Managed Services and the “Cloud” based solution offerings. All manner of services are now capable of being deployed and managed from one centralized location, making it easier than ever before for customers to customize their own “solution based” service offerings.

What are these “Managed Services”? We know it includes managing IT solutions & network-based applications and services, applications, equipment to enterprise solutions, hosting, and the list goes on. So what are the benefits to be gained from the proper utilization of a partner that can help you deploy your service offering?

Services Can Include:

Application Services – Application services help a business: Operate, Manage, and Monitor their environments. Monitoring and troubleshooting are involved, as well as Patch Management and Services Performance Monitoring, and fine tuning. All of these add to operational efficiencies in an organization.

Support Services – Support Services help a company: Maintain its current environment. With Support Services, systems management coordination and assistance parameters are set, and a SLA (Service Level Agreement) is used to define what involvement a vendor has.

Business Services – Business Services are the services that help an organization: Realize Value. Business Services allow a company to coordinate operational processes, allow for application review and root cause analysis, assist in multi vendor coordination and selection, provide for best practices system management, and allow for deployment planning.

Obviously, any office automation company that makes the decision to become a provider of Managed Solutions, (and the industry is dictating that we all do) must decide which of the above offerings they will provide, and what their ultimate position in the market will be. In order to capture the complexity of the market and just how many types of solutions exist, let’s just look at Business Services for a moment.

Business Services are a natural area of focus for office automation companies because many of the manufacturers that provide equipment also provide some sort of services based offering that helps a company realize value. The learning curve on helping a company realize value with Managed Services seems to be shorter with companies that are familiar with Managed Print Services and assessing a client’s existing costs.

Document Workflow
There are many areas that an office automation company can focus on in order to provide some other types of Managed Service offering to a prospect. Obviously, the standard components exist, like hardware costs, service and lease costs, etc., but product offerings that improve processes, decrease costs, improve productivity, and increase overall efficiencies will find themselves on the forefront of the sales opportunities in the next few years.

Just in the area of Document Workflow alone there are many different products already firmly available in the marketplace to address and improve on business processes.

Some examples are:

  • In the area of Document Capture, processing and workflow, there are offerings like PlanetPress, EFI, and eCopy.

  • In Electronic Data Discovery and legal content management, there are offerings like Trusted Edge.

  • In Business Process Management and Electronic Content Management, offerings like Laserfiche and SmartSearch exist.

  • Document Output Management features products like UniFlow, Equitrac, etc.

  • Online eForms Management would be handled by tools such as Linc Doc and Cerenade.

And this is only segmenting off one process within a specific business unit! The possibilities for offering software and solutions as a service become staggering in light of the different processes that a consulting sales rep or company can be engaged in.

How will your company engage?
We’ve known for awhile that the days of hardware-centric selling are coming to a close as we once knew it. Too many prospects understand the need to solve some sort of business process. It takes a concerted effort to understand business, and how business sees productivity.

The selling cycle and account management of a Managed Services philosophy is also much different than the traditional office dealer model. Instead of product brochure or demo and a simple proposal, we are now dealing with intense fact finding meetings, proofs of concept, proof source demonstrations with specific deliverables, protracted timeframes with complicated implementation guidelines, etc. Some service offerings are very specialized and require specialists to learn and sell them.

Tracking progress and effective management of longer term opportunities becomes critical, and greater numbers of consultants become engaged in larger and larger deals. The value to the prospect is that for the office automation company which understands a true Managed Services philosophy, many more business problems can be solved. The value to the office automation company is a greater ability to engage prospects, and become true consultative partners to their clients because they understand business and business processes.

You can’t truly manage services until you understand how a business uses their existing services (or don’t use them) before solving their business problems with the services that you provide. Fortunately, there are many products and services available to dealers today that make their assessment process more efficient.

Rob Gilbert, Sr., has decades of sales & management consulting experience within the office channel, including in MPS/MS, working with dealers, vendors / manufacturers, & is a regular contributor to industry publications, including imageSource. For more information email him at RGilbertSr@gmail.com

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