United We Stand For A Better Tomorrow11 Oct, 2011 By: Sand Sinclair imageSource
For our October issue we’re spotlighting a one-on-one discussion with two industry magnates: Jim Phillips, CEO of Digital Gateway, and Ron Books, CEO of ECi Software Solutions. As long as I’ve been involved in this industry, there has always existed a “rivalry” between Digital Gateway and ECi, both providers of management software for dealers in the Office Equipment Industry. Initially, any discussion about the two joining forces would also include a discussion about flying pigs. And yet, here we are—once bitter rivals now on the same team. Needless to say, I had a few questions. Fortunately, both Phillips and Books were available to give me some answers.
Q. For years, Digital Gateway & ECi have been fierce competitors. Why have you decided to join forces?
Jim: There are some wars that can’t be won without allies. Consequently, I’ve never put more time in any business decision that I’ve made because of the impact to Digital Gateway, our dealers and the industry. What finally gave me the confirmation I was looking for came after ten weeks of traveling to all the key market meetings and attending the manufacturers’ shows. These trips validated the overwhelming and undisputable evidence that the Office Equipment Industry is under siege from other verticals attacking our industry’s growth engine, MPS. Our dealers’ customers were receiving presentations on MPS from IT VARS sponsored by major OEM’s. Major manufacturer direct operations are selling equipment at cost making it almost impossible for our independent dealers to compete. At the same time, office supply giants like Staples, Office Depot and Office Max have MPS listed as their top strategic initiative. After verifying the market threat to dealers, I knew I had to act, and act quickly.
Ron: I agree with Jim. As technology solutions providers, we have a responsibility to deliver software but we also have a responsibility to make decisions that we believe give the independent dealers the best chance to succeed. We truly believe that this acquisition does just that. When we overlay the companies it is amazing to see the synergies and the opportunities that are created from a time to market and value perspective by joining forces.
Q.What are you hoping to accomplish together that you couldn’t accomplish separately?
Jim: My hope and commitment is that Digital Gateway will give the independent office equipment dealers, manufacturers and market partners, the undisputed “New Standard for Success.” The combined synergies of both companies will help our dealers protect their existing customers and earn new ones. This will be done by providing the dealer with a total solution provider’s suite of products whether their customers require MPS, MSP, or e-commerce. DGI and ECi together brings best in class e-commerce coupled with new dashboards that give one click access to mission critical information for both dealers and customers, driven by the market leading dealer management platforms that will allow dealers to manage and optimize their core business better than ever. Combining forces will give a competitive differentiation to all our dealers, manufacturers and market partners, enabling an unparalleled value to the end-customer.
Ron: What we realized is that while both companies were making considerable investments on behalf of the independent dealers and OEMs, the fragmentation of that spend, however, was creating challenges and a ton of duplication of efforts. At the end of the day that does not benefit the dealer or their end consumer. The combined solutions will add value to our collective dealers overnight as well as position them better for long term success. We even had a large, influential dealer in the Office Equipment space say to us within the last three months, “Why don’t you and Digital Gateway just join forces and give us the best of both worlds?” Well, now we have.
Q. Please go into more detail on how this move will help Imaging & Office Equipment dealers?
Jim: I’ve learned over the course of my career that companies are like people—some make things happen while others wonder what happened. I vowed over a decade ago that the people of Digital Gateway would make good things happen for our dealers. Watching what was happening to our industry because of the poor economy, the Cloud, and market convergence was no longer an option. These three change drivers present a serious threat to our industry’s survival and viability. Technology and desperation for growth fueled the attack from many surrounding verticals. I could no longer watch the cannibalization of our dealers’ profits and customers by outsiders without taking massive action to stop the bleeding. It is my hope that Digital Gateway will provide the dealer community with the most comprehensive customer winning market solution ever created.
My vision for our industry is that we’ll stand united with the manufacturers and market partners to enable the independent dealers’ “New Standard for Success.” Our job is to create solutions that will help secure existing customers and acquire new ones by offering a comprehensive solution for all Digital Output. The new frontier is going to be won by those dealers that can deliver a contracted relationship for all Digital Output and related services. The independent dealers’ “Success” will have to demonstrate the ability to manage and
optimize the digital information of the entire enterprise for their customers. Digital Gateway with the backing of ECI will enable the “New Standard for Success” demanded by the new economy and our dealer community.
Ron: This is one of those situations where “the proof is in the pudding.” And, I can tell you, both Jim and I are very excited about the impact this is going to have on the marketplace. We have outlined an aggressive plan that will bring best of breed technology to the independent dealer community. State-of-the-art ERP and e-commerce solutions, tighter integration to FMAudit tools, a suite of mobile applications, integrated dashboards and end consumer usage
reporting are just a few of the areas that we will demonstrate
tremendous increased value to the dealer community over the next several months.
Q. Since Digital Gateway and ECi are joining forces who will lead the Office Equipment market?
Ron: Jim and his DGI team will lead the way in the Office Equipment market. They have tremendous expertise here and all you have to do is talk to Jim once to feel the passion and energy he has as it pertains to this marketplace and its dealers. Every conversation we’ve had has centered on making this market, and these dealers, successful. Jim will run our Office Equipment division, and Laryssa Alexander, OMD and La Crosse President, will continue to have responsibility for those two separate companies and product lines. She will report to Jim and work closely with his team in delivering our vision of a broad suite of office product offerings covering the spectrum in the Office Equipment market. She has done a tremendous job and will continue to play a major role in the future. Jim and I will work closely together to ensure that the success of the Office Equipment Industry is backed by the resources of ECi. At the end of the day, our combined organizations have a passion for serving the customer and for innovation. We come to the table together as advocates of the independent dealer to provide the best possible solutions for them that will enable their success.
Jim: The way forward has never been clearer and I’m energized like never before to work together to lead this organization to ensure the success of dealers in this industry.
Q. What does this mean for current e-automate users? What about OMD? La Crosse?
Jim: The same teams our customers have grown accustomed to working with for support of their technology needs will continue to further serve them. Even more exciting is that we now have access to additional resources within ECi to enhance the way we serve this market. For instance, they have thirty resources dedicated to their new e-commerce solution ECinteractive, and another thirty-plus resources developing sales
analytics dashboards. Our dealers will now get the benefits of those investments as well.
Ron: What Jim said is spot-on. For OMD and La Crosse users, we want to be clear that we will continue to enhance and support dealers using those platforms to run their business. At the same time, those businesses that choose to move to the e-automate ERP solution can do so with the support of both teams. Our dealers will continue to have choices through OMD, La Crosse, and e-automate, and we will support their decision to do what they believe is best for their business. The great thing about the partnership is that regardless of what platform they will be on, there will be consistent value-add products like FMAudit, ecommerce, OEM communications, data analytics, credit card processing and so on. We are already creating the necessary API’s to allow for these same integrations for e-automate users and OMD/La Crosse users.
Q. What new innovations can customers look forward to from Digital Gateway & ECi moving forward?
Jim: As referenced earlier, for e-automate users there will be a fully integrated e-commerce solution that takes advantage of an eight million dollar investment and six years of development made by ECi. Other areas like integration to the Acsellerate sales analytics tool and tighter integration to FMAudit will give our dealers unprecedented access to a set of dashboard tools providing powerful data that will result in considerable business opportunities.