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Leveraging Cloud Computing For Your Dealership

1 May, 2010 By: David Ramos imageSource

Leveraging Cloud Computing For Your Dealership

Business technology leaders find themselves in something of
a Cloud computing deluge, showered by vendor marketing, new services, and even
CEO questions about their “cloud strategy.”  Splashed across technology
magazines and debates amongst technologists are the pros and cons of whether
enterprises should jump in with both feet or take a measured approach to this
latest and greatest IT paradigm. Much of the exuberance centers on the kind of
computing by-the-hour service that Amazon.com and others sell, but most
enterprises are only starting to ponder.


But you say, “David, I am a dealer and yes, I am in the
technology world but really I am not of it, how does my company and sales force
maximize this opportunity? What does this really mean to me? “

First, you need to know what the “Cloud” is…Second, you
need to know where you fit in the “Cloud.”  I mean supporting the cloud of


The 1970's concept of a hard-wired server (mainframe)
connected to a client (terminal) by network cable (bus and tag) are seldom seen
in today's world.  Many computers are no longer clearly distinguishable as
clients or servers.  20th century computer installations and accompanying
applications were mostly proprietary and employees usually only had access to a
computer at the office. Today companies use technology to access services
offered in the Internet cloud.  For example, employees may be instructed to
consult Google Maps rather than being offered route descriptions to offices via
proprietary websites or intranets.  The web based server generating the map
request may be running several applications for several different types of “fat
and thin” clients.  The server offering the map may not be the one generating
the images, it may only have routing capability and retrieve the actual data
from another server in a remote location.  The cloud therefore, can refer to
lack of wires or hardware ownership as well as to a lack of software ownership. 
Remember Microsoft maps shipping via CD with new PC’s?  By the time you got the
CD’s the maps were already out of date. Today Google Maps is constantly updated
yet the government owns the data, Google owns the application and websites, IBM
and others provide the server farms, the Internet provides the delivery, and
anyone can access the maps.


You get my point. As you have probably figured out
by now, the term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet (See Figure A). 
The cloud drawing used to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an
abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents. Typical cloud
computing providers deliver common business applications online which are
accessed from a Web browser, while the software and data are stored on servers.
The cloud applications are broadly divided into the categories that emphasize
the concept of "Everything-as-a-Service,” Software as a Service (SaaS), Utility
Computing, Web Services, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Managed Service Providers
(MSP), Service Commerce, and Internet Integration.


What makes this paradigm shift in computing so appealing
for companies today? Cloud computing users can avoid capital expenditure on
hardware, software, and services when they pay a provider only for what they
use. Consumption is usually billed on a utility (resources consumed, like
electricity) or subscription (time-based, like a newspaper) basis with little or
no upfront cost. Other benefits of this time sharing-style approach are low
barriers to entry, shared infrastructure and costs, low management overhead, and
immediate access to a broad range of applications. In general, users can
terminate the contract at any time (thereby avoiding return on investment risk
and uncertainty), and the services are often covered by service level agreement
(SLAs) with financial penalties.


For MPS providers and hardware resellers, does any of these
talk tracks sound familiar?  Alright, with the exception of terminating the
contract at any time all of this is pretty familiar to the talk track that we
use for managing fleets of printers with print management and the traditional
leasing talk track for hardware.

Now that we have cleared all of that up you ask, “Where are
the opportunities for my dealership?! I have traditional “hardware” reps and I
am just starting to delve into managed print services (MPS) and working with IT
hasn’t traditionally been my entry point of contact until now.


Analysts say that 2010 will be a year of design for the
hardcopy market as your dealerships will observe how customers are leveraging
the architecture of cloud computing. The “cloud” impacts where processing takes
place and how it can be seamlessly delivered without impacting performance.


Your Opportunities:

Ripping jobs in the “cloud” and sending to print engines

• One of the most long standing applications for “The
Cloud” is OPI (Open Pre-Press Interface). It’s how the commercial printing
industry has historically RIPped and stored images on remote servers to speed up
the RIPping and printing process. Scitex, Creo, and other high end workflows
have been using it for years. Applications such as QuarkXPress and PageMaker
were specifically designed to accommodate this process.


Fleet management of A3 and A4

• Applications using similar but more advanced technology
to leverage “the cloud” are EFI’s MIS applications Print Smith and Pace, and
RSA’s Document and Print Routing software QDirect. These combined with Web2Print
applications such as Digital Store Front and WebCRD create comprehensive
enterprise level workflow.

• Example; MWA intelligent device management for meter
collections. Reports display information such as assets monitored, equipment
status, usage, consumables and total cost of ownership/operation. MWA
intelligent service for dispatch and service management, field service and
remote call management. All this takes place in “The Cloud.”


Delivery of tandem document
services (multiple file formats, security, document account)

• The advances in network technology and the internet are
allowing these types applications to be developed for a multitude of uses such
as EDM, PMS, Web2Print, Data Warehousing, and many others.


There will be an emergence of
cloud printing applications

• MFD secure printing feature and Equitrac - Follow Me
printing are two current examples.


• Other applications include CAC authentication,
biometrics, enterprise wide print tracking and cost accounting, and behavior
modification software that control who, how much, and where documents can be
printed and distributed.


What to Watch For:

How to leverage the programmable features of the MFP -
whether it is A3 or A4 technologies to leverage the “cloud” services via the

• Leverage your equipment subject matter experts that are
your manufacturer representatives.  Have them work with teaching your sales
force how to leverage these features and how to formulate a talk track that is
IT focused while marketing their fine line of products.


Private, public and hybrid cloud
capabilities (speaking of hybrid clouds, I wonder if “a certain MPS consulting
group”  will suggest they invented this phrase like their claim of “the hybrid
dealer” and practically the MPS market in its entirety, per their recent
newsletter. Let’s just give them credit for everything in the industry and erase
Chester Carlson from the archives; this will extend the manageability/delivery
of Manage Print Services clients…).

• Think about it, when targeting that Regional Bank or
Regional Healthcare facility, you will need to learn and understand how this
initiative fits with companies strategic plans.  They want to consolidate their
printing hardware and reduce their cost per print.


• Most of the MPS applications leverage “The Cloud” to pull
meter reads, service dispatch and linking them into dealer service applications.
Being able to communicate the benefits to decision makers and IT specialists
will give you a competitive advantage over the competition.


CIOs are looking for companies to
manage their hardware &  software printing infrastructures

• Manage, optimize and improve.  Focus on their pain points
with their current approach to managing their fleet, leverage technology
advancements with digital files, the proliferation of e-mail, security, meeting
compliance regulations, and improving their business processes.


Learn where the soft-spots are for
printing to capture volume

• Example; billing and the production of legal documents,
etc. have been relatively unaffected by the rise of the Web or the economy, and
their remains a big market in helping companies to find ways to cut their
printing costs over time.


Cloud computing is broad and has some vague definitions. As
you have read through the article you have realized that many technologies that
have been branded as “cloud computing” have existed for a long time before the
“cloud” label came into existence. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle put it best,
“Cloud computing is everything we currently do and it will have no effect except
change the wording on some of our ads.” 


Where do you go for assistance for understanding
technologies like these and learn how to maximize your opportunities? Among the
best are the BTA workshops on business planning to assist you with understanding
the details needed to assist you with accomplishing implementation and execution
on any of the opportunities I’ve listed.  They also offer Service Management
University to teach service leaders and managers how to leverage technology to
improve results, maximize these opportunities to support the infrastructure, and
how to effectively service MPS agreements for maximum profit. And on the front
end, there are workshops available to teach MPS specialist how to target MPS
opportunities, assess the environment and win MPS contracts.


2010 is a year of opportunity for the dealer community
regardless of the economy, but it will take you learning then teaching your
organization about the technology that is changing the print patterns in “The
Cloud” today, understanding the infrastructure that supports the opportunity in
your current service and back office operations, then leveraging all of this
information from an IT perspective on how you can best support this initiative
CIOs are tasked with today.


David Ramos is a consultant for Strategy Development.
The firm provides Sales, Service & MPS information, including workshops for the
BTA as well as a MPS Sales eLearning program with InfoTrends. Ramos also
instructs a basic selling skills workshop, and is a class presenter at ITEX
tradeshows. At www.strategydevelopment.org or email ramos@strategydevelopment.org.

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