The office technology providers that make up this industry are quite remarkable. They are highly motivated, and constantly evolving into new areas, continuing to grow their businesses and bring value to the customers they serve. These dealers have learned to be relentless when it comes to seeking out fresh angles, helpful advice and proven strategies in order to continue moving their businesses into new offerings as new technologies and needs emerge. Despite this proven success, what (if anything) is holding them back from their true potential?
I thought I'd ask a few thought leaders in our industry a "devil's advocate" question so we can all gain some fresh perspective. "What is holding the office equipment industry back?"
Patricia Ames, President & Analyst, BPO Media
“This is such an interesting question because I am not sure there is a lot holding most office equipment dealers back. Dealers have been extremely successful entrepreneurs for decades, some building businesses that individually generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every single year.
I do, however, believe that we are at an inflection point in the industry that has the forces of analog and digital competing for supremacy and all signals point to digital winning out. That means that the way we all do business will dramatically change (and already is changing!) Ink on paper is quickly becoming less relevant. A business based mainly on office print will need to adjust their model. We see this already happening everywhere – dealers are expanding their portfolios to include everything from managed IT services (an area that should grow given the trends), offering sophisticated information management solutions, delivering professional services consulting, or even selling water, coffee and other office services. The path to diversification and growth is varied, the options are many and the opportunity is enormous. There is no one right way, and success is around every corner.”
Patricia Ames is senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 10 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.
Randy Dazo, Keypoint Intelligence
“Today office equipment dealers should be looking to diversify their offerings as we continue to see the print and output market consolidate and shrink. We definitely see this with many of the manufacturers that are either looking to expand beyond their traditional A3 and A4 offerings or have already started on their journey. There have been basically two approaches to diversification; manufacturers have either focused further in their core by providing print devices such as 3D, production or wide/large format solutions, and then there are those that focused or pivoted farther from their core into areas such as the Smart Workplace technologies that have nothing to do with print. Some are even doing a bit of both and have jumped in full boat. As the manufacturers transform, we also see them promoting these new products, solutions and services to their channels and their reactions and response have been very positive.
We see basically 3 types of dealers when it comes to diversification and transformation. There definitely those that not only have a strategy but also have been executing and selling new products and services. Some have even gone in on it alone, without the help from their manufacturers. We have seen some get into these strategies organically, but several others have either partnered with providers or acquired other channels to start these new business ventures. The next set of dealers are those that are strongly considering diversification, they have done their research and know they should transform but have yet to pull the trigger. Lastly there are those dealers that have no interest, just kicking the tires or not ready to even think about a diversification strategy for various reasons.
For those that have been strongly considering a strategy, it makes sense to see what other dealers have done to crossing that divide. Again, it is not easy going in on it alone and may take some partnering or even an acquisition to get into any of these new businesses. There are plenty of resources to help dealers as well as many of other dealers that have transformed that are willing to share their success and best practices. Lastly, partnering and getting advice from the manufactures as well as financial institutions is another resource for understanding what is required from an investment standpoint and the options they can provide to help get dealer get into these new businesses.”
Randy Dazo is a Group Director of InfoTrends’ Network Document Solutions (NDS), Dynamic Content Software Strategies (DSS), Professional & Managed Print Services (PMPS), and Image Scanning Trends services (IST). With over two decades of experience, Mr. Dazo leads InfoTrends’ continuous information service practice in this area on a global basis. Prior to joining InfoTrends, Mr. Dazo was Senior Manager, Output Solutions for Ricoh Corporation. In this capacity he was responsible for establishing channel requirements and go to market strategies creating leading-edge solutions for the market. Earlier in his career, he held senior sales and marketing positions at Sharp, Net2Phone, Minolta, and Canon.
Luke Goldberg, EVP Global Sales, Clover Imaging Group
“No doubt that this comes as no great revelation but I believe the number one cause of inertia in our business is a lack of will to embrace change. Our industry is filled with multigenerational business that have succeeded through decades of tectonic shifts in technology; many of them going all the way back to typewriter ribbons, carbon paper, finally evolving to their present state as hard copy equipment and supply dealers. The question is; why did the evolution stop there? why is our industry still delivering the service of print in the same antiquated fashion it has for 30+ years via click and per page billing. The world of technology is going in the direction of subscription based models ALA Netflix, Apple Music etc… Users no longer like the variability of non fixed consumption costs and dealers that embrace models like Print as a service, Devise as a service, or seat based billing will be on the cutting edge of our business and get themselves in line with prevailing technology trends. As we see the rapid convergence of the IT and print channels (either via acquisition or organically) no doubt that this will and should hasten the delivery of print as a service versus as a variable cost.”
Luke Goldberg is the executive vice president Sales and Marketing for the Clover Imaging Group. He is responsible for developing worldwide market analysis, examining sales trends, expanding and analyzing emerging sales channels and opportunities for the industry. Goldberg also is responsible for Clover Imaging Group’s Latin American sales, MPS business, OEM relationships, and global marketing. With more than 25 years of experience in the imaging supplies industry, Goldberg has extensive industry knowledge and expertise in sales and marketing techniques, industry trends and developments, market analysis and sales channel development. He has been a longtime speaker at global trade shows and contributor to industry trade magazines.
Robert Palmer, Research Vice President, IDC Imaging, Printing and Document Solutions Team
“As much as I hate to invoke an overused industry buzzword, the answer lies in business transformation. Dealers must understand that the imaging market is evolving, and demand for print is changing. Selling hardware and capturing pages is no longer the most effective means for measuring success in the office technology market. At the same time, history shows us that incumbents rarely move to the forefront when it comes to driving disruption in a mature market: fear of change and complacency are difficult to overcome. Transformation hinges on the ability to support technology innovation, such as artificial intelligence (AI), business analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Leveraging these technologies, dealers must pivot to into new services and alternative business models to lessen their dependence on clicks and the printed page. Dealers tied to legacy business platforms that do not allow support for new lines of business will struggle to grow with the market. The 3rd Platform, digital transformation, and the Future of Work provide the path to value-add services for the future. Dealers must invest in platforms, solutions, and infrastructure to drive growth in these areas, but first they must overcome any inherent fear of change.“
Robert Palmer is Research Vice President with IDC's Imaging, Printing, and Document Solutions team. He is responsible for written research, forecasts, and analysis in multiple practice areas covering managed print services, document solutions, business workflow automation and optimization, and hard copy transformation.
"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional."
The common thread woven through each of these responses is change. Office Technology Dealers are already good at change, but it’s time to pick up the pace and ensure the challenges faced in this space are addressed head on. There are mergers and acquisitions at every corner, new technologies are swiftly emerging, and the customers’ needs are ever-evolving. As this industry continues to transform, the ability to manage and embrace change will be crucial to office technology dealers who hope, to not only remain relevant, but who hope to grow into the future.
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“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell