by Patricia Ames
Living up to their reputation as problem-solvers, ACDI took it upon themselves to host a unique event recently that brought together technical folks from their home team, as well as from the product development team at PaperCut and the resellers that are out in the field every day helping their clients manage their print environments. For the first time, ACDI also invited a few members of the media to peek behind the curtain.
In addition to the requisite presentations on the current and future direction of the company, ACDI hosted some dealer roundtables emceed by Mark Hart, ACDI’s hilarious and oddly patient (ask him about his hospitality suite) director of business development. One panel in particular really caught my attention - it was stacked with some of the leading IT/solutions players in the channel who had some very interesting insights surrounding their successes and challenges that come along with selling solutions.
John Lopez, Milner; Tiffany Bates, Capitol Office Solutions; John Swalwell, Perry ProTech; Dan Rickert, EO Johnson; Matt Schotten, ImageNet Consulting; Damon Webb, Pacific Office Automation
Milner’s John Lopez had the honor of kicking things off. He told Hart that, “if you’re not talking about security, then you’re doing the customer a disservice.” But, what Lopez said customers have been asking for the most is for the ability to move seamlessly from one device to another. “They want to tap in and tap out; they want to be able to have the ability to go from one engine to another engine. They want a simplified printing queue," said Lopez. “The real big thing right now is ‘follow me’ print.”
A pull printing solution holds print jobs in a secure print queue, and only releases them to the user once he or she authenticates at the printer’s control panel. Milner’s pull print offering comes with the added benefit of letting users pull the job to any device on the network. So, if a device is in use or out of order, employees can walk down the hallway and use a different one without having to return to their desk to reroute the job.
Pull printing offers a few other benefits as well. For one, it safeguards information on printed documents by ensuring that only the user who owns the job is at the device when it is printed. This helps to ensure that prints with sensitive information are not mistakenly claimed by another employee, or that they don’t sit in the output tray for all passersby to see. In heavily regulated fields, like healthcare, pull printing is all but necessary to be compliant with privacy rules and able to print sensitive information. Pull printing can also help businesses reduce print costs. Since users are present at the device when the job is printed, you won’t see many forgotten jobs.
Lopez told Hart that since May 2017 — when they noticed a spike in customer-interest in pull printing — business has been booming. “There are a lot of opportunities coming down the pipe.”
Next, Hart turned his attention to Tiffany Bates from Capitol Office Solutions, and the topic was directed to her customers’ taste for capture solutions. Bates said that her customers desired both simple, one-trick-pony solutions, like adding OCR or image cleanup capabilities to an MFP, all the way up to enterprise level, business process automation platforms.
Bates noted the importance of having different products to meet different segments in the market. She told Hart about her current partnership with PSIGEN. “I’m currently working with them on some opportunities with some of our clients,” she said. Bates also mentioned the company’s relationship with OCR and PDF tool developer ABBYY, so the company can provide their customers with “a more enterprise-wide solution.”
“As a dealer, we find that where we can create the real value and become a business partner with our clients, is by bringing them secure print solutions through ACDI using the single sign-on with PaperCut to also onboard into some of these other business process and capture type solutions,” she said. If you can make your client’s workflow processes more efficient, Bates said, than you have created a great value that is hard to unseat when competitors come sniffing around.
Next, we got inside the mind of Pacific Office Automation’s Damon Webb, who explained what POA considers when looking to add new solutions to their portfolio. He is always assessing and considering other solutions. “I am on that level of, ‘how do we assess this and how do we offer an alternative, and what would be the right alternative?’ — all while keeping the bottom line in mind,” he said.
“Any time I look at technology, my first question is, ‘what does it embed on?’ This is crucial for Pacific Office Automation, which carries four major lines, plus HP and Lexmark’s full lineups. “If it doesn’t embed on a heavy set of those vendors, it’s really hard for me to take it seriously,” he said.
But on top of finding solutions that fit into POA’s existing hardware selections, Webb has to keep an eye on what his competitors are doing. “The other challenge we see are the other vendors offering those products for free.” But to that, Webb basically told us that you get what you pay for (he flat out called one OEM’s free pull-printing solution “a joke”), and that “you almost have to let the customer fail with the product before you can upsell them.” But, Webb said that POA can offer enough differentiation to compete with — and win against — free products.
Next, ImageNet Consulting’s Matt Schotten discussed the company’s growth in the solutions arena. Schotten noted that, because of the contractual nature of the business, most of their solutions sales are rolled into a total solution, and that a majority of their software business is coming from net new business, or at the time of renewal. “It’s tremendously exciting,” he said.
Schotten noted that for every dollar in software sales ImageNet Consulting made, the total contract value increased ninefold if they added hardware and service revenues. “That's really ... I love software,” he added.
Hart’s next target was John Swalwell of Perry ProTech. Swalwell is someone we are very familiar with at BPO Research, having worked with him on several in-depth white papers in the past. He spoke about how Perry ProTech is able to succeed, and had some advice for dealers who are interested in entering the IT services space.
“We purchased an IT VAR 12 or 13 years ago,” Swalwell said, “and I’ve been spending 12 to 13 years integrating them, bringing them together with the culture of our traditional image business. It’s a real challenge.” He noted the extremely thin margins that are common in the IT environment, and that it is a very competitive arena.
Currently, Perry ProTech’s traditional service contracts and agreements are delivered through a Master Service Agreement — a contract in which two parties agree on terms that govern future transactions and agreements — with one of the more flexible leasing programs, like GreatAmerica or US Bank. “With Master Service Agreements in place, we can bundle in just about anything we want, and increase those margins four to fivefold on the IT part where there is little to no margin.”
Perry ProTech is also migrating their operations to a new ERP platform to eliminate the information silos created when cobbling together various solutions into a legacy system not built for the latest technology. The FORZA platform can accommodate the new lines of business that a modern copier dealership needs to remain successful in this very competitive environment.
Finally, Hart made it to EO Johnson’s Director of Solution Sales, Dan Rickert. “I think one place where we’ve shifted our philosophy over the last two years is in driving as much business as we can through a cloud type offering, either through one of our vendors or through our own data center,” said Rickert. He said that one big benefit of cloud services is the ability to bank on monthly recurring revenue, rather than trying to make one-off sales all over town.
The solutions game is very tricky, but the folks on this panel showed us that with the right strategy and lineup of products, it is a game that can be won. It’s about finding your customers’ pain points and having the tools to provide them with relief. It’s about adding value and making it seem like life would be impossible without you. It’s about embracing new technology.
Kudos to ACDI for creating an atmosphere that was both fun and constructive, bringing all the stakeholders to the table, and allowing for real discussions to take place — which led in real-time to roadmaps for product improvements and new developments.