Music and Laughter at the Konica Minolta Dealer Event

by Patricia Ames | 2/27/15

I can’t remember a time when I have returned from an OEM dealer event where the two biggest impressions left with me were music and laughter. But it just happened at the recent Konica Minolta event. That says a lot about a company that is also absolutely serious about technology and innovation.

Music was tied into the event at every turn. Kevin Kern, senior VP, marketing, had one of the most entertaining approaches with a collage of clips showing him effectively singing “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa. (If you are not familiar with this 1986 classic, you can access here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCadcBR95oU — or just watch the Geico commercial.) Kern was also the rock star of the final evening festivities by killing it on the guitar while Rick Taylor, president and COO, sang a convincing rendition of Mustang Sally. Don’t believe me? Here is photographic evidence:

Kevin Kern rockin’ it

Rick Taylor in the moment

The event was more than just rock n’ roll, though; it was about strategy. Konica Minolta is seeing some impressive revenue growth in a tough space with an 11 percent overall increase in business technology sales in the past year. The production print sector was one of the stars with an increase of 23 percent, and the company’s stock price has increased 35 percent since April 2014. But Konica  Minolta can’t get where they want to be without their independent dealers, which represent about 50 percent of their total dealer network.

Taylor laid out a strong case to the dealers on why Konica Minolta should be their partner for the future. He outlined how the core business is changing; how developments in technology and workflow processes are demanding that the market adapt. Taylor feels strongly that the riskiest thing Konica Minolta can do is play it safe — they are instead going to “fanatically focus on capturing the future by continuing to disrupt the status quo.”

Universal Transformation

A main thread throughout the program was Konica Minolta’s desire to create exceptional customer value. They are shifting their entire organization globally to focus on the concept of customer-centric business management, which wraps business intelligence into the business process equation. 

What does all this mean to the dealers? If Konica Minolta can succeed in revolutionizing its customer experience throughout its dealer network it can create disruption in the marketplace that will propel everyone working for and with Konica to new levels of success. The key here is universal transformation, however; the desired level of success cannot be achieved if transformation only exists within the Konica Minolta corporate structure. Everyone touching the customer must guarantee a common set of expectations of excellence.

How does Konica Minolta plan to achieve this? By optimizing their business support structure using actionable data to improve results and the cost of delivery. According to Taylor, the myriad of underlying operating systems used by both the dealers and Konica Minolta in the past has made it a challenge to deliver data on service results and customer experience. If everyone could operate on a common platform, with common underlying data structures, Taylor believes they would truly have an unbeatable, unique value proposition in the industry.

Total SAP

Konica Minolta has found a way to make strides toward that unbeatable proposition with the use of SAP. When Konica Minolta acquires a company or dealer, they are migrated as quickly as possible to Konica’s current SAP ERP from its existing system that, more often than not, was designed in the 1970s to address an aging business model. An example is Pitney Bowes’ MFP business in Canada. Taylor said that business was running on an antiquated operating system, and converting them onto the Konica Minolta SAP platform resulted in immediate improvements in productivity and profitability.

Taylor says Konica Minolta is currently completely integrated with SAP. In addition to the basic SAP infrastructure, the firm utilizes integrated SAP products including the SAP CRM, BusinessObjects business intelligence software as a reporting tool, Ariba to manage their indirect spend (about $200 million a year), and Concur to organize and report their business travel.

Knowledge Transfer

As the executive team planned the revolution of the customer experience, one of the most important items was the effective knowledge transfer of critical ideas and technology from Konica Minolta corporate to the dealer network. Taylor talked about how his team watched with great interest as MWAi developed the FORZA product for dealers on SAP Business One, one of the most prolific platforms for SAP. The combination of the MWAi FORZA development and Konica Minolta experience and expertise created a unique opportunity to pass this world-class expertise to the dealers and one of the biggest announcements at the event was surrounding these efforts.

Konica Minolta announced a strategic alliance with MWAi to offer FORZA combined with Konica Minolta’s IT infrastructure, consulting services, integration experience and ongoing support to accelerate the SAP integration and system readiness for their dealer community. (Read more on the announcement here.)

This partnership will allow Konica Minolta to be able to implement capabilities that no one in the industry can duplicate. These capabilities will result in a platform designed to disrupt the marketplace.

Disruption Through Innovation

Disruption through innovation was the other main thread of the event. Konica Minolta is focused on identifying and developing future business opportunities to complement its core business in the future economy. Taylor mentioned that many of the most innovative opportunities Konica Minolta is now involved in were ones they were pushed to explore by their dealers and partners. In most cases the dealers were tackling the opportunities before Konica Minolta got involved, and Taylor indicated that Konica Minolta’s success is assured if they continue to listen to the dealers, and both parties continue to foster the trust needed to pursue innovation.

Konica Minolta is heavily invested in its own research and development as well. The firm recently completed an $80 million R&D facility in Japan where developments in the core MFP business are occurring, along with innovations leveraging all Konica Minolta intellectual property.

Konica Minolta does need to augment its own innovations, however, by identifying, investing in and commercializing emerging technological development around the globe.  To that end they currently have three Business Innovation Centers, with locations in Silicon Valley, London and Singapore. It’s hard to imagine what really goes on at these centers but it sounds like a combination of Shark Tank, incubator, Google headquarters and college dorm, with the smart and capable Ekta Sahashi, VP Business Innovation Center, at the helm to award brilliance and probably instill a dose of discipline from time to time.

Reinforcing the innovation focus, one of the keynotes at the event was Robert Herjavec, a successful entrepreneur and also one of the hosts of the Shark Tank TV series. Herjavec entertained everyone with stories from the show and his life and also gave some sage advice on what it takes to succeed. From what I gathered, it boils down to hard work and calculated risk taking; be bold and make the move. That synchs nicely with Konica Minolta’s approach.

Herjavec did agree to take a 60 percent stake in the “Taylor 2000,” pictured below. I’ll let you be the judge on whether or not that is going to be a Shark Tank-worthy investment.  Jim Hamilton, analyst and group director at InfoTrends, took the other 40 percent.  On Twitter, I offered to thumb wrestle Jim for a part of that 40 percent stake, but he was having none of it.

The Taylor 2000

Now I just need to find that 3D action figure I had printed up with my head on it. I wasn’t too happy to see what I look like without hair but I guess it is better than wearing the Taylor 2000.

Will Konica Minolta succeed in transforming this industry? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: the journey won’t be dull.

 

Patricia Ames is a transformation analyst at BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community. Follow her on Twitter at @OTGPublisher or contact her by email at patricia@BPOMedia.com.