by Greg Walters | 1/21/15

"We've made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!" – Jean Luc Picard

The Captain's speech refers to a relentless invading force, moving forward, consuming more and more.  Think of device quotas like robotic intruders — mechanical, unsympathetic, and always growing.

Equipment quotas aren’t inherently evil.  On the contrary, without goals, warehouses would still be full of Walkmans, bag phones, and CompaqSLTs. Machine quotas are a reflection of mass production — supply driven, top down, with little customer focus.  Think about your monthly copier quota. Can you honestly say that those numbers drive customer service excellence?  Which begs the question, “How can any company that manufactures and pushes devices through a dealer channel claim to be "services centered”?  The answer is simple; they are redefining “hardware" into “services.”

Think I’m wrong?  Look at how the definition of managed print services has degraded from “the active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes” to “… toner and service delivery, billed as a cost per image basis, on a single invoice … on our devices…”

Here’s the point: today more talk tracks espouse services over hardware but hardware is still the primary quotient of commissions.  We tell our prospects we are moving into services, that we are a trusted advisor and know their business problems yet our solutions are focused through our hardware lens.  Hypocrisy? Rationalization?

What is the difference between sales quotas and equipment quotas?  Sales quotas = good. Equipment quotas = bad.

This isn’t new — selling and earning commissions on sales is and always will be us — but if we are selling ourselves as “services oriented” shouldn’t we be disconnecting from equipment sales?  Shouldn’t we be comped on service dollars generated without regard to the number of devices embedded in the solution?  Should we negate service commissions if there are no devices in the sale?  Again, where is the customer in all this?

This is big.  Equipment quotas drive behaviors contrary to customer centric ideas.

What will the industry do?  Nothing.  Will the industry change? No.  But here are three “pie in the sky" ideas to increase empathy with our prospects:

Stop making devices. If all manufacturing stopped today, we’d have enough machines to fulfill print needs for the next few decades

Compensate on services. No, really.  No hardware gates, no device quotas

Shrink your organization. Too many people support a dwindling fleet of devices, it is time to slim down.

I know, nobody is going to stop making copiers, pay sales people on service dollars or lay off 60 percent of their staff on purpose.

But how can you operate, detached from your equipment quotas? Three individual action items:

Don’t mention brand names — neutralize the hardware question early

Resist the urge to act as a living specification sheet — once you mention speeds and feed, you’re on the path to mediocrity

Accept yet question your equipment quotas — the reality is until the "great purge" occurs, you’re going to run into the “increase your MIF” mentality. So be it.  The odd thing is, sometimes, hardware sales increase when the focus shifts to solving business problems

Picard’s speech is his expression of personal retribution. He was part of the mechanical, unsympathetic, exponential Borg collective.  His humanity ripped away and supplanted with cold machinery, "every trace of individuality erased.” For this, he wanted payback.  Ultimately, confronting his feelings exposes his intense fear and shame of his inability to control his destiny, to have all he ever was torn away.  When he finally sees his wound, Picard, like we will, turns his gaze away from raw vengeance — accepting to be human is to be vulnerable, to be free means having nothing certain, nothing to lose.

Once we recognize our wound, our reliance upon artificial quotas, when we recognize our vulnerability, that there is no security in quotas, we can let go of the past and expand in the present. We as individuals, as an industry and a society.

The time may not be here just yet, but it will come: There will be a day when hardware quotas are no more.  Until then, "boldly go.”


A prolific writer, frequent speaker, and hyper-charged freelancer, Greg Walters shares his passionate, unique and provocative view on technology, addressing the digital impact on 21st century business and the new way of work and society. His book, Death of the Copier, published in 2014, offers a controversial summary of the early days managed print services and the not-so-distant future of the hard-copy industry. For four years, he was part of and then rebuilt a managed print services practice inside a West Coast VAR/MSP. Over the last three years he has been assisting companies with optimizing their IT portfolio of services, analyzing information workflow and processes, building self-supporting MpS programs inside IT departments and creating and implementing print policies for medium to large businesses. His company, Greg Walters Inc., is a bold consulting and content creation firm helping companies optimize processes and communicate their stories. Contact him at