by Henning Volkmer
Digital transformation is top of mind for anyone wanting to stay relevant and competitive in today’s ever-evolving business landscape. The ability to change and adapt is a trend that is here to stay, and it’s changing almost everything around the office, including the office itself. This is especially significant for office equipment dealers (OED) dedicated to maintaining their relevance and growing their business.
Here are the five most important trends that OEDs should consider as they work to determine their digital transformation strategy.
- Optimized digital workflows
- Cloud and managed services
- Information technology security
- Managed or shared office spaces
- Equipment consolidation
Let’s look at how these trends influence the traditional OED channel opportunities and which new ones can be brought into the fold.
1) Optimized digital workflows: The use of optimized digital workflows is increasing as businesses are shifting away from complex, paper-based transactions (e.g., to sign leases or provide documentation to customers) and moving toward digital, app-based processes. These new approaches decrease the demand for printers, consumables, binders and other more traditional presentation tools. With this shift, there is an opportunity to provide expertise and guidance in selecting the right digital tools. Each customer is unique, which is why it is important to use your know-how about your customer’s businesses to help them innovate by identifying solutions that will move their business forward beyond traditional office equipment.
2) Cloud and managed services are a great way for OEDs to offer new services to help customers adapt to new technology paradigms. The cloud offers a way out of traditional IT challenges, but it also comes with its own set of questions, challenges and uncertainties. A trusted, often long-standing OED relationship brings a unique opportunity to advise customers about which cloud offerings are best for them, differentiate between private and public cloud offerings, then enable them to pick the best path forward.
3) Information technology security is another very important area that OEDs should invest in, build know-how and advise customers about. Long-standing relationships with customers offer a unique opportunity to expand within existing accounts. Most everyone is aware of the importance of proper IT security, but few customers know how to implement the required technology and policies. Using their unique understanding of long-standing customer relationship, OEDs are in a unique position to offer advice, implementation service and ongoing consulting on this topic.
4) Managed or shared office space offers greater flexibility for companies to move their operations where needed, and to manage space more efficiently. However, it also means that much of the infrastructure like desks, chairs, meeting room equipment or printers is shared among all tenants. This means that there are fewer opportunities to sell traditional office equipment to the individual tenants. In this scenario, the providers of managed or shared spaced provide a unique opportunity because they require solutions that scale easily and are cost-effective among all their customers to provide the flexibility to tend to each customer’s most important requirements.
5) Equipment consolidation, especially around printers and copiers, is an undeniable trend across the industry. As customers are looking to optimize their operations the seemingly outdated task of printing is often an easy target, even though it provides incredible value to a customer’s operation. OEDs should seize the opportunity to educate their customers on the value and ease of use of a printed document and how to carry this value into an increasingly digital world. Help your customers innovate, explore new opportunities and prepare for the future without leaving proved and profitable parts of their existing business behind.
There is one thing that companies embracing digital transformation have in common: They are trying to innovate faster and better than ever before to innovate their businesses. Your opportunity lies in helping your customers innovate. Be a catalyst. Go out and look for solutions that help your customers understand the solutions that can help them be more innovative.
This process can be difficult, often painful and full of risks for your customers. One of the biggest challenges is to attract those looking for a new, quicker, easier, more cost-effective way of doing things without losing too many of those who are attached to the way “things have always been done” and don’t want to move too much. If all the effort put into innovation results in a zero-sum game it was a giant waste of resources and talent.
Consider documents handed to a customer. There are many that would prefer an electronic way of signing a document, but there are just as many who would prefer a printed document, a pen and a folder to store the document in their office.
What does that mean for your customer that’s looking to innovate by providing their reps with mobile devices to be closer to their customers, provide prompter service and reduce the cost of providing their product? This customer needs someone who can pick the right mobile device, offer expertise to build an innovative digital workflow to close business and have the expertise to still incorporate “the old way of doing things” for those clients your customer doesn’t want to lose.
One of those seemingly “old way” items is printing. I am going to argue that it is highly underrated, because printing is by far the easiest to use human interface for all of our digital efforts. Anyone who can read and write can interact with a printed document. There are no Mac versus PC pages or Android or iOS expertise required to read a printed contract.
With mobile print solutions, office equipment dealers can help their customers innovate without leaving proven, reliable workflows behind. With the right approach, you can help customers manage printing from mobile devices as easily and securely as they do from computers, to either the company printers they need or at a customer or other off-network site. This is a perfect example of how OEDs can use their experience and understanding of traditional workflows to advise their customers to increase innovation by implementing solutions that support both digital and traditional requirements.
is president and CEO of ThinPrint, a leading provider of print management software and services for businesses.