Friday, November 28, 2014

2014: The Year in Review - BORING.



Tis the season to be jolly and reflect on the past 12 months.  It is safe to say, technology in general expanded into more and more at an accelerating pace - Moore's Law on nano-bio-bot-steroids.

But the managed print services, copiers, printers and even managed services niche was, in a word, a mundane, tedious, dull, monotonous, repetitive, unrelieved, unvaried, unimaginative, uneventful period.

B-O-R-I-N-G.

Unlike, the calm before the storm of 2011 and certainly not in the same vein as the deep, cleansing breath we took in 2013(you remember the summer/fall of 2012, don't you?) this year didn't have the spunk, vim or vigor of previous trips around the sun.  In the world of living color, it could be considered taupe.

 Let's review, shall we? We shall:

2014 -

1.  Ink vs Toner - "Where is all the toner, anyway?"
HP revamped it's authorization process shedding up to two thirds of the business previously allowed to sell their toner through distribution.  At the same time, they are converting, in theory, their MIF from toner to ink devices.  Yet, supplies revenue drops.


As stated over and over, the move to ink has little to do with customer demand and more to do with supply revenue headwinds presented by the re-man/clone/filler folks. Prospects do not care if its toner or ink they're still aren't going to print.

2.  Color is NOT growing - "Seriously, black and white are colors, right?"
Our good friends from MWA and The Imaging Channel recently hosted a webinar, "Digital Transformation of the Office Technology Landscape" - Robert Palmer presented on a plethora of impactful subjects, including Office color.
Robert Palmer, The Imaging Channel


Robert Palmer, The Imaging Channel
He linked ink and color highlighting the 'lower hardware costs'.  The assumption is, and always has been, if we make the device really cheap, users will print more, increasing supplies margin.

This is no secret and is often referred to as the "razor and blade" model. All fine and good, unless nobody prints - consider blade sales in the month of Movember. What if men decided not to shave, ever again, or simply once a week?

One day, the OEMs will hand out printers for free.

3.  The Magical Mystical Quadrant - "Oh joy. We're on the same deck, same ship. Titanic or Lollipop?"

MPS as been packaged into a small, little box.  Managed Print Services, when truly customer focused, is the ignorer of Segment 1-4, destroyer of A3/A4/Color/Ink/Toner and the antithesis of OEMs.

They've known this from the beginning and to stay alive, they must:

  1. Invent reasons to print - office print is becoming less relevant, every day
  2. Make it easy and cheap to print from anywhere - mobile print is available, tablets strapped to devices and copiers connect to the Google-verse and A4's are going out like lukewarm pancakes, yet output continues to fall
  3. REDEFINE MANAGED PRINT SERVICES IN THEIR OWN LIKENESS - hence the magical-mystical-quadrant.  Once MPS is defined and accepted as a hardware-centric play, they all look the same, again, and all end up in the upper right



4.  HP is better together - "We're better together..."
We've been expecting this for years, maybe even decades. - One Yawn

5.  HP is better apart - "We're forming two, Fortune 50 companies..." - 
We've been expecting this for years, maybe even decades. - Two Yawns

6.  ONE shinning light - one beacon in this tepid land of despair; the 2014 Executive Summit, by MWAi.

Perhaps the summit escapes the fate of others by not being billed as an MPS event - or maybe the conference enjoyed a novel and fresh perception relative to the fatiguing occurrences in the realm. The content had little to do with managed print services, toner cartridges, auto-fulfillment, assessments, proposal generation, sales training, first copy out speeds or decorator checkbook covers.

That's why this get together worked, why as the end of 2014 visits us we can take solace in the fact that one entity, one event, balanced an industry.

Other than that - we yawn.




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Friday, November 21, 2014

"InterStellar" and The Printed Word


We just saw Interstellar. By far one of the best movies, let alone Sci-Fi movies, of the year - if you stretch your mind, you may consider it the thinking person's Guardians of the Galaxy.

There is balance in the universe.

Spoiler alert - sorta.

I could probably explain every scene I remember and NOT give away anything.  This is one of those movies that can't be spoiled.  I love viewing versions of future life, looking for the little details like how often the characters make copies or print.  It's a curse.

Perhaps it happens to a lot of people, we start seeing the same themes and images repeated in movies and TV shows - the older we get, the more often we see.

Interstellar, for all its original imagery and story-lines, paid homage to works of the past.

Here are a few:


Planet of the Apes - Charlton Heston version

The nose of the lifting body space craft can be seen poking out of water.  They crash land into a lake.

Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind -

Machines mystically return home, books fly off shelves and coordinates to a secret, government liar are revealed via morse code, leading our hero to the rings of Saturn.

2001 - A Space Odyssey -

Obvious reference as one of the robots discusses its 'sense of humor' setting.  The spinning ship and lights reflecting off of visors offers inescapable comparison.

For me, the master compare occurs when Cooper ejects and is alone in space.  Much like the ending scenes of Odyssey, man is alone.

The Perfect Storm -

Haven't seen a wave that big since Clooney and clan.

Batman & Inception -

Snow, rock and Ice.  Nolan loves those things.



Totally New Images -

Swinging seats in the Ranger spacecraft.  I don't know the exact functionality of a swing-chair cockpit - it all depends on Gravity.

Robot - fail.

I like the boxy, humorous robots except for one pivotal scene; when Cooper needs to get his craft spinning at the same rate as the out of control vessel, he recruits the robot, which in turn, extends an appendage to physically take hold of the stick.

No.  Like R2D2 on the Death Star, futuristic robots simply connect, digitally.  Hello, M2M folks.

References to print:

1.  A book at school.  It seems that missions to the moon are so not politically correct, "federally approved history books" explain the Apollo program never happened and the moon missions were all fake.  Another movie reference; Capricorn One, starring OJ Simpson.

Of course, Cooper's daughter brings in a pre-history-changing version and gets suspended for her efforts.  Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot, is not pleased with society or the evil education system, and explains how MRI machines are a direct result of those 'fictitious' trips to the moon.

2.  A Lab Book.  Notes are carefully jotted down by pencil into a common lab book.  A professor is also seen using a bank of chalk boards.

3.  Perhaps the best utilization of paper - explaining the wormhole.

In one scene, a scientist explains why the hole is a sphere by drawing on a slip of paper, bending it and sticking a pencil through.  It is a two dimensional circular hole.  In three dimensions, a circle represents what shape?

A sphere - physics lesson over, beer time.

Enjoy the movie.





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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Did ECi Just Hoodwink An Industry?


Describe for me your system for collecting data in MPS assessments.

Does it go something like this?
"The system comprises a local network including several printing devices provided with a diagnostic unit collecting various device working data’s and at least a connecting device connecting a plurality of printing devices,where by the connecting device is adapted for collecting data’s from a plurality of printing devices and for storing said data’s in a digital repository,where by said digital repository is in a form readable by a process or comprising instructions for treating at least some data’s of the digital repository."
If you were to draw it out, workflow, would it resemble this:


One last question - are you utilizing FM-Audit as your DCA?  If so, you're good, if not - do you think you might be in violation of a patent?

ECi has been awarded a patent for:

The “Status Monitoring System and Method” invention is in the field of data collection and digital repositories for printing and imaging devices. The method provides end users with the ability to click a link or download the application from a portable external storage device (USB key) and aggregate data such as meters, toner and ink levels that is collected from both network and local copiers and printers. The patent covers much of the technology found throughout today’s FMAudit suite of products, including Central, Onsite, WebAudit, and Agent."

Its probably nothing, just a way to keep anyone else from stealing FM-Audit's unique method of collecting printer data.  I'm sure intentions are pure and motivation is customer centric.

Time will tell.

Get the patent documentation, here.



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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Magic Quadrant: Reflection of MPS or Marketing Budgets?

"The New Matrix is here!  The New Matrix is here!"
So, yeah...

the Magical Matrix came out last month showing just about everybody - Xerox, Ricoh, Canon, Lexmark, HP, Konica - in the "Leaders" sector for Managed Print Services.

Kyocera and Toshiba end up as "Visionaries" - I guess an erasable copier can be considered visionary - and ARC looks to be the only "Niche Player".  I've always wondered if there is a correlation between the amount of money folks spend with Gartner and their placement in the upper right. Probably not.  Either way, the square looks skewed.

Reflect with me now and consider for a second the definition of managed print services:
"...The active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes..."
If I had "Greg's MPS Almanac", this is how I would stack the pile:

1.  Xerox - Next Generation MPS
2.  Ricoh - The New Way of WorkIntelligent.ly
3.  ARC
4.  Canon - Fragmented but becoming clear

5.  Lexmark - Verticals, F500, transactional
6.  HP - Who? Except in LA
7.  Konica - Why sell anything but copiers with landed margins like that!

See, There's This Thing Called MIF and Apparently, It Needs Scrubbing...

One of the strongest arguments in MPS is lowering cost through the reduction of the number of devices.(Optimization).  This single leverage point is difficult for an OEM to reconcile as long as there are plants building machines.

I'm not saying players won't shrink MIF - Global loves shrinking Ricoh's MIF; Ricoh and Canon exchange MIF as often as Clinton flip-flopped and HP is out there reducing her own MIF.(Something to do with Ink vs. Toner and what-not)

In this year's Mystical Matrix, everybody except one, operates manufacturing plants and the one player is presented in the lower left.

Not to me.

ARC is different. Specialized and tasked with REMOVING DEVICES FROM EVERYBODY'S MIF, they're about as close to MPS Purity as possible.

Check out the progression:





And the Point?

Millions of dollars are spent by purchasers every year based on who is placed where and I don't think the Mystical Matrix has an once of relevancy in MPS.  The fact that ARC is placed in a lower quadrant tells me that Gartner's definition orbits machines in the field or images captured/under contract.  Which is a losing argument not for the future.

The companies mentioned aren't at fault - HP has a good MPS program, Xerox's is better; Ricoh has a solid MPS program, Xerox's is better.  But the comparison is on a GLOBAL scale. How many of you are selling to Fortune 500?

If anything, the ranking shows how similar ALL the programs have become. They're painting with the same set of colors - or worse - only one.  It would be as if Van Gough painted Starry Night with a single color.


Blah.

We've gotten to the point where all MPS programs look, act, feel, and taste the same.  Where touting the number of collected awards is part of a value proposition . In a world that increasingly regards 'expert research' as rear-view-mirror forecasting, why do we listen?

"No, Really, What's Your Point, Greg."

In a past life, one of my value-props started with, "You know mister prospect, all devices are the same."  I did this for two reasons:

1.  Neutralize competitors selling speeds and feeds
2.  I could sell five different lines

The latest slew of awards and accolades proves my point - all machines are the same.  Here's the kicker, this isn't simply my, personal view - more than likely, your prospects think the same way.  They don't care about BLI or Gartner - they barely think about print - the care about how you empathize and help them solve problems.

Simple.

The best to be done with any of these studies is to ignore and move on.



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Monday, November 17, 2014

I Have Seen The Future of Our Business and it is #Samsung. No. No it isn't. What?

This is what is known as an "Adobe Upgrade"
Dateline, 2014

Do I make fun of the tablet 'duct taped' to the side of a copier?  Yes.

Do I think end users will do whatever they can to avoid standing in front of a copier? Yes.  Even if we attache Netflix or Clash of Clans?  Yes.

Did Tod Pike sell AGAINST A4 devices just four, short years ago?  Well, did Samsung profits just drop like a 1951 era MIG-15?(good lord, google it) Yes.

"Oh, Greg.  Who are you pissing off now?"

Samsung -

Here's the challenges I see with the new user interface:

Reason One - Nobody wants to spend more time in front of a copier.

In all my years of working with clients helping them determine requirements for print and content management, I have never had a client say to me, "I wish I could find another reason to stand in front of the copier."  Well, except for government and education, but let's not get political.

Reason Two - 'Droid isn't a great platform

But what else is Samsung going to use, Yosemite?

Reason Three - The visual stinks.

Honestly, the unit looks like an engineer velcro'd the tablet to the side of a copier.  IKON'a DocSend - now that looked cool.

Hold Your Venom!

I know there are folks ready to fire off a terse comment or email my way, please don't hit 'submit' just yet.  Here are my reasons we should recognize this move as powerful genius.

Tod Pike has been able to get two divisions within one of the largest technology manufacturer's in the world, to come together and bring a combined package to market - in what? Two years?

I see the future of our business with fewer silo's and faster innovation to market - SPEED.

Think about your world: How easy is it for you to get Sales and Service talking?  Right.

How long did HP 'think' about Edgeline before hitting the streets? HP 3D? 2016ish. What train wrecks occurred whenever IPG was inside a PSG account - with a dealer and VAR?

In some organizations, speed to market is measured in 20 quarter cycles.  Our traditional OEMs have one gear to innovation. S L O W.   In this case, it looks like Pike was able to jump the curve.

Maybe there is a back-story and I am giving too much credit, it doesn't matter because Tod isn't stopping here.  He's working with Technology United, integrating Forza AT THE MACHINE LEVEL which would be a gargantuan undertaking for many, but apparently not Tod.

From the outside, it looks logical for a manufacturer of copiers, tablets and phones, to integrate products into a single package.  An example would be Toshiba integrating nuclear reactors inside their erasable copier.  But that's not going to happen.

Remember when HP printers and computers went together like,"...rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong..." (props to Olivia Nutron Bomb).

In a time when MPS messaging gets garbled from the board room to the trenches, seeing a company slap one department on the side of another and bring a product to market, is both refreshing and significant.

Cheers to the process.

####  UPDATE 12/23/2014  ####

Tod Pike as decided to move on, leaving Samsung in early 2015.  What can be gleaned by this turn?

I am not sure.

I can tell you this, the 'droid-tablet-copier will not land more units and if the consolidation of divisions says anything, its that they're shrinking and focusing on equipment based, transactional selling.  Box moving.

Now...let me tell you about a Intellinetics and their 'little box of wonders..."

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Was the 2014 Executive Connection Summit "The Best Show Ever"? Really?



Well, well, well...40 years of evolution and look where we are today.  Scottsdale, AZ under the watchful gaze of one of the true gentlemen on the planet - Mike Stramaglio.  Mike and I first met at a Lyra show and have had many conversations around the sluggish acceptance of the 'connected world' by our industry.  Mike's world has always been about new technology, M2M, P2P and business engagements blooming into personal relationships.

So it is no surprise that MWAi rises as nexus for our next transformation as evidenced by the conference in Scottsdale.


The universal goal of the summit was to show the industry something new; a more advanced approach to the always changing economic climate and our business models.  The underlying motivation was to illuminate the benefits of Technology United and the integration of Forza with hardware platforms from Samsung, Okidata and Sharp.
Yeah, it was good. But...it could have been better and let me tell you why.
I'll start out by suggesting you read Patricia's account, here, Andy's summary, here, and Amy's report, here. They all nail the look and feel of the 2014, Executive Summit.

Hey, I gotta tell you, I didn't know what to expect. All I know is Mike could put a bunch of guys up there tossing cats back and forth it would still be a hit.

Fortunately, no Cat Jugglers.



My kind of group.
By the way, do you know what "MWAi" stands for?Mobile Workforce Automation Intelligence.  Unleashed Workers Unite!
It's Not CompTIA -

There I was, sitting in the mid to front row. When Intel goes on about chips here and chips there, I can't help but remember the "they're chipping cows" webinar of 2012.

CISCO starts espousing the internet of things, I am intrigued and remember presenting the Internet of Things two years ago.  This after SAP talks mobility, the cloud and something called 'in memory computing', which is where the mother of all algorithms will reside.


And when a seasoned managed services mentor gets up and tells us, "if you can do MPS, you can do managed services..."  my head nearly explodes - like in Scanners - the MPSA has evangelized this mantra for years.

I know, I know.  My frustration is simply a projection of my perceived shortcomings and insecurities.  Okay, I get it, move along.

Speaking of CISCO, Joseph Bradley put forth the best presentation on the connected world I have ever witnessed.

Ever.

He not only talked 'Star Trek' stuff, but integrated our corner of the world into his talk track, discussing how "...imaging devices and other business equipment are inherently included in  'things'  'people', 'process,' and 'data' - the four components of the Internet of Everything"

Technology titans like SAP, CISCO and Intel rarely come to our events - all three were there and delivered.

What About Us?

Sharp put in great words, Todd explained Samsung's position and future in the industry and Oki told us about being the first, second choice.  Not one sold the latest MFP, toner cartridge or drone on about product lines, Segment 2,3,4, TAM and the opportunities in color.  I did not drown in Powerpoint.

Great America sent the team and hustled through a apposite presentation.  Matt from Intellinetics and his cool box brought the show to end.

Why the show was good:

1.  Content was stellar, the best I've been witnessed in either the IT or Imaging realm.
2.  Off line conversations were above the fold - great people moving in the same direction, figuring it out as we go.
3.  I never felt I was being sold.

Why the show was great:

1.  Old skool dealers on the cutting edge - don't give me any guff about how Millennials are the only demo to embrace new tech
2.  The CISCO presentation - holy crap.  Nice touch on recognizing his fresh, days old, promotion to VP
3.  Intellinetics/Intel/Forza - the dark horse of the show.  Matt was last to present and probably had the biggest move in the industry, under his arm
4.  The House - The wine bar would have been enough.  The bourbon bar would have sufficed.  The whiskey tasting put many to shame.  The scallops rocked.  The service was five-star and what in the hell is a "Smoked Manhattan"?

Why the show wasn't the "best show ever:

1.  Jennifer wasn't there with me

Before you get all teary-eyed, Jennifer is a cutting edge, adamant early-adopter evangelist with a keen eye for how technology works in the enterprise.  She, like many of our friends and colleagues, understands technology is nothing without people, process and data.  Our friends are bleeding-edge, "trough of despair ignoring", benchmark making, ships on the beach burning, "jump the curve" types of business leaders.

I know they would have loved to have been there too...





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Monday, November 3, 2014

Big Data Business Intelligence

From imaging to content to the cloud to Big Data to Business Intelligence to Mobile Business Intelligence.

May 2012-

We're moving from marks on paper to the clouds, all the data is moving off the paper files.

But the data is just data, unusable.

In the old days, we would 'crunch' the numbers either manually or on a spreadsheet.

Today, there is an app for that and instead of the numbers getting crunched on paper, it's being presented on a screen.

Typewriters and impact printers - gone. Carbon paper, white-out - gone.

Add to that list, cubicles, office furniture and water coolers, uniform rental programs, IT departments, factory floors, inventory shelving, hi-lo's, truck docks, and pallets.

Then take away the roads, parking lots, air conditioning units and the tons of paper.

And all those useless meetings. Gone like a freight train. Gone.

How so?

The answer is in the palm of your eleven year old's hand...


It's this new thing called Business Intelligence (BI) and BI's up and coming younger brother, Mobile Business Intelligence (MBI).

What is mobile business intelligence?

Here's the short version:

Mobile business intelligence is a set of tools that allows data from multiple databases to be connected, sliced and diced and presented on your PADD, iPAD, Android or iPhone.

The data is live, sync'd and in the cloud.

Your information is represented in pretty, colorful dots, bars, and graphs on a single pane.

For a decade the "remote" or "mobile" workforce has referred to the corporate sales team.

Executive management was still chained to the machine: Mainframe, Mini, Micro, PC, Laptop, or Notebook.

The C-level's were tied to devices because that's how they kept in touch with corporate data (JD Edwards, SAP, etc); converting that data to information and the information into intelligence.  Business intelligence, is why they got paid the big bucks and the corner office with all the trappings.


Enter MBI.

Today, not only can the executives open and send email, read magazines, and check spreadsheets they can look at live inventory levels, orders entered, web traffic and conversions - from any spot on the planet, even at 37,000 feet.

Without teams of number-crunchers, accountants, middle managers, or MBA's.

But wait, there is so much more.

Big data. "Big" like we in the soon-to-be-defunct imagining industry have never seen.

Big as in every single page that has been generated from every single device ever sold. Big as in every single book, magazine, newspaper, blog, website, status, invoice, check, financial report, inventory sheet, delivery receipt and email ever generated - BI taps into that and mobile BI let's me do it from the beach.

In Bali.

Don't think this only affects the imagining/copying/printing function - no, this refelects the changes in everything.

Because the growth of Big Data is not going to rely on humans entering the data - machines will talk to machines on the intake side of the process and machines will talk to machines during the data-crunch stages - ultimately presenting an intelligent and relevant representation to a person.

The human.  Yes, we're still part of the process, we've just shifted the 'grunt' work to the machines in the cloud, while we toil away on the beach.