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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Managed Print Services in 2012: The Year the VAR's come calling...

Is it too early to write about next year? No, it isn't.

The Death of The Copier calling out the obvious:

2012 will be the year of the VAR.

More specifically:

The year the VARs try to learn meter reads to billing...
The year the VARs try to sell MpS like every other managed service...
The year the VARs make all the mistakes we did, five years ago...

2012 the year we lose the 'p'..
2012 the year the little fish consumes the big fish...MpS devours MS...

Oh my...

I don't need a crystal ball to see what's coming next in MpS. The VARs are coming and software is leading the way. Not their SharePoint or Documentum or Mobility applications. I'm not referring to Windows upgrades, software patches or warranty tracking...I am referring to their dispatch, CRM, ticket generating, T/M billing, RMM infrastructure software, that's what.

Let's start From the Beginning...Stay with me...

To define "VAR" - Value Added Reseller.

"...In the computer and other industries, a VAR (value-added reseller) is a company that takes an existing product, adds its own "value" usually in the form of a specific application for the product.(for example, a special computer application), and resells it as a new product or "package."

For example, a VAR might take an operating system such as IBM's UNIX services and, adding its own proprietary UNIX application designed for architects, resell the package to architectural firms. Depending on sales and installation requirements, the VAR could choose whether or not to identify OS/390 as part of the package..." - credit here.

When I first got into technology, Computer Dealers typically sold hardware/networking while Value Added Resellers sold the same equipment, but focused on the applications like accounting, construction estimating, manufacturing, etc. This software operated on the hardware; the hardware was a commodity; brand names didn't mean all that much.  Sound familiar?

The VARs back then were very customer facing and more specialized at the application level - not simply the infrastructure or networking.

As we moved through the age of the computer dealer, application VARs remained small, yet viable, selling into their respective verticals.

And then Networking became a 'value add'. Then procurement services became a 'value add'. This progressed until simply attaching an asset tag and shipping label became 'value add'.

Instead of a MicroAge, Inacomp, or ComputerLand on every corner the surviving players coagulated into large 'integrators' strictly built for B2B.

Because this new breed of reseller, not to be confused with a dealer, was more hardware centric, they didn't sell accounting software,  EDM, or office applications.  Sure, they had professional services.  But these services were built around and into the hardware, the infrastructure, ie asset tags, imaging, delivery services, installation, configuration, inventory control, and procurement management.  The engineers designed network, storage, power, and communication systems.

Cool stuff, for sure and all infrastructure.

Think of it like this. The folks who first designed televisions, broadcast equipment and camera's;  those folks didn't write the scripts, tell the stories or create anything new.  Do you see my point?

Today, the current technology providers are a mere shadow of the original VARs, having little vertical or application driven interest - they move boxes. They move boxes very well. They move a good amount of boxes B2B.  These boxes may be filled with network switches, laptops, storage, PC's, monitors, or tablets - but they are still boxes.

Boxes and VARs
And gosh,  the OEM's love them.

There's the rub.  Hardware margins have gone for the 20's to single digit. These guys went from thriving to surviving then to profiting from back-end rebates.

For some, the Value they add is little more than asset management, procurement "Imaging" laptops and managing 'customer owned inventory'.  The value ends as the unit leaves the docks.

That is until the margins on hardware came back down to Earth.  Just like all the rest of us, the traditional  VARs are looking for repeatable revenue streams at higher margins.

Enter MpS within an MSP(Managed Service Provider)

Managed Services can be anything you want it to be.  From help desk, network monitoring, to Managed print services.  It looks attractive, has killer margins and slips nicely into the VARs' customer needs portfolio.

To date,  RMM software sees all the network connected devices; storage, PC's, monitors, servers, workstations, laptops, switches.  But they really haven't cared enough about output devices - go figure.

Remember, these guys typically hold printers in disdain shifting over to a more amicable stance, relative to printers will require letting go the animosity and the successes of the past.

How do I know the VARs are coming?

Because the number of Phase 4, managed services infrastructure software packages who now see printers is increasing, that's how.  From Connectwise "working" with Xerox PagePack to LabTech opening up to the printer MIB to Agiliant offering outsourced IT and Autoask integrating PagePack 3.0 into invoicing,  the writing is on the wall.

It's worse than we think, it usually is.  These systems, on paper, will smoke all of our meter reading software packages, all our DCAs.

I ain't kidding.  Can PrintSolv re-cycle an Edgeline?  Can "X"-Audit push out ROM upgrades?  Can either of them see a CISCO router go down or monitor warranties on PCs?

"No, Greg, they can not."

What if they could?  What if all our systems, from PrintAudit, PrintFleet, Miracom, PREO, FM Audit, AssetDB, C6, PagePack, Print Audit, ROI, and all the rest could integrate asset and warranty management, monitor our customers' networks, storage and desktops?

Wouldn't that be something?  If we on this side of the world, the imaging side, were looking into their backyard, recognizing a group of folks who don't sell, but take orders really well, would we be salivating?

Yes.  So why DON'T our software people look at that IT world and start adding capabilities?

Why? No, really...WHY NOT?

Announcement after announcement are bubbling up expressing how so n so's IT software is adding MpS to their software - and where are we?

EAutomate merges plunging deeper into our dying niche.

PrintFleet adds...What?  HelpDesk, for workstations, laptops and unified communication?  No.

PrintAudit and FM Audit are pitching BeMod, that's great, but still, how about adding end-user behavior data points that include more than just print?  Or how about mapping printers AND PC's?

In the end, it won't matter. The IT propeller-heads are turning on to all the MIBs, integrating print monitoring with switches and servers.

But we know, don't we?  We know it isn't as easy as loading a piece of software, don't we?  They see an open field green with opportunity.  And they will come.  But as that ever elusive 65% margin wiggles and squirms, they will try harder, they will grasp and tighten...
The more they tighten their grip, the more systems will slip through their fingers. The opportunities will slip as 50% of them fail. I wonder. When we witness their stumbling and ultimate fall, will we finally recognize in ourselves...If you can make it in MpS, you can make it anywhere.

Suit up...

Check out this CompTIA thing...

Check out this good article at TheImagingChannel...

Click to email me.

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