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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#9 & #10 Managed Print Services Truth: Be the Ruler. "Stand or Fall"

9. Be the ruler

This is simple: Comparing yourself to others is a standard approach, but I suggest you look inside before looking to others. They’re simply guidelines; the only comparison that really matters is internal. Gartner, IDC, Canon, Ricoh, HP, Xerox, Toshiba, Konica Minolta, Sharp, OKI Data, Kyocera, Lexmark, IBM, Cisco, Apple — they all have their rules. With few exceptions, their rules are not serving us very well. Don’t ignore their musings; just be open and dubious. Make your rules, Your Rules. And then live by them.

10. Stand or fall

This is the big one. The above recommendations are simply that: suggestions. I’ve seen dealerships, OEMs and general business models over the past 24 years grow, stumble, recover and fade. I’ve watched IBM transform and Compaq assimilated. I was the first generation of VARs born in the 1980s and destroyed in the 1990s. I’ve helped dealerships grow and evolve and watched others crash, burn and be born again under a new moniker.

Change is eternal, transformation unavoidable. And like the Matrix, this has all happened before. Right now, the wolf is at our door. We are simply collateral in the big shift from slow, paper-based transfer of knowledge to instantaneous, screen-based modes of communication. While digital content is set to grow 18 times over, print is dying.

Now is the time to make a stand, to burn the ships at the shore or dust off that exit strategy you designed. If you look at the rules and don’t see a happy ending, get out. Save yourself. Give your employees the opportunity to grow beyond your little dealership. But if you do decide to stay and circle the wagons, get your rules set, and then ride with them.

Stand or Fall.

So ends our journey into 10 separate aspects and sides of the MpS ecosystem.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Managed print Services Truth #7 & #8 - Be Defiant, Be Basic "Thinking Out Loud"

Two defining qualities of any cutting edge, evangelist of change - what once was MpS - is Defiance of the status quo and the ability to cover the basics

7. Be defiant

Test everything every day. Your processes can always be better, and your costs reduced. Take a page out of Six Sigma or any one of the hundreds of business books, scale it down, and apply the lessons to your everyday business process. Make quarterly reviews mean something internally. And if you ever hear the phrase, “This is how we always do it,” refer back to that Lyra chart.

Transformation is continuous, and your improvement should be too. The number of imaging providers will decrease by half or more. Copiers are not what they used to be. Be ready for anything by challenging everything. MPS is bigger than toner and service, so you need to be ready to shift and move at the drop of a hat. What was done in the past simply does not apply today, so challenge the existing.

8. Be basic

Think about the days when you knew nothing about copiers or toner. Remember how it was to make it up as you went — how you demonstrated over-jammed originals, around faulty color and through spilled toner? Call up the days when there were no rules in toner — or copier — sales. What did you have? A phone, the Yellow Pages, Rolodex, and some ideas? A pager? What the heck is a pager? How did you survive?

I hate to say it, but get some of the grind work done; that means calls and marketing — in the trenches. Because like never before in history, we — providers and prospects — are on the same page. The field is level. It comes down to two people making something happen — a basic relationship built on solid intent.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Managed print Services Truth #5 & #6 - Be a Leader, Be Open

Titles don't make leaders.  Cutting your own trail doesn't make you a leader - but you sure won't be a follower.

5. Be a leader

If you’re employed at a dealership that promotes MPS but the guy at the top doesn’t know the difference between remote monitoring and remote machine management, quit. It’s time for executive management and ownership to climb down off the ivory tower and get dirty. The good ones will; the leaders already have.

If you are ownership, get out and explain to your team how you’re going to move the company forward, and then do it — every day. Reach out into the trenches, deliver equipment, make sales presentations and take service calls.

If you’re in sales, put together your plan for success and present it to your fellow team members on Monday morning. Don’t ask your manager if you can; tell him that you are. If you get push-back, quit.

Now is the time — if you decide to stay in this industry — to ride out the storm. Let it all hang out. It won’t be easy; there will be doubters and naysayers. Stay the course. If the system is gamed against you, get out.

Leadership comes from all levels, and vision leads to profit. It’s not the other way around.

6. Be open

Educate yourself about everything other than print. You probably know more than you need to about copying. What about telephony and tablets? What about asset management and PC support? Rack versus blades? Would you be surprised to find out that some customers who utilize managed services are happy to simply receive a phone call telling them that one of their servers is broken? A phone call.

Do you know how naive you sound when you say you’re in MNS versus managed services? What’s your level of comfort with RMM or the difference between copier service SLAs and managed services SLAs? Why are you compensating copier service differently than MPS engagements? Plug into some new LinkedIn groups or subscribe to print magazines from outside the industry. Tweet, for goodness’ sake. Be open to new ideas. Get to know whatever it is you need to know.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

#3 & #4 Managed Print Services Truths: Be a Partner, Be Lean "Come With Me Now"

Continuing our journey into the 10 Truths of MPS we look now to partnerships and overhead.

3. Be a partner

The tough times are making everybody re-evaluate their position in the ecosystem, and the best way to survive is to gather together with like-minded people. Partnerships open up your services portfolio; good partnerships bring with them even more connections and synergy. Isolation leads to desperation. Partner with your clients, toner provider(s), OEMs and fellow employees. If HP can work with third-party toner suppliers, why can’t you partner with a managed services provider? Or better yet, how hard can it be to become a tablet reseller? Today, it is all about partnerships and teams. Build a team that includes players from all over — from network infrastructure experts, software application specialists, property managers, bankers and shop owners. Full press your personal network and choose those you deem worthy.

4. Be lean

Tough decisions are coming, if they haven’t already. The economy is making a rebound unlike any other time in history, and the recovery will not include a spike in manufacturing jobs or employment. Look to reduce your overhead.

Do you really require a demo floor? Really? No, really? It may look nice, but ... really? Is it a stipulation of your dealer agreement? If so, throw that Lyra chart in front of them and push back. Nobody holds inventory anymore, so why are you? How tight are you on trunk stock and warranty exchanges? How many service calls have you made over the past 12 months on your fleet of laser/cartridge-based devices compared to your traditional copiers? Do you need so many technicians? Do you need three dispatchers? How many people in accounting?

I am not recommending you fire everyone in sight. I am recommending you look at the costs that could be reduced or shifted over to some of your partners and possibly move traditional infrastructure talent into your sales team.

For example, in my practice, I did not want to stock toner, take orders or coordinate the shipment of and maintain an inventory of toner cartridges. I did not want to — nor did I believe I should have to — bear the overhead cost. I evaluated every single fulfillment program out at the time from front to back. I looked at their process and the infrastructure the value-add provided and talked with the people on the ground.

I made the shift and demanded much from my new, integral partner — from delivery and customer relations to report generation. When I found somebody I could work with, that company became a full-fledged member of my team. It worked and reduced my overhead immensely. Lean, agile, clear.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Talk Managed Services - "Lost Stars"

November 2011.

This article is over three years old but the concepts and ideas prevail.  Not simply for the new people in the industry, but for all of us.  Gearing toward the IT world seems to be a universal attempt that never ends.  We keep going through the same scenario, altering and adjusting as we go. It isn't insanity, it's evolution.

Would you like to sell more MPS? Start talking “Managed Services” not “Managed Print Services.”

Thinking the magic is in the “P” deserves a deeper look. Like it or not, the service we are offering for printing—the marking of paper with toner—is simply a symptom of our client's business process, an afterthought.

The “P” is an unsustainable aspect of the ecosystem dwindling with each passing day. Managed services are growing. Think I’m wrong? Take a look at the latest news from the IT side of the world.

Look up companies like ConnectWise, LabTech, Level Platforms—companies that provide client support and remote monitoring products to VARs and managed service providers. For them, managed-print services are the buzz, that Hot New Thing, just like it was for us—four years ago.

When companies like these finally see recurring revenue can be had at a 42 percent margin, how long before they add toner delivery and on-site support to their standard service level agreements?

And what will happen when they figure out, for instance, how to craft a 36-month, 90-day deferred, FMV (Fair Market Value)/dollar out, with a buy-out leasing deal—working with more than Cisco Capital Finance and Hewlett-Packard Financial Services?

They’ve heard our racket—living in a world of run rates, volume discounts, and five-point margins; MPS looks pretty good from their vantage point.

The battle lines are drawn. MPS is out of the corporate backwaters. All the noise we’ve made over here, in our small pond, is attracting the attention of some pretty big players. Remember the phrase, “…own the network, own the account…?”

These guys invented, installed, and support the network.

True, they loathe printers and copiers, recoiling at the thought of talking with “copier people.” They underestimate us.

Our edge is—or at least it should be—in vision, flexibility, and deal crafting.

Big thing is they see us coming.

Friday, December 26, 2014

10 Timeless Managed Print Services Truths - "I Wanna Get Better"

This piece first appeared in December of 2014, on The Imaging Channel.

After five years of managed print services, one would imagine a standard set of MPS rules would rise out of the fog. (I know, you’ve been doing MPS for 25,000 years) The debate over what exactly MPS stands for — not the acronym, but the vision and real value of managed print services - rages on.

Do you remember the great device-to-technician-ratio discussion of 2008?

Copier dealers had well-established ideas developed and honed for decades, but they didn’t apply in MPS. There are a number of “rules” associated with toner yields as well, but have they made you money or did they cost the last MPS manager his job? It is easier to see guidelines take shape rather than hard rules. Benchmarks are almost the same: MPS benchmarks are difficult to establish, and best practices simply hold us accountable to somebody else's model.

Four years later, at the 2012 Lyra Imaging Symposium, vendor scorecards showed lower profits and a majority of the industry OEMs have been utilizing the same rules since 1979. Today, they find themselves 41 percent behind Q4 2007 numbers. Stunning, isn’t it? What’s it called when one plays by the same rules expecting different results?

Roll in the evolution of less print: From 1991 to 2001, printing paper shipments increased 27 percent, but from 2000 to 2009, they decreased 27 percent; it is not that difficult to see.

MPS contributes to shrinking print and copy volumes, which in turn reduces the prospects’ need to buy OEM toner, parts, and machines, resulting in fewer printed pages, fewer printers, fewer copiers, and fewer virgin cores.

This has been and remains the biggest Catch-22 with MPS — the one issue OEMs can’t seem to get their minds around quickly enough: MPS contributes to the reduction of machines in the field, yet every single OEM has an MPS program in hopes of reducing the other OEMs’ machines in the field. Suicidal? No. Madness? Indeed. Transformative? Absolutely.

MPS moves fast

Time is accelerating as well. Yesterday’s enterprise was about print, copy, 60-month leases, CPC contracts, locking customers in, flexing, selling more capabilities for the same price, auto-renewals and built-in obsolescence — and that was less than 36 months ago.

Back in 2013, World Expo presented managed print services to a hungry audience. We were re-exposed to the MPS basics of toner, service, remote monitoring, and cost-per-image billing. Back then, discussing VARs and "managed network services" was fresh and new.

MnS is nothing more than managed services.

Technology evolves faster than we comprehend. It took a decade for everyone in America to have a car, a phone, and indoor plumbing. In only 12 months, back in 2010, Apple sold 14.8 million tablets and then matched that entire year in one quarter on the way to 40 million units in 2011 — which already seems a decade ago.

Everything converges and accelerates into the future at a dizzying pace.

There is barely enough time to breathe, let alone establish a set of rules. The good news is there are natural laws that — when recognized — can help us keep our bearings as we boldly move through this unexplored space.

Consider the following a few suggested guideposts along your MPS journey and business transformation.

1. Be aware
2. Be adaptable
3. Be a partner
4. Be lean
5. Be a leader
6. Be open
7. Be defiant
8. Be basic
9. Be the ruler

10. Stand or fall

1. Be aware

The first rule is simple: Know who you are, your world, and your place in it. Self-awareness is the foundation of all change. For example, if you are strong when it comes to delivering toner, use this as a foundation to grow on.

When you look at your client base and see a vertical, use that information as an additive to your business personality and value proposition. Take a deep dive and perform an assessment of your entire business operation.

Are you flexible, open, and adaptable enough to look at how you have been running your business and then change it?

Caution is recommended here; there are just a few full-scale business assessments in our industry. “Full-scale” refers to every facet of your business: finance, sales, inventory, infrastructure, partnerships — everything. This is different than the standard “How are you selling?” and “How does your service desk work?” evaluations.

This transformation from copiers to MPS to managed services is a magnifying glass. If your current systems are flawed, adding a new process will turn cracks into crevasses.

Also, get to know your customer’s environment outside of printing. Look at the workflows, recognizing choke points and other areas for improvement from a business perspective — not a toner, services, or print perspective.
  • Are they looking to move to IP phones or tablets? 
  • Check to see if they are outsourcing their IT support today and how much they pay. 
  • Do they feel the money is well-spent? 
  • Do your customers use Twitter? 
  • Do they write or read blogs? 
  • Be aware of your world and the world around you. Open your eyes.
2. Be adaptable

The days of churn and burn are nearly at an end; this option is a dead end, but that doesn’t mean doom and gloom. The opportunities and directions are endless, but flexibility in all phases is necessary to survive and thrive. Compensation, for instance, has been reasonably stable over the decades.

Can you look at paying for performance differently? Are you flexible, open, and adaptable enough to look at how you have been running your business and then change it? For instance, if you are under the traditional toner supply model with notifications coming directly to you, consider and be open to a different model. If you see more documents heading toward screens instead of paper, would you consider reselling or partnering with a tablet's OEM? Adapt or die.

Join us over the coming weeks as we review the remaining "Timeless Truths".  Oh, the fun we will have.

MBA's will lose you money & karma is for those who wait..."Chocolate"

"Shark Tank" is the latest "walk in a room, be berated and leave" TV show.  Think, The Apprentice, The Voice, and The Gong Show all rolled up into 47 minutes of thrill packed demonstrations.

Entrepreneurs (everybody is one now days) pitch their idea to the 'sharks', asking for funding in exchange for ownership.  If the sharks like what they see, they may bid against each other in an effort to get a piece of the possible up side.  If they don't like a proposition, they drop out.

One of the sharks, Barbara Corcoran, was interviewed by LinkedIn revealing some interesting ideas about intuition and partnering.  Barbara built a real estate empire in New York, employing 1400 folks before selling her company for about $60 million.  Today, she advises and runs up and coming businesses.

She knows what she does best and where her weaknesses lie - when hiring or partnering, she seeks out those who have qualities she does not and utilizes her intuition on all decisions. She doesn't actively seek out MBA's - she's lost money with them in the past.
"She didn’t wait for karma to come around and bless her at some later point; she got mad and she fought for what she wanted now."
I equate her attitude toward MBA's similar to my view about benchmarks.  Why utilize other people's  academic musings.  The world changes so quickly, book knowledge or user surveys cannot keep up.

Sure, standard mechanisms of accounting and finance apply; there are plenty of talented people excel in the science of 'double-entry'.  When the environment is stable, meandering or static comparing today to yesterday in order to see tomorrow, is prudent.

But it ain't that way anymore, is it?  Turbulence is everywhere.  Looking aft only tells you where you've been and listening to people who measure tomorrow from yesterday is a siren call.

I follow her example and advice: let others live the normal.  Believe in what you feel as much as what you think - most of all, hear yourself.

What are you doing in your business?  Are you adding up the numbers, working harder to get more done?  Are your wheels spinning?

If you could alter anything, what would your gut tell you to change?

How the New World of Work is Innovating through Representation


When the American colonists rejected the rule of monarchy, much of the world considered the rebellion doomed to fail. After all, the colonies were young, possessed a small army, and lived under an experimental governing structure. The disobedient rabble—the grassroots—would fall into line once the British military might come to bear. 

Well, we all know how it ended, don’t we? And it all started with those considered to be “at the bottom.”

Fast forward 250 years, and while the discussions of today’s new world of work revolve around information mobility rather than taxation without representation, this idea of grassroots movements driving change is still embedded in our culture.

Today, individuals feel comfortable reaching out directly to C-suite executives of major companies or organizing and managing global conversations and events via social media platforms. In today’s transformative digital world, people have the same access to the same information as everyone else around them – anywhere, anytime. It’s an even playing field of knowledge and accessibility that did not exist at any prior point in our history.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas...2014

Yes, I know, its WHAM!

This real old skool funny music stuff cracks me up.

The song came out in 1986: 24-25 years ago.

Right about the time most of the experts were just getting into MPS - right?


Merry Christmas -

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Words Of Power: The Difference Between Product and Service

When I first saw this video, I immediately recognized the difference between selling product and providing a service.  I saw it in the lady who changed his value proposition from
"I am blind. Please help." 
"It's a beautiful day and I can't see it."
A simple variance.  Not a lie and if anything, the purest of content; without spin and heavy in perspective.

How are you presenting your value proposition?  Are you true to you - at a deeper level - or are you simply forwarding, "We sell managed print services"?

Click to email me.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Xerox Sells IT Outsourcing

During a Friday announcement, French IT company Atos SE revealed it is purchasing Xerox's IT outsourcing business in a deal reportedly valued at $1.05 billion in cash.

From an October 2009 statement regarding the ACS acquisition:
"...Xerox executives say the IT outsourcing portion of the ACS buy is integral to expanding the company's BPO offerings. "The lines between document outsourcing, BPO and ITO are blurring," says Paul Hartley, Xerox's vice president of corporate business strategy. "In fact, a robust IT infrastructure is paramount if it is to serve as the backbone of a BPO operation."
“Atos is a company with whom we’ve had a long relationship in several capacities. Selling the ITO business to Atos gives our clients around the globe an expanded, world-class suite of IT capabilities that complement Xerox’s industry leading BPO and document outsourcing solutions.” said Ursula Burns, Xerox’s chairman and CEO. “This transaction is another step in our ongoing portfolio management strategy and increases our focus on those areas where we can deliver the most value and expertise to our clients”.
What does this mean?

For the trenches, not much.  In a larger sense, Xerox is now able to focus on document based BPO and Document Outsourcing.  Xerox ITO services is was part of the ACS acquisition back in 2009:

The deal looks to be good for both Xerox and Atos; opening the US IT outsourcing market to Atos and allowing Xerox to collaborate with Atos and present Document BPO services to current clients.

Click to email me.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Beginning of Managed Print Services Media: 2010'ish(?)

When you hear people say things like, "We've been promoting managed print services since the very beginning..." or "Our web-services are the best because we come out of your industry..." or even "We've been there, we've sold MPS and know what you need in lead generation, keyword utilization, and PPC programs. We've been in social media from the very beginning..." remember this video.

That's Ken Stuart and me on the banks of the San Antonio, right after a thrill-packed day of MPS pioneers at Photizo II.   The attendees were a collection of "cutting edge" MPS'rs and a great time was had by all.
"I blog because I like to read what I blog..." - GW
Ken and I were there, guess who wasn't.  The crusty old guys who today consider themselves oracles of marketing.  The self-proclaimed experts of all things "managed" - from printers, users, workflow to IT services (nobody but the uninitiated refer to managed services as "managed network services") are those who mocked MPS back in 2009.

This was then. This is now.
  • How is your web presence going today?  
  • Do you have a solid ROI?  
  • Are you transforming your business away from copiers?  
  • Are you that bold?
  • Then why is your presence the same as everybody else?
I've put together a constellation of luminaries primarily focused on your success.  We've sold toner, copiers, paper, printers, MPS, MS, service, EDM, and fax servers.  

Just like you, we've struggled with EAutomate, incorrect meter readings, and billing, OEM quotas, and tardy service technicians.  We understand you don't have the time to understand or worry if your web team can translate your value proposition into a solid web presence.

Behold and be regaled:

Cool links:


Click to email me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things I Love About the Copier Industry - 2014

One night at the bar, while attending the MWAi Executive Summit, I was in a rather animated discussion about women in the industry and your MPSA.

a remarkable aspect of the copier industry is how some men regard some women.

During the conversation when I mentioned out loud, "The Managed Print Services Association", one of the more elderly industry participants replied, "Managed Print Services Assholes" as he walked away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Photizo Speaks: Voice Controlled Print? Oh, good grief...

I'm one of their biggest fans, rooting all the way
I just listened to Photizo's, "9 Predictions for 2015" webinar:

#1.  Photizo just came off their European event
#2.  Interesting
#3.  HP and Canon have been breaking up ever since HP cancelled all those orders in 2009
#4.  Agreed and not only ink.
#5.  What the WHAT?
#6.  Well, they've got clients with NDA's right?  Name, names!  I will - EPSON.
#7.  We've helped end-users design and implement self-managed MPS for a while now.  They use applications like PrinterLogic and Cirrato.  They don't want Printaudit, Printsolv or people who want to sell them more printers/copiers.
#8.  Return?
#9.  Nail has been struck on the head.  Yes.

The take-aways:

The BTA channel will take a hit, finding more consolidation or outright attrition as more and more end-users bypass the salesie, sales people and go direct to the subscription model.  The power is now in the hands of the client as they will are empowered to reduce the number of printers, copiers and toner cartridges they purchase while transitioning into a paperless world.

All without us.

Photizo is out on a limb, but when you think about it, they've always been. Is there anywhere else they should be?


Does Good Workflow Get Rid of Machines?


I've told this story a hundred times.

Heck, I may have even written about it a time or two.

You see, long ago, when the MpS ecosystem was young, wild and free, I had this client who engaged with us for a 36-month MpS project. The client realized how equipment-heavy it had become and was convinced we could reduce the overall number of devices from 1,100.

The MpS engagement included optimizing the existing output fleet by right-sizing or replacing copiers, upgrading or replacing MFPs and SFPs, supplying remote meter reads and automatic fulfillment, and providing proactive deskside service delivery and proactive service (our average response time was positively impacted by many negative times; our technician arrived before a service call was placed but just after machine failure).

Our stated goals included streamlining the procurement process, standardizing on a platform, reducing costs and improving the end user's perception of the IT department by enhancing the overall IT experience. We designed a process that would support these goals by analyzing all quantitative data, documenting and improving existing workflows whenever appropriate.

So here's the deal: The assessment was staged over 12 months and gauged around end-user complaints or expiring copier leases. The process was the same for every department:

* Detect the existing printers and copiers with a DCA

* Conduct on-site interviews

* Match end-user requirements to an established standard device list

* Recommend

* Install

* Sys-admin training

On average, we would conduct three to five departmental assessments we would conduct three to five departmental assessments each month. The number of employees per department could be as few as six or as many as 200. There was a plethora of existing equipment, including single-function devices, copiers, MFPs, scanners and fax machines.

As you can imagine, this three-year engagement was chock-full of experiences and stories. The one I wish to share with you today is about one of the more memorable departments: the accounts payable department.

The accounting department

It doesn't matter how large an organization is: All MpS assessments should start in the accounting department. Think about it. Most output is generated in the accounting department. Incoming communications usually end up in or flow through the accounting group, including bills from the value chain, invoices to customers, internal financial reports, sales orders, purchase orders, inventory, payroll … on and on.

This particular accounting department utilized three copiers, four single-function printers and two MICR printers for payroll – all pretty standard.

The interview process started in the familiar manner but took a slight turn when we started looking at the accounts payable process. The supervisor explained that all the payees were distributed alphabetically in three sections among three A/P clerks. The unusual issue to me was that nobody wanted any invoices starting with “X.”

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because nobody wants to go through all the Xerox invoices. They are all too confusing.”

"Okay, tell me about that,” I said. And off we went.

By focusing on this specific aspect of the overall check-cutting process and asking folks to describe how they do what it is they do, we discovered many things:

* All bills were received directly in accounts payable, and therefore …

* Identical machines had multiple usage rates.

* Both lease and overage billing were received in accounts payable, and the billed department never saw what the company was being billed for usage.

* The entire fleet consisted of 450 Xerox devices; each month, for Xerox alone, A/P processed 900 invoices.

* There was no departmental oversight on usage charges.

Looking at this process, we can see a couple of solutions that could be proposed:

* EDM/digital workflow — software and professional services ($15,000 to $18,000)

* Scan/capture — software and machines ($18,000 to $25,000)

* Microsoft SharePoint — design, software, implementation and professionals services ($45,000 to $85,000)

Workflow matters

In the end, none of the above solutions were viable, but workflow analysis revealed many bottlenecks and gaps in the current manual processes. Additionally, this discovery process was repeated nearly 100 times over the life of the engagement, building more and more trust each time.

Even though I had Captaris, Kofax and even SharePoint expertise at hand or on staff, we didn't execute any of those solutions. The quickest way to increase efficiency in this particular case was to establish an "approvable variance" on overage invoices. If the amount billed was above the established threshold, the invoice was immediately forwarded by email to the corresponding department head for review. This was the simple answer.

Still, did this little excursion result in an increase in monthly revenue? Yes.

Were we able to install new machines? Yes. Did we advance our position relative to every competitor? Yes — in fact, so much so that we ended up having no competition. Nobody from the outside could touch us.

The account went on to purchase dozens of devices and tens of thousands of images. Its fleet of copiers was reduced from 1,100 devices to 800, and we continued to secure IT infrastructure and services revenue. The monthly MPS revenue started at a mere $550 per month before accelerating to more than $13,000 per month.

Our response time was typically in the negative time frame because our technician would often show up to service an error between the time an end user became aware of the error and placed the call initiating the service call. Our workflow was designed around exceeding all expectations.

The lesson of workflow

Selling workflow solutions is much more than software and installation. Understanding your clients’ issues and challenges is always a great way to qualify your solution and enhance your position as a true advisor and partner. But knowing how to maneuver within your clients' workflow puts you even farther ahead.

This level of integration is not for every single account or every opportunity, so you'll need to hone your qualification tools beyond pain and ability to pay. But once you do, your hardware and service revenue should grow beyond simple equipment sales.

Keep at it, keep learning and good luck.

Managed print Services and Managed Services

Originally post, 9/2013

Too consider one better than the other is to miss the point completely.

Reminiscent of the way some consider MpS and copier service agreements as separate, it seems most regard managed (IT) services and managed print services as two, unique arguments.

Along the same line, this leads me to ponder:

Why isn't Big Data, simply Data?
When will virtual reality, become reality?

Why is social media not simply media?
Why isn't Cloud computing, just computing and mobil print, simply...print?

Smartphone or phone? Hardcopy or copy?  Things that make you go, "hmmmm".

If you think about it, all of our offerings are silo'd in some manner.

Monitoring software like PrintFleet is separated from monitoring software from Preton which is separated from N-Able.  Copiers are separated from printers.  IT services are separated from business services.  BPO is different than BPM - "basic" MpS is apart from "advanced" MpS....on and on.

But here is the challenge: Do our prospects and clients think like this?

Today, in the field, Jennifer and I run into these degrees of separation at nearly every turn and we can tell you this: customers don't want to be in the middle of our separation anxieties.

Some of your prospects are telling us they do not understand why their MSP doesn't monitor printers. Indeed, more than a few MSPs won't allow a DCA installation, on 'their network'.  What the heck is THAT ? You DO NOT monitor printers and will "not allow" any 'data collection' software on your clients' network?   Time to get a new managed services provider.

It's the old story - clients want one throat to choke (I dislike that phrase). They want one invoice and even more, they want one person to talk with regarding their business challenges and answers technology may provide.  

They don't care about your quota, the logo on your 'thing', your month end, volume discounts or how many years you've been in the business.  You know this.

So, do you have one invoice for both copier and printer usage?  Are you calling all this "MPS"?

Great.  But when are you going to start referring to your entire offering as "Managed Services" instead of managed print...manage network...or managed IT services?

It's all the same to the ones who really count - your clients.


Monday, December 8, 2014

H2T: Humanizing Healthcare Technology


"Humanizing Healthcare Technology"(H2T) is a rallying call from a minority of professionals in the healthcare niche.  "Kindred spirits" evangelizing the transformation of healthcare into a more 'human' approach - sounds odd until you hear the stories.  Don't doctors deliver bad news in a compassionate manner, empathize with each patient and provide conversations filled with hope all the time?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

014: Are Assessments Real?

Originally posted, 3/14

" want to stick your USB, in my what? I don't know where that thing has been!"

"Oh, okay, so I simply download a zip file, unzip and follow the installation procedure. Then off it goes, traipsing through my firewalls and jumping networks, reporting up to your cloud.  Do I have that right?"

"Yes, I will install your DCA.  And yes, I will indulge you by reviewing your proposal. I have just a few questions:"

"How long will you need to interview my end users?  Oh, you don't interview anybody?  But you said you know the workflow."

"How long will you be observing the way we do business?  Oh, you don't look at our existing processes?  But you said you were going to compare current and future states."

"How much will my costs relate to printing decrease year, over year, over, year? Oh, you can't guess?  But you said you conduct quarterly reviews.  What are we going to discuss during these meetings?" 

Why shouldn’t you allow your print/copier vendor to do assessments? Because their assessments are not for you, the customer - their assessments are for them, the providers.

Having performed assessments, in one fashion or another, from the network, storage, workflow, print, data, and systems analysis perspectives for over 25 years,  we’ve seen an awful lot of environments and know clients (end users, not providers) who roll their eyes as soon as they hear the word “assessment” - it's pavlovian.

How many times do those on the provider side conduct assessments with the intent to sell more stuff, gain more ’share of wallet’, and increase margin? Often.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that - but let us be very clear: intent is everything and the true intent is sustainable - performing assessments to land more equipment is short-cycled (30 days) and disingenuous.


But here are some common styles of assessments:

Assessments coming from mal-intent - 

Once a vendor knows your toner volume, they know what flexibility they have in terms of profit.  Everybody has the opportunity to turn a profit, it's part and parcel of this free enterprise experiment.  But to the "Trojan Horse" one's way into a prospect's kingdom is malevolent.

Shallow assessments - 

Again, when a vendor simply counts "clicks" and the number of devices over a certain age, hunting for upgrades and new placements, they do you a disservice and contribute to the not-so-stellar reputation the niche seems to wallow. (see toner pirate and flexing leases)

I've implemented software to look at the fleet in as deep a fashion as possible, contributing to a holistic approach to managed services, not automatically generating a stock proposal or price sheet.

Assessments that are nothing more than a sales tool - 

In the olden days, I evangelized the data collection agent (DCA) as a qualification tool: if a prospect was unwilling to install my DCA, he or she was not qualified to be one of my clients - I moved on. But that was because I was looking beyond the toner and service delivery and could not afford to invest time into a ‘transactional’ relationship - I was looking to move across the WS Relationship Spectrum ©, becoming a 'partner' not a vendor.

Today, getting a piece of software installed or inquiring about the number of toner cartridges you purchase each month is like reading your dates diary the night before Prom. Wait for it...wait...there!

Bottom line, just as it was in 2009, the idea of an ‘assessment’ is not flawed, camouflaging simple sales techniques as an ‘impartial assessment of your print environment is insidious.

Beware, dear reader, there be skullduggery about.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Purchasing Managed print Services from a copier dealer? Three Things To Consider in Your Agreement

There was a time in my life when I provided managed print services to customers ranging in size from as few as 10 devices to as many as 1,100.  The MpS practice was one of five different practices within a VAR.  Managed print services was not a focus - indeed, some of my engagements generated revenue that was a fraction of the rebates generated on one transaction from HP or CISCO deals.

But after crashing and burning two times, ultimately, we became profitable, cohesive and well run, if I do say so myself.

Along the way, I added years of experience to an already varied past and volumes of seemingly disparate knowledge.  Today, working with end-users more than providers, I find many of the techniques I once thought gone and forgotten, implemented with abandon.

Here's a list of three such tactics to look out for when buying managed print services.  There are many more we'll address as the days flow through 2014.
  1. Price escalations - why would you agree to allow anyone to arbitrarily raise your price?
  2. No 30 day out - things change and real managed print services programs are designed to manage the naturally occurring reduction in the number of devices and prints.  A thirty day out is not much to demand.
  3. Capital investments tied to a service agreement - Never combine a service agreement with a hardware lease/rental. 
Why are these considerations typical? Just for fun, let's look at these five points from the providers vantage point, shall we?  What does a provider expect:
  1. Price escalations - This doesn't require the firing of too many neurons.  Bid a low cost per page and get the margin back in 12 months, after the price increase.
  2. 30 day out - Again, it isn't too much of a strain to see why a provider would want to "lock you into an extended agreement.  You represent a guaranteed revenue stream
  3. Capital investments tied to a service agreement - The mother of all facts is this: you can never get out of a lease early, without paying for the remainder of term. Yes, there are provisions for government-type accounts, but for commercial businesses, getting out of any lease is near impossible. So if I, as a provider, can attach or 'roll' service charges into a equipment lease, that stream is guaranteed for the life of the lease.  No matter what.
Not every MpS practitioner utilizes these techniques and is some cases, any one of the above stipulations may make sense.  The point is to see it coming.

My MpS practice was successful and sustainable - we didn't use entrapment, we implemented real managed print services at times under a Master Service Agreement that could include RMM and Unified Communications (UC) - that was in 2009.

Not "managed toner delivery" or "CPI invoicing on printers" or simply "managed print".  

MpS Purity.  Demand it.

This is not a plant stand.  It is an optimized device from an MpS engagement.

This is Why MSPs (and their customers) Don't Like MpS

Originally posted, 3/2014

A while back  I was with an MSP/IT specialist at one of our clients.  He knew us as the "printing consultants" hired to help them with their print policy, cost reduction processes, etc., and was our guide for the day.  For him, we did not fit into the salesperson model and he was unaware of our copier heritage - in other words, he was candid and open about his feelings around printers and copiers - from the IT side of the yard.

Well, as with most conversations, we started talking about service calls, toner delivery, managing user behavior, and his observations of the decreasing need for print.

I ask if he's ever looked at managed print services.

Without hesitation, he groaned,

"Everybody is trying to force MPS into the MSP environment.  The guys from Kaseya and Connectwise are always pushing MpS and to tell you the truth, the biggest reason we don't want to get into MpS is the pushy salespeople.  We don't conduct business like that with our clients.  We're not salesy like those copier guys and our clients don't want to be sold."

Okay then.

Know this, we did not coax him into a response nor did we agree or disagree until he was done venting.  He confirmed printing and printers really aren't all that important or carry that much interest in the eyes of most IT people - nobody likes copiers - and besides, "they are all going away anyway."


Look at it a different way:  this client is currently working with two major OEMs - there are thousands of devices and hundreds of sku's.   Both OEMs have formidable managed print services offerings and vertical industry solutions: the account generates millions of dollars in revenue for both, yet the customer holds each in only the slightest regard.

"...and our clients don't like to be sold..."

The imaging industry is known for its sales prowess.  For whatever it's worth, copier folks are defter at managing the selling cycle than managing services.  The ability to bury cost in the lease, lock the customer, increase the share of wallet and automatically increase pricing has been part and parcel of the industry's selling playbook. Thousands of copier zombies inhabit the landscape regurgitating the "same cost, better, faster, newer technology" value proposition.

Yet given enough time, one's strengths evolve into weaknesses: IBM was the mightiest server manufacturer at one time, no longer; Microsoft determined the world's desktop computing experience, not anymore; HP's printer division was the cash cow, now it's an anchor.

So perhaps this is where we are today.  The talents of yesterday align more with the needs of our masters, and less with those of our clients.  You are paid to move a box, NOT solve a problem.  Customers want solutions to their problems.

Unfortunately, customers understand copiers don't solve all that many business problems anymore if they ever did.

Think about that...

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Perfect Example of Terrible Managed Print Services Content -

Social Media Campaign
As I travel the back roads of internet marketing, recording experiences shared by copier dealers, MPS providers and the like, many things become clear:

What are "SEO Experts" -
Content is the art, SEO is relevant until the algorithm is changed.  The mystery of getting to the top of google results is just that - a mystery.  Sure, everybody has a plan and can show you how to get to the top, but is there an ROI?

There are more flim-flam artists in internet marketing than there are toner-pirates in our realm -
Business owners don't know the first thing about web-marketing because we spend our time working OEM rebate, warranty programs and employee issues.  Sometimes you sell.

Either way, getting to know what you need to know about your web-presence is a full time job and trusting those who have the answers is daunting.

All of our websites suck - 
Visually, most of the websites LOOK fine - indeed, some are downright attractive.  But beyond the pretty wrappers, a lot of websites are glorified product brochures with hollow content.

Your web-presence should not be a glorified yellow pages advertisement or deep dive, company resume.

Those are pretty broad observations, so let me boil it down to the latest affront.

I found this in my twit-stream, "Managed Print Services" - see the two screen-caps - the SM expert floods the stream with pictures of ...well.. alluring women.  I know a thing or two about utilizing this imagery, beyond that, the link reveals a most egregious example of click-bait and revolting content.

I don't claim to be a perfect writer, speller or grammar-ist, I know I've forgotten a comma or two and misspelled plenty, but never have I written such drivel - nor have I read a narrative so void.

Submitted for your review, the tip of the iceberg - incoherent content:

"Many organizations are coming up today. 

Many of them are facing problems when it comes to production of many paper copies. The machines are quite expensive, it is also expensive to have a technical team for the services. Many managers are hence opting to outsource the MPS services. You would save a lot of money if engaged with the right services providers. If you would like a professional team, you need to have the contacts of name redacted to protect the innocent.

There are things that you need to consider getting the right service providers since many people have joined the industry, and most of them are providing poor overhaul..."

"Poor Overhaul"?  What in God's, green, Earth is THAT?

This type of content is more prevalent than you think - don't let your social media/website/marketing company do this to you.

Better yet, call us -  I've put together a group of experts, Bright Stars, of internet marketing/sales and transformation and we provide a total solution portfolio of services:

  • WebCasts
  • Reputation Management
  • Website Monitoring and Security
  • PodCasts
  • Video
  • Salesforce and engagement management
  • ...and much, much more...

The sad thing is, somebody, somewhere is paying for this content.

Click to email me. 

Contact Me

Greg Walters, Incorporated