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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.

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