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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

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.

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Greg Walters, Incorporated