A complete office solution
Hertfordshire-based The Digital Office was established 30 years ago, Managing Director Richard Kirby spoke to PrintIT Reseller about the company’s ethos and how it has evolved its offer to provide clients with a complete office solution
Three decades ago, Kirby was concerned that the industry was gathering a bad reputation and knew he wanted to work within a company that had integrity, one which looked after customers and provided solutions that they needed, backed up with first-class service. “This was particularly relevant to major accounts – you’ve got to look after the customer – you can’t get things wrong,” he said, adding: “I realised that the only way to ensure this was to do my own thing – hence the birth of The Digital Office(TDO).”
Kirby said that the other area that was key to get right was on the service side. “My business partner and I didn’t want the risk associated with managing service in-house – a move that would also apply restrictions in terms of our ability to service customers nationwide,” he explained. “We wanted stability and continuity of service, so we approached Ricoh and said we wanted them to do all of our servicing. That basically meant that we could tap into their nationwide network of engineers to fulfil the supply, installation and servicing functions for our clients. We were the frst partner to have this arrangement with Ricoh.”
Most importantly, according to Kirby, this arrangement enabled TDO to sit on the customers’ side of the table. “We own the contract, supply at the right price and ensure they receive the best levels of service support. The client always deals with us and we manage the first line service call. It’s worked very well,” he said.
Kirby contends that the GDPR has highlighted a number of potential problems in terms of data security and that TDO has taken steps to help clients mitigate risk. “The hard disk drive on older printers and MFPs are a weak link, with more and more used devices being shipped abroad, we recognised the danger that their value was not in the device itself, but more so in the data held on the HDD.”
He added: “This is why we introduced a service whereby we clean our clients’ hard drives. Our service contracts now provide clients with the ability to have their hard drives shredded or all of the data wiped at end-of-life. Alternatively we can upgrade their old machines to new models which automatically wipe the data on hard drives. We also offer them a regular once a year clean-up, we swap out the hard drive with an equivalent machine hard drive, retain soft data such as settings, and take the original one away to erase the data.”
A level playing field Despite the industry cleaning up its act, Kirby argues that there are still businesses who have disputes with suppliers over copier contracts. “We are often asked for advice by legal firms representing clients who are challenging the costs of some contracts and have on numerous occasions been called as an expert witness in legal disputes over invoices and contracts,” he said.
He continued: “The main issue is the practice of setting devices to click per development as opposed per copy – in essence this means a single colour printout counts as four clicks – quadruple the cost per copy the business thinks it is paying as per the contract. The crux of this is that it can make other providers – quoting a cpp based on one click per colour print-out look expensive. We want to compete on a level playing field and not lose out on new business to companies charging on development as opposed to true click.”
Over and above the provision of print and printer-related services, TDO provides a holistic solution to bigger clients when they are in the process of thinking they need to move or relocate. TDO has partnerships with a number of complementary office supply businesses including moving companies, telephony and furniture suppliers.
“One of the most interesting things when planning an office fit-out, ensuring it’s completed in the right timescale for a client is that the process doesn’t start early enough,” Kirby said. “Typically the end date i.e. move in date is confirmed, but in many cases this gets pushed back when you don’t sort out getting say the data cabling or phone service set-up far enough in advance. For example, BT needs four months’ notice to deliver a data connection.”
TDO works on a nine month timescale and sets out a plan outlining what needs to be done week by week, month by month. However, Kirby counsels that the first thing organisations need to look at is the reason behind the move. “We ask clients are you moving because you’ve run out of space or, because you’ve filled up your space with paper?” he explained. “Normally what they say is they’ve been told they need x amount of space, but we dig deeper to ascertain if the extra space is needed to accommodate people or to store paper – the truth is often, they don’t know.”
TDO helps its customers optimise their space in many cases, they don’t have to move and when they do, they can be assured that the space they source is what they need. “We look at how hey could perform business better, we analyse paperwork – what needs to be shredded and what needs to be batch scanned and then advise on how they can digitise paper on an ongoing basis to prevent future build-up,” Kirby said.
A reseller of Alaris scanners, TDO also works with a company in Scotland who offer a back scanning service for clients. “They simply take all the paper away, digitise it and then securely shred all hard copy documents.”
TDO also utilises a Ricoh solution which analyses and understands how people work and how space and resources are used and offers clients a complete solution designed to turn valuable office areas into efficiently managed environments that actively boost productivity.
Ricoh’s Meeting Room Services can help transform the way businesses use meeting spaces. To help improve room usage efficiency, monitoring software assesses how the spaces are being used and there’s also ID card technology available to manage access to rooms. For organisational efficiency, TDO can also provide software that lets users easily book meeting rooms from their calendar system, distribute invitations and book conference lines, parking and lunch for visitors.
As an example of how the company enables customers to optimise their space, Kirby said that TDO helped one school create room to support its goal to move from standalone machines to a central print room model. “The biggest stumbling block was a lack of space. Our analysis revealed a whopping 10,000 sq. ft. was taken up storing paperwork dating back to 1926. We digitised that to create more classroom capacity as well as space to build a dedicated print room on the ground floor.”
He continued: “The other issue for the school was how to staff the new print room. We resolved that too, our partner Ricoh supplied a print room manager for the first three months. This ensured not only the efficient running of the service, but also that any potential teething problems were resolved and that the facility was managed properly. We helped select the candidate and visited on-site to ensure that staff and students enjoyed continuity of service for the first term.”
A lifestyle company
TDO has an annual turnover circa £1m. “We haven’t grown exponentially, because that wasn’t our primary goal. I wanted to look after my major account clients. We made a conscious decision not to build a big dealership, make lots of money then sell off the business,” Kirby explained, adding: “It’s a lifestyle company, a friendly family-style business with six people. We don’t need engineers, we’ve got 1,500 Ricoh engineers and that’s enabled us to keep our overheads in terms of salaries, parts, inventory, transport etc. under control. We do what we best and that’s to look after our accounts and customers,” he said in conclusion.