COVID-19 has presented a number of unprecedented challenges to organisations in every sector, however it has also opened doors of opportunity for print and IT vendors to innovate. PrintIT Reseller invited a panel of industry leaders to share their thoughts on business post-pandemic
PrintIT Reseller: What do you think business recovery will look like post-COVID-19?
Frank Hulshoff, Director Rent, Demo & Marketing, Flex IT Distribution:“Although some markets where Flex IT is active in have suffered, (such as the events industry) overall, we have been able to respond well to the market demands. We believe the economy itself will see a slow recovery. The main question for many markets will be how customer behaviour will be influenced in the long-term by this situation. As far as circular IT goes we feel very positive about the future even in an economic slowdown where people will be even more aware of the ROI benefits it brings.”
Steve Holmes, EMEA Regional Director ,PaperCut: “It will of course vary from country to country and sector to sector, with many variables playing a role in what recovery looks like for each one.
“Caution will probably be the watch-word for many; caution in post recovery plans, caution in getting staff safely back into the workplace, and caution when making purchasing decisions.
“Another factor is the state of the nation’s confidence. Once there are positive signs that processes are in place for bringing the virus under control – that track and trace is comprehensive and effective – we are hoping to see a resulting rise in business confidence. And with that, we then see the start of an economic recovery, albeit slowly.
“Of course, almost all businesses will have to change and adapt, whether it’s their overall business strategy, or how and where their staff work. For many companies, the pandemic has accelerated their digital transformation plans. This is probably an unexpected benefit of the pandemic, as digital brings with it the sort of agility and insights that enables business to act and respond quickly to the sort of rapid market changes that extreme events like a pandemic can trigger.
“It’s our belief that, once the business challenges presented by COVID-19 have been addressed, we can all start to embrace the possibilities presented by ‘Business-21’.”
Martin Randall, Sales and Marketing Director, Vision: “We are fortunate to have a large number of clients in sectors, for instance healthcare, that remain fully functional and in general we remain optimistic about the recovery of our market. That said we recognise and accept that there will be long-term impacts on our industry as a result mainly of the shift to the working from home model. In the medium term we are anticipating 85 per cent of people will return to the office, and volumes to reduce in line with this by 10-15 per cent overall. Uncertainty over how long COVID will be amongst us makes it difficult to predict any timescales for this recovery to fully take effect, all we can do is remain positive, focused, and of course continue to adapt.”
Phil Jones, Managing Director, Brother UK: “Even if we need to permanently re-think how the economy runs, how people work and where businesses are located, and while there’s no doubt that tough times are ahead, the Bank of England’s latest forecasts suggest things might not be as tough as we first thought, which is really welcome.
“If lockdowns become a feature of our everyday lives, then the economy may be a series of stop/starts. Let’s not forget Brexit either, which will also contribute to the economic situation. It will keep the economists busy, that’s for sure.”
Emma Davies-Carolan, Director of Marketing, Europe, ECI Solutions: “I would imagine businesses across all sectors including field service will be looking to strengthen their online capabilities during the recovery period, with home working providing an incredibly cost-effective and productive model for some. To do this successfully, cloud-based solutions are likely to become more and more common, providing reassurance that whenever required, no matter their location, employees can continue to be able to perform their responsibilities effectively.”
Phil Madders, Managing Director, PAE Business: “I think there will be further consolidation in the channel as the impact of the downturn of page volumes in the hospitality and tourist sectors bite. There will be fewer office printers sold in the short-term as organisations look at their output device fleet to see if it is fit for purpose and we are going to be in for a tough couple of years going forward.
“At PAE we are preparing ourselves to make sure we can support our customers long-term in what threatens to be a challenging time for all of us!”
Clive Hamilton, Managing Director, Pinnacle: “Tough question, which I don’t honestly believe anyone actually knows the answer to. All I can say, is that I feel that if we wait to look at the post-COVID recovery, business terrain will have a very different look and feel across the globe.
“It’s more like how do we adapt to working environments to cope and work alongside COVID. Think if businesses just get on with life in the most sensible, precautious and safest way ensuring all staff and clients are safe then we can all start trading with a level of the new normal. This will also drive the technology changes quicker for all of us in the digital world.”
Michael Field, Managing Director, Workflo Solutions: “The business community is resilient; this is not the first time we have collectively faced challenges. We must not allow anxiety to halt commercial activity. On the contrary, we need to engage in active trade quickly, passionately, and we must be wholly immersed in turning the tide of recession. I see an engaged economy, one where local services, and UK manufacturing, play a major part. Let’s invest in each other, and the skills which are in abundance across the country. What do I see post COVID-19; I see innovation, I see technology advancing and taking us to exciting places. And most importantly, I see success.”
Mike Barron, Managing Director, SYNAXON UK: “I am not sure anyone really knows. I believe that the workplace and working practices will be altered permanently as a result of the pandemic and that will mean a change in priorities and emphasis. At the risk of repeating myself, I expect to see a major shift towards cloud usage and managed services.
“For resellers and MSPs, there will be opportunities in handling migrations and then aggregating and managing cloud resources and hybrid infrastructures; further to that, there will be opportunities to manage connectivity, cybersecurity, back-up and business contingency and devices and accessories. Print is going to be a distinct opportunity within that and there will need to be some new services here because a lot of the print devices will be located within workers’ homes.
“The need for IT solutions certainly won’t diminish – in fact, with more people working from home most of the time, there will be an even greater dependency on technology and the services that enable users to stay available, engaged, responsive, productive and secure. Once end-user organisations have adjusted, reset their ways of working and their goals, I think we will see a strong recovery and even more investment with the emphasis firmly shifted to subscription and operational expenditure.
“I also think MSPs will start to become more important to their customers as they [the customers] start to realise the value that the MSP’s expert monitoring and support actually provides. Ultimately, this will lead to MSPs winning more business from IT resellers who have not moved with the times and are not delivering the required level of service.”
Nigel Allen, Marketing Director, ASL Group: “Although heavily affected, the fact that alongside the strong SME focus, we have a very strong education base at ASL is going to aid the recovery. We know that it is a government priority to get children back into schools (even if it does mean pubs closing again!). Therefore that sector will recover, coupled with the fact that there is more demand for services such as document management and touch free secure printing which will help those companies who are able to advise and sell.
“Both of these services have been around for a long time but we are seeing a rapid rise in adoption as the pandemic has really accelerated companies’ digitisation strategies. Ultimately it will be a long recovery and companies with resilience will survive as it is very hard to forecast a smooth recovery path due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and further potential outbreaks.”
James Pittick, Partner Channel Director, Canon UK: “Business recovery will be based on showing support for the hybrid office, where workers are more distributed than ever before. Being able to support this environment will be critical. It will also be important to have security at the core of your offering. With people working from home, the security perimeter has massively expanded, a strong cybersecurity offering is now absolutely essential to winning new business – trust is all important.
“We have been working with our partners for a long time, focusing on diversification and flexibility, so many of our partners are already on a journey, moving solely from print into the IT services world. Business recovery relies on an ability to manage this journey successfully, and to implement information management technologies and the cloud into product portfolios.”
Stuart Sykes, Managing Director, Sharp UK: “We know that all businesses value working with a partner that can bring innovative ideas to the table and deliver results, and this need will have only increased tenfold due to the impact of COVID-19. There will also be a shift towards businesses choosing to work with companies that can help them improve their workplaces, making them more flexible and efficient. At Sharp, that is exactly what we can achieve for our customers!”
Alpesh Unalkat, CEO, Aura: “We believe business recovery will be mixed post-COVID-19. Some organisations, dependent on their business sector, the maturity of their technology adoption and their business culture will recover quickly and adopt new working practices to recover and indeed thrive in the post-COVID world, whereas others will potentially struggle.
“Our own business has traded well throughout the pandemic with significant new business wins across EMEA in April, May, June and July, and we see that increasing further as some form of normality resumes. Furthermore, we are an acquisitive business and see more opportunity to consolidate in both the collaboration and managed print markets, something incumbent owners of high quality MPS businesses can benefit from and something we are well positioned to deliver.”
James Reed, Managing Director UK&I – Endpoint Solutions, Tech Data:
“We’ve seen sales accelerate in some areas while others have been held back, but we are seeing a return to something like normal levels of activity now. I think the recovery will be gradual. Most customer organisations are still reassessing how their own needs have changed and what that means in terms of their IT investment. As they do that, we are likely to see more of a shift towards cloud, collaborative tools, products that enable improved productivity for home workers, and security and services that will provide the necessary management and support for these new infrastructures.”