The MPS landscape has never stood still. It is in a constant state of evolution. But no one could have foreseen the extent to which COVID-19 would disrupt the market and in the process our personal and professional lives too. Here, Kevin McNally, UK Sales Director, Asolvi shares his thoughts on MPS trends for 2021
COVID-19 has forced us to revisit some basic principles. How much time do we and our clients spend in the office? How much time should we commit to visiting customers on their own premises? How can we and our clients cope with fewer team members if they’re either ill or unable to get to work due to local, regional or national lockdowns?
Like most parts of the economy, the MPS sector is based on interactions and relationships that have been forged over many years. We press palms. We shake hands. We go out for dinner. We connect. But 2020 has forced us to change. We have had to distance ourselves. So, how do we strengthen relationships with our clients when we can’t meet up? How do we make it easier for them to succeed when we can’t explain our new ideas face-to-face? How do we tell them that we’re evolving in ways that will help them continue to thrive?
Given all this uncertainty, we thought it’s an opportune time to look at a few key trends to ground our thinking, help us keep our heads clear and get us through these next few tough months.
You don’t need to look much further than the uptake of home working to see how COVID-19 has impacted our professional lives. Many offices are now working remotely. This has had a significant impact on the traditional A3 click and inevitably provides a challenge. But it also offers an opportunity for traditional dealers.
Having spoken recently to several customers and prospects, the control of consumables is critical. Do customers let their employees purchase ink from a supermarket or an online retailer with no control of how this is used, or do they engage with their already trusted MPS partner to control both consumables and print? Remote working has also meant those people using cloud or software as a service (SaaS) applications have been able to continue business as usual. The ability to connect from anywhere with an internet connection has made remote working a reality.
How should businesses streamline and automate their back-office processes – doing more with less? Since COVID-19 hit, we have seen many MPS businesses adopt our solutions at a much earlier stage of their business journey than was traditionally the case. Today’s dealers are looking to have as little manual intervention as possible. This could mean implementing a DCA (Data Collection Agent) to monitor equipment remotely or to flag consumables orders and machine failures or to seamlessly integrate this data.
At Asolvi, we work with the majority of the primary leading European DCA providers to ensure our customers can design their own best back-office ecosystem. Integration is key to automation. We provide a comprehensive suite of APIs to allow this to happen in a straightforward and cost-effective way. For example, not only do we support off-the-shelf integration to the leading DCAs at the beginning of the process, but we also seamlessly integrate to the leading finance packages.
Security is important on many levels, not least of which is a desire on the part of many of our clients to free themselves from unnecessary time- and resource-consuming activities so that they can concentrate on what they do best. The rise of cloud computing and SaaS solutions such as Vantage Online has enabled many businesses to leverage their software supplier’s vast knowledge of security and data centres.
In the past, having to spend internal or outsourced time to maintain in-house servers was expensive and generally fraught with issues. These included installing the latest patches and ensuring back-up resilience. A distributed workforce model makes this challenging if using traditional client/server applications. But it can be simplified and become more seamless with native cloud or SaaS applications.
Outsourced service delivery model
Many Asolvi customers utilise distributor automation which enables seamless API integration. But will more MPS providers look to external service providers to allow them to control the peaks and troughs, or in some instances will they enable them to focus solely on the sale of equipment and services? At Asolvi, we are seeing several businesses preparing to enter this space to provide a full service, including back-office and invoicing support for the numerous new-start companies that are beginning to appear within the market.
Workplace technology providers
We know that most MPS dealers leverage the excellent relationships they have with their customers to sell additional services such as IT, AV and telephony but has COVID-19 made dealers think further outside the box?
We have seen the rise of selling temperature monitoring and PPE, but could this go further? The days of the single solution provider are almost certainly over, and the adage that it is easier to sell something additional to an existing client than find a new one has never been truer. Just as the MPS and copy/print dealer needs to diversify, we at Asolvi intend to play our part in supporting that by ensuring that our solutions provide the features and functions to keep the delivery of these new solutions and services.
With the rise of COVID-19, all businesses are looking at margins, and to do this, they need data. We build all of our solutions to allow meaningful and straightforward data to be displayed on-screen in dashboards and extracted or integrated into other systems.
Business intelligence is essential to enable rapid business decisions, but predictive analytics is also a reality. From contract, machine and site profitability to predictive failure rates or consumable replenishment timescales. These are all tools available to allow the dealer to be proactive rather than reactive.
2020 has been a year of uncertainty for everyone, and here at Asolvi, we believe that partnerships are built on understanding and flexibility. We have seen many customers ask for more assistance in getting the best return on the investment using our service management and meter billing solutions. We have also seen the rise of earlier onboarding of start-up businesses, and we offer a range of solutions to align the value to the business with the cost. We genuinely believe that if we are a successful part of the businesses journey, we will maintain that relationship for many years to come.