Michelle Ryder spoke to Tom Doyle, Managing Director, Copyrite Systems, to find out more about the firm’s sponsorship of the Educate Awards and how the business is changing direction from traditional revenue streams, and evolving to support customers in the new hybrid working world
Michelle Ryder (MR): You’re supporting the Educate Awards for the sixth year in a row. Tell me a bit more about your involvement and the business value-add.
Tom Doyle (TD): We have worked with schools and colleges for over 25 years, ensuring they have the best print solutions for their fast-paced environment. The sponsorship offers a perfect opportunity to build further brand awareness, increase our customer base and give back to the education sector.
We are delighted to be supporting the awards once again this year. Over the last six years, more than 500 schools, colleges, individuals and teams have been recognised through the Educate Awards. This event is a key date in the calendar for the education sector and we love coming together and celebrating with the schools and colleges on the night.
MR: The past 21 months has been a testing time for the print and IT sector, how’s business been for you? TD: I believe that the biggest challenges also present the biggest opportunities. For many dealers, page volumes are down year on year through office closures and furloughing of staff; installations and signing of new contracts have been delayed and some if not all sales teams are struggling to close deals virtually. COVID-19 has clearly influenced our hardware unit sales, clicks and margins. However, it has helped us to make more immediate decisions to change direction from our traditional revenue streams.
Work-from-home will become more long-term and as a result, several industry trends are gaining new momentum across the channel, becoming critical opportunities in the current landscape. With many companies still working remotely, we’re having
discussions with our customers which focus on their systems and workflows and how we can help bridge the gaps for their employees working from home. This means that we are moving more to presentations which are less about the device and which focus on workflows, independent of the MFP/copier.
The copier has been one of the most resilient products of our time and has survived the laser printer, email, the internet, and all sorts of digital revolutions. If there is an industry and company that knows how to diversify, realign and endure, it is ours.
MR: What has been the biggest impact of the pandemic and in what areas do you think future opportunity lies? TD: The copier channel was built around on-site technical service and devices installed at the office. The work-from- home users are directly counter to this environment and our support will need to adjust accordingly. That said, work- from-home has presented additional opportunities for us. When the lockdown started, everyone wanted a webcam to communicate and do their job, but they now need MFDs, printers and scanners to support their function. In addition, laptops and equipment which employees are using in their homes may not be as secure as the business purchasing them, requests for secure printing and scanning has increased.
Our customers are also asking us to help their remote workers move information into repositories, so they want us to help them connect to the cloud and be able to utilise cloud print management. They want to be able to print from their mobile devices, have simple document management and need to be able to do these things because it’s the way they worked in the office pre- pandemic. So there is heightened activity around collaborative technologies and the remote MFD/printer, has to be part of that as well.
Our consultants are also being asked to extend our services such as remote help desk support, which is needed more than ever as part of a deliverable for managed print services.
MR: How have you changed direction and adapted business strategy to exploit new opportunities?
TD: We have looked at how we can provide the same level of experience to someone working from home as if they were working in an office environment. Enabling staff to work productively from any location has resulted in many employers being underprepared for the realities of hybrid/work-from-home. Though the growth in at-home printing may not completely make up for the lower demand for print in offices, it still presents us with opportunities. We are therefore adapting our business strategies to give us the best opportunity to capture growth in new segments.
One area in particular is the greater adoption of A4 MFPs – shifting sales efforts towards selling an increased number of smaller-sized and decentralised A4 devices, to support the new remote workforce. This is a major change from traditional sales strategies to sell larger, more robust A3-sized copier MFPs that sell at higher prices, compared to A4 devices.
But a focus on A4 sales to create ‘worker-from-home’ bundles to include A4 desktop hardware/software and support at a discounted price, provides a customer-centric focus on supporting the lower-end market demand and gives us a diversion through new products and services aimed at the increasing work- from-home customer engagement.
For our customers/prospects that are seeking to enable a true business environment for their workers in the home, security within their business-level printer capabilities is a must-have. WFH environments are not the greatest areas of security. If someone wants to hack into somebody’s work environment, it’s become a lot easier now with people working from home. So, we are looking to either provide new devices which have the security capabilities built in, but also we are looking to upgrade those devices in the prospects’/customers’ current workplace, whether in the office or in their employees’ homes.
MR: How has remote working impacted the traditional MPS offer and indeed the vendor-partner relationship?
TD: Prior to COVID-19, maintaining managed print services and supporting our customers in the management of their print infrastructure, was our primary business model. Operating in business workplaces within cities and towns in our catchment area. However, the growth of work-from-home is making this value proposition more intense, as our customers want us to manage potentially hundreds of print devices across their now spread-out workforce.
Where we supported one or two floors in an office block servicing say 50 employees, we now must support the same number of employees working remotely across as many towns and villages.
Therefore, workload increases, meaning more engineers are required, more miles will be travelled and yet the print/copy volume to revenue/profit remains the same or in some instances, will be reduced within our customers’ traditional office copier locations.
We must continually look at how we re-architect and re-orchestrate our entire thinking in supporting more diverse copy, print and scan environments and let’s not forget that the workers at home will expect/demand the same level of support from us, as if they were in the office.
Our suppliers are also looking to re-evaluate their channel strategies. The question is will vendors want to reduce the number of partners they work with to pull out costs within their own organisations?
The risk is that traditional ‘copier’ vendors move even more aggressively to reinvent themselves as ‘IT’ companies and may look to reduce further their ‘partner’ numbers over the next two to three years. Decreasing marketing development funds, a lack of marketing resources and reduced/no leads from vendors also present challenges.
We need to see more collaboration and support from our suppliers to help us embrace and proactively provide a more hybrid WFH MPS strategy. As we strive to help our customers minimise the burden of purchase, installation, supplies replenishment and maintenance of their devices across their in-house and remote workforce, we need to implement a hybrid MPS offering securely, monitoring and servicing their devices across their business with a convenient subscription-type billing structure, which many customers are familiar with at a consumer level.
Vendors, therefore, need to provide us with more relevant and affordable ‘bundles’ of products, hardware/ software/supplies/parts, to help us focus and grow our business alongside and through this growing work-from-home society. In particular, more A4 devices with the same capabilities as A3 devices, at an affordable and realistic price point. This will not only help us to maintain a focused and relevant approach to our prospects and customers, but also help counteract the declines that are occurring in traditional office copier rooms.
It would be beneficial for us to get better access to and be able to collaborate/‘piggyback’ our vendors’ own established IT services and cloud print services, within subscription-type models. This will enable us to offer an even more robust service to our prospects and clients. Cloud print management will serve as a way for our customers to achieve increased flexibility and improve security with their home-based employees.
MR: As we return to a new normal, what are you most looking forward to?
TD: Getting out more amongst our customers at the front end as the COVID restrictions ease and open access returns. The UK workforce isn’t disappearing, it’s spreading out. Working and returning to ‘the old way’ won’t do as COVID- 19 has introduced new ways to work and new challenges. So I want to try to get out more and look at how we can move forward with new types of products, services and solutions, as changing the way we do things is the order of the day.