Many resellers are well advanced in the evolution from hardware supplier to solutions and services provider. In this month’s vox pop, PITR asks the panel about making this transition and specifically about the growing
importance of mobility and BYOD.
How successful have you been in making the transition from hardware to solutions?
Sam Elphick, Sales Manager, Lex Business Equipment Ltd: “Making the transition from traditional hardware sales to promoting and selling solutions and software was quite a big step for us as a company. As a traditional office equipment reseller, solutions sales opened up a new door, not just for our sales team but also for our service technicians.
“The most important thing was to make our customers aware of the fact that we can offer more than just the equipment, and that we can in fact improve efficiency within their businesses and automate processes that would usually be quite laborious.”
Andrew Jones, Sales Director, 1st Office Equipment: “We have carefully introduced solutions with appropriate training to match the sales teams’ requirements. This has made the transition both acceptable to the sales team and, more importantly, relatively pain-free for the end user to implement.”
Alpesh Unalkat,Managing Director, Managed Print Services, Capita Document & Information Services: “Capita was an early adopter in making the transition from hardware sales to true solutions, beginning this approach in the mid-nineties (as Right Document Solutions). Our success in this field comes from close and consultative relationships with clients. We identify how their businesses work and design a bespoke print solution that meets their business requirements and drives efficiency and productivity. This incorporates, but is not limited to, hardware, which becomes an ‘enabler’ rather than the solution itself.”
Gary Downey, Group Marketing Director, Balreed: “We have always positioned our managed services as delivering a stable infrastructure onto which solutions that improve control and workflow should be built. So
it’s always been a natural one-two combination, but we have noticed an increased adoption rate from buyers in recent years.”
Julian Stafford, Managing Director,Midshire Business Systems Northern: “We had to make the transition from hardware to solutions as the technology developed, so our customers are enabled to get the best out of their multifunctional devices. We employ solutions specialists and have also launched full-blown IT services, so that’s helped improve our whole offering as a business and service provider. We are very pleased with our success so far; we have sold far more machines because of our solution and IT strategy and we expect this trend to continue and gather pace over the next few years.”
Mark Smyth, Operations Director, Vision: “Vision has enjoyed significant success with Managed Printing Solutions, with some incredible, large wins in the public and private sector. However, we have experienced reluctance from clients to embrace more SaaS-based products and applications, resulting in a slower transition in some cases. We have continued to develop this key area of our business.”
What proportion of your business revenue is now generated through the supply of solutions and services as opposed to hardware sales, and what do you predict for the future?
Sam Elphick: “As a relative newcomer to the world of solutions sales, we are working hard on increasing our revenue. However, on mobile print alone, we are receiving a continuous flow of enquiries. I can only predict that in the future this is going to grow exponentially, especially with the constant flow of new technologies and software
solutions that really make the MFD the hub of the office.”
Andrew Jones: “Currently solution sales account for approximately 35% of total revenues, but we predict that over the next three years this figure will increase to 80%. And we have budgets in place that reflect that growth.”
Alpesh Unalkat: “More than 95% of our revenue is generated through the supply of solutions and services. We see this increasing in the future, especially with the changing nature of office environments and remote working. Print solutions also have to continue to develop so that they fit within that world. Capita is well positioned as an expert to offer clients true solutions, as opposed to hardware alone.”
Gary Downey: “In numbers terms, somewhere between 10% and 33% of all sales incorporate a solution alongside the hardware. But this doesn’t really reflect the importance that solutions may have played in securing that sale, or that a secondary solutions-only phase may follow at a later date. In this age of connectivity, integration and flexibility, the importance of solutions can only increase.”
Julian Stafford: “Solutions make up roughly 20% of our revenue and this is only going to grow over the next five years. If the levels of growth we have seen as an organisation continue, it could grow to nearer 40%.”
Mark Smyth: “All sales start with a minimum of a Managed Printing Solution, normally as a result of a physical or electronic audit through Vision’s Remote Fleet Management Application (VRFM). We then aim to build on and expand the services offered. The real measure of success is the ongoing client development and adding more solutions and services. Hardware does make up part of the solution and always will, especially as hardware manufacturers remain manufacturers!”
How important is mobility and creating a BYOD strategy to your customers and how are you working with them to achieve their goals?
Sam Elphick: “I would say 2015 is most definitely the year of mobile print. We have seen massive interest in this area amongst our customer base. There is no better feeling than working closely with a customer, outlining the issues that they have at present and then solving them. Mobile printing solutions can solve so many office headaches, from providing the ability to print directly from an iPad or iPhone, to uploading documents remotely and releasing them to print the next day. It’s an important part of the future office.”
Andrew Jones: “BYOD is without doubt one of the fastest moving areas. For us, the first priority when engaging in exploratory conversations with any new business client is to establish their mobile print requirements. From this conversation we will determine whether they require mobile print for client or guest devices and if visibility and cost control is necessary.”
Alpesh Unalkat: “Mobility is increasingly important due to the changing nature of the workplace and workforce and recent advancements in technology. Increasing numbers of staff travel between offices, work from home, ‘hot desk’ and work on the go, so the traditional office model is no longer the only option for workers.
Mobile working has created demand for flexible print solutions that adapt to meet these business requirements, including BYOD and ‘follow me’ printing. We work closely with our clients to understand what their goals are by carrying out thorough consultation and business reviews before suggesting and providing suitable solutions.”
Gary Downey: “Mobility is definitely a key topic and, together with entry-level print management and accountability, is the most in-demand functionality buyers are purchasing after hardware. A flexible approach that can be integrated into a managed services platform is what we find success with.”
Julian Stafford: “This is becoming a growing requirement for our customers. But then again, every customer has a different requirement and all our solutions are bespoke to that customer. Whether it’s the sale of
hardware or an IT solution, we work closely with all our clients to make sure their needs are met and that the solutions we provide are absolute best-fit for their organisation.”
Mark Smyth: “We are now really starting to see an increase in BYOD, particularly where mobile printing is concerned, and clients are developing their own policies that allow email and other applications. More corporates are reluctant to permit their use and provide a policy. Our business partner Samsung has developed a strong mobility proposition with convergence of technologies across a number of different products and this is opening up endless opportunities with applications that can be easily deployed.”
What technologies have you adopted to help customers embrace a mobile future?
Sam Elphick: “We offer UTAX and Develop devices to our customers and both of these brands offer mobile print options.
Apple recently assisted the industry massively by updating their AirPrint supported devices. With this update, you can print directly from the Apple device rather than through a separate app which slows down the whole printing process.”
Andrew Jones: “We are supporting all of the technologies most prevalent in our marketplace from Apple AirPrint to print management software.”
Alpesh Unalkat: “We have a range of leading technologies to support clients. Not being affiliated to just one specific manufacturer or software developer puts Capita in the unique position of being able to fit a tailored ‘best of breed’ solution for each of our clients.”
Gary Downey: “As well as offering solutions provided by manufacturers of hardware, we have developed our own solution called Balreed Zapp. This is a trademarked offering unique to us that we can tailor to different environments.”
Julian Stafford: “We have invested heavily in people, product and marketing to ensure we have the right people with expert knowledge and skills to service our customers’ advancing requirements. Our biggest investment is in a Data Centre to launch our own cloud-based hosted desktop service. Desktop Monster is a fully mobile, safe, secure and reliable mobile desktop that you can access
anywhere, anytime on any internet-enabled device! We plan to develop many more hosted services in the coming months and years.”
Mark Smyth: “We have a number of clients that have adopted mobile printing and cloud-based applications as part of their Managed Printing Solution, including Cloud Connectors with apps such as Drop Box, Google Drive, SharePoint etc..”
How are manufacturers supporting channel partners, and are they doing enough?
Sam Elphick: “We enjoy great support from our main manufacturer partner, UTAX, who have their own dedicated solutions team. From a simple sales-based question to installation support, they are able to offer great advice. More importantly, their responses are always speedy, which a big benefit to us.”
Andrew Jones: “Most manufacturers are prepared to offer support, training and technical advice, but as with all new technologies, the dealer has to look at the larger picture and ensure future service revenues are protected and not restricted by implementing these solutions. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of delivering IT support with no associated revenue, so any solution sale has to incorporate services at a realistic rate.”
Alpesh Unalkat: “At Capita, we see manufacturers and software providers as delivering the enablers so that we, in turn, can assemble a bespoke MPS solution for our clients. We are, in the main, selfreliant but do need ongoing investment
for research and development from our supplier partners to meet the changing requirements of our clients.”
Gary Downey: “The majority of manufacturers are working hard in this area, although it is difficult for them to empathise with independents who are looking for the freedom of solutions that aren’t limited to a single hardware brand.
As an independent reseller, it’s important we can provide and advise our clients on the relative merits of both approaches and have the technical skills to back this up, which is why we have developed our own Professional Services team to deliver this to clients.”
Julian Stafford: “The manufacturers we work with are leading the way in the solutions arena. Ricoh continues to drive change and is constantly looking at new opportunities and solutions/products. Sharp has their cloud offering and great mobile printing apps. Lexmark has just re-branded with a focus on solutions. We get great support from our manufacturer partners and their development is passed down to us, as the reseller, and then onto our customers.”
Mark Smyth: “As manufacturers and the channel continue to embrace and work with new applications and solutions, the race is on to see who can build strong collaboration with leading developers. The important factor for Vision as a reseller is the ability to both promote and support this change with training and knowledge, as that is often the barrier to sales. I firmly believe the better you know and understand technology, the easier it is to sell and promote it to clients!”