Ricoh is encouraging OA dealers to take on its projectors, interactive whiteboards and videoconferencing solutions. James Goulding reports
As print volumes decline and printer vendors diversify to find new sources of revenue, more and more have started to add audio-visual and collaboration solutions to their portfolios, among them Sharp (see previous feature), Samsung, Canon and Ricoh.
Visual solutions are an obvious fit for these vendors. Conceptually they are not far removed from printers to the extent that printers, projectors, displays, whiteboards and videoconferencing solutions all provide a means of displaying and sharing information.
In bringing its collaboration solutions to market, Ricoh is not restricting itself to the AV channel, but is encouraging MFP suppliers and MPS providers to take on the products as well.
Keith Howell, Business Generation Director for the Indirect Channel at Ricoh UK, expects 150 or so of Ricoh’s OA dealers to sell the company’s audio-visual and conferencing products, pointing out that they provide a good way of building stronger relationships with customers.
“The MPS marketplace is becoming more and more commoditised and there has been a land-grab to move customers from a basic click contract to an all embracing MPS offering. For us, the next step is to link in communication services to broaden the gains that we can make for customers in terms of cost savings and productivity and to make our partners more ‘sticky’ with customers,” he said.
Howell argues that because Ricoh’s communications solutions help cut costs and improve productivity, just like an MPS, adding collaboration solutions to their existing offering might not be such a stretch for OA dealers.
“It isn’t wildly different to what our OA partners currently do with MPS,” he said. “It’s just a question of up-skilling them, giving them the tools and understanding so they can also sell our communication services portfolio.”
Howell points out that while Ricoh can supply someone with a videoconferencing system, projector or whiteboard as a standalone solution, they really come into their own when implemented as part of a fully integrated solution.
“We very much see these technologies as working together so that we can help the customer connect and collaborate more easily. Our VC system can work with our interactive projector and our interactive whiteboards, so you could collaborate in a document using a whiteboard, and people at multiple remote sites could use videoconferencing to look at not just the document but also the people and communicate more effectively while working on a document.
“It’s very joined up from that point of view. But it is also totally scalable, depending on what the customer wants. If the customer just wants to connect a couple of whiteboards and collaborate on a document, using their telephone system to talk through what is being done, they can do that. Or, if a customer has invested in videoconferencing or sees the benefit of moving to VC to eliminate travel costs and increase productivity, we can supply a video conferencing system,” he said.
When Ricoh entered the video conferencing market three years ago, its solutions could only communicate with other Ricoh devices. Its new generation systems are compact, portable and compatible with standards-based solutions from other vendors. This, says Howell, is causing sales to really take off.
“Historically, videoconferencing technology has been very costly – it’s required a lot of specialist resource in terms of selling and installation and a lot of investment from the end customer in terms of the capital cost of the equipment. The technology we have now has a lower cost and more ﬂexibility, so the customer doesn’t need to have a fxed infrastructure, such as a videoconferencing room,” he said.
The other reason Ricoh solutions are popular with SME customers is heir simplicity. “The camera and video conferencing technology is all incorporated in one unit that you can move from room to room. Connect it to the network and you are up and running – there’s nothing else you need to do. And we have an app that runs on tablets, iPads and mobile devices that enables mobile or remote workers to join in,” explained Howell.
Customers buy the all-in-one unit and on top of that a quarterly or annual airtime contract for each concurrent user. This gives the user unlimited airtime and no additional charges, however much they use the system. Most importantly, the sale of airtime contracts gives resellers an annuity stream into the future.
In addition to its new videoconferencing system, Ricoh has expanded its range of interactive whiteboards with a new 22-inch model suitable for huddle rooms and smaller meeting rooms. Ricoh also offers 55, 65 and 84-inch models available with a mobile stand option so that they can be wheeled from room to room.