by Amy Weiss
Canon U.S.A. recently invited industry analysts to a two-day event at its Melville, New York, headquarters to preview its vision for the future, its current offerings, and its new company structure. The same week, the firm issued a slew of new announcements that it had previewed with analysts in a briefing in late June.
The theme of “See Impossible” was reiterated throughout the event, and impossible is a good way to describe the likelihood of being able to sum up all of Canon’s new releases, initiatives and projects in one blog — but we’ll give it a shot.
Let’s start with the hardware. Canon announced the Color imageCLASS LBP712Cdn, as well as the imageRUNNER ADVANCE 5500 series. The 5500 series replaces the C5200 series, and it is the third series launched on its third-generation imageRUNNER ADVANCE platform (the first two were announced in February). With this series Canon introduced a common source code for all products in the same platform generation — a unified firmware platform allowing all users of the devices to take advantage of additional features or functions as they are released. Some of the features that take advantage of the platform include Canon’s other new releases, such as:
uniFLOW Online. uniFLOW is Canon’s device and output management solution, which has been around for several years — we took a look at its evolution in a blog back in February. uniFLOW online is a cloud-based offering allowing small- and medium-sized businesses a scalable solution without the need for a local server.
ADVANCE Cloud Portal 2.0 builds on the capabilities of the ADVANCE Cloud Portal, which allows direct scan, store and print from compatible imageRUNNER ADVANCE systems. Version 2.0 brings its capabilities to the third-generation systems and allows for additional connections such as Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Microsoft One Drive.
Therefore 2016, the newest version of Canon’s information management and workflow solution, launched in June with enhancements to its Web Forms feature and integrations with electronic signature providers. Integrations into uniFLOW and an advanced cloud portal provide channel partners with a unique holistic channel platform offering, says Canon.
Then there is the Canon Business Services Platform (CBSP), an online marketplace and virtual storefront for dealers. Canon sees it as a critical transformation agent, designed to support a subscription business model and offer flexibility to dealers. We’ve seen “app stores” from other OEMs, but Canon emphasizes that this is a dealer-focused portal, since allowing customers to download apps directly, without dealer involvement, can become an impediment rather than an aid in problem solving. The basis of the CBSP is that the dealer is the expert point of contact who helps the customer understand how to properly apply the service and solution they need. Using CBSP as an ordering platform for subscription services available from Canon U.S.A., dealers can purchase a subscription and then add services such as assessments, extending a software-as-a-service offering into solution-as-a-service. It’s the beginning of a subscription annuity model for dealers.
One thing we have heard frequently is that Canon offerings do not just operate in one silo at a time. It’s critical to cross all platforms, and for systems, support and infrastructure to work together to provide what channel partners expect. One might even call it a holistic approach.
Canon is big on “holistic” these days — it’s a word you’ll hear frequently, and it applies to more than just its products and services; it applies to Canon itself, at least nominally.
In March, Canon announced that Toyo Kuwamura would become senior vice president and general manager, Business Imaging Solutions Group, Canon U.S.A. (CUSA BISG) in addition to his existing role as president and CEO of Canon Solutions America (CSA). At the briefing, Kuwamura quipped that he was now actually wearing four hats including chairman of Canon Financial Services and vice chairman of Canon Information & Imaging Solutions (CIIS). If it sounds a bit confusing — well, the many Canon Group companies have been called that. At the summit, Kuwamura highlighted the “One Canon” approach that may, if not simplify the structure itself, help enhance the flow of information within the structure. “Previously each organization within Canon brought specific products and solutions to specific customers,” he explained. “But as you know, we have much more to offer to the customers.” One Canon will “leverage the full power of Canon’s capabilities,” enabling essential knowledge transfer between different Canon organizations.
Part of the One Canon approach is a commitment to strengthening partnerships with independent dealers. In his presentation, Mason Olds, SVP and GM of sales, BISG, discussed the Canon dealer strategy, integration of Océ, the strategy of building up the direct channel and the independent dealer channel – one of his primary focuses over the past six years. Olds introduced Flo-Tech’s Leo Bonetti as a case study, explaining how Flo-Tech worked with accounting services provider RSM to optimize their print fleet with uniFLOW — a solution to the issue of integrating various software platforms. uniFLOW allows for one seamless platform, eliminating integration issues.
If some metaphors can be drawn between Canon’s solutions and its company strategy, it’s likely not completely accidental. IDC’s “third platform” predicts the need for growth and innovation built on the pillars of mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking; integration is key here if Canon’s goal is to provide end-to-end solutions to meet customer requirements. Product-wise, the firm seems to be meeting the challenges — uniFLOW Online is hosted on Microsoft Azure, Therefore can be hosted on uniFLOW, channel partners can deliver software and solutions as a service. Data and platforms cannot be siloed — and neither can companies. To ensure success, platforms have to work together, and so do Canon’s various groups. Can the holistic approach weave its way into Canon’s day-to-day operations, allowing the vision of “One Canon” to be achieved? We’ll be interested to see how the evolution unfolds.