by Brandon Gross
It’s 6 on a Tuesday morning and I’m among 200 other groggy travelers descending a jetway that’s plastered with cloud-based-solution advertisements. Rewind 14 hours and I was participating in a roundtable meeting with a local dealer and longtime customer of theirs discussing a cloud-based retention and workflow solution. You must appreciate the irony. Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement and seeing the same advertisements everywhere you look. More importantly, so are your customers. While it’s still perplexing to some, the cloud is empowering individuals and businesses alike by transforming the way we function day to day. For example, when was the last time you synchronized your phone to a desktop computer versus iCloud, Dropbox, etc.? I think it’s safe to say the cloud is here to stay. So how does this affect our industry? Let’s start with the basics.
What are cloud-based solution offerings? As they relate to our industry they are typically document-capture, retention and workflow solutions that reside off-site. Instead of scanning a document to email or a file folder on the local server, the document is now being uploaded to a cloud storage repository with a similar folder structure to that of the local server. Likewise, document retention and workflow is now happening in the cloud versus locally on a server. I also see this become more popular with e-fax solutions; in place of hosting a fax server, data now transmits through the cloud.
My favorite element of cloud solutions is the reoccurring revenue stream. Unlike traditional server-based solutions, cloud solutions follow a SAAS model, meaning that your customer is paying you annually to use this life-changing solution they can no longer live without.
Who is adopting cloud-based solutions in our industry? In my experience, enterprise size customers have been leveraging cloud storage for years and there is a good chance you won't be the first to introduce this concept to them. Although they may not have a document capture or retention solution that is cloud-based, you’d likely run into opposition as migration from one cloud to the next is resource intensive. The SMB space, however, is starting to embrace the cloud at record speeds. And I’m not talking an account here and there; I’m talking industry disruption, to the point that both dealer and direct OEM leaders are rewriting their comp plans to accommodate cloud solution sales. In fact, my go-to document management provider’s cloud business is north of 50 percent in the Americas. Two years ago it was less than 20 percent.
Why are SMB customers flocking to cloud solutions all of a sudden? The cloud enables you to provide enterprise-level document retention and workflow solutions on an SMB budget. Gone are the days of costly network infrastructure and IT resources that once prohibited you from selling solutions your customers desperately need to be competitive and compliant in their industries. And once you, their trusted document technology partner, relay this information, it’s common to receive a smile -- followed by their business.
This segues into why dealers are adopting cloud-based solutions at lightning speeds. Little to no overhead or resources are needed to sell and implement these solutions. Your solution provider or copier OEM has the resources to help you quote, present, sell and implement the solution. As a result, you have something new and shiny to sell your current customers and distinguish you from competitors that are slow to adopt. You can expect annual software renewals to increase. You can also expect the level of partnership with your customer to strengthen; you solved a business problem that they didn’t think was possible on their budget.