Konica 150by Sam Errigo, Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA, Inc.

Over the course of the last 10 years, we have seen rapid technological changes. Businesses of all sizes — from small-to-medium-sized (SMB) to enterprise — need to leverage resources more than ever before and stay competitive within an evolving and rapidly changing marketplace. We see more dealers extending their businesses into IT services, enterprise content management (ECM), video conferencing and even physical security. Bringing together the power of technology with a culture that embraces change and a remote workforce is key.

The industry is seeing technology changes with the cloud, big data/analytics, mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT) acting as the transformation drivers. Small businesses seek to leverage the power of technology and position themselves to stand out within the market. Enterprise businesses want to take advantage of technology to become more productive, collaborative and efficient. One of the leading ways for all businesses to stay on the pulse of today’s workplace is by incorporating a unique bring your own device (BYOD) strategy as well as offering the ability to work remotely and be productive, regardless of your location. BYOD necessitates that all dealers re-evaluate how they implement a device management strategy to meet customers’ expectations to connect anywhere, on any device, at any time.

Dealers understand the need to diversify their product offerings to their customers, but they also need to be aware that sales and marketing strategies have become more data driven. The way big data is collected from customers can be leveraged to reveal incredibly useful trends and patterns that can lead to huge improvements in a dealer’s marketing strategy. It’s a new world where big data drives product development and marketing. This is a major step towards transforming the hype of big data into strategic reality and set off the next progressive wave of change.

Our industry is going through major changes right now as we see acquisitions and consolidations on the manufacturer side. In addition, the traditional “break/fix” model has always been competitive, but continues to become even more so, so dealers now need to find alternative sources of reoccurring revenue. Managed IT, MPS and creative services provide that alternative revenue stream, but that also requires an investment in human capital that dealers need to prepare for in their budgeting process. This is one of the most significant challenges that dealers will face in 2017. Furthermore, the learning curve to recruit, develop and motivate these new pools of talent can be costly in both time and money.

One of the existing challenges in every industry is the element of manpower. How does a dealership continue to attract new talent? A key component to a dealership’s future success will be how they effectively engage millennials. In 2015, millennials surpassed both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the American workforce. Dealers will need to learn where to attract and recruit, and how to retain the best talent after investing time in training and development. They will also have to consider how millennial and Gen Z workers differ in their professional outlook, and the underlying desire to shape where they work, how they contribute and drive significant impact within the organization.

Changes are occurring everywhere and it is imperative that dealers take an active role in acknowledging the industry trends in order to help customers prepare for a future that looks very different than it does today. As a result of these changes, the emergence of IoT is creating new channel opportunities due to the vast amounts of data produced from an IoT device. How that data is collected and dealt with in the analytics world can be lucrative.

It is important for dealers to diversify their portfolios starting with synergistic offerings that complement their existing business and customer segments they serve. Focusing on products or solutions that emphasize workflow efficiencies, security or data management are all logical choices. These services include managed IT services, enterprise document management, cloud solutions, as well as advanced consulting services. As dealers enter into these areas of growth, they need to be prepared to adopt new methodologies for servicing and invoicing customers. As an example, the shift from on-premise to cloud services may represent a change to the overall business model. The current shift within other industries is the adoption of a subscription or user-based model. This is widespread and allows for easier business decisions due to a lower up-front risk for the customer. This shift was brought about by customers wanting flexibility and the adaptability to pay as they go, or pay per subscription monthly versus a long-term contract. This has increased the intimacy between the provider delivering the software as a service (SaaS) and customers. Within this model, every dealer must better manage a direct, responsive relationship with their customers as the stakes are much higher due to the critical nature of the services provided. The formula for growth now becomes focused on long-term relationships rather than transactions.

The dealer community has the intellect and skill to take the necessary steps to evolve their business. One of the biggest challenges I see is the capital investment needed to move forward into the higher-end technology business. We are seeing an acceleration of tenured dealerships making the decision that an exit strategy is more appealing than reinvesting time and capital.

The workplace of the future will reshape and revolutionize the office, integrating technology and demonstrating how the office can be an engaging and collaborative environment. Work is not where you are. Work is what you get done. To advance this vision, the following types of integration are critical:  

Simple integration of products to enable the workforces; supports the “anytime, anywhere” model for information.

Improved data access via mobile devices.

Advanced IoT technology with linkage to business analytics.

Investments in skilled technologies and consultants to drive business transformation.

The demand for a more flexible work environment will continue to evolve and the need for new tools coupled with advanced services will be a significant revenue opportunity. These dramatic changes in the workplace will challenge our entire industry in terms of human capital, training and employee retention.

This is an exciting time for our industry and, like many other businesses, a transformation is a necessity for long-term survival. With a strong focus on enhancing our core business with new services and keeping our eye on delivering customer value, the growth possibilities are endless. The dealer channel has the same opportunity but must prepare today to thrive in the future.

Contributor: Sam Errigo, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, http://kmbs.konicaminolta.us

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel