The Copier Dealer Growth Paradox: A Conversation With Nicola De Blasi

Is the copier industry growth paradox a real thing? Recently, I sat down with Nicola De Blasi, CEO of MPS Monitor, to talk about it.

PA: What is the copier dealer growth paradox?

NDB: If you ask any copier dealer if they’re interested in growing their business and reducing their operating costs, every single one of them would say yes. In today’s environment, one of the most likely ways to achieve those goals is by leveraging the cloud and data analytics. Sure, there are other ingredients, but those two things will feature heavily in every recipe.

The only problem is, most copier dealers – even the really big ones – don’t have the skill or technology (or access to the capital and expertise) to do that on their own. So, what do they do? Find a partner who does, of course. And therein lies the (alleged) problem. Copier dealers’ customer data is very valuable — entire companies are bought and sold for their customer lists alone. And in partnering with a cloud or data analytics provider, you have to trust that they will protect it from hackers and not misuse it for their own gain.

So, how can you trust a partner with all your data? How do you know that they will keep it safe from hackers? How do dealers know that their partners won’t misuse it for their own gain?

A good way to frame the copier dealer growth paradox is to look at the dealer concerns with the HP SDS and Amplify partner program. In the case of SDS — which MPS Monitor supports and is tightly integrated with — printer/MFP data is collected to help dealers reduce service costs, maximize device uptime, and improve customer satisfaction. In the case of the Amplify partner program, one component of that program includes dealers sharing data with HP, which isn’t mandatory, but does provide dealers with access to better pricing, access to HP’s full portfolio of managed products, and a higher level of compensation. HP Amplify and SDS represents a multi-billion-dollar AI and cloud investment from HP to help dealers meet their customers’ needs, and do so more efficiently.

But there are some folks who don’t trust HP, or think that HP could be their competitor too, and handing their customer data to competitors isn’t a smart business decision. It doesn’t help that HP has a history of jumping in and out of the dealer channel.

PA: So how do dealers deal with this growth/data paradox?

NDB: Ultimately, it has to be built on trust. Because unless you’ve got a ton of money to spend and can accumulate the expertise to do it on your own, there isn’t another way without trusting a third party. Trust is something that needs to be earned, and not everyone’s standard of trustworthiness is the same.

PA: How can the average copier dealer navigate this?

NDB: You need to trust your partners, but you shouldn’t trust blindly. This isn’t just for partners like HP, but also for other vendors that may have access to your data through various applications. You should have a list of questions that you can ask all potential partners. You need to ask them about security and regulatory compliance. What kind of certifications do they have? Do they hire pen testers? How often do they use them? What kind of security controls did they implement? Ask them to show you how they are able to comply with regulatory standards. Ask them to tell you what kind of contractual protections are provided.

The answers to these questions can tell you just how trustworthy a potential partner is. Someone who is not certified, cannot show you how they comply with data privacy regulations, and isn’t constantly testing themselves to ensure that your data is safely handled isn’t trustworthy. Someone who will not contractually guarantee that they won’t misuse your data is not trustworthy.

Another thing to consider is that there are a lot of incentives and natural forces that make it a bad idea for vendors to operate dishonestly. For one, vendors like my company [MPS Monitor] and companies like HP do have a reputation to uphold. You could imagine what a scandal a headline like “Company X misuses their partner data to pilfer customers” would do to their stock price. A story like that could cripple my business.  In addition, we are international companies that are bound to very strict privacy rules. Our global nature necessitates we comply with stricter regulations than even the U.S. has, like GDPR.

In other words, between staying in compliance with regulations, maintaining certifications, and staying true to the contracts they have signed, the incentives to misuse customer data is far outweighed by the benefits of operating honestly. It’s just something to consider when weighing options.

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.