Big Data, Predictive Analytics and the IoT: The Buzzwords are the Real Thing at ECS 2016

MWAi Intelligence held its fifth Executive Connection Summit (ECS) February 18-20 at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona. Featuring a solid day-and-a-half lineup of presentations from industry leaders as well as a press conference, awards ceremony, and multiple dinners and networking opportunities, the ECS has solidly established itself as the industry’s premier event.

News and Announcements

A newly promoted Rick Taylor kicked off the press conference, after making his own news with the announcement of his promotion to Executive Officer of Konica Minolta Inc. and President and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. Taylor spoke about Konica Minolta’s support of MWAi’s FORZA product, which, said Taylor, Konica is going to “support, implement and do a great job with.” Taylor was also the first to note something that would become a recurring theme over the next two days — that FORZA has considerable potential for implementation outside the imaging industry, in industries with similar characteristics and needs.

Rick Taylor Konica Minolta   Mike Stramaglio MWAi

Konica MInolta’s new President and CEO Rick Taylor (left) and MWAi’s Mike Stramaglio kick off the ECS

Stramaglio followed up Taylor’s presentation with his own announcements regarding FORZA; specifically, that it would be moving from version 9.1 of SAP to the latest version, 9.2, which opens things up and allows users to make reports and manipulate data in real time. He also reiterated the idea that FORZA goes beyond imaging, as SAP HANA is ideal for all things required in adjacent businesses as well — security, medical equipment and robotics being just a few examples.

ECS sponsors had the opportunity to make announcements and presentations as well; Clover Imaging’s Luke Goldberg spoke about the rebranding of the Clover Imaging Group and new partnerships that include FORZA as well as Print Audit; PrintAudit’s West McDonald spoke about that company’s upcoming Top 100 Summit. Bud Karakey talked about BEI Services’ initiatives in big data, which it is using to address cost savings in labor. GreatAmerica’s Jennie Fisher spoke about the firm’s go-to-market strategies, particularly its PathShare HR Services suite that helps buisnesses develop hiring and retention models built on GreatAmerica’s own renowned corporate culture

LMI Solutions’ presentation featured possibly one of the company’s best new additions in the form of presenter Doug Johnson, announced as the company’s chief strategy officer earlier this year. Johnson spoke to the firm’s plans to build out three platforms: manufacturing, distribution and services, with particular growth in the services side. “I want a viable company 30 years from now when no one is printing anymore,” said Johnson, in a point that was, of course, debated throughout the event.

OKI Data’s Jennifer Jakubowicz spoke about the firm’s streamlined path for growth that included the development of a 12-member dealer council as well as focus on print production built around its new wide-format offerings. And Chris McFarlane of PrintFleet summed up the company’s decision to join with FORZA in words that were apropos for the entire summit: “We believe in connected.”

Connected, Predictive and Intelligent

The full summit kicked off on Thursday with keynote speakers and Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who came together upon leaving the military to form leadership firm Echelon Front. While the pair’s stories from the battlefield drove home powerful messages about leadership, perhaps one of the more interesting tidbits from that presentation was the fact that printers — particularly wide-format printers — are a mission-critical product for the military overseas. “Every single guy has to have a map and communications plan printed out every night to walk out on the battlefield,” said Willink.

Doug Albregts Sharp

Sharp’s Doug Albregts made his entrance in style.

Following the SEALs — because someone had to follow the SEALs —was Sharp President Doug Albregts, who made an entrance to a Star Wars-themed crawl introducing him as the last man standing (the only one of the keynote speakers from the last ECS to return, and to still hold the same position). Albregts, who typically addresses questions about Sharp’s business position and future with straightforward answers mixed with humor, did not disappoint. “It’s hard to sell against your competitors when all you hear is that you’re going out of business,” he said. “But for three consecutive years we’ve seen growth and triple-digit operating profit.” He also noted that the two companies (as of Feb. 18) making offers for Sharp were doing so well above market cap. Albregts’ presentation, however, was not about Sharp’s business position, but rather about its — and the industry’s — future. Albregts was the first, but far from the last, to speak to the Internet of Things (IoT). “Last year’s big talking point was big data,” he observed. “This year it’s the IoT, and that’s because of what’s happening in the consumer space.” While previously it was a closed environment, he noted, it has evolved because companies wanted to be able to manage, view, evaluate and change data, anywhere and from any device. “It’s the buzz because it’s become a B2B issue, and we are best poised to do that. It’s about solutions,” he said.

Following Albregts — possibly almost as difficult as following the SEALs — was a dealer panel featuring Chip Miceli of Des Plaines Office Equipment, Patrick Adesso of DEX Imaging, Bill McLaughlin of Tomorrow’s Office, and Jeff Boate of Perry proTECH. Entitled “Those Who Do and Those Who Don’t” and moderated by MWAi’s Mike Stramaglio, the panel discussed how they make changes to grow their businesses. Complacency in the workplace, the panel agreed, is never a good thing, and Miceli possibly summed it up best. “Where am I going to get my next adventure?” he asked. DPOE implemented FORZA after learning about it at an earlier ECS; “I wanted to dictate the kind of software I thought this industry needed,” Miceli said, also stating “I believe print is not going to go away.”

DPOE Tomorrow's Office DEX Perry proTECH

“Where am I going to get my next adventure?” asks DPOE’s Chip Miceli (left) during the dealer panel.

More IoT followed the panel with Intel Market Development Manager Alex Zilberman discussing the three waves of the IoT: embedded, connected, and now smart – small devices with intelligence becoming connected and sharing information. The IoT will be driven even further through the connection of the many edge devices that have intelligence — 15 billion intelligent devices exist today but 85 percent are not connected or do not communicate.

Luke Goldberg West McDonaldLuke Goldberg of CIG and West McDonald of Print Audit — self described by Goldberg as “Wolverine and The Thing” — presented what has been an often controversial topic in the MPS industry — seat-based billing. Their presentation, “2016 Megatrends and the Future of Managed Print,” asserted that per-seat billing is not much different than cost per page, and that the seat-based model aligns much better with IT VARs — again continuing the theme of the applicability of imaging industry models beyond the industry. The pair stated that they believe they can have a wholesale cost-per-seat program in eight to 10 weeks, and could use the big data collected through the model to become more predictive and ultimately alter the business/service model for the industry.

LMI’s Doug Johnson dovetailed into that theme nicely with his presentation that focused on service-led opportunities, exploring who was using IoT-connected devices and how businesses could transform from transactional to services-led. Johnson also focused on ancillary industries such as HVAC — predictive analytics can be used to determine when air conditioning units might go down, for example, allowing for preemptive service. (In a great example of real-world applications, the A/V team in the conference room was particularly interested in the model as it applied to lighting — predicting when house lights would burn out would be a huge benefit to them, they said.)

Doug Johnson talked bifurcation, a word we love.

Rounding out and wrapping up the first day was Rick Taylor, discussing opportunities for both Konica Minolta, its dealers and the industry. “Machines in field are growing, and print is not going away,” he said, while also noting that while office print is struggling, industrial print is thriving, creating a huge opportunity for Konica and its dealers.

The second-day presenters included Ed McLaughlin of Valderus, who is the former president of Sharp; and Jim D’Emidio, president of Muratec, as part of a segment titled “Nearly 200 Years of Combined Experience.” McLaughlin spoke again to the theme of needing a recurring revenue business model. “When the pie is not getting bigger you’ve got to get better at what you do to grow,” he said, noting the service evolution started with “reactive” and moved to “preventative,” with the ultimate goal of “predictive.” D’Emidio’s “Inflection or Intersection” presentation continued on the theme of adding services, discussing managed network services and how, again, the cloud has simplified the model by allowing everything to be delivered to the customer through servers in the cloud.

Ed McLaughlin   Jim D'Emidio

Do Ed McLaughlin and Jim D’Emidio really represent 200 years of combined experience? Maybe with Mike Stramaglio thrown into the equation.

The day’s keynote panel, “Who the Hell Are These Guys?” featured BTA general counsel Bob Goldberg moderating the members of Technology United, the group of companies including BEI, ESP, Intel, in-map, Intellinetics, LMI, MWAi, Clover and GreatAmerica that came together five years ago, and continues to work together to drive innovation in the industry. “We continue to have conversations and evaluate value so we can all integrate together,” said GreatAmerica’s Jennie Fisher, summing up the collaboration.

Technology United

Who the hell are these guys? Bob Goldberg leads the TU panel.

Fisher also moderated the panel that wrapped up the event. Titled “How Culture Breeds Innovation,” GreatAmerica’s previously mentioned company culture is renowned in the industry for its own innovation, and the dealers on the panel have brought their own unique ideas to their businesses as well.

ECS 2016

Dave Scibetta of Coper Fax Business Technologies, John Swallwell of Perry proTECH, Barry Simon of Datamax and Mike McGuirk of ProCopy talk company culture.

Continued Innovation

That continuing dedication to collaboration and innovation has become the hallmark of the ECS, and the 2016 event upped the ante for both. Proving the value of partnerships, the Executive Connection Summit brought together more than 200 dealers and vendors in an event that has set a high bar for future conferences. 2016 event upped the ante for both. Proving the value of partnerships, the Executive Connection Summit brought together more than 200 dealers and vendors in an event that has set a high bar for future conferences.

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.