by Greg Walters | Walters & Shutwell

Johannes Gutenberg understood it has always been about communications — not simply marks on paper: “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams. … A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine.”

Gutenberg’s printing press contributed to the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Protestant Reformation — no small effort. Our world — xerography, copy-press, laser printing, scanning, email, video and the life with screens — sprouts from a 15th century technological advancement which was invented to print the Bible.

In 2013, are we looking at advancements similar in breadth and scale to Mr. Gutenberg’s contribution? Nope.

The latest technology rush is under way. No more waiting: Apple keeps chugging, MSFT is firmly competing (at least on the surface), and HP is talking the talk. As the age of the PC dims, what will happen to the world of print? Are we, like the PC, destined for the halls of history? Can new technology save the print industry? Again, nope.

No new technology, no generational expansion. Inkjet printers with big, fat ADFs simply do not represent new technology. When it gets right down to it, when all one does is put marks on paper, how much new technology can go into it, into melting plastic or squirting ink?

But there will be transformation. There is always transformation. The transformation in 2013 will be a slow burn, removing the chaff as manufacturers shift out of printing and into IT services. I guess there may be four different “new” areas:

  1. Workflow/enterprise content management (ECM)
  2. Tablets and BYOD
  3. Big Data and business intelligence (BI)
  4. Managed services.

Workflow/enterprise content management

The new thing in MPS is workflow — which is really nothing new. The facility management (FM) folks have been drawing workflow diagrams for years, so workflow as a concept in the imaging realm is technically not that new. However, managed print services is moving beyond toner and supplies; workflow could be the next frontier.

Some workflow/ECM software will make some noise. It won’t be shrink-wrapped; that means it resides in the cloud, not on premise (and that means not at your customer’s site), and you’ll be proposing subscriptions or maybe even clicks in the clouds. And maybe — just maybe — the commission dollars will not be attached to a hardware gate.

Sound interesting? Here’s how to get involved:

1. Start small in your house.
I love the phrase, “Eat your own dog food.” Not only should you have your dealership on your MPS program, but you should strongly consider diagramming your company’s, department’s or simply your personal daily workflow. How does work get done in your house?

2. see workflow everywhere.
While you’re at it, look at everything through the lens of workflow — food orders at Del Taco, doctor’s office check-in and billing procedures, what happens when you drop off the dry cleaning. There is “flow” everywhere.

3. Reach out to ECM providers.
There are new ECM software providers, and there are established ECM companies; reach out to at least one of them.

Tablets, tablets, tablets — BYOD

Smaller form factors are not new technology, but to deny the incredible impact of tablets and the BYOD movement on the imaging niche is futile. The machines are everywhere, and we don’t print from them; we send and receive information on screens, not green bar paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s Win8, Surface, Android or iOS — in 2013, there will be more screens available for viewing than ever before. More screens means less paper and less print — unless we refer “print to glass.”

The tipping point for BYOD and mobility was reached in 2012. 2013 will see this train continue to roll, so here are my recommendations with respect to tablets and MPS:

1. Get one.
You don’t need the most expensive — just a device that can get to the cloud. Utilize a tablet in your everyday workflow to understand where your clients are coming from and moving toward.

2. Bring your device to work.
Demand (ask) to have your email and CRM available to you. If you get told no, ask why, and then listen. I recommend downloading every “print from anywhere” application you can find, then monitoring how often and how much you print.

3. get inside clients’ challenges.
If you get an iPad, pay attention to any challenges you experience with printing or conducting business — same with a Droid or Win8 device. Pay attention to how well your email and scheduling works and share your stories with your clients. You’ll be amazed at how many possibilities open up.

Big Data and business intelligence

Yes, Big Data is everywhere, and yes, the cloud of Big Data is growing because we are connecting every device to every device. Heck, we’re even chipping cows. In 2013 we may see further development of a singularity as the cloud meets algorithms, meets one of your four screens in the form of mobile business intelligence applications.

BI will work its way down to the SMB. How can you be ready? What can you do?

1. Train better.
Ignore the product training and get “sales techniques” from a book or the Internet. Learn about machines from spec sheets and the Internet. Neither just product-trained nor just sales-trained, the new market demands a real, three-dimensional face — not Dorian Gray.

2. Act better.
Looking deeper into yourself will allow you to look deeper into your clients’ challenges.

3. Be real.
The business challenges of the day are better solved by real people, not talk tracks, cold calls and elevator pitches. If you can’t be yourself in your current employ, leave. If you can’t work with people and try to solve problems, find another occupation. On the other hand, if you are on board with being real, you and the people around you will be happier. You might even receive value equal to the value given.

Managed services

The biggest shift in MPS will, of course, still be the movement into IT services — infrastructure and services support. As we manage the end of print, new business applications of enterprise content management and business workflow look more appealing — especially when deployed in the cloud. The days of building a NOC, staffing a help desk and imaging from laptops are dwindling too. The technology of the cloud is expanding everywhere.

So what can you do in 2013 to take advantage of the latest in managed services?

1. Keep learning about IT services.
This is easy. There are thousands of places to learn about millions of business subjects and managed services. Want to learn about the four types of clouds? Google it, spend an hour reading, and now you’re equipped with a bit of insight. The first Walters & Shutwell Inc. MPS Survey revealed that 58.1 percent of managed print services salespeople invest five hours a week learning more about MPS. How many are you investing?

2. Change the way you sell.
This is a tough one. Even though your dealer or OEM compensation plan is equipment-based, try to think of it more as problem-solving-based — from your perspective, not your company’s.

3. Reconsider relationships.
Again, this is a very challenging direction and one that we’ve faked our way through for decades. This is the way of the future; the age of the box sale is quickly receding. Will 2013 be the tipping point for relationship selling? Will it be a tipping point for you?

Perhaps 2013 will be the year we finally shed all our old ways, move from equipment-based selling to services and transform from transactional selling to real, honest-to-goodness partnerships. Maybe the demise of hardware will spawn new innovation in our processes, in the way we conduct business. Will 2013 be the year we discover we don’t need as many people, don’t need to sell as many machines? And will 2013 be the year we discover, when we look deeply into ourselves, that we understand fewer customers equates to higher margins, happier clients and better lives? Maybe by 2014 we’ll be lean