Surviving Channel Evolution and Positioning Businesses to Thrive

The world we do business in has changed. COVID affected many key areas of business, and in some cases necessarily expedited change. Every product or service within the channel was impacted. We’ve all had to adapt to survive. This is especially true for managed print services.

The most talked about current shift is businesses going from large in-person offices to work-from-home and hybrid offices. This forced not only change, but the need to be agile within the channel, how dealers operate, and the much-needed redefining of what MPS is and means. However, there is another area of change that has been going through a much longer and larger shift. And, this change led to the channel as we know it today.

A Shift From Transactional to Automated Experience

Over the past 50 years, the channel has seen a shift from transactional to automated experiences. This has especially been true in managed print services. The changes were subtle over the decades, but they were crucial to creating the world we do business in today.

The 1970s

The 1970s were all about equipment. The forefathers of the MPS industry were out there offering up printers — typically dot matrix printers. Selling equipment was the entire business model and offering.

Innovation in the 1970s was about creating better equipment. Businesses in our space got ahead by offering better equipment at a better price. It was a simpler time, but, it left businesses with many unfulfilled needs.

The 1980 and 1990s

In the 1980s, there was a shift toward products and services. There were more products on offer, which allowed businesses to earn more revenue per customer. But the big shift was toward service.

It can be argued that the shift in the 1980s and 1990s toward offering business services was one of the most pivotal changes that led to the channel as we know it today. No longer did an entire business model have to be designed around equipment or the sale of a product — yet most service offerings were still designed around product sales.

What did this shift look like? A business might sell a printer, and then offer a service to maintain that printer. As we got later into the 1990s, more businesses offered standalone services that were not tied to the sale of a product.

The 2000s

In the year 2000, after we survived that whole Y2K scare, we started to see a shift toward project-based and reoccurring revenue. The shift towards project-based sales was part of a shift toward being solutions-oriented, as businesses adapted their offerings to the needs of their customers.

The shift to project-based was another pivotal moment that led to the channel as we know it today. Being project-based often meant being able to have flexible offerings and meet a variety of needs. It meant having to work with other vendors, distributors, or service providers, to fulfill the project.

The 2000s also saw the shift toward reoccurring revenue as a part of a business model in both products and services. This was a key shift that led to the rise of the managed print services industry. Printer product and printer service providers began to incorporate other offerings, such as MPS, into their business models as a way to add reoccurring revenue and additional value propositions to retain clients and differentiate.

The Roaring 2020s

While we are still waiting for more of that “Roaring 20s” prosperity of the 1920s, the 2020s have been a roaring decade for the channel. This explosion in growth opportunity of the channel is due in large part to another shift; the shift toward e-commerce automation.

The way people buy has changed forever. It turns out that the whole internet thing has proven to be rather popular. And, as Jeff Bezos can attest, e-commerce can be very profitable — his company, Amazon, has current yearly revenues of $113 billion.

There has also been a shift in how people manage inventory. Consumers have new expectations. Oracle reported that 48% of consumers placed a high importance on auto-replenishment as part of their shopping experience. Customers want automation, and the channel and managed print services are meeting that demand.

Shift Happens

Every industry is changing. In the last 20 years, 53% of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. The best companies have reinvented themselves, and they’ve done so by shifting away from products and toward user-friendly customization and automation.

Who Survived the Shift

Netflix did, by shifting from traditional hardcopy DVD rentals to on-demand streaming and subscription models.

IBM did, by shifting from low margin hardware in PCs and punch-card tabulators to providing IT expertise as a service. They also shifted to providing cognitive data services, and by becoming the number one provider of enterprise services solutions.

Amazon, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple and Salesforce all survived and thrived by shifting towards being relationship and connection-makers.
Then, there were the newer kids on the block. The disrupters. Companies such as Uber, Spotify, Airbnb and Birchbox saw rapid growth by being user-experience focused.

But, who will survive the next shift?

The Next Shift

The common thread in companies that survived the shifts over the last several decades is that they focused on the user experience. Buyers want automation and they want on-demand. They want the flexibility of subscription-based services, and they want them to be anywhere and in real time. Businesses that offer automation, flexibility and transparency are best positioned to survive the next shift. Is your business simplifying, automating, and reimagining? It’s the key to surviving and thriving in the business world today.

Founder/CEO at | Posts

Alex is the CEO of PowerMPS. Alex brings over 20 years of industry & channel experience, owning and operating in the imaging supplies, services and distribution space before moving into full-time consulting and working with a number of enterprise managed service providers and VARs developing and building MPS divisions and programs of their own, before shifting to pursue the development of an All-in-One SaaS platform for the channel. To learn more about PowerMPS Software, please visit