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Guest Editorial: A Message to Dealers: Survive, Thrive or Get Out of the Way

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by Wouter Koelewijn of Y Soft
Years ago, the buzz word in tech was ‘convergence,’ where siloed fields combined in some way to enable disruptive technology. If you weren’t converging, you were irrelevant. Well, move over convergence, Digital Transformation (DX) is the new kid on the block.
Unlike convergence, DX is more about a company’s journey toward streamlining its processes for better efficiency, productivity and user experiences. In other words, disruption is made over time rather than immediately, and significant benefits can be felt along the way.
Businesses today are digitizing everything – documents, interactions and other touch points. In
fact, Futurum’s Digital Transformation Index shows that over 76% of North American and Western Europe organizations believe their relationship with technology and digital transformation is average or above average. The amount of data collected from these digital efforts has spurred impactful innovations.
Take, for example, scanned documents. In addition to the document repository and management system industry that has been created out of digital documents, there is the potential of harnessing the data and meta data that those documents contain—since sophisticated systems create text layers when creating a digital copy. This, in turn, has spurned innovative solutions for analyzing and visualizing data, and further—artificial intelligence and automation that can act on the data. All of this impacts the way we collect data through document capture.
All of this comes from the lowly document. There has been a shift away from the document to the data a document contains. What does this shift mean for those of us working in the document industry?
For starters, companies who stand still will, over time, no longer be standing. We have seen the document industry already evolve from primarily selling printers to selling solutions. Those that stand still are being acquired or shut down when the owners retire. Those who are surviving, perhaps even thriving, are those that are evolving (more on that later).
Print, copy, and scan devices themselves are evolving to take advantage of third-party solutions. For dealers, the pace to keep up has been fast. It will get even faster. However, the printer is becoming a means to an end in a sense. It will not be long before print services devices becomes similar to the mobile phone— where making calls has become a minor feature compared to apps and services the phone offers.
That is not to say that there are no longer innovations to be made on print devices. However, the innovations are less about its traditional core features and more about connecting to other systems and user experience improvements. Dealers will be talking less about speeds of paper and toner coverage than they will about connecting services to the cloud and smartly anticipating users’ processes. Whatever those cloud and processes are, dealers will be expected to be more IT savvy than print device savvy.
The evolving document industry dealer
Some forward thinking and evolved MPS providers are already offering IT services—managing print services on behalf of their customers from a network, server hardware maintenance perspective. Any dealer than can help a company with its MPS infrastructure is enabling them to focus their IT services on more innovative projects. That’s adding value.
Is evolving to an IT services provider enough? Probably not. Remember the shift. It’s all about the data. The data that comes from the lowly document. Data becomes the new currency. What consultative services can you offer that helps your customers collect, harness and use the data that is available to them?
Assuming you find a niche to solve your customers’ needs regarding data, is your business equipped to evolve to a data-related IT consultancy? You have feet on the street in the way of a sales team and you have the customer base. Dealers who have already transitioned into solution selling—print management/document capture workflows, for example, already realize the consultative approach versus just selling printers. However, the knowledge gap between what they know today and what they need to know to sell data-related services and consultancy may be large.
The consultative skillset of your sales team is one of many things to consider. Has your own business transformed to being digitally focused? Or are your sales people still shuffling paper? Is the experience your customers have with you a modern, digital one, or do you still deal with traditional licenses and billing models? What does your new business model need to look like?
Ironically, while your customers are undergoing their digital transformations, your own business needs to transform as well. Best to get ahead of the curve, right? Perhaps the biggest impact digital transformation has in the document industry is forcing the industry to transform itself to survive, thrive or sadly, in many cases, get out of the way.
Where there is challenge there is opportunity
While evolving to stay relevant sounds challenging, there are great opportunities still ahead for the document imaging industry. An IT consultancy is a high margin business (with no inventory to worry about). You are still associated with global brands and can leverage your own brand as the provider of local service, support and consultancy.
Because digital transformation is a journey, not all your customers are at the same pace and so your own business transformation can also be at the pace comfortable for you. It’s not an overnight shift that requires speed. Instead, target your customers individually to start with, giving those who are ready for it very tailored experiences. As you take this measured step, you can evaluate and find the business model that works for you.
As you shift into consultancy, you’ll find customers have an appetite for other business process improvements. Expanding into other areas tangential to document imaging as you see demand take shape is another opportunity to grow and expand your business.
Wouter Koelewijn, Chief Product Officer, Y Soft, is responsible for existing and new product direction ensuring that product delivery is smooth, while keeping Y Soft in the forefront of new innovations. He is directly responsible for the product management and product marketing teams. You’re invited to follow @YSoft on Twitter and LinkedIn

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