Enabling Innovation in Managed Print Services (MPS)

Will divestment, organisational and structural splits, re-investment and a greater focus on core business help to save the office printing & document imaging industry?

Well let’s hope so.

However, this without a clear strategy and an effective execution will mean nothing.

As I say,” if nothing changes, nothing changes”.

The real key to success will not be simply a repacking of the old ways or a new sales and marketing message saying the world has changed and we are now different.

Unfortunately talk is cheap and in relation to the office printing industry it’s been getting cheaper by the decade and some would argue it’s happening yearly (oh what – did I hear some say weekly, daily? Lol!! – let’s just say it’s not tracking in the direction we want).

Nevertheless, many industry providers have adapted either through their own accord or have been forced to either through the need to support the manufacturers best interest or the realisation that their clients are not wetted to them like they used to be.

Fortunately, since around mid to late 2005-2009 the emergence of a new and more customer aligned approach has allowed agile and switched-on providers to develop a services model that supported a changing IT and business model and business engagement.

Today a Managed Print Services engagement addresses how services are bought, delivered and maintained across a customer’s environment. However, this services model is quickly advancing and the industry as-a-whole is hopefully adapting to the next wave of change that extends outside just the physical print aspects of managed print services.

The change of uncertainly requires innovation:

The world has certainly changed economically, technologically and politically over the last decade. The structural change economically and the acceleration and acceptance of a digital economy has changed the dynamics for both businesses and consumers around the world.

Due to the rapid change and increasing uncertainty, an ever-growing political shift has occurred. This ongoing undercurrent will continue to impact the office printing and document imaging industry if it does not embrace the opportunity to change and innovate.

So where does this innovation process start?

Well the answer is quite simple but disappointing at the same time.

Unfortunately, we have forgotten that one of our biggest assets has been the most under-utilised or written down in terms of how a business should and needs to engage.  As an industry, we have moved away from or devalued the one source that allowed the industry to be so, so effective in the late 80’s and 90’s. We have in fact commoditised our approach and engagement. We have thrown out the baby with the bath water.

We stopped, numbed and blunted our most trained professionals to simply follow the process of device (box) acquisition. The focus became too volume orientated, where it was far too simpler for leadership and management teams to purely account for numbers. This was the metric that drove business decisions.

This might be one lever of business, but you must drive business using a set of different (or coordinated multi-levers) to be ultimately successful and sadly this did not occur as effectively as it should have.

Overtime the industry lost its customer intimacy. One of the greatest strengths of the industry over the last three (3) odd decades was the sales engagement and our people we called “salespeople”.  To other industries a sales role was a job. To our industry, it was a profession, a career, you were a business person. We were schooled in understanding the challenges of running a business.

In fact, this industry was one of the most highly trained and experienced to understand the needs but more importantly the business problems our clients were having. We as an industry were the most tentative to the customer needs and requirements.

Constantly, customers were always intrigued with our professionalism around how we gained such an insight around our client’s business. Many clients in the late 80’s and 90’s wanted many of the providers and experts of the day to extend themselves outside print even then. We were the trusted advisors of yester-year.

Building Innovation Capability: The first step

One way to start or enable innovation in your business or the industry as-a-whole is to go back to basics and talk and engage with the client and it’s not about “what keeps you up late at night” type of question.

 Also, it’s critical not to try to find a solution to the clients perceived problems. This may sound strange and opposite to what many have been trained to do. However, there is a reason for my comments.

Over the last ten years I have been actively engaging and working with over five (500) hundred CXO’s across many different industries such a financial services, insurance, retail, manufacturing, health, media, telecoms – you name it, I’ve done it and this extends into government and non-for-profit as well.

The one key learning or insight that has been garnished from all these engagements is that most businesses fail around innovation or solution development because many of their ideas or problems that they think they have are still assumption.

Now this is not to say that they don’t understand the pain or opportunity they have in front of them. However, their problem or solution is 99.99% based on assumptions. Their problem is usually symptomatic of a larger problem that they have not had the clarity or a process to identify more clearly.

Everyone has been taught in the modern era – “if you have a problem, you should find a solution”. This has forced our thinking very quickly on the solution rather than testing the problem or the assumptions behind the problem.

I could go into more detail as I have developed a very sound and repeatable methodology to help end clients become more innovation.

But as always, the intent of these articles is not about self-promotion, but more about how this industry can transition. What could I do to support a wonderful industry that has the capability to evolve.

On that note – what I’d like for all to consider is how can your talent and your most valuable resource and asset help your business re-engage with your end clients around testing their assumptions on the client business problems.

Help them not to find solutions too quickly. Easier said than done – I know.

Customers can see it and smell it faster than you realise.

The key is to have a conversation and engage and work with the client to identify the symptomatic problem that over-hangs the real source of the customer problem.

Sure, this may take you away from the box sale – however as a business you must start to align yourself with your customer’s real problems. As I have learned “don’t define your business by the products or services you sell, but more the contribution and value you provide to your customer.

The key to any successful business has always been and always will be about how can you help and add value to your customers business. The innovation transition for our industry starts with the following strategy or at least one plank of your overall strategy – align your business to your customers business – in doing so, your value will expand your own business. They will provide you direction on how your business can be shaped.

The next challenge will be about how best to adapt your business at scale. However, if your customers are asking you to do this, then that’s a much safer, less risker process then going out there trying to build new services and products that client may not want.

The speed of change is happening at an accelerated rate; however, we still have to have a balanced view of how we manage both the old and the new. What hasn’t changed is that the most successful businesses have been built on a simple formula of have having the right talent, the right technologies that allow the right talent to do a great job and a great understanding of their customers business and the challenges and problems they are trying to solve or the problem that they don’t know they have.

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