Archive for October, 2008

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What’s next for Ricoh, Konica Minolta, & Xerox?

October 21, 2008

If you follow the Copier Industry at all, you would have to be living under a rock not to know that Ricoh is buying IKON (should be a done deal in November 2008), Konica Minolta bought Danka, and Xerox bought Global. These three (IKON, Danka, & Global) were the last three independent nation wide office technology dealers. They have all since been swallowed up by a Manufacturer.

Each of these three nation wide dealerships came into being by buying up smaller local or regional dealerships. Two of the 3 (IKON & Danka) had a “resistance is futile” mentality (my apologies for the Star Trek quote). They consumed and absorbed the dealerships leaving behind no discernible trace of the former dealerships name or existence. Global had a different model, and allowed the dealerships that they purchased to pretty much function autonomously providing they turned an acceptable profit. This difference accounts for why Global was more profitable than Danka or IKON. Often time the end user would not even be aware that their local deal was now a part of Global. It is not that a growth through acquisition is a bad strategy (Global did well with it), rather it is the assimilation, and centralization that has failed in this industry.

So enough of the history lesson, what do Ricoh, Konica Minolta, & Xerox do now that they each have a large (formerly independent) sales & service organization to absorb. Ricoh really has just finished (or by some accounts is still trying to finish) absorbing Lanier. They still seem to be shaking the management tree and people seem to be still falling out of it. With the task of merging Lanier into Ricoh behind them and the task of merging IKON into Ricoh before them a state of uneasiness and “merger fatigue”  will likely continue within this organization. But they did eventually merge Savin & Lanier into Ricoh and one assumes they will get through the IKON merger given time. But to what end? Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. And those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

When the dust settles and IKON is only a historical reference what will Ricoh be? Will they be the IKON of the direct manufacturers? IKON’s model was growth through acquisition. Hey! That seems to be Ricoh’s model too. How did it work out for IKON. It was pretty good for a while. The stock price was high, and they were the 800 pound gorilla in the industry. But once the acquisitions stopped and they had to make money the old fashion way, by running a profitable business, they seemed to struggle considerably, stock tumbled, heads rolled as they kept making changes trying to find the “magic bullet” that would solve all their problems. At one point I heard that they actually split a City (B*st*n) in half, letting one branch manage one half of the city and another branch manger the other half. I guess when you are desperate to not be the next one to get fired you try even stupid ideas. But being different just to be different has never been a sound business practice. One Systems Enginer that I hired away from IKON many years ago said he got tired of someone above him alway “moving around the coconuts”, hoping that this NEW arrangement would fix their problems. But I thought we were talking about Ricoh, not IKON. We are talking about Ricoh running into the same problems that IKON did, because they have the same model (growth through acquisition) and the same mind set assimilate the purchase until there is no disernable trace left behind. Seeing as IKON and DANKA have already failed at this model why would we think that Ricoh (or Konica Minolta) will succeed? You could argue that they have more money and that’s true but that in and of itself is not a gauruntee of business success. You still need to run a profitable business, at which IKON & Danka both failed with this model. Did you notice that I have not been mentioning Global. Global had a different model and they were successful with it. When I talk to friends within the Global organization they tell me that they still have been allowed to continue, for the most part, running their own companies \ branches. There is of course a push to sell more Xerox. Will Xerox continue this model? It’s hard to say, but compared to IKON & Danka you can easily argue that it is the only one of the three that truly had a working model. I don’t know if Xerox will have the courage not to assimilate and centralize Global. Time will tell.

Back to Ricoh & Konica Minolta, I forsee them having the same problems that IKON & Danka had. Why would this be surprising seeing how they are following the same business model, growth through acquisition. Do you think that Ricoh or Konica Minolta have much smarter people running their companies than those who ran IKON or Danka? Many of them may be the same people. It is a small industry. The flaw is in the model. Global’s model worked, IKON & Danka’s model failed. Which model do you think Ricoh, Konica Minolta, and Xerox are more likely to follow? Time will tell.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
VP \ Network Solutions

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

PS: Here we go again. Rumour has it that KM may be looking at OCE to fill their gap in the higher end segments.

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Ricoh buys IKON – What does that mean to you?

October 19, 2008

The news that Ricoh is buying IKON shocked the industry. While the deal has not yet been inked it does seem to be all but done. Many of us lived through the period of time where the big national dealers where buying up independent dealers at an alarming rate. But who among us thought we would see the day when IKON would be bought up like so many of the dealerships they consumed, and yet here we are. Oh how the mighty have fallen!

The Copier \ MFP industry is in a time of flux. With Konica Minolta buying Danka, Xerox buying Global, and Ricoh buying IKON all of the nation wide independent distribution channels have been absorbed by the manufacturers. Some people believe that bigger is always better. Having worked for a direct sales arm of a manufacturer and now currently for a large independent dealer I have a different opinion.

So far, the Manufacturers’s direct branches have not been good at turning a profit. When I left the direct branch of one manufacturer a year ago, we were the only direct branch out of thirteen in the country to hit our “triple crown numbers” and that direct branch had never before done it. One manufacturer (that I now represent) lost over 40 million dollars on their direct sales & service organization last year. Why, IMO because the don’t sell value. They give away the equipment and then try to scrimp on service to make up for it. The customer, who thought that they were getting a “great deal” suffers in the end.

There is a very different mind set from the Manufacturer and an Independent dealer. The Manufacturer sells toner (supplies) and the sale of equipment is simply a means to capture the supply market. So giving away the product seems like a reasonable strategy (Printer manufacturers have been doing this for years).
The independent dealer, on the other hand, is focused on long term sales AND SERVICE relationships to stay in business. Direct Sales organizations are looking to please their stock holders, Independent dealers need to please their customers.

When you find a large independent dealer who has survived years of pressure from Ikon, Danka, and Global, a dealer who has neither sold out nor been driven out of business by these national chains, a dealer who has outlasted all three and is still servicing and selling to a loyal customer base, that is dealer who you want to do business with. They could not have survived and thrived without doing a lot of things right.

In closing I would like to address the temptation of a customer who likes the idea of buying from a manufacturer BECAUSE they give their product away. While I acknowledge that there is a short term win for you, the end user, I ask you to consider a few things.  Is it wrong to make an honest profit? Are you entitled to make an honest profit on the products your company sells? That aside consider what happens to a market when only the big chains are left, competition dries up and prices rise and services suffers. I submit to you that it is the independent dealers that have and will keep this industry customer focused. If you have not dealt with an independent dealer in the past, and your current or previous dealer was either Ikon, Danka, or Global then give a call to the large independent dealer in your area that services your current line of Copiers \ MFPs. I think you will like what you find.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
VP \ Network Solutions
vince.mchugh@Yahoo.com

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My Printer is not working, what do I do now?

October 17, 2008

The call comes in to the IT help desk from a clearly upset End User “My Printer is not working”.

But is that really the case? If the help desk support specialist asks a few questions they can quickly find out where the problem really lies. If the End User is willing to work with you try asking these questions.

Q. Is anyone else able to print to the printer in question?
If yes…
Q. Have you rebooted your PC?  (Isn’t it amazing how often this resolves all sorts of problems)
Q. Can you browse the Internet? As a test go to http://www.yahoo.com (This will tell you if they are on the network)
Q. Can you print a “Test Page” to this printer?
Q. Can you print from another application (If you can’t print a PDF, can you print a MS Word Doc)?
End users often don’t want to try this because they get focused on printing this one document.
If Yes…
Q. Can you print a different document from the same application (a different PDF or MS Word Doc).
End users often don’t want to try this because they get focused on printing this one document.
If Yes…
Q. Can you try printing part of the document that has been giving you trouble? (try a few pages)

If you want the more technical reasons for what we just did read on.

Troubleshooting Printing Problems

While many Printing error messages quickly indicate the source of a problem, you’ll need to troubleshoot your problem further if you receive a non-specific Printing error message, or if you think you’re getting a Printing error but you haven’t received an error message. To troubleshoot a Printing error, isolate when the problem occurs to determine if it is a system-level, application-specific, file-specific, or element-specific problem. After you narrow down when the problem occurs, you can eliminate likely causes until you solve the problem.

1) Isolating System-Level Printing Problems

Do you receive the error from more than one application? If the same problem occurs from more than one application, the cause is most likely a problem at the system level. System-level problems are commonly caused by damaged fonts, damaged system files, damaged printer drivers, insufficient hard disk space, network problems, or hardware problems. If the problem only occurs from one application, see the “Isolating Application-Specific Problems” section.

Make sure you’re using an up-to-date Printing device driver (e.g., printer driver), or use the version of the driver required by your application. You also need plenty of free hard disk space when sending a file to a Printing interpreter, especially when you print a large file. Make sure your free hard disk space is not fragmented.
If you’re printing to an external Printing device, secure loose connectors (e.g., cables, switch boxes) by unplugging and replugging them. You can easily tell if a connection to an external device is severed altogether: the device won’t receive any data, so nothing happens. But if a connection is loose, the symptoms of your problem may be unclear: the device might receive small jobs only, or its driver may appear only intermittently in a Macintosh’s Chooser. If you’re printing to an older printer or one that uses a Postscript emulator (e.g., Pacific Page cartridge, Phoenix Printing Interpreter), it may not recognize newer Postsript code. Try printing the file to a printer containing a more current version of Adobe-licensed Postscript.

.2) lsolating Application-Specific Problems
Do you receive the error only from a single application, and in every file from that application? To determine if the error is being caused by the application or by a specific file, create a new file containing only a simple element, such as a rectangle or line. If this test file does not cause the error, the application itself is not causing the error, so you can move to the “Isolating File-Specific Problems” section. If this test file does cause the error, the application software may be damaged. Delete the application’s preferences file, then reinstall the application from the original installation disks.

3) Isolating File-Specific Problems
Do you receive the error only with a specific file or files? If the error occurs only with a specific file, the file may have the wrong print settings selected for your Printer, it may be damaged, or it may contain a problem element (e.g., damaged graphic). You can begin troubleshooting the file by using the same print settings as those of a file that does not cause an error. To determine if the file itself is damaged, copy the file’s contents into a new file, save the new file using the Save As command, then see if the error occurs with the new file. If the error doesn’t occur, the original file was damaged. If the error does occur, run any built-in diagnostic routines your application offers. In PageMaker, for instance, you can repair some file problems by using its Diagnostic Recompose feature: deselect all elements in the file, then choose Type >
Hyphenation while you hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys (Windows) or the Option and Shift
keys (Macintosh). If the error still occurs, the file likely contains one or more damaged elements.

Move to the “Isolating Element-Specific Problems” section.

4) Isolating Element-Specific Problems

Do you receive the error only with a specific page or elements on a page? After you’ve ruled out a damaged file as the cause, the error is likely being caused by a damaged or incorrectly written element or font. It may also be caused. by an element or combination of elements that requires more memory than is available. If the error occurs with a range of pages, look for common elements on those pages. If you can print all elements individually or in small groups, but not all at the same time, the combination of elements you are printing requires more memory than is available. To isolate the element or elements causing your problem, make a copy of the file. Then send groups of pages to the printer. If a group causes an error, print one page at a time from that group. Continue sending pages until you’ve narrowed down the problem page. You can then isolate the elements causing the problem by removing elements from each page. If you remove a page and the page then doesn’t cause the error, the elements you just removed were causing the problem.

Some applications, such as PageMaker, offer the option to include some elements, but not others, when sending your file to a Printer. For example, when you select the Proof Print option in PageMaker’s Print dialog box, PageMaker prints the text but not the graphics. Using this option, you can quickly determine if your problem is caused by an imported graphic or another element besides text in a PageMaker publication.
If an element causing the problem is text or an element you’ve created in the application, recreate the element. For text elements, you can also try using a different font (e.g., reformat the text using a different kind of font). If the file doesn’t cause the error when you use a different font, reinstall the original font in case its files are damaged.

If the element causing the problem is an imported graphic, first try reimporting the graphic. If the error still occurs, open the graphic in the application in which it was created, resave it, make sure it prints from that application, then reimport the graphic. If the imported graphic still causes the error, try resaving it in a different format, exporting it from a different application, or simplifying it so that it requires less memory. An imported graphic can cause a Printing error if it contains damaged or incorrectly written information, or if it too complex for your Printing interpreter (i.e., it requires more memory than is available).

If the file causes a Printing error because it is too complex, simplify it and see if it will print. To begin simplifying a complex file, reduce the number of imported graphics, reduce the number of fonts that must be downloaded, reduce the number of text effects (e.g., skewing, rotation), delete elements you don’t need, create paths using fewer points, or reimport bitmap images that have been resampled at a lower resolution. Graphic formats such as EPS are updated periodically, so older applications may use an older graphic standard that newer Printing interpreters may not understand.

Hope this helps
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

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Why you might consider a Document Management System (DMS)?

October 16, 2008

According to Coopers & Lybrand

It costs:

$20.00 to file a Paper Document

$16.00 to retrieve a Paper Document

$90.00 to edit a Paper Document

$120.00 to find a lost Paper Document

$220.00 to recreate a lost Paper Document

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What is an “SE” and why do you need one?

October 16, 2008

An SE is a Systems Engineer.

They come in two basic flavors “Pre” and “Post” Sales.

What’s the difference? The Pre Sale Systems Engineer meets with a Customer before the sale to find the business problem that needs to be solved by technology. They then propose & design a solution that will best meet the customers needs and budget. It is the Pre Sales SE’s job to handle both the technical sales cycle and proof of concept. The SE provides the “WOW Factor”. and instills confidence in the customer that his\her company can do what they propose. The SE must have integrity! A smart customer will keep asking questions until they hear a no. If all you hear is yes, yes, YES, then you should start to question if this is too good to be true (You know what they say about that). It’s better to give an honest no, then a deceitful yes. You ALWAYS pay for a deceitful yes in the not too distant future, and the cost is a bad reputation.

A good pre sale SE dresses well. He\She is part of the sales process and should dress accordingly. Some SEs will balk at this, they may say my technical ability is all I need. This is a common mistake made by many technical professionals, It holds them back in their career. We are business people first and technical people second. If you disagree you should stay in a post sale SE role. While a Post Sales SE still needs good people skills, their job is to implement, support, and troubleshoot the solution after the sale. A good post sale SE can not be over valued. They keep things running smooth, and allow the pre sale SE to move on to the next sales opportunity.

A post sale SE still needs to see the business side of what they do. They maintain the relationship with the customer’s IT Department. Once the copier gets connected to the network (and most of them do now) you must establish a healthy relationship with the IT department. The sales person can not generally do it. Why? Because IT people don’t trust sales people. They don’t speak the same language. A typical sale of a MFD (Multi Functional Device) involves a number of people, purchasing, operations, and IT at a minimum. They have a team of people with individual specialties put together to make a wise purchase. The “Copier” dealer is foolish if they don’t also bring in a team of specialists.

In a small dealership the pre & post sale SE may be one and the same. They should have some network certifications. Some of the most common ones are MCSE, CNE, Network+, CDIA+. You should ask what qualifies this person as an SE. Is it just an honorary title because he’s the guy at the dealership that knows the most about computers, or is it a title that they earned? As an educated consumer You should know which.

That’s my $0.02

Vince McHugh
VP \ Network Solutions
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com