Archive for March, 2013


cooking up your solution

March 19, 2013

I have often said that a great “solution” is a combination of hardware, software, and know how that solves my customer’s business problem. In the copier industry hardware has pretty much become a commodity. Software can still be a differentiator.

It’s great when a vendor has an exclusive on a particular software (like Canon did with eCopy originally, or now has with UniFLOW). But more often the software vendor writes their software for as many MFD platforms as s/he is allowed to put it on. Which means that it is possible to have two different companies offering the exact same hardware \ software combination for their solution to a particular customers problem (a purchasing agents dream). So what would separate one “solutions provider” from the other……..?

No! not price! Why does your mind always go there? And don’t tell me that wasn’t your first thought. But it’s NOT my first thought. Please go back to the beginning of this post and re read the definition that I gave for a great solution and tell me what part of a great solution have we not yet discussed? (I’ll wait).

Yes! Know How! It is not enough to have great hardware, working with great software if you don’t have the know how to put them together to create a real world, practical, workable solution, that end users will love to solve their business problem.

When eCopy originally opened up it’s product line to all the non-Canon dealers a lot of people panicked. eCopy ShareScan was a GREAT separator for Canon, for a real long time. It was the only solution that (at that time) had AD integration, and it could place an email that you sent from eCopy at the copier in the sent folder of your Outlook client back at your PC. That was a huge deal back then, and we beat that feature like a drum! But then everyone (except Xerox, they took a long time to get on board with eCopy) picked up the product. So what did we have to differenciate ourselves then? Know How!!! We had been working with eCopy for over a decade by that time. Our competitors were saying me too, me too, we can do that too!!!! We were saying we already done it, hundreds of times. And well done is better than well said!

It’s not just with eCopy, the software & the hardware and like the raw ingredients to make a meal (the solution). I could provide the same raw ingredients to two people to make “Beef Wellington” me and Chef Ramsey. We both have the same ingredients (Hardware & Software). I bet he’d even be a sport and let me have a recipe to follow. Who do you think would provide a better meal (solution) from the same set of ingredients (Hardware & Software). No doubt, the person who has done it a thousand times. The same is true for our industry, the hardware may be a commodity (I personally do believe some manufacturers make significantly better hardware than others), but at least the functions of the basic MFDs are all the same (Copy, Print, Scan, & Fax). So you could say that at least the basic functions are a commodity.

But when you add software to the MFD that extends and enhances the capabilities of the basic MFD, you turn it into a smart MFD. While the copier industry may not yet have the equivalent of the Apple App Store, there are a lot of companies writing software that runs in the MFD. Some of these run completely within the MFD, while others tie into a middleware server that runs on a windows server or PC somewhere on the customer’s network. These are the raw ingredients that we have to solve our customer’s business problem. But it is how you put them together, and how you configure them (your cooking technique, if you will) that will determine if you are starring on “Master Chef” or “America’s Worst Cooks”. It is know how, how to use the raw ingredients, that will make or break the end result, regardless of whether that is a perfect Beef Wellington, or a perfect solution f0r your customer.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh