Archive for the ‘News & Opinions’ Category

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25+ Years at NECS (Labor Day Thoughts)

September 4, 2017

It seems rare today for someone to spend a quarter of a century at the same company. But it is the norm for people who work for NECS. NECS has been in business for over 50 years. I am by far not the most tenured person at the company. There are those who have been there for 30+ years. In the spirit of full disclosure I will say that I took a 2+ years break to work for Ricoh Business Solutions (RBS). I came back to my current position nine years ago.

This kind of longevity at a single company seems to be the exception and not the rule. My daughter had worked for a company for 4 years. When she began applying for new jobs she was twice asked “Why she had been so long at one company?” She was told that it is common for people to change companies every 2 to 3 years. I can understand that only if each change is a change upwards and not just a horizontal move. When I look at a resume and I see someone changes jobs every year or so it is a red flag. I wonder why they could not keep a job for more than a year. When you look at my daughter’s resume it shows her taking on more an more responsibility at the one company she worked for those 4 years, when I see that on a resume it tells me that this is someone I can invest in with an expectation of a return on that investment. This may explain why so many people have stayed at NECS for so long. There has always been opportunity to grow and move up to greater responsibility within NECS. We often have Service people become Sales People, or Dispatchers become Operations Managers. I started in NECS as a Trainee (in 1989), learning to work on Copiers. Then I became a certified Technician, a Troubleshooter, a Field Manager, then I moved into Systems Support, became the Manager of the Team, and then became the Color Sales Specialist. After a short stint at RBS I returned to become the Vice President of Network Solutions. I am not that unique at NECS. Our VP of Service has been in Sales, and has also run Operations and the Shop. Our Service Manager ran the Parts Department for a time.

So the lesson that comes from this is IF you want people to stay at your company for decades you need to make sure that you promote from within, not just within each department but across departments. Sometimes it will not work out, and you may want to allow that person to go back to what they were good at. But even if that happens they will be grateful for the chance, and they will have learned a little about how that other part of the company runs. A real WINN WIN!!! NECS’ example of longevity should be more the norm than the exception. How is it at your company?

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

WWW.NECS.BIZ

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CUI – Confidential Unclassified Information

August 22, 2017

I had one of my Sales people bring me in to see a customer who wanted to solve their Confidential Unclassified Information issue. They are a Federal Government Contractor and need to be able to demonstrate that they are in compliance with 32 CFR Part 2002, Controlled Unclassified Information. The IT Manager correctly identified that they only need to add a cover sheet to alert users to CUI documents in the printer or MFD tray. The Cover Sheet needs to have specific information on it to identify CUI and show how it is to be handled.

I told him that I could definitely modify a Banner \ Separator Page that could have all the CUI identification and instructions to print out on top of each document that prints to a particular printer or print Queue. A nice low tech solution!

But I have a passion for solving my Customer’s Business problems by combining software, hardware, and know how! So I asked him if he had any concern that someone might simply lift the cover sheet either accidentally or on purpose and see the CUI Document. He asked what else we could do and I told him if the documents get marked “CUI” anywhere in the name of the electronic file, we could use that to trigger a workflow that would re route that CUI Print Job from the Printer Queue the End User selected on the Print Server to a Secure Input Queue and then send the User an email that would tell them that their print job had been re routed and where to pick it up. It doesn’t matter what application they are printing from. If it has CUI anywhere in the name it triggers the CUI Secure Printing workflow. Using this Rules Based Routing workflow with Secure Follow Me type printing they can pick up their CUI print job at any MFD in their company by logging in and releasing the CUI job from the Secure Print Queue, A real nice high tech solution that requires no change in the printing behavior on the end users part!

Let’s take this a step futher and combine the low tech with the high tech solutions and get the best of both. By adding the CUI Separator page to the secure output printer that receives the re routed CUI print job you have the CUI print job inaccessible to anyone except the person who printed it. And even when THEY release the CUI print job it prints with an appropriate CUI Banner \ Separator Page over it. So even after the Authorized User picks it up no one else can casually look at the information in passing. I am now comfortable that we have done everything we can to help our Customer meet their Federal requirements for Controlled Unclassified Information.

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

WWW.NECS.BIZ

 

 

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Nuance & Canon

July 31, 2017

Apparently Nuance and Canon are fighting. How do I know? I can’t get eCopy Sharescan embedded on some of the newest Canon MFDs. Each of these large companies will undoubtedly blame the other, but My customers are the ones that are getting hosed.

I will say that Sharescan isn’t as popular as it once was, because now there are many other scanning solutions that have very similar features. Even the built in scan features that come standard on most MFDs have some of the features that eCopy ShareScan was known for. So many people don’t require, or don’t want a scanning solution that requires a back room server to support it. But eCopy Sharescan still has a terrific Connector Catalog and for customers that have standardized on a solution it is a pain in the butt to ask them to change one or all of their MFDs.

To Nuance I will say “If you force me to change scanning solutions you will never get that customer back”.

To Canon I will say “If you force me to sell a different brand of MFD to a customer that refuses to leave Sharescan we will eventually swap out the rest of their fleet to the new brand of MFDs.

Now Nuance will read what I said to Canon and Canon will read what I said to Nuance. To which I will say READ YOUR OWN MAIL!!! You two need to figure out how to work together so that our shared customers don’t suffer. This has gone on long enough. Stop embarrassing yourselves. You are starting to look like Congress! And you know how low their approval ratings are.

  • That’s My $0.02
  • Vince McHugh
  • vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

 

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Ode to TechNet!

June 14, 2016

Technet 2

How many of you ever attended a “TechNet”? Maybe I should be a little more specific. How many of you (SEs) ever attended a Canon TechNet? I hear some other group called there gathering “TechNet” as well, but I am talking about the ones that Canon used to run down at Disney World (Florida) and Disney Land (CA) in August! It’s where many SEs learned their trade. I can still remember going to my first one and they had “remedial seminars” (for lack of a better word) for new SEs Like Managing Color. That’s where Mike Betsco (Now with Samsung, but back then with Canon) taught me the “Red Car By GM” trick to remember the relationship between RGB and CMYK color. In the early days EFI and eCopy were very involved in presenting their own solutions but towards the end Canon did ALL the presentations with maybe a vendor in the room for support.

The beat up picture above was a luggage tag that they gave out years ago. It finally fell off my bag this weekend and made me think about writing this blog. These were a great 3 days, not only because I got to take my young family on the cheap trip (a couple extra bucks for the room, and their own airfare, meals, and Disney Passes) but it was where I learned my trade as a Systems Engineer (SE). But then Arnold got caught, and TechNets stopped. Today the Canon executives shudder when you bring up the name Technet! But what has replaced it? Nothing really. So instead of taking a couple of years to get an SE up and running it now takes 5 years (IMHO) to get an SE who knows enough to be valuable. I once brought on a Network Engineer that was once our main contact at a large customer. He managed the fleet of Canons and when there was a problem he placed the call. When that customer closed the location he was working at it seemed like a good idea to bring him on as an SE. But even though he was a real good Network Engineer, and was responsible for the MFDs as a Customer (Main Contact) he really didn’t know the MFDs that well and that hurt him (I now think it’s better to promote from within or hire an SE who has done the job already). I had no Technet to send him to, where he could be exposed to 20 – 30 different technology solutions that Canon sold and we supported. As it turned out the economy turned bad and we had to let someone go, last in first out, but I am not sure he would have made it anyway. Not REALLY his fault. Where do you go today to learn to be a real SE, not a copier repair tech who knows a little about computers? You can get a CompTIA NET+ certification and that is a real good start, maybe you can get your company to send you to Fiery, Nuance, Papercut, or UniFLOW training, but God help you if you fail. You probably won’t be going to another school. I miss Technet, I have even proposed that it be done regionally at the Canon Regional Training centers so MOST SEs could drive there, and all it would cost is a hotel and a couple of days of meals. But Canon doesn’t seem interested at all. Maybe now that Mike Betsco is over at Samsung they can run a Technet to train SEs on their solutions.

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@Yahoo.com

PS: Maybe when I retire I will start a consulting buisness to train Systems Engineers. 🙂

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The Nine Month Trial

February 14, 2016

I am not a big fan of on site trials. Usually when a Sales guy tells me that their Customer wants to do an onsite demo I ask why? What can they see on site that that can’t see in our demo room. Maybe they have some custom application or a Host system that they want to see print correctly. In those cases I ask the Sales person to write up a conditional sale. They negotiate an acceptable price and we set some very well defined conditions. These do not include “if we like the machine” or “If our users are happy with it”. These are two vague and capricious. A conditional like “it must print form our AS400 system and format the pages like our current printer does”. Or maybe “It must be able to scan to email from our Office 365 email server”. These are well defined and achievable conditions that once met we will get the deal. If a customer refuses to sign a conditional sale, be ware, their commitment level is probably not where it needs to be to risk doing that much work.

There are of course exceptions, but it is generally based on the risk reward ratio. If we spend the time to set up an MFD, that’s not that time consuming. But if I have to set up am  UniFLOW, Papercut, or Biscom Server for a trial that takes just as much time to do it for a trial as it would for a real installation. And that’s fine “IF” there is a big enough return on investment. I am very confident in our ability to make our MFDs work with most systems. I like to tell people if your running Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux. AS400, we can and have integrated our devices with these systems. Pretty much anything except Banyan Vines :-). And if you know what that is you’ve been doing networking for a very long time.

About nine months ago one of my top sales woman got me involved in a presale opportunity where the potential customer was currently using Equitrac with Konica Minoilta MFDs to print from a host system processing medical billing. The customer has the need to occasionally reprint jobs for the end users if they didn’t print correctly or at all. The KMBS Branch added some separate software called Phoenix Dispatcher to add this functionality that Equitrac could not accomplish. It did however require the Customer’s IT Dept to do the reprinting of the jobs based on a date and time range.

NECS believes in team selling. Having both a seasoned Sales Parson and a Pre Sales Systems Engineer to better define not only the customer’s needs but what would be the best solution to satisfy that need. You may have heard me say in the past that I believe a true solution is a combination of Hardware, Software, and Know How used to solve a Business Problem. The Pre Sales SE needs to not only understand what the customer is trying to do but why and then consider all the different options available to best meet this need. Sometimes a good SE can help a customer revamp or reinvent how they do a particular process or workflow saving them significant time and money. But that only happens when there is a certain level of trust and a good working relationship between the vendor and the customer.

When we first met with this customer they told us the basic functionality they had was working “OK” but they were unhappy with the reliability of the Konica Minolta MFDs and even more so with the lack of support from the KMBS Branch. They were interested in replacing the KMs with Canons but not all at once. And here is where it gets complicated. After understanding what they were doing now, what they liked and didn’t like, and what they were hoping to accomplish we gave them a couple of options:

  1. Keep using your current Equitrac System with your Phoenix Dispatcher System and we will simply add Canon MFDs with embedded Equitrac MEAP apps to replace the Konica Minoltas that are failing. We would need to order RFIDead Card Readers and do some testing to match the current HID OmniKey Card readers on the KM MFDs. But a number of our vendors (Nuance, Cranel, RFIDeas) said “no problem” we will be able to match the card numbers read by the OmniKey Reader.
  2. . We also proposed replacing the Equitrac System in three  possible ways:
    1. Add a UniFLOW System to run alongside their current Equitrac System and it would eventually be replaced as we replaced more and more KMs with Canons.
    2.   Completely replace the  Equitrac System with the UniFLOW system and use the UniFLOW Universal Release Stations (URS) to release the print jobs on the KMs and the Canons would use their built in UniFOW MEAP app.
    3. The third option we considered was Papercut but we dismissed it early because while it has a nice Archiving feature, there is no mechanism currently in place for mass reprinting or even reprinting a batch of print jobs.

When the KMBS Branch found out that the customer was talking to us and that they were considering replacing some of their Konica Minolta MFDs with Canons they said “You know that you wil need to have two separate input queues for secure printing. One for the KMs and one for  the Canons”. They asked us if this was true and we confirmed that Yes, this is how Equitrac does it. We did tell them that with the Canon UniFLOW System you could have a single secure input queue for BOTH the Canon & the KM if they used the UniFLOW Universal Print Driver.

The first option failed to be satisfactory when we could not get the new RFIDeas Card Readers to read their HID cards exactly the same. We worked with RFIDeas, Cranel, and Nuance and the only solution that they came up with was to dumb down the readers to read a 5 digit card number. This was unacceptable to the Customer. So we moved on to a UniFLOW System.

When we installed the UniFLOW system we loaded UniFLOW MEAP apps on the Canon MFDs and set up UniFLOW URS (Uninflow Release Stations) near each of the Konica Minolta MFDs. While we recommended that NECS take over the service on all of the KMs as well as the Canons the fact that we didn’t actually have to load any software on them or modify them in anyway to use the UniFLOW Release Stations they could if they want to still have the Branch continue to service them until we replaced them with Canons. Two of the things that the Customer REALLY liked about the UniFLOW System were that you could not only use a single Secure Input Queue for multiple MFD manufacturers BUT the End Users could reprint there own documents WITHOUT any third party software (like KM’s Phoenix Dispatcher) on either the Canons or the Konica Minoltas becasue they both show a new print job queue and a previously printed job queue (if activated). This was a big deal for the IT Department because it meant they no longer had to reprint users documents.

So we worked hard, and worked through the different challenges to deliver the perfect solution to this customer, right? Well, not so fast. All that I described above with the UniFLOW System worked as advertised BUT this particular user had two more requirements. The first requirement is  all documents had to be printed in the exact order that they were sent to the Secure Print Queue. And the Second requirement is they all had to print at the rated speed of the Engine (Canon or KM). These two requirements were BOTH do able but NOT with the Universal Print Driver. Technically that’s not true, The Universal Print Driver can print in order and at rated speed unless you print a very large number of single page jobs, which, you guessed it, that is what this customer does. We have never seen a slow down before because we had not dealt with a customer that would print 200 – 500 single page jobs and then release them all at once.

We worked with NTware & Canon for over a month to try to get this resolved and finally had to tell the customer that the only way we could get them to print at rated speed and in order for 200 – 500 single page jobs we would need to use the actual Manufacturer’s Print Driver, which would mean in this case UniFLOW, like Equitrac, would need to use a separate secure input queue for the KMs and the Canons respectfully. The customer was not happy and asked us to keep working on the Universal driver to accomplish all three functions:

1. Print at rated speed

2. Release all the Print Jobs in the same order that the user sent them

3. Use one secure input Print queue for both the Canon and the Konica Minolta MFDs.

We exhausted all of our technical resources and ultimately had them have to pick two. They chose the first two and after all the work we did decided to keep the KMs  on the Equitrac System until they got to the point that they wanted to replace them with Canons. At that point we would move them over to UniFLOW. And when the last KM MFD was replaced they would decommission their Equitrac Server. I know that we proposed this months and months ago but Customers want it all, and to tell you the truth I want to give them it all, whenever possible. But sometimes technology has limitations. I am not sure why this customer didn’t kick us out, except to say I think they were REALLY unhappy with their current Vendor. It took us finally saying “no” we can only do two of the three requirements to get them to say OK. We can live with that. So we did a nine month trial and we won the deal. This felt like a bare knuckle 15 round fight. When we hit the road blocks that we were not able to completely overcome my very Seasons Sales Person was beside herself, and not happy with me because it had never happened before. But when all was said and done and we won the deal she understood just how difficult the technical requirements were to meet. I think the Customer stayed with us because we demonstrated a commitment to keep working with them to give them the best possible solution that was available.  And that is what they got!

It was a tough, challenging nine month trial, but we won the deal. And somehow that makes it as I look back on all the effort it took, worth it!

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

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NECS Fax Anywhere brings Faxing into the 21st Century!

March 21, 2015

How would you like to turn every one of your Canon, Samsung, or Konica Minolta MFDs into a 21st Century Fax, WITHOUT adding a fax board, or a POTS (plain old telephone system) phone line or even an analog to digital convertor. You won’t need any of these with the NECS Fax Anywhere functionality.

The NECS Fax Anywhere enables all your MFDs to be able to fax! We can provide 800 numbers or local numbers, and there are no long distant charges. Sound pretty good, doesn’t it? It gets better. With this new NECS Fax Anywhere functionality you also get an Audit trail. You can prove that you sent or received a fax on a certain day, at a certain time.

The NECS Fax Anywhere functionality comes in three flavors:

1) Completely Cloud Based (no software or hardware required on your network).

2) Hybrid Cloud Solution (a Small Software Package is loaded on a Windows Server on your network).

3) On Site Fax server (can be enabled with redundant fax server support in the cloud).

We can also provide Smart Device (iphone, Android) Fax apps, and Fax via email and even fax enable your core applications with our NECS Fax Anywhere solution. Let’s face it faxing is still a part of business in our modern offices. Sometimes faxing is either the right medium or the only medium to deliver certain documents. NECS Fax Anywhere gives you all the convenience of faxing without the old fashion fax machine, or fax board, or expensive phone line.

Fax Servers are better than network (print to fax) faxes because you get better reporting and audit trails. But you also can get advanced routing, or direct inbound dialing. Do you want each of your sales people to have their own fax number that comes directly to their own email? NECS Fax Anywhere can provide this. But do you want that same sales person to be able to walk up to an MFD or Digital Copier that has no fax board or phone line and be able to send out a fax that will come from their personal fax account? NECS Fax Anywhere can provide all this functionality.

We at NECS are excited about offering Fax Anywhere Functionality to our customers!

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

 

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More bad news for Sharp

March 9, 2015

I wrote a blog about Sharp a while back. https://theconnectedcopier.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/sharp-denies-rumours-that-they-are-selling-their-copier-division/ Sharp denied the rumors.

But the bad news keeps on rolling in for Sharp.

Here are some quotes from a BloombergBusiness Article:

“Sharp’s core business is as bad as it could get,” said Atul Goyal, a senior analyst at Jefferies Group LLC in Singapore.”

“Shares of Sharp fell 5.3 percent, the most since Jan. 19, to 232 yen in Tokyo, widening their decline to 13 percent this year.”

“Japan’s Rating and Investment Information downgraded the consumer-electronics maker to B- from B+”

“Hurdles to Sharp Corp.’s restructuring are becoming even higher.”

“The newspaper also reported that Sharp’s fiscal 2015 net loss may reach 100 billion yen, and the company may shut its Mihara chip plant and exit its solar business.”

“Standard & Poor’s cut its credit rating on Sharp to CCC+ with a negative outlook”

“In 2012, when the company should’ve been celebrating its 100th anniversary, executives were releasing the company’s worst financial results ever (nearly $5 billion of losses)….the bleeding has not stopped. Sharp is forecasting a $251 million loss in the 12 months ending March”

My Comments start here:

I am betting that the people who complained the loudest about the opinions I expresses in my 2012 blog article have already found there way to the exit.

The burning question that once again rears it’s ugly head is what will become of Sharps MFD (Copier) Business? It has value, so who will buy it?

Makes you go Hmmmm?

That’s my $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com