Archive for the ‘Terminology’ Category

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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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NECS Integrates Biscom SFT Server with Canon ImageRUNNER Advance!

August 17, 2014

IR-Adv Biscom SFT Integration

I spent last Friday afternoon at Biscom’s headquarters working with their Systems Engineers. My initial goal was to set up the Canon ImageRUNNER Advance MFD that we had loan them to integrate with their Bisocm Fax Server. We used UniFLOW to accomplish this integration. When it comes to integrating Fax Servers with UniFLOW “I have stood on the shoulder’s of giants!” Men like Erick Miller (Ray Morgan) and Joe Lucas (NTware) who pioneered UniFLOW \ Fax Server integration.

We got the Canon IR-Adv MFD set up so that it would send emails through their email server, but when an end user would type in JUST a fax number where the email usually goes the UniFLOW system was smart enough to route it directly to the Fax Server, bypassing the email server altogether.  Since the end user was “logged in” at the Canon IR-Adv MFD, Uniflow knew the email address of the logged in user. This allowed the Fax Server to show that the Fax came from them, and the fax sent receipt would also show up in their email. I had just set up this same functionality at a private school in the morning, So it only took me all of about 30 minutes to do at Biscom.

We had blocked off the entire afternoon so we had some time to kill. I got to talking with the Biscom Engineers about also setting up the Canon IR-ADV MFD to send emails via their Secure File Transfer Server. There wasn’t an easy trigger (like a fax number) to allow the UniFLOW Server to differentiate a normal Scan to Email from a Secure Scan to email. So I set up a different button on the Canon (see picture above) to ALWAYS send to the Secure File Transfer Server. It worked great!!!

Think about what this means to an office. We can set up a single Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance MFD to Scan and send a file via

1. Scan to Email

2. Scan to Fax Server

3. Scan to Secure File Transfer

The first two can be done by the standard Canon Universal Send when we enhance it with UniFLOW. The third option can be done by either a separate MEAP Button, or I am confident we will also be able to set it up via a UniFLOW Advanced Scanning Workflow Button (we are still working on this).

In practice this means that the average end user can send an email to their own email (Scan to myself) or their Home Directory (Scan to MyFolder) or someone else in their company (Via an LDAP Address Book tied to their Active Directory). Most corporate email servers are set up to allow users to Scan “to” the server but not allow them to scan “through” the email server to an outside email address. This is often done for security reasons. Since Our Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance is set up to allow Ad-Hoc Secure File Transfer via the Biscom SFT Server, when an End User needs to email a file outside of the organization they choose the Biscom SFT button which will send a link to the documents via email, but the recipient needs to login to the Biscom Secure File Transfer Server to actually download the files.

Finally an End Users can send a Fax by simply typing the Fax # or selecting a Fax # from the Address book and sending it as if it were an email. Giving them the simplicity of sending a fax from the MFD, but also giving them all the benefits of a Fax Server, like fax receipts being emailed back to their personal email account, and improved reporting, allowing them to prove they sent a particular fax two months ago. Limited reporting capabilities is one of the greatest limitations of faxing from an MFD or stand alone faxes.

This new Canon \ UniFLOW \ Biscom integration will empower End Users to deliver documents inside or outside their organization in the most secure manner possible. That will make both end users and the CSO happy, Not an easy task to do!

That’s my $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

 

 

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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
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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3 Days !!!! You call that Service? Really?

February 14, 2013

Last week my company installed a new Canon Color ImageRUNNER-Advance into a relatively small transportation office (2 floors). We were swamped with two SEs out, one at UniFLOW school and another on vacation. So I dd the install. It was pretty straight forward. The only issue is when I initially brought the Canon online I choose DHCP, and it self configured it’s IP info. I then proceeded to “ping” the ip address that the customer had gave our sales person to be assigned to their new Canon. Unfortunately when I pinged that address IT RESPONDED! If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you shouldn’t be setting up MFDs on customer’s networks. So I pinged an ip address that  believed would be outside of the DHCP scope that did NOT respond, and I manually assigned it to the new Canon.

I set up the Canon on the network, got all the PCs printing and then the Office manager asked me to set up the Scan (Send) function.  I pressed the Send Button and the touch screen said “This function requires optional equipment”, UGH, The sales person thought this model had Universal Send as a standard feature, It didn’t. Not that big a deal, now a days if you want to add a function to a Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance MFD all’s it takes is a license code! Which IMHO is the way it SHOULD be. Manufacturer your MFDs with all the functionality that they could need and then release the optional functions with license codes.

So I told the office Manager that our sales guy would order the license for Usend (Scanning). She was NOT happy and said that this must be setup before the end of the week, then said, NO, by Thursday, because I am off this Friday and She wanted this completed before she went on vacation. We rose to the occasion. I called my sales guy and and he got the licensed code ordered, Our operations manager pulled them from our inventory (Yes, we actually do stock inventory) and he scanned them to my email address. I received them on my company iPhone. I know, how pretentious, but how FUNCTIONAL!!!!

The next day (Wednesday) I was back onsite, and  installed the Usend \ Scanning license code, and rebooted the Canon MFD. It came up with the scanning functionality that the customer requested. Before I left on the first day, I looked at the old Lanier MFD on the second floor, and made note of the smtp (email) settings. Since I had worked for “Ricoh Business Systems” for two plus years I knew how to get this info. A Lanier is just a relabeled Ricoh. I was able to get all the info I needed to set up the Scan to Email EXCEPT the password for the User account used for SMTP Authentication. But, I had spoken to the IT support, by phone. Remote IT Support is more and more common today. But when I spoke to him I told him that I would need the password for the Account that was being used for the SMTP Authenticationon the upstairs “Lanier”. He assured me he would get it for me before i returned.

So, I show up on Wednesday, pull up the email from my Ops manager and keyed in the license code for Usend, reboot and I have a scanning MFD. I configure all the settings except the password for the SMTP authentication account. The office manager called their remote IT Support and he gave me the password for the SMTP Authentication account. I entered it and the Canon was Scanning to email. Cool! All was working as advertised!

But I got a call from the Office Manager and she was in a bit of a panic because NOW her Lanier on the 2nd floor Scan to email stopped working  (She said)  when we set up the Canon. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Do you know what happened? Yep! The “remote” Network support person didn’t know the password to the account that they were using for SMTP authentication. So he just changed it. That’s OK for me and my new Canon MFD, but not so good for the old Lanier upstairs. When I spoke to the office manager she was in a bit of a panic because of who sits upstairs (The principals of the company). And now they couldn’t scan to email (unless they went downstairs to the Canon). Now I could have said that this was NOT MY PROBLEM, because it wasn’t my MFD that could not scan to email. But that is not how NECS does business. So when the office manager called me in a panic, and said that she HAD called Ricoh and they told her that their SE would NOT be there for 3 Days, REALLY 3 Fricken’ Days!!! I decided I would work with her, over the phone to try to walk her through how to fix her Lanier MFD that would no longer scan.

Since the Canon can now scan and the Lanier use to be able to scan, there was no doubt in my mind that the remote IT support person had simply changed the password to the account they used for smtp authentication. So I leveraged my time at Ricoh to walk this nice woman through the process of how to change the password of the smtp account. And she tested it and the Lanier now could scan to email again. Yet Ricoh said that she wouldn’t see an SE for 3 DAYS!!! If you ask me THAT IS WHAT SERVICE IS ALL ABOUT! Service is a promise! It says “We will be there when you need us”! In my opinion Ricoh didn’t uphold this promise, and NECS did, even when it wasn’t our equipment. Why? Because we hope this will matter to the Office manager the next time they order equipment, like when they need to replace the Lanier MFD on the 2nd floor. I hope they remember the difference in support when the time comes. Because I am sick of having to compete with the Bottom feeders who are always cheaper than I am, but who make the customer wait 3 days, yes, 3 FRICKIN DAYS!!!!!! to fix something that I can fix over the phone. The question I have for you, is put yourself in the shoes of that Office Manager, with YOUR Principals pissed off at YOU because their old MFD can no longer scan to email. If you were that office manager would you want:

A. a Service organization that tells you they will be there in 3 Days, or

B. a Service organization that calls you back, and walks you through the process over the phone of how to fix the COMPETITORS MFD!!!!!!!!!!

Of course you want “B”, but the question is, will you pay a little more for it? Because we will NOT BE THE CHEAPEST! But WE WILL BE THE BEST VALUE!

The above incident illustrated How!

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHughVince.Mchugh@NECS.BZ
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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A picture is worth a thousand words, two pictures….priceless!

November 20, 2012

last Friday

today

It took them long enough to scrape the old name off the building ( 1 Federal St Boston, Ma).

 

Nuf Said.
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

 

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Managing Depart IDs (Pin Codes) on a fleet of MFDs \ Copiers

October 6, 2012

Canon calls them Department IDs, you may hear them called Pin Codes. But a rose by any other name…

Depart IDs have been used to control and track copy usage long before the copier became the MFD, when we connected them to the network. They were the most basic way to track what users copied. Department IDs also evolved so you could also use them to track printing as well. When Color MFDs came into the Office the biggest concern customers had who were switching from B&W to a Color MFD was “How do I control color cost”? Pin codes were the answer, they could be used to lock down JUST COLOR COPIES & PRINTS. Where you could copy or print in B&W without entering a code, but if you tried to copy or print in color it would give you a pop up and you had to enter a valid pin code that was set up on the copier or it would deny your job. The fact that users knew that they were being tracked REALLY helped control color usage & cost. Because they knew if the monthly report showed that they had done 5,000 color copies \ prints that the would have to defend that number to their boss.

Dept. IDs could also be set up to only lock down certain functions. If you wanted to track ALL copies & prints, but wanted to leave Fax & Scanning open you could set your Dept IDs to lock down just copy & print, but fax & scan could be used without entering a pin code.

The best thing about Department IDs is that they are a standard feature on the Canons, and most MFDs have something similar. They are turned off by default but can be easily turned on and set up by your technician or even your sales person. They work great on a single device but they have their limitations. The first being that they are copier centric which is fine when you have one MFD, and OK when you have two, and maybe three MFDs,  but they do not scale well. Since they have not been designed to be centrally managed, managing & tracking a number of MFDs that have Dept IDs has proven to be labor intensive. As the number of MFDs scales up the labor required to manage their Dept. IDs increases exponentially! But like a lobster in a pot, if the heat gets turned up slowly over time, the customer may not notice until they are boiling, and then they are so married to the system changing it to a centrally managed system is hard to justify the ROI, because the Dept. IDs kinda work, if you do a lot of work.

There has never been an easy way to manage Pin codes across multiple machines. They have also traditionally had very limited reporting. But that was done on purpose (IMHO), they call it “a Marketing decision”. The manufacturers wanted to sell you something that was NOT a standard feature (like eQuitrac for example). The problem with eQuitrac or similar optional equipment has been the cost, and often they would require hardware terminals (affectionately know as the brick). I will say that Equitrac and others have written embedded software that runs within the copier and is accessed through the copier’s touch screen. This embedded software is cheaper then the hardware terminal but there is still a licensing fee, that on a fleet of MFDs drives up the price of the solution. Customers were often left with the choice of the cheaper less functional solution (Pin Codes) or the much more expensive eQuitrac type solution. .

But I may have found the middle ground. I recently used Canon UniFLOW solution to push out a standard list of Department IDs to 165 Canons. and automate the monthly allocation report by having the previous months totals emailed to the finance department on the first day of each month. Not only will the UniFLOW report give a break down of copies, prints, color, B&W, Faxes, and even scans, but it will calculate the cost for each Dept ID so that all the Finance department needs to do is bill it.

You may say that sounds a lot like an eQuitrac style solution, but the difference is I didn’t need to touch any of the 165 Canon MFDs. I was able to import an Excel spread sheet of standard (numeric) cost centers with Alphanumeric Descriptions into UniFLOW as Cost Centers. Then we pushed out these cost centers as department IDs. This all happened without the end users even being aware it was being done. No client needed to be loaded on the copier, no hardware had to be attached, we didn’t even need to reboot the copier. Now, only 165 out of 300 Canons at this account uses Dept IDs (Pin Codes) to track the MFD usage. the other 135 are wide open with no Dept IDs to use the Canon. For these Canons we simply assign a default cost center in UniFLOW and then set up the report that will track the copy & print activity by cost center for all 300 Canon MFDs and we never touched a single Canon!

DEPT IDs are a simple yet elegant solution. I come not to bury Dept IDs but to praise them (my apologies to Shakespeare) . Using UniFLOW to centrally manage and track Dept IDs overcomes their greatest weakness. But you may say UniFLOW supports Pin Codes on their embedded MEAP app, why not just use the UniFLOW MEAP App. The simple answer is costs. Just like the embedded Equitrac software there is a licensing cost per MFD. That doesn’t mean the customer may not eventually migrate to the embedded UniFLOW software, but it doesn’t have to be an ALL OR NOTHING proposition. This can be an evolution rather than a revolution. The upgrade path can happen over the period of the lease or the next level of functionality can be added with the next lease.

The reason that this customer decided to add UniFLOW was a clear ROI. It use to take them 3 months to gather and allocate the cost of their copiers so they could charge back the respective departments. And to be honest they knew that they were not accurately tracking all the usage. Now with UniFLOW they get this process automated and an email shows up on the first day of every month with an Excel or PDF file attached. The lesser cost of UniFLOW using Dept IDs over a full fledge version of UniFLOW with MFD clients or Equitrac was an easy sell. There is also a clear upgrade path with features that the customer has already indicated that they want such as tracking ALL NETWORK PRINTING by adding UniFLOW RPS software to their 8 Print Servers, Secure Printing tied to their companies security access cards, which would also give them Secure Mobile Printing. On a side note they have already rolled out a small test group or 12 MFDs that are using the UniFLOW Advanced Scanning Module to scan into a back end system. UniFLOW is modular and scalable so we can install it to meet their current need and then leverage that investment to add additional functionality without having to re purchase the core server. UniFLOW helps me add value, and show an excellent ROI, without making my customers choose all or nothing.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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Making the “Copier” relevant in today’s office

April 5, 2012

Now that I have your attention, it is not possible to make a “Copier” relevant. BUT it is possible to make the MFD relevant! I sure hope that you are not trying to get a purchasing agent excited about your 35 PPM color copier. Because all (s)he wants to know is how cheap (s)he can get it from you (Not only boring, but a recipe to go broke, for you and your company).

So what makes an MFD relevant:

Is it integrated with your companies Active Directory (or LDAP) Server?

Is it integrated with your companies Security Cards?

Is it integrated with your Fax Server?

Is it integrated with your Document Management System?

Is it integrated with your back office (core business) servers?

Can your mobile users print to it from their iPads, iPhones, Androids, or Blackberries?

In short, can your customers leverage their MFD to solve their business problems?

If YES? Then your MFD is relevant in today’s modern office!

If NO? Then you better be the cheapest copier, and you better hope that I am not competing for the same business.

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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Why RFP for Copiers don’t work anymore. Who’s buying just copiers?

March 24, 2012

Actually if all your company needs is a “copy Machine” then an RFP (Request for Proposal) WILL work for your company.

But when was the last time your company or organization purchased a “Copy Machine” – a machine that JUST MADE COPIES?

Don’t you buy MFDs or even Smart MFDs? Do they Scan, Print, and do Network Faxing? Are you leveraging the power of your Smart MFDs by loading software on them that extends and enhances their capabilities to connect into your network infrastructure or back end servers? If not than you are missing out on the REAL SAVINGS that a Smart MFD can bring to your company. Have you ever heard the phrase “strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel” that describes the process as it relates to a traditional copier RFP. Because the focus is on trying to make all of your vendors look exactly alike, so you can force the cheapest price for the dumb down comparison that the RFP requires. There is a better way to do an RFP.

If you work in purchasing and you are responsible for the “Copier RFP” and your biggest concern is replacing like for like features (50ppm and duplexing) at the cheapest price then you really need to update your process, and broaden the input you receive from other departments like IT, Compliance, Governance, Security, and Operations. If you don’t get their input as to what they need then you will buy the cheapest “copy machines” that will NOT meet any of these departments needs, so they will need to go out and purchase other devices that will cost your company more than necessary because your Copier RFP did not consider their needs. Or worse yet, you actually thwart their projects or requirements because the bargain copiers you bought can’t do what they need.

My company was invited to participate in an RFP for a company that we have sold to and supported for the last several years. This company was purchased by a larger company and the new parent company was very concerned with the fairness of the RFP process. It was very much a traditional RFP process, and the relationship that we had forged as a trusted technology partner and adviser was discounted, and we were treated like any other vendor. We were told that this was done in the interest of “fairness”. While it was “fair” to the new vendors, it wasn’t in the best interest of the customer. Is that what the customer wants the RFP process to do? To be best for the new vendors, and not their own organization? I think not!

A new vendor who is willing to buy the business by being the cheapest is hoping for a traditional RFP. Because they have no inside knowledge and if they have a box mover type Sales Person than they will drop their draws and give them a bottom feeder price. The traditional purchasing agent is counting on it, not because they want to buy from the new dealer, they want to leverage that offer to force the incumbent dealer to be cheaper. And I get that. I am NOT against competition, but I am against dumbing down that competition to speeds & feeds. Anyone can sell you a BOX that does 35 ppm color output with 4 paper draws, and a stapler finisher. SO WHAT! THAT IS A COMMODITY!!!

The reason that I am writing this is this just happened to me. We won the traditional RFP bid. We met the traditional speeds & feeds that the traditional RFP specified. We reduced our cost to be more competitive. NO, we were not the cheapest bid. We relied on our excellent history of service & support, and the reliability, and ease of use of our equipment to offset the fact that we were higher than our competition. We were the best value, and we still won the bid (because we earned it)! Yet the Purchasing folks still had to make a case to their bosses who signed the deal in their corporate office why we were the better value.

But when we went to implement the RFP equipment, and start the training we heard NEW REQUIREMENTS that the RFP did not specify from departments that were not involved in the RFP. Because we were not allowed to talk to compliance, and really vet this RFP with the IT Department. So now we have another meeting scheduled to discuss a change order to add in what the RFP left out. It will cost more than the winning bid because addition of features required to meet new previously unidentified requirements.

RFPs are not likely to go away, at least in the near future. Although because they require so much work on the customers part I have seen very large organizations award no bid contracts to current vendors who have done a good job for the customer and have a proven track record.  I recommend this trend UNLESS the current vendor has NOT done a good job for your company. If you are unhappy with your current Vendor then by all means look for a new one who can earn your business and earn the right to get your renewed business without having to go out to bid each time.

If you have to do an RFP and you have a good vendor, who you consider a partner and trusted adviser then engage them early, Pre-RFP. Engage their Systems Engineers who can both ask the right questions and propose the right solution for your company. Ask for them to use their expertize to help your company craft the RFP so that it meets all of your needs. You may say that this is not fair to the potential new vendors! True, but what do you owe that new vendor? How has that new potential vendor earned your business? The better question to ask is what is BEST for your organization? I know that this relationship has the potential for abuse, and I am not talking about a sweet heart deal. But rather leveraging the expertize of your technology partner to craft the best requirements document pre-RFP, and then make that available to all of the vendors. I have seen this type of RFP and yes, I can tell when another vendor has helped craft an RFP. But that tells me that they are doing a good job for this customer and has earned the right to advise them. Which means unless I can WOW them with something that their current vendor can not do, they will remain loyal to their current vendor. I am OK with loyalty as a reward for good service & support, rather than “fairness” to a vendor who has done nothing for your company, but maybe that’s just me.

What should you do if you don’t have a current vendor that YOU trust to advise you in crafting a great RFP? You could hire a consultant, but most of these that I have met are experts in the traditional RFP process. You could form an internal team to handle the RFP. This team should include someone from Purchasing, the IT Department (possibly the printer expert), someone from Security, Compliance or Governance, and Operations (The people who handle the “Copiers \ MFDs” day to day). This group should meet with at least six months to a year before you award the bid.

Consider sending out a questionnaire to your departments (not just department heads).  Ask them do you have any unique scanning, printing, or faxing needs? Do you have any upcoming projects that will involve document management, or printing, scanning, or faxing? Are there any unique compliance or governance issues that may effect how are end users scan, print, fax, or copy? The response to this questionnaire will help you ask the right questions of potential vendors.

Have the group interview a number of vendors and let the Vendors answer the question “Why should our company do business with you?” Then narrow down the list to two or three vendors that are a good fit for your company.

Things you should consider when selecting a Vendor:

Q. How long have they been doing business in your area(s)?

Q. How long have they sold & serviced the equipment that they are proposing?

Q. How long has your salesman been with this company?

Q. How many technicians do they have? In Total? In your area?

Q. Where is their Dispatch? Local or in another state?

Q. Where is their warehouse? Local or in another state?

Q. How much ($) in Parts, Supplies, or Inventory do they have in their warehouse?

Q. Do they have a team of Systems Engineers (dedicated specialist that integrate these MFDs into your network infrastructure)?

Q. Where are their SEs (Systems Engineers) based? Locally or in another State?

You may not care about this information before you purchase your MFDs but these questions will tell you what kind of infrastructure the Vendor has to support you after the sale. This can make or break the long term relationship when things don’t go as planned. It will also give you a better sense of what the Vendor brings to the table. Do they have the infrastructure to support a company like yours or are the simply a Sales Office with all of their infrastructure in another state Like a Hollywood Western town that has a great front, but nothing behind it when you look around back, LOL. A Vendor that has a better infrastructure will cost you more, but will also provide better service & support, and you will end up with less headaches!

Finally, ask your Vendor to give examples of how they have uniquely helped other companies get the most out of their MFDs? Can they give examples of how they have helped a company in your industry (Healthcare, Manufacturing, Education, or Finance)? Vendors who say “We CAN do this, and we CAN do that” may NOT be able to say we HAVE done this, and We HAVE done that! Well done is better than well said!

If you have a Vendor who has earned your business consider not doing an RFP. At least not every time you refresh your equipment. Think of how much time, effort, and money it can save your organization. But if you must do an RFP it is time to bring the process into the 21st Century. This may mean that you need a Project Manager and not a Purchasing Agent to lead the team. Either way focus on what’s best for your company, what brings the best value to your company, that should be more important that who will give us the cheapest 50 ppm copy machine.

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

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Why is single clicking an 11×17 on a “copier” legal?

January 7, 2012

I was talking to my VP of Service, Mike McLaughlin the other day and he posed the question why is it legal to set a Copier \ MFD’s meter to only make a single meter click on an 11×17 page when it is twice the size of a standard Letter (8 1/2 x 11) page? That would be like having the option to set your car’s odometer to only count every other mile when it ran on certain roads, or when it was driven by certain drivers. That would actually be against the law, because you would be defrauding the person who would buy that car after you. Isn’t that the same on a copier? Would it be OK if Airplanes only counted certain hours that they flew? How would that effect their maintenance or resale value? As a consumer would you be OK flying on that plane? What if you as a consumer couldn’t tell which cars or planes had their meters “adjusted” to only count a portion of what they should? I would want to know so that I could make an informed choice, wouldn’t you?

Why would anyone want to set up the Total (main) Copier meter to single click an 11×17 page? There is really only one small segment of the business community that wants their copiers set up this way, and that is “Print for Pay”, or Quick Printers. Because they both sell and are charge by the page, it is the printing industry that insists on having their copiers \ MFDs set to single click on 11×17. Their is no other group that I can think of that really cares about it. Now I don’t dislike Print for Pay companies. I made a good living selling to Print for Pay when I was a Color Sales Specialist. Print for Pay buys top of the line equipment, often with high end accessories that is why sales people like them. On the other hand Print for Pay businesses (thanks to Larry Hunt) expect uber-competative pricing (for equipment and service) and demand a high level of service. They are one of the few customer who will pull out a “loop” to show you an imperfection in a copy or print that can not be seen with the naked eye. Print for Pay companies are also notorious for not paying their service on time, or wanting to negotiate down their overages. Now I realize that this is a generalization and that there are some P4P companies that do pay in full and on time, but in my experience they are more the exception rather than the norm.

So why should one small business segment get to dictate to all copier manufactures that they have to have this “feature” to short the total meter? If these companies did a normal amount of 11×17 that a typical business did, this wouldn’t be that big a deal. But most of these Printers run all of their 8 1/2 x 11 jobs two up on 11×17 paper and they cut them in half after they are printed or copied. This cuts their cost in half, which is great for them but who suffers? The consumer who buys a used copier in the aftermarket! These print for pay shops put a lot of clicks on their copiers \ MFDs. When you consider that the actual total clicks could be twice what the total meter reads these MFDs should be junked and not resold. This sure seems to to fit the definition of fraud, IMHO.

We have state divisions of weights & measures, and the attorney generals have offices of fraud and consumer affairs to stop this kind of abuse for cars, and trucks, and planes, and scales. But not copiers or MFDs at least not yet. I understand that Print for Pay is very competitive business, but I think allowing them to set their total meter to count 11×17 (which is twice the size of the standard 8 1/2 x 11) as one click is wrong.

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

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Fiery Color Substitution saves the day!

December 10, 2011

In the early days of connecting copiers as network printers a Fiery rip (print engine) was a hands down must for anyone serious about printing. I know of one deal where a dealer sold 50 Konica Minolta MFDs to a manufacturing company and they had so much trouble with the early version of the stock embedded print engine that the dealer had to retro fit all the Konica Minolta with Fierys after the sale. The customer was so gun shy that each dealer who placed equipment on the next round of bidding was forced to supply MFDs with Fiery rips. It was only after demonstrating that the new Canon embedded print engine would print all of their documents from all of their applications that we won the bid without having to place Fierys on every Canon.

Don’t think for a minute that I am not a fan of the Fiery Rip, I think Fiery Rips are amazing and can do what nothing else can do quite as well. But the cost significantly more than the standard OEM embedded print engines, The key to successfully placing a Fiery is finding the problem that only the Fiery can solve, and then sell the value. Customers will sometime squawk about having to spend more, but value doesn’t mean the cheapest option, it means the best available for the money. Fiery is often the best value.

So when do I lead with a Fiery? Of course for Graphic Artists, a Mac house, a Print for Pay business, or CRD (Central Reproduction Departments) are all no brainers. But what about a law firm or any customer that DEMANDS critical color matching? We recently put a Canon C7065 with a Fiery A-1 rip in a Law Firm that had recently purchased a Xerox in another city with no Fiery. I spoke to the IT manager who ws involved in the Xerox purchase and he said that he didn’t think much of the Fiery because “they could only affect Pantone colors” (which is not true).  My salesman set up a training session so we could address any concerns about color. The customer handed me their standard corporate color specification sheet. On it were their three main colors, as well as about a half dozen secondary colors. Each color had a Pantone Color, as well as both an RGB formula, and a CMYK formula. Now most people know that Fiery has the best color management optins on the planet. The Graphics Arts package has amazing tools, but what about the standard A-1? Well there is “Spot On” which has always allowed us to edit the Pantone Colors to match them to what the customer thinks they should be. But what about the RGB or CMYK colors? What you may not know is “Spot On” does more than just Pantone editing, Now you can substitute any RBG or CMYK color and change it to any CMYK color you think it should be.

I took their standard color sheet and punched in their nine RGB colors and substituted the CMYK formulas listed next to them, and the colors came out dead on. This worked extremely well except for their “Caseware” documents, the red was still off. Why? Because it was a jpeg image of their 3 primary colors and NOT the actual RGB formula. While the image was RGB color it was NOT the same formula as was on their sheet. It just looked similar. Does that mean we can’t substitute those colors, because they are an image? Not at all, the problem is we don’t know what the formula for THAT THREE COLOR IMAGE IS. But the Fiery’s Graphic Arts package lets us inspect the document to see what the RGB formula is, and once we know that we can apply the CMYK formula that they demand. So that is what I did, I used the Fiery GA package to figure out what RGB colors the Fiery saw the 3 Color JPEG as and then used the “Spot On” color substitution to map those RGB colors to their CMYK corporate standard colors.

Too many sales people shy away from Fiery Rips because they are more expensive. But I have used the Fiery Color Management to win deal after deal. And that will beat the cheapest price more often than not (as long as it is presented correctly). Who among us goes out to by the cheapest TV, or Suit, or Computer we can find? No! we don’t buy the cheapest, we look for value! Why should buying a color MFD be any different.

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