Archive for the ‘Terminology’ Category

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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

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Mobile Printing doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”!

November 13, 2011

iPads, iPhones, Androids, Blackberies, and a plethora of assorted tablets,,, what is an IT Manager to do?

There was a time when IT Managers could stop “rouge” devices from getting on THEIR network. But smart phones and tablets are multiplying and permeating every segment of work and home. An IT manager can no longer say NO to these devices. So What are the alternatives? For the most part it has been all of nothing. It has typically been either print to what ever device you can figure out how to print to or, you can’t print from that blasted iphone (or smart phone) not no how, not no way!

There is another option….SECURE MOBILE PRINTING! That is what the new UniFLOW Secure Mobile printing offers.

Take a look at these Mobile Secure Printing links:

http://download.nt-ware.net/partner/Sales_Tool/EN/index3e89.html?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=42&Itemid=54

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWNtcM2jdt8

If Mobile Printing is the “wild west”, then UniFLOW’s Secure Mobile Printing is the “new sheriff in town”!

NECS is doing a Technology Forum in Boston on 11/17/2011 to show off this new technology. If you would like to join us you can see this new Secure mobile printing by contacting me directly by the information below.

THAT’S MY My $0.02
VINCE MCHUGH
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com
That is exactly what we are showing at the NECS Boston Demo Room on 11/17/2011 next week!

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The Cloud, Tab Computing, and Canon’s Google Docs App.

March 28, 2011

Last week in our weekly sales meeting I asked how many people had heard of “the cloud” and every hand went up, but when I asked who knew what the cloud was, or what businesses can do with cloud computing not one hand went up. I was happy they they were honest because they are not alone. Every current business and technical magazine talks about the Cloud, or Cloud Computing, but business people are still unsure how it will help their business, or why they should use it.

The concept of cloud computing is pretty simple; instead of companies investing in their own Servers, Software, and IT staff they buy the functionality that they need. For example a large University on the east coast moved their .edu email services from in house to Google mail. So instead of the Universities IT Staff buying, installing, upgrading, and maintaining their email servers it is now handled by Google for a per person fee. They also get to retain their University.edu name. This just one example of an organization using cloud computing to meet a business need.

Another driving force that will help us embrace the cloud is how the personal computing experience is changing. I don’t mean “personal” as opposed to business, but how each of us personally interacts with a computer. For the longest time I had to take a laptop when I traveled,  but once I was able to get both my email and my calendar on first my Palm phone, and then my Blackberry I no longer felt compelled to take my laptop on short trips. While its still true that a smart phone doesn’t handle email or calendar as well as a laptop it does the job well enough (at least for a couple of days).

Now with the introduction of Tablet Computing (iPads, & such) email & calendaring as well as many other functions can be handled just as well as on a laptop. With the notable exception of printing. Both mobile computing (smart phones) and Tablet Computing dramatically change the end user computing experience, but neither has had great functionality when it came to printing. Maybe it was because the manufacturers of these mobile devices believed or thought that a paperless office was an imminent reality, maybe they even believed that their devices would usher in the paperless office. Unfortunately for them, printing has not, and is not going away anytime soon. Enter Google Docs and the Canon Google Docs App! A perfect fit for mobile computing for several reasons not the least of which is printing. With Google Docs you can easily upload documents and then print them to a Canon ImageRUNNER Advance with a Google Docs MEAP application anywhere in the world.

I was just at the AIIM\On Demand show in Washington DC, and while I was on the floor of the show I was able to Scan to, and Print from my personal Google docs account that I had set up a month ago. I did this on the fly with no set up ahead of time by me or Canon. When I got back to one of my offices I downloaded and set up the Google Docs App on one of our IR-Advance in about 10 minutes and proceeded to print PDFs, Word Docs, Excel files, and even PowerPoint files that were stored in their native format and converted to PDF automatically by Google Docs when it is sent to a Canon MFD to print. This means that you can now print not only PDFs, but also Office documents that have been uploaded to Google Docs WITHOUT USING A COMPUTER! I don’t know of any other Multi Functional Copier that can print a Word or Excel file.  It makes Google Docs a perfect application for Mobile or Tablet computing not only for printing, collaboration, and file storage.

Google Docs and the Google Docs MEAP App for the Canon ImageRUNNER Advance MFD is beyond Follow me printing, because it is not limited to your network, since you can do it from any MFD that can access the internet (which most connected MFDs are) it is follow me anywhere in the world printing!

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

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Data Collection is NOT Managed Print Services (MPS)

January 28, 2011

It has been said that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Which is true, but it doesn’t mean that simply collecting data (measuring) is the same thing as managing. Managing means analyzing the data and making informed decisions that put in place best practices.

Define – Measure – Analyze – Improve – Control is a cycle of improvement used for process improvement. When we attempt to apply this to MPS by traditional Copier dealers it usually starts out fine with define & measure.

Define – The traditional copier dealer wants to move into Managed Print Services (MPS), and offer this service to their customers.

Measure – The dealer acquires a Data Collection tool or process, such as… Printfeet, or FM Audit, or even uses the old fashion “Print Wise” study. In a Print Wise study an MPS specialist does two walk throughs (separated by 30 days) of a clients office and prints out config pages for each printer, manually gathering a months worth of print data. Each of these tools or method gather the desired data needed to move to the next step of MPS.

Analyze – The Dealer can either hire an experienced MPS specialist or try and train their Sales force to sell MPS (Not an easy task).

Here is where it gets more challenging for the traditional Copier Dealership and it falls between the transition from Analyze -> Improve. Once you have a client’s printer data it needs to be analyzed and a proposal needs to be developed to show how you can “improve” the client’s printing environment.

And finally “Control” – a system needs to be left in place that continues to monitor these improvement and ensure that the effort expended to bring about the improvement was not wasted on a short lived improvement. Things left to themselves often return to their previous level.

These last two areas “Improve & control” are the most challenging and require either an investment in staff & technology or a partnership with a company that specializes in MPS that has already made the investment that you can leverage (for a price).

I believe that too many dealerships try to wing it on Analyze & Control trying to “make do” with the infrastructure that they have. This is a mistake, and will retard the dealers ability to be successful in the MPS arena.

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

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Is Your Universal Print driver REALLY UNIVERSAL???

March 8, 2010

Follow me printing,  follow you printing, secure printing,  or rules based routing…. for these to work correctly we need to have EITHER all the same type of Printers OR a Universal Print Driver. Since I don’t know any company that has all the same model(s) of Printers or MFDs, lets look at the Universal Print Driver option.

What is a “Universal Print Driver”? For starters there are two flavors; Postscript or PCL. I will spare you all the gory details but let’s just say that these are two different printer languages. But once we have a PCL Universal Driver or a PS Universal driver what do you actually have? That depends on who you ask.

You may only be able to determine the capabilities of your vendors “Universal Print Driver” by asking a series of pointed questions. Why, you ask is this necessary? Because different vendors use the same term BUT mean different things by it. If we are going to have an intelligent conversation, it is incumbent upon us to first define our terms.

What the Vendors want you to think of when you hear the term “Universal Print Driver” is a single print driver that will print to any printer, right? Not so fast. The Sales guy will tell you that “YES we have a UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER”, and “A UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER CAN PRINT TO DIFFERENT MANUFACTURER’S PRINTERS”. So you say that is great we can load one driver on our end users PCs and they can print to various printers correctly (Oh no, you added the word “correctly”, Huston we have a problem).

This is where we separate the men from the boys when it comes to “Universal Print Drivers”. Once you purchase a solution that says it will provide a Universal Print Driver and you begin to impliment said solution you meet the system integrator (the technical guy) and you ask him the following questions, you may find out that the “Universal Print Driver” that his company sold you is not so Universal. What? Really? How come the Sales Person didn’t tell me this? (owwww…..That is the sound of me biting my tongue).

I am a fan of people making a fully informed decision. I am not a fan of misleading terms. So Let’s define a REAL UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER as one that (once the language is picked PCL or PS) it can print to any printer that supports that language (PCL or PS). Then it begs the question, does the “Universal Print Driver” that your vendor is pushing meet this standard? Here is a hint, don’t ask your sales person, ask their Systems Engineer, and make them look you in the eye when they answer.

Q1. Is it possible with your vendors Universal Print Driver to print to ANY make or model printer on your companies network and have it print correctly?

If they answer Yes to the above question please follow up with Q2 to see if they are lying.

Q2. How do you ensure that the user will get the output that they are expecting if there job is routed to a different Make or Model Printer than they originally chose?

What normally happens at this point is you find out the limitation of your vendors (not so) Universal Print driver. One vendor’s technical documentation states “If you want a print job generated for one printer to output successfully on another printer YOU must ensure that the other printer can understand all of the print commands included in the data stream from the driver.” A different vendor states that “the system does NOT check that the spool queues you select have compatible drivers, you must ensure this yourself”

What they are actually saying is that their Universal Print Driver is very limited. And unless YOU make sure that all of the printers that your end users want to print to are all compatible that their follow me \ you print solution is NOT going to work well.

So you ask…What is the alternative? Don’t all these follow me, follow you, secure printing solution all have this limitation? NO! The Canon UniFLOW solution has a TRUE, REAL UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER. Please ask Q1. The Answer is Yes! Now ask Q2. to see if we are lying. The answer is the Canon UniFLOW solution does NOT apply specific printer commands UNTIL the job is called for from the specific printer the end user wants to release the job at. So YOU do NOT have to ensure that each printer understands the print commands of another printer. The Canon UniFLOW Universal Print Driver is truly a  UNIQUE UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER! Because the printer commands are not applied until the job is released you can change the properties when you release it (B&W to COLOR, Simplex to Duplex, etc.)

Don’t let your sales person say oh yeah, universal print driver, yep! We have that too! Press them to define their terms so that you will know just how Universal (or not) their Universal Print Driver really is.

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchug@necs.biz
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