Archive for the ‘The Connected “Copier”’ Category

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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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The Big Crunch Continues!

April 9, 2017

I first wrote about “the big crunch” in 2012 on the Copier Network as a guest blogger. Back then it was Sharp that looked like it was on the verge of insolvency, now Toshiba seems to be the lead candidate for that fate. While 5 years may have changed the landscape of the Copier Industry, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same. Clearly the big Crunch continues.

Ricoh just purged more than a thousand loyal employees and turned over their down the street business to a handful of large Independent Dealers. While this has not made the small to midsize Ricoh Dealers happy, they should see RBS (Ricoh BS Branch) leaving the SMB market as a gift! Other manufacturer’s dealers could only wish that their _BS Branches would disappear.

The Big Crunch seems to also be affecting Xerox. Splitting the company in two, has not seem to have helped Xerox.  They too are engaged in layoffs. One report I read that was posted last month said ~ 50 system analysts were let go across the country. This is especially short sighted on the part of Xerox’s Management team. I personally have seen this move before. Firing an SA (Systems Analyst) or an SE (Systems Engineer) is low hanging fruit, and seems like a quick fix, but it is a trap. SAs and SEs are well paid, and for good reason. But too often the Suits who run these large companies (and have great skills in many areas) don’t understand what the SA / SE really does. After all why do you need a Systems Engineer? SA / SEs are like yeast! You only notice them when they are not there! And you know what happens to bread with out yeast, it goes flat! So does your sales numbers without SAs or SEs! How do I know this? When I was first approached by Ricoh Business Systems the person interviewing me told me that they wanted me to reconstitute a “Solutions Team” to do technical Pre Sales work with the New England Market Place’s Sales Force.  I asked him what had happened to the previous Solutions Team? He said it was disbanded by Ricoh Corporate in a cost cutting move. They didn’t see the value of it. After two years of watching the branches miss their sales numbers they went back and studied what had changed and to their credit they recognized it was the firing of the SA’s and SE’s.

I thought that they had learned their lesson but after the Ricoh \ Lanier merge they did it again! They moved my Solutions Team to the Service Department. This was after my branch had a banner year. We hit our triple crown numbers. We were the only branch of 13 branches to hit these 3 goals and my branch had never done it before in it’s history. But Ricoh Corporate rewarded this excellent performance by dismantling what we had built. I resigned shortly thereafter. I did however see history quickly repeat itself. I go a call six months later from a Sales Manager at RBS. He told me that my name came up in a conversation among the Sales Managers. He stated that as best that they could figure I had cost the Branch a Million Dollars since I left. That is ~ $2 million a year. I asked him if he would mind putting that in writing on Ricoh letterhead, but he politely declined.

That is the problem with firing SA / SEs is you get a small and quick positive impact on your bottom line, as you try to figure out why your sales numbers tank! Xerox is now heading down this perilous downward spiral. And so the BIG CRUNCH continues, but it is not all bad! The Independent Dealers are thriving! It’s good and getting better on this side of the street. We see the Big Crunch as a culling of the heard. We seem to be seeing the dying off of the weak. Maybe a return of the 70s and 80s when the Independent Dealers were large and in charge! We shall see!

That’s My $0.02

Vince McHugh

VP \ NECS

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

 

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Welcome Back!

July 28, 2014

A little over 3 years a go we lost an account to a Global (Xerox) Branch selling Konica Minolta. It was a school that by all accounts they said that we were doing a good job supporting the equipment, and that our Canon equipment had run well. I think part of the problem was they asked us to include in the bid a price for a Document Management system with an AP Workflow. Our price was about $10K higher than the Global quote. Which I think pissed them off and made them think we were gouging them. We weren’t!

Global put in some Konica Minolta MFDs for a demo and the feedback we got was that it didn’t work well during the Demo, but they came in with a half dozen “Suits” and wowed the customer with promises of what they would do to make it “right”. We asked if we could put in our new equipment for a demo and they told us that there was no need because they knew our equipment. We truly thought that we had earned their business by what we had done to support them over the life of the lease. We did not realize just how upset they were over our DMS \ Workflow price. So they went with Global and their Konica Minolta proposal.

My sales guy was livid, beside himself that he had lost this good customer when he \ we had done such a good job supporting the customer. He resisted the urge to say bad things, and he sent an email to the customer’s key contacts and said he really appreciated their business in the past, and was sorry to hear that they had chosen to go with the competition. And If there was anything he could ever do for them, please don’t hesitate to call (a true sales professional). He did get a call six months into the new 3 year Global lease, and the customer was asking if there was any way he could get them out of their lease (2 & 1/2 years remaining). This school is 98% MACs. Mac boxes and Apple stickers were all over the IT Department’s office. Well the school updated there Mac OS from 10.5 to 10.6 and all there printing broke. They called us because the Global Branch was not able to get them printing (other than the Generic Print Driver) for six months. The Branch management finally sent the school a letter saying that the problem was the schools fault because they (Global) never knew that they were a “MAC House”.

I also found out that the DMS \ AP Workflow solution that Global proposed for $10K less than our proposal was never brought to an actual functional state. They had only booked 1 week of time for their SE that came in from Florida and when it wasn’t functional at the end of the week the SE still left to go back to Florida. THe local Global Branch apparently didn’t have any local SEs to finish the project. We were told that the school ended up spending tens of thousands of dollars more on this DMS \ Workflow solution and they never got it to work to the schools satisfaction.  When all was said and done the school ended up paying more than twice what I had proposed. I thought to myself that I too could have come in $10,000 cheaper if I didn’t have to make it work too. But that’s not how we do business!

We couldn’t get the customer out of their Global lease two and a half years early, but we stayed in touch and we did get the business back at a price we could all live with just recently. The customer said that they thought that they would get everything that we had provided PLUS all of the new promises that Global “Said” that they would provide. But that is not how it worked out. Sometimes customers take good service & support for granted. They think anyone can do it. But the truth is it is more rare than you think. And good service & support cost a little more. We never try to be the cheapest because even if you win the deal everyone loses! The sales person loses because he can’t make an honest profit on the deal. The Service department loses because they are not taking in enough money to provide the proper level of service to keep the customer happy. The customer loses because the sweet taste of a “cheap price” quickly fades in the face of poor service and support. Everyone SAYS that they have good service, or great service, but not everyone actually does! I think it is more the exception than the rule in our industry. But it is puzzling that a current customer would leave what by their own admission was good service & support on equipment that they said ran well for the “Promise” of the same from a company that has yet to prove anything to them. All because they were a little cheaper. Their is an old proverb that states “Well Done, is better than Well Said!”

This is not the first customer that we have let go, only to get back after that lease is up. And when we do get them back they don’t ask us to be the cheapest bid, because they have seen the cheapest and decided that’s not what they want!

That’s my $0.02

Vince McHugh

vince.mchugh@yahoo.com