Thursday, June 25, 2015

Part 4 of 4: Business Compensation Models Move from Selling Boxes to Building a Consulting Relationship

This series makes a case for MFP and other office product dealers to reevaluate how content management offerings can play into their business model and increase their overall profitability. The first step in this is identifying the differences in the technology landscape, as well as the usage of these devices in the modern work environment. These differences can be boiled down into:

 
1.    Ergonomics and mechanics of sharing a centralized machine (bottleneck issues)

2.    Technical limitations – compression, image issues, network traffic, and automated extraction

3.    Business compensation models don't allow for consultative sales, both in refining skill sets and in practice  

For our final consideration, there is the slower to change, but still imperative need that speaks to the business models of the copier/ office supply industry.

Salesmen are typically compensated based on boxes moved, as opposed to quality of sale, and being viewed as a partner in the organization. The initial work toward partnership with a customer necessarily takes a bit longer, but will result in a tighter marriage between you and your clients. This involves understanding that there are business reasons for the use of the MFP machines, and that you can drive a more effective and comprehensive sale by taking the time to understand the business requirements and propose a more complete, soup-to-nuts solution.

While focusing on speeds and feeds as a feature of the unit you are proposing, the customer will respond better to the benefits that the solution provides. Unfortunately, this will mean that, for sales managers, they need to understand that there may be a longer ramp up process to facilitate more effective partnerships. Base salaries and training on these types of consultative sales make it a hard proposition for anyone.

That said, I propose two options for these dealers: 1) Create a template that allows for rapid adoption of the sale of the box to address " as is" needs, and 2) Propose a timeline of roll out and rolling back the use of the MFP as a printer, and positioning it more as a scanner once they are ready to adopt that methodology. Then, have a team of experts with information handling experience to do a brief study as a part of that initial sale as the customer’s content management needs grow.

Consultants, like the ones at Deau Document Scanning Solutions are available to "white box" their services, and make functionality recommendations that are product agnostic. This mitigates their risk of moving forward, and positions you for a career long relationship with the customer, all because you took a little more time on the front end.

The ultimate goal of any customer based business should be providing products and services that successfully fill a customer’s needs.  As document management technology has evolved, MFP and other office product dealers now have the greatest opportunity to adapt their business compensation models to be perceived as consultants, rather than just sales reps, and build long-term relationships with their customers by filling their evolving needs beyond the individual sale. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Part 3 of 4: Technical Limitations are Diminishing with MFPs

This blog series will attempt to make a case for MFP and other office product dealers to reevaluate how content management offerings can play into their business model and increase their overall profitability. 

The first step in this is identifying the differences in the technology landscape, as well as the usage of these devices in the modern work environment. These differences can be boiled down to:

  1. Ergonomics and mechanics of sharing a centralized machine. (bottleneck issues)
  2. Technical limitations - compression, image issues, network traffic, and automated extraction
  3. Business compensation models don't allow for consultative sales, both in refining skill sets and in practice.  

 
In part three of this four-part series, we'll look at how technical limitations are changing. 

The technical issues behind sharing the copier machine to scan documents have now become less problematic, as there are several issues which have also been addressed in recent years.

The first is that networks now can handle more bandwidth and traffic than ever before. Internal networks running gigabit switches are a far cry from the 10MB networks that were prevalent. Because of the way that MFPs traditionally handled image traffic, this could create a bottleneck (think fire hose quantity through a garden hose) in delivering the scanned image to the desktop of the user. In addition, MFPs are smarter now, with embedded hard drives and embedded processing engines, which means that they are sending compressed images, as opposed to the original uncompressed image which was needed for image processing later.

In addition, creating web ready images, and enhanced image processing requires grayscale images, which further increased the potential load on networks. Gradient contrasts, highlighting, and other paper handling mechanics and activities before the paper was scanned required higher resolution images to be processed, potentially through a grayscale processing engine to intelligently extract the text. 

Automated processing, which is critically important, requires a quality image, and until recently, documents weren't created with the idea that they would be scanned. Some automated processes might include bar code extraction, zonal OCR, or text extraction with pattern matching.


This brings up another point regarding the quality of the images, and speaks to the fact that paper handling now often assumes that scanning is the ultimate destination and office practices are changing with regard to how (or how often) papers are grouped together via staples, or binding, or other activities which make document preparation for scanning more time intensive and costly. 

Another drawback that precluded the use of MFPs earlier was the need to adjust settings to handle documents, which required the ability to see the image as it was scanned to ensure that a clear, readable image was produced. Now that paper handling has matured, and documents are scanned earlier in their lifecycle, batch controls (i.e., number of pages scanned, grouping documents by document types) and "rules based" routing, if the image produces unreadable text, can allow for easier quality check points. When used in an ad hoc scanning environment, this isn't as critical as a production environment, but the right methodology now gives a methodology to take advantage of the high processing speeds that a quality MFP allows.

Our next post will round out our discussion of the new landscape of opportunities for MFP and other office product dealers in the world of document/content management. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Part 2 of 4: Ergonomics, and how people use their MFPs

As I discussed in the previous post, this series will attempt to make a case for Multi Function Printer (MFP) and other office product dealers to reevaluate how content management offerings can play into their business model and increase their overall profitability. The first step in this is identifying the differences in the technology landscape, as well as the usage of these devices in the modern work environment. These differences can be boiled down into three areas:

  1. Ergonomics and mechanics of sharing a centralized machine. (bottleneck issues)
  2. Technical limitations – compression, image issues, network traffic, and automated extraction
  3. Business compensation models don't allow for consultative sales, both in refining skill sets and in practice  
  
I've been working in content management since 2003, but until 2008-2009, using electronic communication as a viable and formal method of business transactions was the equivalent of sending a text instead of a thank you note to your grandmother. It was fine for immediate needs, but when it came to constituting a business record, you needed to go for the hard copy.

This meant several things until recently when it came to sharing these types of resources. Because printing documents was largely used for external communications, it trumped the need to scan to email. The official document needed to be printed, and so all of the scans/ emails/etc. were conveniences but took lower priority than the business requirement to print. 

Scans were postponed while other MPF users were creating (printing) the document to which you could affix your "Wet signature".  This high demand and use for the copy machine meant that there were bottlenecks within organizations  The need to print trumped the need to scan every time.

Now, e-communications, including secure email, mortgage documents, and electronic communications in general are accepted as the  de facto  standard of communicating for all but the most high-value transactions. This is a key driver in allowing the MFP practical use as a production (though more commonly ad hoc) device to support scanning operations.

In the next post, we will explore the technical issues behind sharing the copying machine, and how they have changed, and why these changes make a difference in the efficiency with which you can scan. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Part 1 of 4: Making the case for Multi Function Printer (MFP) dealers to re-embrace document management

Last month, speaking at the ITEX conference, I gave a presentation on ways to automate workflows within an office using distributed desktop scanners. While there, at the end of my presentation, I was approached by a guy who said “Yeah, Eren, thats great, but the reality of it is that the copier guys have been told that content management was the way to go for 10 years, but none of us have ever been able to make a go of it. Do you have a reason for why?"   Since I was there to discuss standalone scanners, I was a little nervous, but getting a nod of approval from my host, I told him. I didn't have A reason for why. I had a LOT of reasons for why.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring three of those reasons in more detail, hopefully to offer a compelling, salient argument for why it didn’t work before, and why it will work now.

When I started in this industry, many things were different in the landscape. Though, technically speaking, the ability was there to scan from a copier, there were several factors that made this an ad-hoc scanning solution as opposed to a driver for production scanning and thus, document management. In these three ways the landscape has changed considerably.  To ensure continued profitability and keeping up with competition, it's time for office product dealers to rethink adopting or partnering with a company that can offer document management solutions:

So what has changed?
  1. Ergonomics and mechanics of sharing a centralized machine. (bottleneck issues)
  2. Technical limitations – compression, image issues, network traffic, and automated extraction
  3. Business compensation models don't allow for consultative sales, both in refining skill sets and in practice  

Next week we will go into detail about the bottlenecks we used to deal with...and why we don’t anymore.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good enough isn’t enough

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. Not always active, but it's usually in one of my Firefox tabs. Occasionally, something really hits me. Yesterday, one of my professional colleagues posted this, about 19 things to stop doing in your 20s. Number 4 spoke to me, personally and professionally. It reads:

Stop trying to get away with work that's "good enough." People notice when "good enough" is how you approach your job…

I've done this- I used to refer to it as "sinking to the top". There have been situations where I was overqualified for a task, and really only did it "good enough". It was still better than expected. There have also been times when, not understanding all that COULD be done, I failed to explore or made things harder, or more uncomfortable than they needed to be. If a simple solution met the goals, did I need to stretch to be uncomfortable? Wasn't I already too busy, especially since this was "good enough." but doesn't this also apply on a broader scale to the way that you do business?

I have gotten several calls this week from companies who say that they want to "Go Paperless" and then ask for a price to scan in their documents to a CD, DVD, or Disk. While we have the technical capability to just scan in their documents and put them on a CD or DVD, (which is what they've asked for), I am well aware that their needs are probably deeper than that. The only benefit that this allows them is reducing the space required to store these documents. That their request for service that they thought they needed was based in their ignorance of how things could be, and so rather than take their money for a job that would likely be "Good enough" and be exactly what they ask for, that I would postpone the process in order to educate them. Unfortunately, this is frustrating for some of them. They are failing to realize that while I could charge them $500.00- $1000.00 now for a down and dirty conversion job, if they don't put some planning into the architecture of how they will do this, both today, and going forward, they will end up with an electronic basement with CDs and DVDs that are haphazardly organized, if at all. This is effort put forth for something that will likely have to be redone. To handle this, I talk to them about how we need to sit down and talk. How determining how they use this data, how they need to retrieve it will allow us to structure a system that can grow with them, even if they still elect to just get us to scan their documents to a CD. At least that won't be lost when they DO decide to take the plunge.

But there is still a hesitancy to move forward with this education. Perhaps some of it is pride, and not wanting to admit that they didn't know the world of technology that now exists to support static documents. Now that technology is so mature now that it has moved from a state of capturing documents to archive to capturing documents to process, and THEN archiving them. This may be true and is understandable, but the immediate excuse is that they are "too busy" to have to think about these things. Funnily enough, there are two additional things to stop doing in your 20s that speak to this:

                    Stop being lazy by being constantly "busy."

Stop allowing yourself to be so comfortable all the time. Coming up with a list of reasons to procrastinate risky, innovative decisions offers more short-term gratification than not procrastinating. But when you stop procrastinating to make a drastic change, your list of reasons to procrastinate becomes a list of ideas about how to better navigate the risk you're taking.

The idea that there is a way of doing business that you haven't thought of yet is intimidating, but people are doing it- Lots of people. They've tested the ropes, they've broken in the systems. It's time now for the pragmatists to come on board. Yes, you've always done it that way, but there's a new way, a better way to handle things now. And this isn't going to stop. There's always going to be a new way. It might not be comfortable, but don't be lazy, and never, settle for being "Good enough". As we move into a new age of technology adoption, it's also time for the paperless office to emerge out of its proverbial "20s" and into the maturity that it now deserves.


 


 

-Eren

Thanks to thoughtcatalog.com for providing the inspiration for this post.


 


 


 


 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Reaction from a Tweet . . .Clarification on Paperless Office

Today I was going through my saved twitter searches. As one of them is "paperless” I am often bombarded with everything from "I haven't used a pen in a year", to bank statement errors after someone switches to new “paperless" billing, to today's find, which may be my favorite.


"A paperless office makes about as much sense as a paperless bathroom"

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? This leads me to another favorite quote.

"Try being informed, and not just opinionated."


Perhaps that was harsh- perhaps not, regardless, it does indicate that more education is needed in the "non-scanning geek" sector.

And the biggest problem here is that the concept of "paperless", while useful for a myriad of reasons, is more about the authoritative record of a company, and less about saving trees- though, properly implemented, reducing the resources consumed is an ancillary benefit, as is space-saving, and reduced risk of loss.

Ultimately, the paperLESS office is just that. .. LESS paper- as it relates to corporate information and records. This should not be confused with paperFREE offices, which might, as AfantasyDiva contends, be as useless as a “paperfree” bathroom. (I’m sorry, we don't accept cash/ checks for payment- we're paperFREE here. . ..)

There IS a place for paper, even in a "Paperless office". . . paper has some benefits, including portability, and that the only hardware requirement is your eyes. Incoming documents are often paper-based, and cannot be controlled, which contributes to the existence of paper whether a paperless office system has been implemented or not.

In continuing on my "twitter journey" I see that many people complain about the proliferation of paper, which seem to worsen after implementing electronic routines to replace formerly paper routines ( ie, email instead of a letter, or an e-form instead of a paper form). Some companies have implemented “mailroom” scanning, where every incoming paper document is scanned, and routed electronically. While it's true that this can reduce the risk of loss, it is also easier to recreate these documents in paper format, which means that discipline becomes the key to a successful "paperless" initiative. (There is no reason to look for the original copy if you can simply press "print" and recreate a duplicate of the original.)

So how does one control the amount of reprinting that takes place when it is often faster to simply print a copy than seek the one you know you already have?


We have implemented two different methods to address this:

1) Restrict the amount of paper they are allowed to use within a certain time period, or

2) Restrict the print function

At one large client, we implemented a system to capture and manage emails that were formerly printed and filed as a part of a client record. While this addressed the issue of retention and completeness in a customer record, the old habits of the employees of printing the emails to read them were hard to break. Finally, we offered the following solution. Each employee gets 500 sheets of paper per year. They can use it at will, however, once they have used that, they are responsible for bringing in their own. The unnecessary waste stopped once the employees felt the pain in their own pockets.

The second option, restricting the "print" function, stemmed from privacy regulations, such as HIPAA. Because of the sensitive nature of medical records, if a record was going to be printed, it could only be printed for certain reasons, such as a need for insurance reimbursement. While it would be simple to restrict all users from ever printing, this left no room for exceptions. With an advanced audit trail, anyone printing a record is prompted for their reason for printing. Because they have logged in, the system can report the users who are printing electronic documents, and their reasons for doing so.

Initially, this functionality was an advanced audit trail function, which could cost a significant amount of money. With the advent of all inclusive BPM products such as Laserfiche Avante, and Rio, this functionality is now included at a more reasonable price point, reflective of the number of users in the system.

Doing this requires planning, processes, and procedures- acceptable reasons for printing must be defined, and users must be trained to be comfortable with an on-screen replication of what they used to be able to hold in their hands. This can take time, however, is rewarded by easier user adoption of a completely new way of doing business.

Ergonomic advances, including double monitors, resolution, and magnification can be used to ensure a user's ease in transitioning to this. As with any change, involving the users, understanding concerns, and setting expectations are all among the more critical pieces of a successful "paperless" initiative. Expounding on the benefits to the users, and "selling them" that changes to their ways of working will be beneficial to them personally, will all assist, and keep the amount of redundant paper down, hopefully, resulting in a win for everyone, a more productive office, with fewer wasted resources.

Deau Document Scanning Solutions