Smart software helps print dealers evolve beyond ink

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This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of CRN magazine.

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Smart software helps print dealers evolve beyond ink

Resellers need to start looking beyond the box when they sell printing technology to small-to-medium businesses. The growing ecosystem of software around office printing and copying devices means resellers who promote this technology are likely to improve their customers’ bottom lines and motivate more device refreshes.

Roger Amir, director of print dealer Mitronics in Sydney, says “40 percent of revenue now comes directly from software sales and 99 percent of this software is attached to the device sale”. In fact, “software is now helping drive more hardware sales”, Amir adds.

Customers expect added security and privacy, as well as choices about where and when they print. They don’t want to be tied to a PC to press the print button. They want mobile flexibility and the ability to print to anywhere, from any device.

They no longer want to pay for print wastage that users haven’t bothered to pick up off the printer. They certainly want greater transparency around what, when and why prints are produced internally so costs can be controlled more tightly.

They also want hard copy documents better integrated into electronic workflows. Technology now makes light work of digitising documents through scanning of hard copies on a multi-function device so they can be processed, stored and managed with limited human intervention. Customers want to repurpose, and raise the value of, work performed by staff.

Ultimately, they want the printer’s functions to be easier, smarter and more flexible. These are just some of the new hygiene factors that SMBs expect around the printing workflow.

When revenue from hardware sales flattens, partners that can complement device and service sales with software licensing perform better. Anthony Toope, marketing and channel operations at Fuji Xerox Printers, says the channel partners growing fastest are those now deriving more than half their revenue from software. Fuji Xerox Printers offers a typical range of software solutions – such as Equitrac, Papercut, Kofax and Ysoft – that provide cost recovery, document security and detailed job monitoring.

Toope says it is not only the vendor and resellers driving this shift: customers are also steering the conversation away from the device.

Intelligent software

In 2015 Orion Print Management, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, tendered for work with Football Federation Australia (FFA) to address the organisation’s existing business challenges around administrating and overseeing Australia’s fastest growing sport.

As a member of a national and global sporting community, FFA staff work long hours, often seven days a week. FFA management and financial controllers had no visibility or control of employee printing, particularly personal use. It also battled to meet tight deadlines and budgets with ageing devices. In-house production was a strong option to manage short lead-times for training documentation.

FFA contracted Orion to provide a solution, which integrated multi-function devices from Fuji Xerox Printers and intelligent software. This allowed FFA to identify print users by their security swipe cards, enabled data tracking and visibility on printer output and let FFA monitor and control unauthorised printing of personal documents.

Orion also partnered with Fuji Xerox Printers through the vendor’s managed print service program, XPPS, which provides additional financial and management tools to help Orion support FFA’s business requirements.

Selling software

The classic combination of printing device and services wraparound remains the main sales pitch for Smartprint Fleet Management, says managing director Jason Ganis. The company does what it says on the tin – it is very much print-centric.

“Smartprint customers are more concerned about the state of their MPS contract than the software,” Ganis says. However, he recognises that software is now the stronger proposition, especially the rising number of workflow packages.

Document management

Indigo North Health is a not-for-profit based in Rutherglen, Victoria. It provides services such as home-based nursing, residential aged care, children’s services, retirement living and community transport.

Indigo faced challenges around distributing and managing a large and growing volume of paper documents. It also needed to reduce the level of human error when documents such as invoices were processed.

The business operates at three large campuses, which directly impacts on  the level of productivity and efficiency of Indigo’s staff and the business.

Cameron Butler, Indigo’s chief executive, wanted a more efficient flow of information from both its general correspondence and financials documents.

By improving the management of documents, including an audit trail, Indigo would ensure vital compliance and regulatory practices could be maintained.

Indigo North Health worked in collaboration with CopyPrintScan from Shepparton and Ricoh Australia, which provided a tailored solution with Laserfiche software at its core.. Leveraging Laserfiche – which is known for enterprise content management, business process automation, workflow, records management and document imaging – was a perfect fit for Indigo.

The implementation of Laserfiche permitted the  streamlining of the accounts payable workflow for invoice distribution and approval.

This has delivered an immediate saving of about eight to 10 hours every fortnight. On that basis alone, the savings represent a near-full ROI in barely 12 months.

How are those savings being achieved? One example is invoice processing. Invoices received from suppliers and contractors, either electronically or as hard copy, are immediately transferred to the Laserfiche system to be assigned to the appropriate cost centre. At this point, the automated workflow generates an email that is sent to the cost centre’s manager.

That single step eliminates the manual distribution of invoices, reduces the instances of requesting misplaced invoices from suppliers and removes the need to manage a large number of paper-based accounts payable files.

Craig Heckenberg, general manager of sales and marketing at Epson Australia, offers an example of how software capabilities can drive an uptick in device sales: “Epson’s software allows document capture, indexing and workflow of hard-copy documents. But to leverage this software you need scanners.”

Despite vendors’ bullish messaging around the software opportunity, print dealers generally see it as ancillary to their core business of helping customers put ink on paper.

Nick Sheehan, chief executive of EFEX Group – which ranked second in the 2015 CRN Fast50 – agrees that “digitisation is real; print, in many areas, is slowing down and becoming obsolete”.

However, EFEX’s customers, traditionally small businesses, are not really focused on software for software’s sake. “These businesses and their owners are more focused on running the business, less concerned about software specifically,” Sheehan says. “However, print and copy devices are still a primary need for many business owners.”

In particular, small business consumers are apprehensive about the cost of software and are very keen to avoid buying products that just “sit on the shelf”.

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