Photizo Group » Blog Sat, 01 Aug 2015 07:15:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Photizo Group to Sponsor and Speak at the Top 100 Summit Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:13:33 +0000 Photizo Group, market research and consulting firm in the imaging industry, is excited to sponsor and speak at the Top 100 Summit, September 25-27 in Park City, Utah.

The Top 100 Summit, hosted by Print Audit, is a radical, new event, aimed at disrupting the office imaging industry. One hundred of the top dealers in the industry are invited to access exclusive education and insight, and honestly discuss the current market landscape. These leaders will work together to define the business model of the future, bringing back strong margins and growth.

“Photizo Group is thrilled to join Print Audit at the Top 100 Summit,” says Ken Stewart, Vice President of Services at Photizo Group. “It is absolutely critical for leaders to focus on innovation in our changing environment, and this event helps achieve that. The Top 100 Summit is a great opportunity for those that want to lead the industry, rather than follow!”

“Photizo Group has been providing unparalleled expertise to office equipment dealers by providing MPS specific market information longer than anybody in the space,” stated West McDonald, Vice President of Business Development for Print Audit and Owner of FocusMPS.  “Their sponsorship of the Top 100 Summit is evidence of how they are helping dealers further navigate the future of managed print and beyond. We are excited to have them there as a partner.”

The Top 100 Summit will take place in Park City, Utah, September 25-27 at The Chateaux – Deer Valley Resort. For more information on the Top 100 Summit, visit

About Print Audit

Established in 1999 and headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Print Audit’s mission is to help office equipment dealers grow their businesses. The company does this through its Premier membership program which was created to teach dealers how to Win Customers, Keep Customers and Build Recurring Revenue. To date, Premier members have acquired 1312 new customers, added over $4.9 million in monthly recurring revenue and retained 85% of their print management clients. Premier members are working together to build the most influential group of office equipment dealers in the world.

Print Audit is the most comprehensive provider of device and print management solutions. The company not only helps members remotely manage their printer fleets, but has also developed a variety of tools that enable organizations to monitor and control user printing behavior. Premier members enjoy access to all of Print Audit solutions for a flat monthly fee.

Print Audit has offices located worldwide. Visit to learn more.

About Photizo Group

A leading global business transformation firm, Photizo Group guides clients facing disruptive change with strategies to transform and thrive through this change by using innovative and practical market intelligence, as well as consulting and education services. As a trusted advisor, Photizo provides clients with the visionary guidance they need to make successful business transformation a reality.

Learn more about Photizo Group Today.

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Predictive Analytics Webinar Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:05:09 +0000 Explore the power of predictive analytics, and the ability to increase product quality, drive higher workflow efficiency, and reduce operational costs in your organization.

Ed Crowley introduces the concept of predictive analytics, identifies practical applications within the imaging industry, and discusses implementation best practices and usage strategies.

Access the FREE webinar recording here!

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Imaging Channel Executives Speak Out on Seat Based Billing Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:10:03 +0000 There has been a great deal of buzz in the industry around “Seat Based Billing (SBB)” for Managed Print. Personally I think that in a world of declining pages (per user) SBB makes perfect sense. Regardless of how I feel, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voices that need to chime in on the topic of SBB. The one thing that has always been missing is a recorded journal of the voice of the dealers. One of the opportunities I took when at Photizo’s Navigator event was to start documenting dealer excitement and concern over SBB. I made my session at Navigator a bit of a working round-table in which I asked dealers to list the reasons SBB could work as well as their thoughts on why it wouldn’t. With that many business owners in one place, it seemed the perfect forum to get past mere conversation and into something more concrete and measurable.

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My Take on HP’s Industry Analyst Summit 2015 Tue, 09 Jun 2015 18:38:51 +0000 This week I attended HP’s Industry Analyst Summit (IAS), which was held in Las Vegas concurrent with the HP Discover event. This was a massive event, with over 10,000 customers, HP staff, partners, and analysts. This is the first year that HP combined their IAS event with HP Discover, their customer-facing event traditionally focused heavily on HP Enterprise products.

Meg Whitman, HP’s CEO, spent the multi-hour kick-off giving details on the imminent split between HP Inc. (printers and PCs) and HP Enterprise (Software, services, etc.). Like a lot of big corporate events, the CEO was a bit short on detail, but heavy on ‘buzz words’ and catch phrases including “the speed of business,” “a new way of doing business,” “a new style of IT.” Clearly CEOs of public companies have to be very careful about what they say in order to avoid running foul of the SEC, etc. Meg was followed by Mike Nevkins, EVP HP Enterprise Services. What was interesting was the conspicuous absence of any of the executives associated with the future HP Inc. during the first day and the opening session. No discussion of printers, that boring stuff that makes HP lots and lots of money!

On the second day, we broke off into separate sessions for the HP Inc. side, versus the HP Enterprise side. The HP Inc. sessions were led by Dion Wiesler, who was extremely dynamic and clearly enthused about HP Inc.’s prospects. He was followed by a series of HP executives who shared his enthusiasm. I have several observations to share about what I heard.

First, HP has some really interesting products and services in the pipeline. I can’t share these because they are under NDA; however, I can say if anyone was thinking HP was getting complacent, they shouldn’t! Secondly, the HP executive team is the most enthused and excited that I have seen them in a number of years. This group is ready to charge the hill – no more bunker mentality here, and they are serious about growing the business. Finally, one only has to look at some of the subtle comments (such as Meg’s statement that more of the debt will be going to HP Inc.), the number of execs choosing to go to HP Inc. (such as HP’s current CFO), and you get the sense that everyone sees HP Inc. as having the strongest financial position ‘out of the gate.’

So what does this bode for the future? My belief is that this frees up HP Inc. to really blaze new trails and drive the business in really interesting ways. They have an interesting play in 3D printing, they are clearly ‘making hay’ in the area of graphics printing, and they have a real technology advantage with the page-wide array technology. HP Inc. has an incredible opportunity – but will they be able to break out of the shadow of HP Enterprise to do their own thing? Will they have their own HP Inc. Summit next year? Or will they be a side-show to the HP Enterprise Summit as was the case this year?

I believe they are going to break out on their own, do some really interesting things, and build some incredible momentum. So hang on, I think this is going to be a wild ride!

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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Have Missed Navigator 2015 – Print Audit Fri, 22 May 2015 14:07:03 +0000 For those that aren’t aware Photizo completely changed the format for their annual executive gathering.  The best way to describe the change is that it is a “distilled” version of Transform conferences.  I say “distilled” because it was much smaller and far more potent.  Think of it as a “boutique” event: Not for everybody, but for those lucky enough to be on the invite list, it was a gathering not to be missed.

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Imaging Executives Meet with the Goal of Disrupting their Own Industry – May 13 & 14, New Orleans Tue, 21 Apr 2015 17:47:43 +0000 Photizo Group’s new, executive meeting, Navigator is staged to draw executives and leaders from around the globe for two days of unconventional education, high-powered networking, and significant discussion, with the intention of driving disruption and innovation into the industry.

Monotype, MSE, Print Audit, and Wipro are among the sponsors leading the way in innovation by taking a risk on this new style of event. “This is EXACTLY the kind of thing needed to re-inject our space with some much needed innovation,” said West McDonald, Vice President of Business Development at Print Audit.

“The Clover Imaging Group is looking forward to the Navigator event as a great vehicle to meet with innovators in the imaging and solutions space to better understand how we can create partnership and value in an industry in transition. We will be showcasing new, powerful tools designed to differentiate and drive growth,” said Luke Goldberg, Global SVP Sales and Marketing, Clover Technologies.

There is no shortage of conferences and tradeshows in the imaging industry, but Photizo found most of these are focused on helping attendees survive the current wave of disruption. Navigator is designed to look past the “now” and challenge attendees to create the next wave of disruption, rather than just keep up with it. In order to facilitate this, attendees are a handpicked group of executives, leaders and innovators; with a high-engagement format that is built more for discussion than presentations.

“The industry, as a whole, does a good job at keeping up with customer needs and adapting to change in user behavior spurred by innovation in other industries. I believe it’s time we sit in the driver’s seat. With some of the brightest and most talented minds in the technology space, we should be leading the innovation, not just adapting to it,” said Ed Crowley CEO of Photizo Group.

About Navigator

Navigator is an exclusive, invitation-only event available to a premier group of leaders within the imaging industry. The meeting is designed to inspire advancement, innovation, and disruption in the industry.

To learn more about Navigator, and the advancement of the industry, visit

About Photizo Group

A leading global business transformation firm, Photizo Group guides clients facing disruptive change with strategies to transform and thrive through this change by using innovative and practical market intelligence, as well as consulting and education services. As a trusted advisor, Photizo provides clients with the visionary guidance they need to make successful business transformation a reality.

To learn more about Photizo Group, visit

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Paperwork Impedes Patient Healthcare- Sometimes on Purpose Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:54:33 +0000 A Ricoh Americas study found that hospital patients reported that the impact of paperwork on their care was that they spent less time with their healthcare worker, felt less connected, and many would rather use the internet for non-life threatening medical issues to avoid the burden of paperwork. Respondents also felt that hospitals that used the latest technology were more efficient. Many hospitals have acknowledged that paperwork is inefficient and have made moving toward electronic health records a major goal, but the impact of inefficient processes has not been fully explored.

One data point on this topic comes from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the government agency responsible for health IT efforts. The ONC has determined that electronic health records vendors make the process of sharing patient information too expensive and complicated, impacting the quality of care. Health IT vendors charge healthcare organizations high fees for interfaces to share patient data, force customers to use proprietary technology, and refuse to publish application programming interfaces (APIs). Hospitals and other healthcare providers may also purposely refuse to share patient data in order to maintain control of patient data and market share.

Healthcare institutions are slowly beginning to move toward electronic health records, but the patient benefits offered by use of the more efficient technology are not possible if Health IT vendors and healthcare providers are not willing to allow for the sharing of patient data. As more companies move to provide the tools to manage, store, and share patient medical data, can we meet the challenge of ensuring that patients receive the highest level of care while still protecting patient privacy and creating revenue?

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Navigator vs. Transform (and every other industry conference) Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:29:07 +0000 Navigator Meeting goes beyond Transform, and every other conference, focusing on generating outcomes, rather than incomes.

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Top 10 Imaging Industry Developments of 2014 Mon, 19 Jan 2015 19:07:23 +0000 With 2014 now firmly at a close, we wanted to take a look back at the top 10 imaging industry developments of the year according to you, our readers. News of mergers and splits drew the most attention, with our top story – unsurprisingly – being the separation of HP’s PC and printing business from its enterprise services group. We covered this story not only in our Business Intelligence service, but also in a live webinar. Mergers and acquisitions show up in our list with Nuance buying Notable Solutions and Clover and MSE merging. As well, we continued our coverage of the persisting shift from product-centric to service-centric strategies, with announcements from Xerox in particular drawing readers. Hardware and supplies sales models showed innovation this year as well, with the introduction of new business ink jets and ink subscription models.

Of course one of our own top stories was the launch of our Business Intelligence service. We hope you’ve found our new format valuable, and we look forward to bringing you all the news and insight you’ll need in 2015.

Top 10 Imaging Industry Developments of 2014

(note the below links are premium articles available to members of Business Intelligence Select)

1. HP splits into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.
We took a look at what this means for the company, the industry, and you, as an invested imaging industry professional.

2. Nuance buys Notable Solutions, a voice recognition solutions company.
This added to their previous acquisitions of companies such as Equitrac, eCopy, Safecom, and X-Solutions, and secures Nuance as the undisputed market share leader (about 65%) in print management software and MFP-enabled capture solutions.

3. Clover and MSE merge, creating mutual increased benefit to each other.
Clover gains access to MSE’s world-class engineering infrastructure and patent portfolios. MSE gains expanded product lines, and increased access to empties (cartridges), creating greater availability to their customers.

4. Xerox continues to move on its transition from a hardware company to a services company.
Xerox has shifted from the penetration sales model, focused on selling products and adding services, to a radiation model, in which they focus on implementing software service platforms and move outward into products.

5. Ricoh releases Android-enabled MFPs with the goal of increasing the availability of cloud services, even without a personal computer.
Ricoh is striving to increase work efficiencies for medical care providers, financial institutions, and retailers.

6. Lexmark’s strong financial performance shows the fruits of its Perceptive Software buy.
Shares jumped 8 percent, and non-GAAP revenue grew by 4 percent.

7. Our newly launched Photizo-cast series looks at page volumes.
As overall office volumes decline, the problem of retaining revenue with price-per-page models becomes apparent. We analyzed the things that professionals need to consider as the print industry continues to change.

8.  Photizo’s 2014 Imaging Industry Supplies Forecast 360 shows aftermarket toners making inroads in the color toner market.
Aftermarket toner is expected to double it’s worldwide share of the black and color toner cartridge markets by 2018.

9. Ink jets march into the office as print quality improves, lower operating and energy costs are realized, and the laser-biased recedes (slightly).
Photizo looks at the changing dynamic in the office printing landscape.

10. Major companies look at new ways to sell ink amidst service-centric business model movement.
In analyzing the features of both, you can easily identify the environment that each plan best supports.

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A Post-Google World: Is the Value of the Expert Analyst Dead? Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:34:09 +0000 We live in a world filled with an increasing amount of information. Content is king! And most of it is free.

So what does this mean for expert analysts – those who specialize in creating meaningful analysis in any given field, making sense of information, and providing insight? With accessibility of free information skyrocketing, are they obsolete? Can the average professional simply Google, or search, and find what they need to make adequate business decisions?

Short answer: No.

The dynamics of information consumption are changing while the dynamic of expertise, deep-routed knowledge, and smart business decision-making remains the same. Amidst the massive amount of content available, it is harder than ever to access needed information, discerning what is useful, and what is irrelevant. As information increases at astounding rates, we struggle to keep up.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, says, “Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it’s so painful to operate in information markets?”

So in fact, as information increases, our functioning knowledge arguably decreases. Our searches become less targeted by nature. We are overwhelmed. Drowning in a sea of words, data, statements, news, etc.

A practical example:

If you start experiencing symptoms of sickness, what do you do? Many of us Google the symptoms, and convince ourselves we have the most rare diseases known to man. And while it is great that we can quickly assess if we have a serious problem or not, we won’t rely on our amateur diagnosis (at least most of us won’t). We see a doctor. An expert in the field that dedicates his time and efforts to recognizing the signs of illness, assessing the route of the problem, how it affects you, and provides the information you need to make smart decisions, become healthy, and move forward.

But we see a different mentality in business. Many see symptoms of illness (of the business) or change, and set to work on Google, consuming every bit of information available in an effort to make the right decisions.

Silver bullet: Start accessing the right information, not just more information

In doing so, you can make business decisions confidently. So are you a sucker for paying for information and insight, or seeking the help of experts for routine understanding in our information-rich world? Absolutely not. In fact, due to the saturated nature of search engines, you are the wise businessman (or woman) that understands that time is money (along with smart business decisions), and direct access to the right information is key.

Photizo Group works tirelessly to connect professionals in the imaging industry to the right information paired with insight that only comes from expert analysis. We do this with Business Intelligence Select; our honest attempt to make your life easier, giving you one point of quick access to exclusive insights! Check it out today.

We see the need for the expert. Do you?

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Q&A: What’s Photizo’s New Exclusive Event All About? Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:50:53 +0000 In light of Photizo Group’s announcement to launch a new event series, Navigator, we have received a few questions about the meeting, set to kickoff in New Orleans, May 13-14.

Q) Why move away from the Transform conference model?

A) That’s a good question. We aren’t moving away from the Transform conference model. It’s a great conference series with a lot of value. However, it’s highly focused on the traditional managed print industry. For example, the US and European managed print markets have become mature. And what these market needs is what is provided through Navigator – a place for leaders to meet, analyze the industry and challenges they face, have radical discussions, and define completely new solutions. They need to look at where the industry is today and where it is going.

Photizo Group can help guide these leaders with applicable data, but it’s all about bringing the best minds and information into one place, and thinking about things no one has thought about before: challenging assumptions, breaking down silos, and forming relationships.

Transform is an excellent conference, especially in markets where managed print is emerging. We aren’t dismissing Transform, but rather looking to bring it to different markets that need help in developing the Managed Print business model.

Q) How is Navigator different than the thousands of other conferences out there?

A) First, Navigator is by invitation only. There aren’t any other events that we are aware of (at that we’ve been invited to!) that are invitation only. We are only accepting 150 attendees. We want to heighten the level of attendee: Presidents, C-level executives, Directors. It has to be somebody who can influence change in their business, as well as the industry as a whole. The level of content shared at this event is extremely high level, generally reserved for our highest-level clients. By heightening the level of attendee and information shared, the level of discussion is raised to an all time high. It’s going to be radically different than what people are used to. When you bring this many leaders at this level together, you can expect radical break throughs.

Q) How can a two-day conference radically change an Industry, let alone a single business?

A) One meeting can change someone’s life forever. We see this all the time in everyday chance encounters. A 15 second conversation in an elevator can form a relationship that evolves into a partnership that can change the course of multiple companies, an entire market, and even an industry. Also, great ideas are often born from discussion, collaboration, and information sharing. Steve Johnson, popular science author and media theorist, said, “What I’m saying is individuals have better ideas if they’re connected to rich, diverse networks of other individuals. If you put yourself in an environment with lots of different perspectives, you yourself are going to have better, sharper, more original ideas. It’s not that the network is smart.” This is a perfect example of how Navigator can greatly influence the industry.

Q) What are you most excited about for Navigator?

A) Education. We have an awesome agenda for this event. Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts, is giving the keynote, Photizo Group is providing really in-depth research and analysis, a panel of leaders from businesses that are radically disrupting their industries with new models and technologies are fielding questions, and the director of entrepreneurship and innovation from Tulane will speak. We are bringing in awesome resources to get people to think about disruption, which is the theme and mission of the event: Navigating disruption in your industry, and identifying how you can drive your own disruptive solutions, moving past the status quo.

Q) Who can we expect to see at Navigator?

A) That is top secret! Many of our attendees are high profile. In general, you can expect leaders and executives from the top imaging firms in the industry, as well as infrastructure and software firms, and larger dealerships. Navigator attendees are really going to be the elite of the imaging industry. Nothing less.

Q) What is the goal of Navigator? What makes it a success?

A) The goal of Navigator is to create an environment where leaders can escape the day-to-day grind, take a breath, step back from their organization, and think about the future of the industry and the roll their organization is going to play in that. The idea is for leaders to do this with others in their ecosystem, collaboratively (under Chatham House Rule). We want to see breakthroughs in common problems our industry’s leaders have been wrestling with, relationships form that influence success in multiple organizations, industry barriers broken down, and solutions defined that move the industry forward.

Plainly said, It is a success if these leaders can walk away feeling encouraged and enthusiastic of what they are doing in the industry. Not afraid of disruption anymore, because they know they are the ones that are going to be disrupting the industry.

Q) Should someone reading this Q&A request an invitation?

A) We have a desire to keep this event in an intimate setting to encourage discussion and genuine networking. That being said, we realize that this industry is constantly evolving, with new executives emerging every day. There are likely people that should be invited that haven’t received an invitation. This is one of the reasons we have made requests to attend possible.

Do you consider yourself a leader? Are the decisions you make capable of effecting your organization? How about the industry? Are you open to this type of meeting, where you work with competitors, challenging assumptions? If so, then yes, we highly recommend requesting and invitation.

Q) Is there an awesome video about Navigator?

A) Of course. We’re glad you asked:

Want more information about Navigator? Visit and check it out.


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9 Predictions for 2015 Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:59:19 +0000 As the year comes to a close, it is important to look back, and learn from the year past. However, it is equally important to look forward at what the next year has in store for our industry. Photizo Group executives and senior analysts have predicted 9 industry developments that will emerge in 2015.

  1. SCC Shifts into High Gear and M2Digital Becomes the First “Pan European” MPS Reseller

With SCC’s acquisition of M2 Digital, they gain a highly profitable and well-run MPS business. The pick up of an MPS program with what we see as one of the best-in-class delivery capabilities in the world sets SCC up for expansion beyond France, spanning multiple countries within Europe.

  1. Lexmark’s Interests in Content Expand to Video and Email

Lexmark is creating a higher value portfolio with a greater focus on broader market opportunities, as they look to move away from dependance on hardware sales. These vertical solutions include video and email.

  1. HP and Canon Relationship Begin Tectonic Shift

This stable relationship shifts as HP moves forward with page-wide array inkjet technology, allowing it to competitively address business partners – an area in which HP relied on its relationship with Canon’s laser technology in the past.

  1. Voice-Activated Print Management Solutions Become the New Normal

Voice activated technologies enter the market as standard features as widespread adoption increases, and the want for more secure, and interactive interfaces continues to rise.

  1. More Printer OEMs Will Adopt the Ink Subscription Model that HP Pioneered With Its Instant Ink Replacement Service

Because of HP Instant Ink’s great potential for saving money and time, locking users to OEM supplies, and keeping spent cartridges from remanufactures, other OEMs will follow suit in 2015.

  1. Another OEM Launches Page Wide Array

Another OEM will follow HP and launch page-wide array technology, such as Brother with color (not just black and white), Epson, or Funai.

  1. First Toolset for Self-Managed MPS Customers Appears

A shift away from the thought that a third-party vendor is needed in all engagements will be seen as self-managed solutions are created and packaged for end users, making more effective value communication from providers essential.

  1. 2015 Will be a Return to Software Solutions

As providers look to provide differentiation, cleverly packaged software solutions will emerge to create unique value to customers.

  1. The U.S. Copier (BTA) Channel Begins the Real “Shake-Out” as MPS Pretenders are Exposed

Many firms that have traditionally been considered BTA or Copier channel dealers will come under severe pressure as page volumes continue to decline, and true MPS players expand their market coverage and presence.

This is a brief overview of the predictions of what’s to come in 2015. To gain a full understanding of why these developments are important, what impact they will have on the industry, and what it means for your business, view the full webinar recording.

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Drawing Parallels – Where is the Printing Industry Headed? Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:43:56 +0000 Spoiler alert: This is a long one, but good! So don’t lose heart!

You’ve been affected by disruptive change in the printing industry.  The future of the industry looks radically different than you once did. Today, it is fueled by the fast-paced change that defines the markets that we operate in every day.

Surely our industry isn’t the first to experience this disruptive change. This conundrum that we find ourselves in isn’t really that unique. We’ve seen it time and time again in adjacent industries. So let’s take a look at some of these instances.

The Movie Industry

Remember when renting a movie meant going to an actual store, browsing thousands of titles, and picking something off a shelf? Notable leaders in this space are Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and Movie Gallery.

These companies began to experience disruption. Companies began offering services that were targeted at increasing end-user experience and satisfaction. In came Netflix, who would mail movies to your home, had no deadlines for return, and in turn no late fees!

In comes digital streaming through your cable provider. Why leave the comfort of your home when you can order your movie through your television. And with automatic availability withdrawal, you again don’t have to worry about getting hit with late fees.

We all know the fate of movie rental stores. For a majority of the big players, sales dwindled, profits fell, and bankruptcy became a sad reality.

The Music Industry

Remember when you used to keep a stack of CDs in the car? Remember when all boom boxes and stereos had a place to insert a disc? What about the need to walk with unnatural smoothness to avoid making the song skip on a Walkman? How about buying disc cleaner and repair solutions to try and fight scratching?

In comes the MP3 player, and the digital storage of music. Why deal with the potential damage of CDs that render them useless? Why lug around a stack or binder of CDs for the car when you can store all of your music on something the size of a business card? Why deal with changing a CD out when all you have to do is hit a button for a new song from a different artist?

MP3 players made the end user’s life easier. They deliver a higher quality of service through their product platform.

Spotting the trend

Do you see the disconnect? These industries that are quickly becoming obsolete can attribute their decline to one factor. User experience and value. The disruptive technologies identified the user’s discomfort and fixed it, whether it was late fees, leaving the house, storage, etc. The disruptor made the user’s life less complicated while increasing overall value. In the modern environment filled with the time poor and money rich, the reduction of life’s complications and the addition of value is a must.

So how are you doing it in the printing industry?. The end user is begging for less complication and more value. What discomforts are you solving? Have you even begun to account for the discomfort you might bring a long with your service or product…because your competitor (who you may not even know exists yet) is certainly taking note of your customer’s discomfort.

Knowledge is critical. Completely understanding the industry in which you operate is critical. And by understand, I don’t mean skim the news headlines. I am talking about full awareness of the events that are most important to you, as well as analysis as to why and how they are going to affect your business. Customers. Profits.

Bring it home

This is why Photizo created Business Intelligence Select. Our aim is to equip professionals with the tools that will allow them to succeed. We encourage you to take two minutes, check it out, and evaluate if this sort of information is important to your business.

The industry is at a crossroads, and it is up to us to drive it forward. We think it’s a good idea to know about the roads you’re driving on!

Looking for a better way to do that? Check out the Business Intelligence platform today.

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As Office Pages Disappear Managed Print is a Must for Channel Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:56:25 +0000 Printed pages are on the decline as more offices adopt cloud platforms, streamline workflows, and increasingly rely on smart devices to get work done. While overall office pages are expected to decline by a compounded rate of 6.5 percent annually through 2018 (Photizo Group 2014 MPS Forecast), managed pages continue to grow.

Managed print services revenue is forecasted to rise to $28.4 billion by 2018, comprising 30 percent of office printing revenue (Photizo Group 2014 MPS Forecast). And while the explosive growth that has characterized the industry to date is slowing, there is still a large, untapped opportunity for the channel.

The Real Opportunity

The real opportunity is seen in the small and medium size businesses (SMB), which are likely to engage a channel partner in managed print services. Having a strong managed print program in place is the key to securing future pages. In fact, SMBs are expected to contribute 60 percent of the industry’s managed print services revenue by 2018. Furthermore, a strong managed print program brings additional benefits, such as increased win rates and customer retention. Photizo’s 2014 Leaders Index for MPS Channel Providers provides benchmarks based on top-performing managed print service channel providers, and showed these providers enjoy an average 98 percent customer retention rate. It doesn’t stop there. The leading managed print service providers in the channel are achieving great success with industry leading profits, sales close rates, and more. We encourage everyone to gain a full understanding of the benefits of a top-notch managed print channel program by viewing the full infographic.

Players looking to enjoy these emerging market opportunities, control more market share, and hold on to what they already have must seriously consider their managed print channel strategy.

More than ever, it is imperative to define strategies, align with customers’ opportunities, and execute. How do you stack up?


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Business Changing Managed Print Program Success Thu, 09 Oct 2014 18:17:35 +0000 Success is harder and harder to achieve. Profit margins are tighter, sales are dwindling, and revenues are shrinking for many businesses in the imaging industry. So what do we do?

Even as we see disruptive changes to the traditional ways of business, opportunities for new and lucrative business models are emerging.

Smart, effective managed print program execution is one.

Photizo has studied successful managed print programs around the globe, and developed benchmarks of what a successful program can expect to achieve:

  • $235,750 – average revenue seen per managed print assessment
  • $229,885 – average revenue per employee
  • $4,291 – monthly revenue per customer (under a managed print engagement)
  • $168 – monthly revenue per device (under a managed print engagement)
  • 98% – customer retention ratio

The above numbers are impressive, and just a glimpse of the benefits leading managed print program providers are seeing. You could leverage this level of success too! With dedicated training and guidance, connecting to untapped revenue and efficiency becomes a reality.

Want a full look at the stats of industry leading managed print programs? Download the infographic {HERE}

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8 Reasons You Can’t Miss Transform Europe Thu, 02 Oct 2014 19:19:05 +0000 Transform Europe is fast approaching. As we gear up to head to Prague 21-22 October, we can’t help but get excited about the event to come!

Here are 8 things that you simply can’t miss at Transform Europe:

  1. More than 25 sessions covering real-world topics, trends, and opportunities – with over 25 sessions on the most impactful topics in the industry, lead by some of the most influential thinkers, how could we not be thrilled? With three tracks that are tailored for today’s imaging professional, you’re sure to gather the insights needed to transform your business, connect to the modern office worker, and capitalize on new profits in the market.
  1. Keynote from Anders Sorman-Nilsson, founder of the strategy think tank, THINQUE – We can’t wait to see Anders Sorman-Nilsson enlighten a room of the brightest imaging professionals in the industry. As a professional who helps executives convert disruptive questions into proactive strategies, his message will resonate with our industry that’s characterized by disruptive change and transformation.
  1. The MPS Success Pillars Workshop built on real-world best practices – Crafted for channel partners, the MPS Success Pillars Workshop connects you with managed print services best practices that are modeled after those who are doing it best. You will learn how to evaluate and strengthen your own managed print program with actionable insights.
  1. Historic networkingTransform Europe not only educates, but connects top industry professionals and thought leaders. A dedicated networking evening is planned that features a tram ride through the city, champagne, dancing, and a fire show at the Old Armory at Kampa Park. Who said you can’t mix business and pleasure?
  1. Innovative sponsors and exhibitorsTransform Europe is proud to partner with some of the top companies in the imaging industry. You will get to view multiple cutting-edge solutions in the market place, and evaluate opportunities for your business under one roof.
  1. Socializing with professionals, leaders, and managed print experts – It’s important to note that there are numerous social opportunities at Transform Europe. With a unique chance to share a weekend with your industry friends, peers, and colleagues, Transform is sure to be full of fun and memories. 
  1. One-on-one meetings with Photizo Group analysts – Where else are you going to have access to one-on-one meetings with Photizo Group analysts? Sit down with them and discuss industry trends, pain points for your business, or emerging opportunities. Take advantage. You have our permission! 
  1. Brilliant setting at the Desinghotel Elephant in the heart of Prague – We couldn’t ask for a more stunning hotel and city. Filled with culture, history, and architecture, the brilliant setting is only fitting for a brilliant event.
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Five Need-to-Know Trends in MPS Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:00:34 +0000 With total worldwide managed print services (MPS) revenue reaching $18.9 billion in 2013, Photizo predicts that MPS will equate to 30 percent of office printing revenues by 2018. Although printed pages—the bellwether of the print industry’s health—continue to fall, the total number of managed pages remains on the rise.

Despite the downward pressure most industry players are feeling on revenues and profits in print, MPS has been one successful answer to drive all-so-important levels of customer retention in this annuity-driven industry. As we rounded out this year’s forecast, we saw a few key takeaways that we wanted to share with you.

1. Konica Minolta is Making Waves

While we are used to seeing Xerox, Ricoh, HP, Canon, and Lexmark holding leading MPS market shares year after year, Konica Minolta is proving to be a significant disruptor in the market. With its multi-pronged strategy to attack the market, we recommend you not discount Konica Minolta’s effectiveness in the market.

2. SMBs will Headline the Show

Everyone is saying it, but is anyone really listening? Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) will drive 60 percent of the revenue contribution for MPS by 2018 (and higher in mature markets). This means that channel partners will be heavily involved in market penetration and revenue generation. Players without a significant channel strategy will see increasing challenges in gaining ground—not to mention holding on to your own slice of the pie.

3. Micro-businesses on the MPS Menu

Did you think MPS was only for the big boys? Increasingly, we are seeing interest in the micro-business space (10-49 employees) in mature markets like the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia. Our latest Decision Maker Tracking Study confirms these customers are very active in pursuing managed print programs for their company. But channel may not be the primary route to these customers; we are seeing evidence of major players gearing up high-volume platforms that can sustain a lower-touch “management” model for customers in this segment. In effect, direct operations may be able to automate supplies shipments and device management more cost-effectively than the local partner can.

4. Don’t Stop There

Your account acquisition strategy must also be coupled with a focused account penetration strategy. Our market opportunity analysis indicates that full penetration and overall account control remains relatively low—even in enterprise engagements. This translates to untapped revenue sources and revenue flowing into a competitor’s coffers.

But it’s not all bad. Even in the face of shrinking usage and erosive pricing, MPS players are still creating accretive value for them and their customers. Through innovative packaging and sheer tenacity, MPS players continue to grow.

5. It’s a Land Grab

If page volume decline continues at its current rate, we’ll see worldwide office page volumes shrink at over 7 percent CAGR through 2018. Despite that negative trend, MPS providers are seeing the number of pages managed increase each year—continuing at a modest 2 percent CAGR through 2018. Given that we expect fewer devices and fewer pages printed per device through the forecast period, MPS providers stand in a unique position to realize increased control of their respective market—further shutting out competition. In short, it’s a land grab and the amount of land to grab is shrinking.

Successful players will heed these 5 lessons:

  1. Don’t discount the smaller competitors;
  2. Tune up your channel strategy;
  3. Decide your strategy for micro-MPS accounts;
  4. You are leaving untouched opportunities in your account base; and
  5. Act now… Tomorrow may not be too late, but next year will be.


For more insights about developments in MPS–and the imaging industry as a whole–sign up for Photizo’s Business Intelligence or Advisory Service.

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Creating Value: Notes from the Ricoh Global Analyst Summit Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:11:37 +0000 The first global analyst summit hosted by Ricoh provided insight into the executive team, current and future technology platforms, and services offerings. The event centered around communicating Ricoh’s dedication to transforming into a services-led company to the analyst community. Zenji Miura, Ricoh CEO, took an open approach, sharing both the progress and challenges faced in their transformation.

Ricoh’s progress is seen in the visual communications (small workgroup video conferencing and whiteboards) and industrial business (visual monitoring systems and additive manufacturing) markets. In addition, Ricoh Huddle rooms, systems that combine interactive white boarding, small group video conferencing, ultra-short throw project devices, and iPad integration to create highly interactive collaboration centers, is an excellent example of how they are working toward value creation. In almost every case Ricoh takes its existing core optics technology and then applies innovative software and services to bring additional value to the solution.

Nikhil Balram, President and CEO of Ricoh Innovations Corporation, based in Silicone Valley, made a very compelling presentation about the impact of mobility and technology advances on the workplace. He set the stage for the rest of the demonstrations during the day by describing Ricoh’s three core platforms: communications and collaboration, visual search and recognition, and hetero-integration photonics (optics and image processing)

Healthcare – showcase of bundled services, products, and technology to create high value offerings. The demonstrations focused on a combination of managed document services, communication services, and business process services.

Manufacturing – addressing the pitfalls of manual processes and label deficiencies, and demonstrated future applications, such as, a 3D camera for robotics and clickable paper applications for point of sales information.

The Ricoh executive team is committed to a business model transformation, and the firm has shown its dedication and success in expanding its technology portfolio, particularly in enabling communications technologies in the visual communications segment (new video conference offering). While Ricoh is adding great value in its technology expansion and service bundles, the company will continue to struggle with execution challenges as long as the services business is essentially embedded in the legacy business. It’s clear that many of the struggles the firm faces in transformation are due to the significant inertia associated with having a very large organization which was successful in the legacy business and which is reluctant to change (an issue many office products. Although Ricoh still lags behind in the A4 segment, the firm continues to drive the broadest print/imaging product range. It will be interesting to see how Ricoh expands into new business segments such as Telemedicine, with its development in visual communication technologies.

Get a more in depth look at the Ricoh Global Analyst Summit, and other industry topics like it through Photizo Group’s Business Intelligence platform. More than a source of news, Business Intelligence shows you what’s important to customers, how industry developments impact your business, and how you can take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Now try Business Intelligence for free with our 7-Day trial.

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I’d Like to Buy the World a [Personalized] Coke Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:02:58 +0000 Unless you are living under a rock, by now you have seen all of the “personalized” Coke bottles that the Coca-Cola Company introduced as part of its “Share a Coke” campaign. (Coca-Cola introduced the “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia in 2011 and launched it in the United States this summer.) I say, “personalized,” because the Coke bottle that has your name on it is also a personal Coke bottle for tens if not hundreds of thousands of other people.

If you have a less popular name or even an unusual spelling of a popular name (i.e. Alyson), then you’re out of luck, as there’s a limit to how many names Coca-Cola is putting on their Coke bottles. Note also that Coca-Cola chose the 250 most popular names among teens and Millennials, so if you’re a Boomer like me with an outdated name, like Ann, you’re also out of luck unless you want to adopt a more exotic version, like Anna or Ana, when you’re thirsty for a Coke. Another alternative is to look for that special nickname or term of affection used by your friends or special someone, as Coca-Cola was nice enough to include group names like “Family” and “Friends” on 1.25- and 2-liter bottles, and 12-oz. cans feature nicknames like “BFF,” “Star,” “Bestie,” “Legend,” “Grillmaster,” “Buddy,” and “Wingman.”

You may be wondering just how the personalized labels are being printed, and on September 10, HP announced its role in the campaign, namely the use of Indigo WS6000 series digital presses to print the personalized labels that enable consumers “to make meaningful connections” with their Coke bottle by providing “an emotional and tactile experience with the brand.” I’m not sure I’ll ever have a meaningful connection with a carbonated beverage, much less one that couldn’t be bothered to call me by my actual name, but then again, I’m clearly not in Coca-Cola’s target audience, so perhaps Millennials have a different definition of “meaningful.”

My bruised feelings aside, I don’t mean to belittle the effort required to produce labels for a campaign of this magnitude. In HP’s press release, Coca-Cola North America noted the “meticulous attention to variable data, consistent productivity, and flawless color management” required to produce the bottle labels. A new substrate and laminate construction replaced the original media and varnish overlay technique used in Europe to withstand the fast speeds of U.S. bottling lines, and Coca-Cola Red Ink was reformulated to accommodate the new substrate.

HP ran a number of Indigo WS6000 series digital presses for 24 hours per day and six days a week for approximately three months to meet Coca-Cola’s weekly production minimums and hit launch volume specifications. HP worked with Coca-Cola to segment the production lanes of its HP Indigo WS6000 series Digital Presses to produce varying run lengths of each name based on U.S. regional demand and supported production with around-the-clock technical service to maintain maximum press utilization.

So, why do I care, and why should you? Because this is a great example of taking digital printing into new markets and applications. And not just because it makes printing cool, although it is nice to be able to talk about label printing without my kids rolling their eyes and telling me once again that I’m “such a printing nerd.” Wait, doesn’t everyone look at their direct mail pieces and try to figure out how they were printed and on what type of substrate?

But seriously, the printing and imaging industry does not have that many bright spots. According to Photizo’s 2014 hardware forecast, unit shipments of consumer and office printers and MFPs will decline at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.5 percent through 2018 (get more hardware forecast highlights here), and Photizo’s 2014 supplies forecast predicts a similar decrease in worldwide cut-sheet page volumes, as global shipments of laser media and desktop ink jet media are expected to see a 1.8 percent CAGR decrease through the same time period (get more supplies forecast highlights here).

The commercial printing space, with those trillions of analog pages just waiting to go digital, represents a huge opportunity for printing and imaging vendors, and companies such as Canon, EFI, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox are continuing to introduce new products and solutions targeted at this space, many of which will be on display at Graph Expo later this month in Chicago. So, at the risk of dating myself further, “Have a Coke and a smile” and use this story as the impetus to plan how your company can pursue new growth markets and applications.

Editor’s note: The U.S. “Share a Coke” campaign concluded August 30, but you can still share a virtual bottle at

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Prinstagram: A Bit of Nostalgia Floating in the Cloud Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:41:32 +0000
Recently I found out about Prinstagram, a service that delighted me. Offered by a company called Social Print, Prinstagram allows you to print photos directly from your Instagram account.


I am a huge fan of the photo-sharing social media platform, Instagram. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I agree. I left Facebook behind long ago, irritated with snarky status updates and links to on-line drivel. I don’t want to read, I just want to peek. Instagram is where the exhibitionistic and voyeuristic parts of people’s characters meet. It’s almost purely visual, and takes its main styling cue, the square aspect ratio, from Polaroid photos.


Millennials are crazy about Polaroids. There is the fascination of analog technology, so quaint. And, for those of us who remember taking film for processing, there is a freedom associated with not having to do that. But there is also the aspect ratio, the square, and the built-in frame that made Polaroids seem complete. Ready-made.


Prinstagram is very easy to use, and at $12 for 24 prints, it isn’t expensive. The Social Print app allows users to order prints on a whim. Recently, social print has expanded its product offerings beyond the standard 4-inch square prints to include posters, t-shirts, framed prints, and books.


At Photizo, we often talk about the future of printing. Services, of course, are a big part of our discussions. Naturally, when our customers hear this, they think MPS. But Prinstagram illustrates the broader perspective of what service means. It also provides some examples of hot topics discussed for the future of print. Namely, printing from mobile devices and printing from the cloud. The key to Prinstagram is that it is built for this, it wouldn’t exist without mobile and the cloud. By tapping the potential of the environment it plays in, it can then count on customers’ emotional response to sell the hard copies.


Ease of use + built for the ecosystem + compelling product = success in the age of the cloud.


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Service-Centric Business Opportunities: People Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:41:08 +0000

An overview of the people you need to successfully run a service-centric business model.  An expansion of the last installment of the service-centric business opportunities vlog series – Keys to Executing a Service-Centric Business Model.

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IBM Unveils Cognitive Computing: Even Smarter Devices? Fri, 05 Sep 2014 13:43:57 +0000 Technology companies are continuously pushing the envelope in order to make smarter products. An article in Information Week explains more about IBM’s announcement that they had created a computer chip that can work much like a neuron in the brain. This is particularly interesting to me because my bachelor’s degree is in psychology.

Traditionally, computers have been structured with separate parts of the machine devoted to memory, computation, and communication. The new chip created by IBM instead breaks these functions into each core, which allows for parallel processing. Communication can therefore take place between chips, much like neurons in the brain communicate via electrical bursts. Structuring the chips more like the human brain lets them take advantage of the greater capacity created by increasing the number of connections between systems.

IBM claims that there are several advantages to this new computing structure. The parallel processing allows for the ability to avoid bottlenecks. The chips are also able to run much cooler, since they will not be running at all times but instead will be event-driven. This structure would allow the device, much like the human mind, to detect outside stimuli and react very quickly.

Looking toward the future, it isn’t hard to imagine uses for this technology in smart devices such as the new driverless cars, which would need to use signals from the environment in order to navigate. However, this ability to detect environmental stimuli could easily be used within the imaging industry to create smarter imaging devices that can react to their surroundings.

However, I caution that while technology is becoming much smarter and handling more tasks which are monotonous or mundane, the human brain is exceptionally complex and the whole idea of creating a device which has the capability of mimicking the human brain is best left to science fiction. The chips created by IBM have found a means to recreate structures in the brain, which receive feedback from the environment and react, but I personally believe that there is much more to being human than could be recreated structurally. Artificial intelligence can be created to make pre-programmed decisions, but it has no ability to independently use morals, ethics, or feelings – instead it relies purely on mathematics and logic. The best example that I could give would be a driverless car which experiences a brake malfunction and has to choose between hitting a school bus or a family car. The car would use its feedback from the environment to make the most logical decision, and then it would make a decision that would be potentially fatal.

The human brain is a complex structure, which is beautiful but isn’t entirely understood. Psychologists and neurologists have been studying the brain for many years, but they continue to make momentous discoveries. The ability of engineers to recreate such a majestic structure in order to increase the capabilities of technology is truly awe-inspiring; however, technology has constraints that will limit the “humanity” which could be created artificially.

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How Did You Score? Channel Partners Rank the OEMs Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:30:43 +0000 We learned a lot in our recent Channel Partner Loyalty Study for Western Europe, and thought we’d share just a bit of recent findings. We began by analyzing the current state of six OEM MPS programs, their capabilities, and their partners’ loyalty drivers and detractors in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (U.K.). We included OEM MPS programs in each country, including Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Ricoh, and Xerox.

So which OEMs received the highest marks from partners?

We used five factors to compare and contrast OEM prowess, evaluating such factors as:

  • product range and service;
  • promotional marketing support;
  • training;
  • compensation scheme; and
  • flexibility with cost structures.

In France, Konica Minolta scored the highest with an average score of 7.4. The next closest competitor was Xerox with an average score of 6.3. Lexmark landed in last place with a meager average score of 4.3.

Ricoh received the highest marks in Germany, with an average partner ranking of 8.5 across the five categories. HP ranked second with an average score of 7.2. In this case, partners felt Canon could use the most work, ranking the OEM at just 4.2 on average.

Competition in the U.K. was fierce (and a lot tighter than in the other two countries). However, partners once again selected Ricoh as the highest-ranked OEM to partner with, giving the company an average rating of 7.5. But Konica Minolta came in a close second with a partner score of 7.4.

Channel Partner Loyalty

Channel Partner Relationship Evaluation Framework

Partners Value the Relationship

No OEM program was perfect, but most partners were balanced in their review of the various programs—pointing out the positive as well as negative aspects in each. Despite some undercurrents in the relationships, partners expressed a consistent desire to work with OEM partners. Channel partners valued strong relationships that delivered mutual benefit for both parties, and were most frustrated with the increasing conflict in account acquisition from direct branches.

But OEMs have a tightrope to walk, balancing shareholders’ needs with partners’ desires. Meanwhile, partners must expand their view of what is possible and adapt to thrive. Throughout the study, our research team found that OEMs and channel partners must focus on three spheres of impact to maintain healthy and productive relationships (as seen in our Relationship Evaluation Framework).

  • Relational: the genuine nature of interpersonal relationships between OEMs and their partners is critical, and center on open communication and close proximity to strengthen the relationship.
  • Structural: While the relational portion of the relationship deals with the unspoken rules, the structural portion of the relationship deals with all of the written rules. Channel partners expect certain pricing flexibility based on commitment and priority based on performance.
  • Operational: The most often overlooked element in the relationship, partners expect OEMs to react more speedily to gaps that cause customer dissatisfaction, instill knowledge more deeply, and maintain the partners confidence through quality of execution. In other words, do what you say you’ll do.

Besides this best practice, we learned a host of other interesting insights and captured a lot of great comments from channel partners that we share in the published report.

We’ve published the executive summary for our Business Intelligence members, and would be happy to share more detail with you as well. Feel free to check out the report on our storefront, or download the full report through our Advisory Services Client portal.

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Which Europe Are You Referring To? Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:44:34 +0000 Many colleagues and friends know that I spent nearly two decades living and working in Europe, mostly in international management roles. It was a fascinating and enriching time, and very occasionally I think it might be fun to go back – for example, when we have visitors who stay for three weeks that go back and still have their jobs! (And by the way, that wasn’t quite half of their vacation time…)

But back to business. I worked in international product and business planning roles and often was requested to represent Europe at global meetings. I joined my U.S. colleagues (which was kind of a kick anyhow), and together with the headquarters teams, tried to hammer out the future of the business. There were pricing, product, and sales channel discussions, and the headquarters teams were eager to receive some input from the key markets.

The U.S. colleagues were in a position to make a solid statement, because they represented a more or less homogenous market. They made their pitch, we discussed for a while, and then all attention turned to Europe. Why was it not possible to make such a strong and clean statement for Europe? It may seem obvious, but I can say it certainly was a challenge at the time to describe the differences in all of the various markets. Even aside from the various country sizes, languages, cultures, and laws, you have different economic levels and structures. A product or strategy that is very well suited for Denmark or Germany may not be such a good approach in Italy or Romania. We still had to provide a statement and direction to help finalize the planning tasks, but it was also important to share the differences and nuances that are inherent in Europe.

Here’s a simple example. The U.S. colleagues put together a great analysis ranking key market opportunities by metropolitan area, which also implied where they would put their sales and marketing focus. It was obvious that the biggest markets would be covered with either direct sales offices or strong dealers, but at some point, there was a cut point where you knew there would be little effort or attention. It was pretty unlikely that Portland or Charleston would receive similar levels of attention and support received by Chicago or Los Angeles.

In Europe, however, we did not need to perform such an analysis, the demographics were already applied for us: you cover every country regardless of size, it’s that simple. I did not expect much business from Portugal or Belgium, but it was clear that we would be supporting all markets at an equivalent level. We may have had a different route to market through either subsidiaries or distribution partners, but every country was supported and expected to contribute to the total business.

Europe is, and always has been, complicated and diverse. The region is not free of nagging historical prejudices and rivalries, and I sometimes wonder whether being a non-European manager had its advantages in ensuring cooperation and compliance. I know for a fact that it can be difficult for a Frenchman to accept a German or Brit (or anybody!) for a boss, and there are dozens of variations on this theme of historical frictions. The non-European is just a bit above these issues.

Regardless of the management’s nationality, though, the European teams can deliver great results, and in several cases, we see the European organizations performing well above their colleagues in North America or elsewhere. When firing on all pistons, the European organizations are successful and innovative and truly embody the philosophy of thinking globally and acting locally.

When managed positively, there will be a healthy competition and exchange of ideas. In fact, Europe offers a great lab environment. You can test market a new sales approach or program or launch a number of variations on a theme, and the best results can be shared and applied to the other countries as well. The successes of one country (even a tiny organization) can be replicated across the continent. In other regions this is unimaginable: would U.S. management allow the Southwest region to do something totally different than the Northeast?

Also, the presence of so many countries implies (actually forces) the creation of complete business units. While it could be viewed as redundant to have so many sales, marketing, and service organizations, it is certainly a necessary part of building a successful business in Europe. This does set high expectations for outsiders, though: if a non-European company is trying to break into the European market, they should be prepared to drive and support the business directly in several countries. Setting up one office in England will not get you very far any place else – you might not even be covering the entire United Kingdom, much less Europe!

One interesting side effect of this structure is that European organizations by nature have an impressive team depth. Get the top 15 marketing managers together, and you will have a fantastic discussion. The sales teams are well developed and offer plenty of talent to backfill if a manager decides to move on. Also, given the famously generous vacation rules and labor laws, European organizations are often masters at planning and managing employee resources.

One of the biggest challenges for these complex and high-performing European organizations is to ensure that the knowledge levels and skill sets are well developed and coordinated. Every opportunity to provide education and business development support should be leveraged, which brings us to the Photizo Transform Europe Conference. This annual event is an excellent platform to attend and learn about the printing and imaging markets, managed print services, and future industry trends as the markets and business models continue to evolve.

One great advantage of Transform is that this is a roving event by design: we want to bring this opportunity to learn and network to new and different locations, and this year for the first time, we are holding the event in Central Europe, in Prague. I always found the Central and Eastern European friends and colleagues to be enthusiastic and energetic innovators and really look forward to a great session on 20-22 October. As always, we will have sponsors, attendees and topics from across the continent, and we expect that everybody will contribute and learn in a unique meeting of minds and exchange of ideas. We hope to see you in Prague!

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Rise of the Business Ink Jet Machine Mon, 11 Aug 2014 16:41:02 +0000 For the past several years, we have watched as chart after chart shows the downward trend of the worldwide imaging industry. Whether you look at unit shipments, average selling prices, or revenue, most of the trend lines are down, some more than others. While working on Photizo Group’s 2014 ink and toner forecasts, which we just released (found here), I had the opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the numbers and saw the genesis of a trend worth watching.

During the next two years (2014 and 2015), Photizo expects worldwide single-color ink cartridge shipments and revenue to increase in the low single digits, while single-color ink cartridge usage per machine is expected to rise over the next five years. Contrast that with the color (CMY) toner cartridge market, which we forecast to decline worldwide in all three areas: cartridge shipments, revenue, and usage per machine.

One possible explanation for this situation is the rise of business ink jets, which are among the types of ink jet printers and MFPs that use single-color cartridges to help reduce per-page costs. In my last blog, I talked about the office printing market being ripe for the picking for business ink jet companies, and stemming the tide of declining page volumes is certainly another incentive for manufacturers. With the price/performance offered by the latest round of business ink jet machines—especially the page-wide-array models—I believe that users will buy these devices to print more pages for less money than a comparable entry-level color laser.

So pages will naturally shift from color toner-based machines to ink-based models, with perhaps even a bump in page volumes per device due to the combination of fast print speeds and lower cost per page (CPP) offered by business ink jets. Now, I’m not trumpeting the business ink jet as a panacea for what ails the imaging market—there are simply too many other factors, like mobile devices, digital workflow, and the “less paper” mindset of Gen Y, that are dragging down overall page volumes.

I am saying, however, that in a market that is tired of hearing about less printing, declining pages, and fewer opportunities for growth, business ink jet machines have the potential to turn those frowns upside down. And in case you’re wondering, regional factors will influence the use and adoption of business ink jets, so I’ll be digging deeper into these trends for Asia Pacific; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; Latin America, and North America in an upcoming article for Photizo’s Business Intelligence service.

Want access to that article, along with the ability to browse and search our database of business ink jet printers and supplies—in addition to more than 25,000 other devices, ranging from consumer to light production? A Business Intelligence subscription, which includes access to Photizo’s Hard Copy Datasource specification database, is yours for less than $2 a day! Click here for details. And I invite you to learn more about our unique Imaging Industry Practice, which provides access to Photizo’s hardware, supplies, and services forecasts.

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The Importance of Personal 3D Printers To The Growth of 3D Printing Wed, 06 Aug 2014 18:20:11 +0000 Last week, Photizo Group released its official market sizing and forecast for the low-cost 3D printing market, also commonly referred to as the “personal” 3D printing market.

Some may be surprised to see a lucrative market opportunity emerging at such a quick pace from a segment that has yet to really figure out what it is providing and who will want to buy it. The paradox essentially revolves around who is the target customer currently and who that customer will be in the future. This is where the name “personal” 3D printing was born.

In the beginning of low-cost 3D printing, the users were regular people. Okay, maybe not too “regular,” but they were people who bought, built, or otherwise used a 3D printer in their home workshops for a variety of projects that were personal and unique to their own needs. Hence the term, personal 3D printer.

Today, we’re still seeing massive growth in the low-cost 3D printer market, to the tune of $1.79 billion by 2018. We estimate that several million sub-$5,000 3D printers will be sold over the next five years. But who is going to buy those printers? Are there millions of personal users out there who are going to be 3D printing in their homes in the next five years?

While the concept of widespread 3D printing in the home is possible, it’s not probable. But don’t go shouting anything from the rooftops just yet—there will still be growth in 3D printing from “personal” users. Just probably not as much as other popular technological revolutions of the past decade, like tablets and smart phones.

3D printers create things. Low-cost 3D printers can create more and more interesting things with each passing month (advances in print materials at the desktop level are actually astounding, although flying somewhat under the radar). However, the process of creation is an art, even when it comes to manufacturing. It requires a particular set of skills, patience, and dedication that not every average consumer that owns a PC or a tablet will have or want to learn.

We believe that adoption of 3D printers by home users and consumers will be moderate. Creatively inclined consumer groups like artists, entrepreneurs, designers, and craft workers will all be relatively quick to adopt desktop printers to use for their own projects, home businesses, and personal uses. But the biggest driver of low-cost 3D printer adoption in the future will be business use.

Surprisingly, there are already a significant amount of enterprise-level businesses purchasing desktop and low-cost 3D printers, mostly for the purposes of experimentation in product design (for now). Eventually, the trickle down effect should take place, and smaller and smaller businesses will begin to see the benefits of having an in-house 3D printer or two—and they’ll be able to afford them. Once these businesses get a taste for the creativity that a small, cheap 3D printer can foster, it will be on to bigger and better printers.

This is why it’s foolish to completely separate the markets for “cheap” desktop 3D printers and high-end additive manufacturing systems. Adoption of high-end systems is going to drive adoption of low-end systems as businesses that have used big expensive equipment for decades want to see what these cheaper counterparts can do.

As that trend spreads, the reverse will begin to happen, as total newcomers to 3D printing in the business will first adopt at the low end. Some adopters will fall off the wagon, unable to match their competencies with the concept of additive fabrication. But many will want to move up the chain of capability in additive fabrication and end up buying more powerful printers.

This business adoption cycle, combined with growing interest from select consumer groups, is the one-two punch behind $5.1 billion in revenue that Photizo forecasts will be generated in low-cost 3D printing over the next several years. It’s going to be a fun ride.

For the complete data-driven analysis and forecast of the personal 3D printing market check out the Consumer & Desktop 3D Printer Market Size, Shares, and Forecast, and get the insights needed to navigate this growth market with unparalleled knowledge, influencing smarter, higher ROI business decisions.

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Keys to Successfully Executing a Service Business Model Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:18:09 +0000

The first installment in the “Service-Centric Business Opportunities” series, Ed Crowley discusses the keys to success in executing a service business model.

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Just Plain Smart Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:58:01 +0000 Fight of the Century. Thrilla in Manila. The Rumble in the Jungle. Most readers will immediately know these were some of the greatest fights involving Muhammad Ali and his competitors. These fights captured the imagination of millions of fans mainly due to Ali’s outstanding skills in and outside the ring.

Over a decade after Ali’s last fight occurred in 1981 there was another match that burst forth on the scene – “Malice in Dallas” featuring Herwald vs. Kelleher. What? Who in the world are Herwald and Kelleher? Kurt Herwald was chairman of Stevens Aviation in Greenville, South Carolina. Herb Kelleher was CEO of Southwest. These two individuals solved a legal dispute in a most creative way.

A brief history is in order. Most know that Southwest Airlines uses advertising and slogans to promote their brand. One of its first was “Love is Still Our Field” with reference to Love Field in Dallas, which is Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters. Later on, the company used “Somebody Up There Loves You,” “You’re Now Free To Move About The Country,” “THE Low Fare Airline,” and “If It Matters to You, It Matters to Us,” among others.

In late 1990, Southwest started using a new slogan “Just Plane Smart.” Unknown to Southwest, Stevens Aviation had been using the slogan “Plane Smart” for years and threatened to sue Southwest for trademark violation. As the story goes, both Herwald and Kelleher came up with an alternate idea. They were going to arm wrestle for the rights to use the slogan “Plane Smart.”

“Malice in Dallas” was held on March 20, 1992 at the famous wrestling forum, the Dallas Sportatrium (which has since then been demolished). It was set for three rounds with the loser donating $5,000 per lost round to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Ronald McDonald House, while the winner walked away able to use the trademarked phrase.

Both companies really promoted it. Customers sent Kelleher various items they thought would help him to win the fight like Wheaties, a can of spinach, and a bottle of Wild Turkey. Both firms created a video that showed Herwald and Kelleher getting ready for the “bout” and distributed it to employees.

On the day of the event, Kurt Herwald ran through the tunnel in a red robe among boos from the pro-Southwest crowd. Kelleher arrived with the “Rocky” theme song. Kelleher won the first round by bringing in a “ringer.” Herwald won the second round by also bringing in a “ringer.” The third round was a perfect set-up between the faces of each company. Herwald and Kelleher, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, started the bout. After a solid 35 seconds, Herwald pinned Kelleher’s arm for the win, and Stevens Aviation claimed the right to keep the slogan.

Kelleher lost the competition – or did he? The event created international exposure for Southwest. Some refer to it as the greatest publicity stunt ever. After the fight Herwald and Kelleher agreed that solving the dispute thus was great for publicity, goodwill, and their bottom line. After all was said and done, Kurt Herwald decided to grant Southwest the use of the slogan to demonstrate a show of good sportsmanship.

Both companies felt that “Malice in Dallas” was directly responsible for their rise in profits. Even the President of the United States at the time, George H.W. Bush, noticed the event and sent a letter of congratulations to Herwald and Kelleher calling it a “win-win.”

What things are you doing that are creative in your business?

Are you offering a good service at a fair price? In today’s competitive environment that may not be enough. You need to consider doing something remarkable like the Vitamin Water label, CarMax’s 5-day guarantee, or something hard-hitting like Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing” commercials. Or arm wrestle your competitor. What is something radical that you could do to create publicity or advertising for your business?

Want to stay up to date with market intelligence for less than $2 a day? Click Here now. If you’d like to learn more about our unique Imaging Industry Practice click here as well.

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What OEMs Can Learn from the US Soccer Team – Lessons from the World Cup Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:56:56 +0000 For the past month, most of the world has been fixated on the World Cup. This soccer championship involves countries from around the globe and takes place every four years. This international classic has always drawn the attention of most of the world, but this is the first time the average American citizen turned their eyes towards the host nation of Brazil, and enjoyed the drama to ensue.

Many factors can be attributed to the growing popularity of soccer in the United States. As society grows wearier of the physicality of American football, parents are pushing their young ones to play soccer, making soccer the most played sport for kids under the age of sixteen in the United States. Along with the influx of participants, the United States Men National Soccer Team (USMNT) has transformed from a once dismal opponent that struggled to qualify for the World Cup, to a top-twenty world ranking. This metamorphosis is due in part to the work of their coach and former German star Jürgen Klinsmann.

As the USMNT qualified for the World Cup, Klinsmann lead the team to unprecedented levels by having the most successful year in U.S. soccer history. The success of the USMNT seemed to be stymied when they learned of the opponents they would face while in Brazil. Klinsmann and the USMNT had the tall order to navigate the “Group of Death,” which included the perennial powers of Germany and Portugal, as well as Ghana, a team that had eliminated the USMNT from the previous two World Cup tournaments.

The unfortunate group draw was an obstacle Klinsmann hoped to avoid but it was the prime opportunity to understand the situation, evaluate the resources available, develop a game plan, and execute for optimal success. Utilizing his years of international experience coupled with hours of watching tape, Klinsmann and his staff completely understood what the team needed to do to advance out of the Group of Death. The next step was for Klinsmann to evaluate the potential team members that would wear the stars and stripes in Brazil. For two weeks, professionals were tested for fitness, strength, and skill as Klinsmann looked for the right combination of individuals that would be able to achieve the daunting task ahead.

After months of preparation it was time for the USMNT and Jürgen Klinsmann to test their abilities and tactics among the best in the World. On June 16, the USMNT started the tournament strong against Ghana with a goal in the first 40 seconds from captain Clint Dempsey. Klinsmann’s game plan seemed to be working flawlessly until an unexpected hamstring injury to star forward Jozy Altidore forced him out of the game. Altidore’s injury caused Klinsmann to re-evaluate his game plan on the fly. As the end of the game approached, Klinsmann subbed in a young defender, John Brooks, who netted the winning header in the 86th minute. In the first game, Klinsmann had to adjust his entire World Cup game plan and utilize his resources in order to achieve the desired outcome. His strategic planning was apparent through the rest of the group stages, and allowed the underdog USMNT to advance to the final sixteen of the World Cup. Though they lost their next game against Belgium, the USMNT have set forth a path for future success.

The printing industry can take a page out of Klinsmann’s World Cup preparation. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) realize that the industry is shifting from devices to managed print services (MPS). Unfortunately, some OEMs are not taking the correct measures to effectively provide MPS to customers. OEMs and decision makers need to strategically change their organizations by evaluating their resources while devising a game plan that can be successfully executed. They must challenge themselves by evaluating their regional expectations, global sales teams, and executive strategy. After evaluating all resources, OEMs should then develop a game plan based on the evaluations’ findings. When developing a global MPS strategy action plan, they must study successful and failed MPS strategies. This approach will drive a unique solution set that is distinguished from that of competitors while revered by the OEM’s clients. The next challenge is implementing the aforementioned game plan. Every successful MPS provider has experienced a setback when implementing its MPS strategy. Flexibility is essential to allow providers to shift the game plan and continue to move forward.

OEMs have the opportunity to learn from the USMNT and Klinsmann’s successes. The ultimate goal of winning a World Cup wasn’t achieved, but they made vital steps forward and are positioning themselves for an improved run in the coming years. OEMs need to begin the process of realigning their organization to focus on MPS, understanding that change is a slow process. Success won’t happen over night and failures are sure to ensue, but in order to be relevant in the future, it is essential to adapt now.

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Vlog: Imaging Industry Direction and Strategies in Play Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:51:52 +0000
Ed Crowley discusses the direction the imaging industry is headed and what strategies are in play going forward.

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Paper Passion: Beloved Smell Now Bottled Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:36:12 +0000 “The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.” – Lewis Thomas

There have been arguments since the introduction of e-readers to the market about the positive and negative aspects of using tablets for recreational reading. I am among a group of die-hard fans who favor printed works over digital reading devices. If you ask any of us the reason for our reluctance to switch to the newest technology, you will hear a very similar response about the difference in the experience of reading that comes with holding a physical book- the sight, the feel, and the familiar smell.

An article by Kathryn Zickuhr, published on the Pew Internet Libraries Website explains more about the process, which results in the powerful scent of a book. Many people describing the smell mention a hint of vanilla. As Zickuhr explains, “As the book ages, the chemical compounds used- the glue, the paper, the ink- begin to break down. And, as they do, they release volatile compounds- the source of the smell… Lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.” Many readers – including those who prefer e-readers – lament that they are not able to experience the familiar smell of old books as they partake in their favorite digital reading material.

The strongest memory that is associated with this smell for me is of reading in my grandmother’s sunroom stretched out on her daybed. It is one very happy memory of an activity that I have always enjoyed. The power of the scent lies not in the chemicals which create the scent, but instead in the associated memories.

Those of us who have such deep-seated attachment to this familiar smell will be pleased to find out that in 2012, a collaboration occurred between a publisher, a perfumer, and a fashion designer to create a perfume, which imitates the smell of printed materials. An article found on Fast Company’s Design page, explains a little more about the odd partnership which created this truly novel product, called Paper Passion. Even the perfume bottle packaging is novel, literally, in that the package is a white bound book whose pages are cut to hold the bottle. The perfume can be found on the designer’s site and can also be bought from Amazon – amusingly enough, it can be found in the books section.

It can be pondered whether the creation of this perfume imitating the beloved smell of old books, which triggers many fond memories for myself and others, will be a sufficient substitute that allows bibliophiles to adopt the new digital reading experience, or if they will continue to hold on to the printed pages that they love so dearly.

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Ever Wonder About the Cost of Office Color Printing? Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:04:24 +0000 Ever wonder what you’re actually paying to print on that office color MFP sitting on your desk, near your work area, or right down the hall? For years, we’ve seen the prices of color laser MFPs take a nosedive to less than $500, and then below $250. Sounds like a great bargain, right?

Sure, that purchase price at the cash register is appealing, but what about when you go back for that set of replacement toner cartridges? Well, that can set you back several hundred more dollars. In fact, you could well be paying more for those additional supplies than you did for the MFP.

So, what’s a user to do?

For several years now, we’ve been hearing about how business ink jet machines are going to make a run at the entry-level color laser market, but like “the year of color,” it’s been a long time coming. HP has been leading the charge, with Memjet jumping on board, and Epson recently joining the party.

With chants of “half the price of color laser” ringing in my ears, business ink jet vendors are clearly staking claim, and turning up the heat on color laser printers and MFPs… and with good reason.

– HP, with its vast number of laser printers shipped around the world – the firm announced the shipment of its 200 millionth LaserJet in November 2013 – is not reaping the full rewards of this installed base because Canon gets a cut of every laser printer shipped… and every toner cartridge sold;
– Epson, with a fiercely loyal customer base, has been especially hurt by the declining photo printing market, where the firm enjoyed a leading market position and reaped the benefits, and profits, of those full-color pages; and
– Memjet, with its ongoing struggle to break into the old-boys club that is the imaging industry, needs to make a powerful statement to gain share and acceptance.

Today, Canon is the clear leader in office supplies revenue and if current market trends continue, the firm will retain that spot for the foreseeable future, with HP a distant second, and remaining vendors fighting for a share of what’s left. If however, HP can accelerate the adoption of business ink jet machines, like it’s Officejet Pro X and Officejet Enterprise MFPs, the imaging supplies landscape will have quite a different future and potentially a new supplies revenue leader. Add Memjet’s managed print services (MPS) play and throw Epson into the mix, with its new WorkForce Pro 5000 series and WorkForce Pro RIPS (Replaceable Ink Pack System), and the office color laser market is facing some major threats to the status quo.

While simple arithmetic shows us that business ink jets are less expensive to purchase and operate than their color laser alternatives, a number of factors are combining to give business ink jets an even more compelling message for office users.

1. No muss, no fuss. HP’s Instant Ink subscription model offers users the ability to pay a set price per month and have supplies automatically delivered to their door, and the kicker is that users will pay less with a subscription than if they drove to the store and purchased the supplies themselves! Users benefit from the convenience and savings, and HP benefits from a steady, predictable revenue and profit stream.

2. Look Ma, no hands! The supplies yields of the new crop of business ink jets are higher than that of comparable color lasers, leading to fewer interventions. Epson’s WorkForce Pro RIPS models use ink bags that supply an astounding 75,000 black pages and 50,000 color pages. The typical entry-level office color MFP user will never have to replace them!

3. At your service. These business ink jets lend themselves well to MPS engagements as they offer comparable performance and real cost savings and the vendor assumes the risk, addressing any user concerns about the reliability and quality of ink jet—yes laser bias is alive and well!

So, do business ink jets have what it takes to move en masse from the marketing hype machine to the desktops of office users? I firmly believe so, and I’ll be exploring these issues in more depth in an upcoming article for Photizo’s Business Intelligence service. Want to stay up to date with market intelligence for less than $2 a day? Click Here now. Later this year, we will publish a report titled, Ink in the Office, that will further delve into the market strategies, user behaviors, and opportunities for success for business ink jets and office color lasers. Learn more about our unique Imaging Industry Practice today.

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A Look At Materialise – The First Publicly Traded Pure 3D Printing Services Business Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:51:55 +0000 Rumors began back in late 2013 that one of the biggest names in 3D printing as a service, Materialise, might be seeking an initial public offering (IPO). Those rumors were confirmed earlier this year in February when Materialise confidentially filed for an initial offering. This week, the company officially made public the terms of that offering set to open on the NASDAQ, with an initial price target between $12 and $14. Here we present some information on the not-so-well-known company and details about why the IPO is significant to the 3D printing industry.

Materialise is based in Belgium, with operational capacity across the globe. The company operates purely as a provider of 3D printing services and solutions, which means that Materilise utilizes a large fleet of additive manufacturing machines from a variety of printer manufacturers to create custom prototypes and end use parts for customers. The company claims that during 2013 alone, it printed 500,000 parts, including patient-specific medical devices, production parts, prototypes, and consumer products.

The company also develops software to control industrial additive manufacturing systems and high-end 3D printers, as well as tools for the design, editing, and processing of 3D files for printing. Some of these software packages are specific to a print technology (such as laser sintering), and some are more general and look to create efficiency in the print process by focusing on the placement of parts within the print bed, digital slicing of models, and conversion of CAD data to something usable in an additive manufacturing machine.

To give an idea of Materialise’s power within the market, the company reported revenue of roughly $99 million for the twelve months ending in December 2013. In comparison, Solid Concepts, an American provider of high-end 3D printing services, reported roughly $65 million in revenue for the same year. Materialise also holds a significant amount of intellectual property related to 3D printing, totaling 163 issued and pending patents.

The significance of Materialise going public on the NASDAQ is simple—they represent the first pure-play 3D printing service provider to achieve this level of growth and development. Although other publicly-traded manufacturers of 3D printers like Stratasys, 3D Systems, and even voxeljet or Exone offer high-end 3D printing services, Materialise is the first truly hardware agnostic provider of 3D printing services to go public.

What This Means for the Industry:

From an industry standpoint, 3D printing as a service has had a lot to do with the increasing adoption of 3D printing worldwide. Service providers are able to defer the massive costs facing a business interested in purchasing an additive manufacturing system for in-house use by simply focusing on the outcome to the customer—the completed part.

By utilizing a variety of additive technologies (from stereolithography to selective laser melting), service providers such as Materialise have the capability to address a variety of complex manufacturing problems. Manufacturers such as voxeljet that provide use of their own single fabrication technology typically do not have this same flexibility, as most single fabrication technologies are only well suited for a few specific uses.

Materialise brings a lot of credibility and industry experience to the public sector, which should be reflected in the performance of their stock in the near term. Materialise offers investors a unique opportunity in a very well established business model. Unlike the risks associated with 3D Systems’ aggressive acquisition and growth strategy, or largely unproven players such as Organovo, Materialise offers stability and competitive advantage. Along with Autodesk, we expect Materialise to have a noticeably larger impact on the 3D printing market in 2014.

Need more information and market research on the 3D Printing Industry? Visit Photizo Group’s 3D Printing Services page.

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Who Says MPS Has to be Actively Managed Tue, 24 Jun 2014 18:28:43 +0000 “Woe is me—my competitors are all telling my customers that they offer MPS, too! But it’s not true MPS like I sell.”

If you aren’t guilty of saying this yourself, I know you can think of someone who’s said something like it. But what’s really being said here?

What I hear is, “I don’t know how to convince my customers that what I do is any different than my competitors.” But a closer look also suggests it might just come down to that little phrase, “active management,” so cleverly leading the MPSA’s definition of MPS:

“Managed print services is the active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes.”

As one of the MPSA board members who voted to ratify this definition originally, I can tell you it signified a critical aspect of the provider’s engagement with the client. It meant that our value, as a provider, came from our active engagement with the client throughout the MPS lifecycle.

But as an analyst at Photizo Group, I’ve spent the last four years trolling the minutia of the MPS opportunity. This in-depth look at MPS has afforded me an interesting vantage as the market has matured and driven a dawning realization that I believe you have to consider—and that will likely unsettle you.

The Future:

Can you imagine a future where technology, not people, manages your accounts? What if “actively managed” stopped being a value proposition and started being a liability?

In this future, there are two types of managed services providers, broadly speaking: high-value providers who are consultative and position their key differentiation as the people they employ to solve their customers’ problems and high-volume providers who utilize massive technology platforms to structure and regulate their customer interactions—making them as efficient and routinized as possible.

Which type of provider are you? What type of provider do you want to be tomorrow? Neither is wrong, per se. But “actively managed” becomes a liability when you try to play at being a high-volume provider with the cost structure of a high-value provider.

Imagine a world where programs like HP’s Instant Ink, Ink in the Office, or SureSupply became the de facto standard offering for managed print contracts. What would that do to your business? Would that change the way you compete?

If you think I’m wrong, then simply discount this as one man’s opinion. And while pundits debate definitional points ad naseam and providers lament about new competitors bastardizing MPS, the market will decide. Whether it’s Betamax or VHS, Ethernet or Token Ring, Blu-ray or HD-DVD—the market always decides.

On which side of the fence are you going to land? If you don’t decide, eventually you’re going to learn why straddling a fence isn’t very smart.

Need more insight into the market? Check out Business Intelligence, a source of market intelligence that gives you expert analysis and insights into what’s important to customers, enabling you to make smarter business decisions.

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You Don’t Know What You Are Until You Become It Wed, 18 Jun 2014 18:20:42 +0000 I recently started reading a new book authored by my Australian friend Mitch Filby titled, R.I.P. – Rest in Print. I am still in the midst of reading, and look forward to several more enjoyable hours, but was struck by one comment that came up in Filby’s extensive history of the printing and imaging industry.

Early on, he describes the early days of the first digital MFPs and outlines the challenges encountered at the time by copier companies that typically had no background in IT and had serious difficulties understanding the sales, support, and application aspects of the emerging digital world. Those same companies now exhibit a high level of comfort and competence in the digital imaging field, but in the early days, those were most definitely two worlds on a collision course. In fact, I’m sure that even today, not all deficiencies and prejudices have been overcome due to that long ramping phase regarding skill sets and perceptions.

But let’s take this example a step further. I also remember those days (inevitably dating myself) and the non-IT skew of the copier industry as an even broader phenomenon. Those emerging fields of networking and networked imaging (printing, scanning, fax servers) were new for most of the planet, and the features and benefits were still unclear to the entire business world. But even more importantly, the significance and inevitability of these specific applications was simply not so obvious at all – not to anybody.

Does anyone remember the concept of the digital single-function copier? Even without printing or networking functionality, you can have a digital copier. At the time, this was a perfectly viable alternative direction for the industry. With digital capabilities, you could perform an asymmetrical zoom and stretch an image by difference ratios on the x and y axes. With that clever digital feature, I could fit an odd-sized image precisely into a given space, even if that space was not proportionate to the shape of the original image.

What about image shift? Margin erase? Front- and back identity card copies? Area delete? Positive-negative image reverse? Duplex copies and collated copy sets? Color management? Thinking back, there were quite a number of viable and accepted digital copying applications that were much more “close to home” for the copier industry, which made them easier to understand and sell. These products thrived, at least for a while. Printing and networking functionalities also became available, but at first, these new options suffered from low attach rates, in some cases as low as 0 percent. Network printing was just one more option that was sometimes (but more often not) offered.

Fast-forward to the present, and the networked MFP (the successor to the digital copier) is such a standardized and obvious piece of furniture that we cannot easily picture the world any other way. But that world was not at all obvious at the beginning of the journey, which is actually the case a lot more often than we might think.

When IBM spun off an old collection of businesses to a private equity company, it was not at all obvious what the future business of that “Newco” would be. If my memory serves me right, that crazy-quilt collection of businesses included typewriters, keyboards, line printers, industrial printer parts and…office desktop printers. It is perfectly conceivable that, with a different management vision, Lexmark could have become a parts and service company or a company milked dry of its typewriter profits for a few years before closing down. Now in hindsight, Lexmark is so obviously an office printer company that we can’t picture it ever being anything else. But that fate was not clear at the moment of the company’s inception. That future had to emerge.

All ventures and visions start as unknowns and then take shape as the company, product, market, and ecosystem all start to emerge. Strategists and thought leaders help shape the future, and business experts start executing on those concepts to make them a reality. Some of those ideas never progress, while others become so entrenched that at some point, it is impossible to think of a world without them.

Managed print services (MPS) and emerging services-based imaging business models are still in this process of transforming and emerging. Somebody had to figure out how to define and quantify the market, identify the current and future directions and sweet spots of the business, and assess relevant provider capabilities. Obviously, we at Photizo Group are pleased to be playing a central role in this process, and we fully intend to continue driving this development. Many business partners have heard me say that it is not our role to be a cheerleader for this or that trend in the industry. We are a neutral (but deeply interested) group of experts, and in that role, we must take the lead in showing the way with our unique combination of data, research, analysis, and insights. The market will decide what becomes of MPS and services-based imaging business, but it is our job to help these concepts become what they are intended to be. At some stage this will all be obvious, but for now it’s all still work in progress…until it’s not.

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Does Managed Print Services Mean You Don’t Need Products? Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:47:05 +0000 The Transform 2014 Global conference in Louisville was a great event. There were great sessions by industry experts, incredible networking opportunities, and really fun events such as a day at the races at Churchill Downs (where the Kentucky Derby is held). However, there was one thing that was noticeably absent. There was no discussion of hardware products. Does this mean hardware products are not relevant in a services business? Absolutely not. In fact, products (MFPs, printers, etc.) are an integral part of the complete value that is delivered to the customer in a services engagement.

So why is this discussion absent at the Transform event? I think it is due to an artificial division that is present in most companies today, which results in the product side of the organization seeing a conference on services as being irrelevant to their business. In a customer centric, outcome-based model, the goal is to bring technology and services together to solve the customer’s ultimate need.

While a few firms have transitioned to this services, outcome-based model (Xerox is a common example in our industry, but other examples abound in many other technology industries such as Jack Henry – a banking technology firm which derives well over 70 percent of its revenues from services), many firms still struggle with the change. One aspect of this struggle is the “manufacturing culture” versus the “services culture.” Outcome-based organizations require services, not just products, and this means they need a service culture.

While this cultural gap is very real, and research shows that it is one of the key reasons that firms struggle to make the transition to services, it is also unnecessary. From my perspective, a leadership issue drives the gap. If the firm’s strategy involves moving to outcome-based offerings (including services and products), then it is the responsibility of top leadership to make this direction clear and lead the firm’s transition. Unfortunately, many CEOs say they want to move to outcome-based services when in reality, they just want to sell more products (in other words they see services as a marketing gimmick and not a true change in the firm’s value proposition). This approach results in an organizational battle as the services group, that thinks it has a mandate, tries to effect change and is undermined by resistance from the firm’s dominant manufacturing culture.

In organizations that do make this shift, the CEO shows strong leadership and mandates change for the entire organization. This happened with Jack Welch at General Electric, Ann Mulcahy and later Ursula Burns at Xerox, and Lou Gerstner at IBM. In each case, these CEOs showed tremendous courage and conviction in moving their organization to focus on driving positive customer outcomes versus selling technology.

My next few blogs will profile firms that have successfully made the transition to services and highlight the role CEOs have played in this transition (follow us here to stay connected). And who knows, perhaps we will begin to see more product-focused staff attending this key event in order to learn more about how to deliver outcome-based results to their customers.

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3D Printing Advances in Shriners Hospitals for Children Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:45:55 +0000 Shriners Hospital in Chicago treats children with Cleft Lip/ Palate and facial deformities resulting from birth defects, trauma, tumors, or other issues. The hospital has a three part mission statement: “Provide the highest quality care to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries, and other special healthcare needs within a compassionate, family-centered and collaborative care environment”; “Provide for the education of physicians and other healthcare professionals”; and “Conduct research to discover new knowledge that improves the quality of care and quality of life of children and families”. It is this type of focus on research and the improvement of the lives of children with special healthcare needs without regard to the family’s ability to pay that has led to some very exciting advances in 3D printing technology by Shriners Hospital. “Medical applications for 3D printing are a well-defined area for the industry and have traditionally been one of the biggest single vertical markets for the technology going all the way back to the early 1990’s with stereolithography,” explained Scott Dunham.

Photizo Group interviewed Dr. Linping Zhao, a Biomedical Engineer/ Research Specialist at Shriners Hospital in Chicago in order to learn more about the medical advances of 3D printing within their facility. Dr. Zhao joined the Shriner’s team in 2000 and has since worked to create a Virtual Surgical Simulation and Planning (VSSP) system integrated with Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology, including 3D printing. Dr. Zhao said that Shriners Hospital is leading its peers in adopting and experimenting with the uses of this technology in the field of cranio-maxillo-facial surgery.

Dr. Zhao attributes their achievements to the leadership of Dr. Pravin K. Patel, chief pediatric plastic surgeon of Shriners Hospitals for Children at Chicago. Dr. Patel is “the driving force of the technology development,” as described by Dr. Zhao. Earlier in 1990, when the three-dimensional imaging such as CAT and MRI were becoming popular in clinical practices, Dr. Patel had a vision that such 3D images would not only be used for diagnosis but also for surgical planning. Since then, he has been dedicating great efforts to make this a reality for craniofacial reconstructive surgery. “With Shriners’ support, Dr. Patel established a first class multidisciplinary team. I was recruited to join the team as a biomedical engineer in 2000.” Dr. Zhao said. “We have been cooperating with industry such as Mr. Andy Christensen from Medical Modeling, adapting the emerging technologies, developed a “VSSP + CAD/CAM” system in Shriners Hospitals for Children at Chicago. Hundreds of children have benefited from this evolving system so far.”

3D printing is one of major components in this VSSP + CAD/CAM system. It provides a tangible object that reveals the anatomy and delivers a surgical plan to surgeons’ hands. The 3D printing technology has greatly impacted the ability of surgeons to not only plan but, more importantly, to execute very complicated surgeries, as demonstrated by the experiences of Shriners Hospitals.

A previous article by Meribah Knight, a reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business, was published in March 2014 (found here) detailing the use of 3D printing within the medical field described the creation and use of physical models to plan complicated surgeries. According to Dr. Zhao, “This article provided a glimpse of our experiences on presurgical planning. Our application of the 3D printing technology so far can be roughly divided into three generations. ”

According to our interview, the first generation use of 3D technology involves the use of digital models to create a physical model of the patient’s affected area. The physical model allows the surgeon to better visualize the patient’s condition, helping him to plan the steps to be completed during the surgery session. Such physical models are usually used outside of the operating rooms and with less restriction on material, sterilization, geometric accuracy, etc. The hospital is somewhat moving away from this use of 3D printing technology. They have developed a way to directly deliver the digital model to the operating room without physically printing it out. This approach cut the cost of 3D printing and is useful for some relative simple situations. Now the hospital provides the primary surgeon the choice of using both the digital scans and the physical model or only the digital scans to plan the surgery.

The second generation uses 3D technology to create the implant used to repair a bone defect. A typical application within their practice is the cranial vault implant. The 3D printed custom-designed implant covers the defect completely. It not only provides excellent outcomes but also reduces the surgical complexity considerably. This is highly regulated field, and only very limited materials such as titanium alloy can be used for this purpose.

The third generation involves 3D printed templates, guides, and instruments designed specifically for a patient in certain procedure. These guides provide a step-by-step or cut-by-cut guide to be used in the operating room. The process also gives the surgical team the ability to rehearse steps within a complicated surgery before the actual event. The materials used are less restricted as compared to the impants as they merely facilitate the surgery and will not stay within the human body after the operation. This is a fairly new use for the technology, but it offers a lot of potential for growth in the future.

All three generations of the technologies are used at Shriners Hospitals for Children at Chicago. Dr. Zhao explained that craniofacial deformity varies greatly and corresponding surgical procedures involved can be very different. As a result of the use of the many different types of technology available, the hospital has created certain protocols that serve as guidelines for treatment of each of the different types of conditions with which they are confronted. He did caution, however; “Every patient is different and every case needs to be considered individually. We have to choose proper technology accordingly.”

When asked what has been learned since beginning the practice of using 3D printed models to plan complex surgeries, Dr. Zhao replied, “It is very important to continue collaboration among surgeons, clinicians, engineers, and industry professionals. A majority of our work involves putting together very different pieces well. The best way to accomplish this is by collaboration of a multidisciplinary team.” He concluded, “It is surgeons who are the driving force in adapting new technology.”

Dr. Zhao explained that the future of 3D printing technology in the medical field holds a lot of promise. He expects that there will be a focus on personalized treatment featuring anatomical models, implants, and more customized instruments for surgical procedures, beyond those that are currently created. He was excited by other new technologies as well, such as a 3D printed scaffold with stem cells. He did note that 3D printing within the medical industry would continue to be plagued by two weaknesses in terms of future growth- the need for medical offices to cut costs and the limited number of biocompatible and bioresorbable substances available.

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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together Wed, 04 Jun 2014 14:01:48 +0000 Hannibal Smith, infamous leader of the A-Team (a 1980s American television show) coined this oft-repeated saying, and this phrase was often said at the end of an episode when his plan saved the day.

My use of this phrase is in a slightly different light, as I had no doubt that the Photizo Transform Global 2014 conference would go well, given it is in the more-than-capable hands of Terri Crowley, our vice president of conferences. No, what is causing me delight this evening, as I reflect back on day one, is how nicely all of the presentations that I attended fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Jim Lawless kicked off the event with a fantastic keynote titled, The Ten Rules for Taming Tigers. His use of a tiger as a symbol for that little voice that often holds us back from seizing opportunities was an coicnidental tie-in with Ken Stewart’s subsequent presentation, “Survival of the Fittest: How Tomorrow’s Service Providers Evolve,” as Photizo Group’s Stewart used the tiger to symbolize the apex predators of the imaging industry. Vendors must evolve to survive and standing still is not an option.

While all ten of Lawless’s rules were excellent, the two that resonated with me the most were “Act boldly today – time is limited” and “There is no safety in numbers.” With the talk track for my own presentation (later in the afternoon) bouncing around in my head, I immediately latched onto these two rules as dovetailing nicely with my talk about “On the Cutting Edge: Moving Beyond the Razor-and-Blades Model.” The traditional business model in the imaging industry is clearly under pressure and if OEMs have not begun to shift to a services-led model, now is the time for bold action. Remaining in your comfort zone is not the answer.

The Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) presented a new framework that outlines the elements to consider when developing an MPS program to help end customers implement MPS in an organization. The MPSA used the ITIL Framework Methodology as a guide to so that elements of the MPS solution are categorized in a uniform method.

Two presentations from outside speakers also fit into the general theme of the day. Mitchell Filby of First Rock Consulting (Stop Seeing MPS as a Silver Bullet) encouraged attendees to look beyond today’s traditional go-to-market model and even beyond a services-led model to a subscription-based or utility model, while Greg Manganello of Fujitsu provided the audience with his Top 10 Transformation Tips (plus two bonus tips!) for transforming your business from products to services.

And that was only in the Imaging Industry track of the conference. The buzz from the other two tracks, Building the MPS Practice and Implementing and Managing MPS” was equally positive.

What does the finished puzzle look like? I’ll let you know after day 2, but so far, attendees are hearing and seeing a strong message to make a move up the value chain, which coincidentally ties into the theme of the conference, Make Your Move. Hannibal would be pleased!

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Think Outside “The Box” Fri, 23 May 2014 14:59:21 +0000 When we get up in the morning, we grab a box to eat breakfast, we get into a box and take a shower, we either drive or take a box to get to work, and at work we sit in a box. It’s about time to think outside the box.

Years ago, my uncle gave me this riddle:

A man is traveling from work and wants to go home. He won’t go home because there is another man in a mask waiting for him. What does the first man do for a living?

My uncle gave me this riddle because he knew I played baseball and thought I’d make the “mental leap” to the answer. Well, he was wrong. By the end of the reunion, he had to give me the answer. However, this situation did not dampen my affinity for riddles.

Riddles help people view a problem from more than one perspective, and along the same line is an area of psychology that uses lateral thinking puzzles that use strange situations that sometimes require an explanation to solve. Normally the person that gives you the puzzle is available to answer a few yes/no questions to help you solve the puzzle. For instance, you may have seen this puzzle:

A man is lying dead in a field. Next to him is an unopened package. There is no other creature in the field. How did he die?

Puzzles like this one requires a person to “think outside the box” and ask questions that might go down one particular path. If the path doesn’t solve the puzzle, it is time to rethink your assumptions, be flexible, and come up with a different line of questioning. If you solve a riddle like this, it is so satisfying. If you don’t get the “right” solution and your buddy gives you the answer, you’ll probably end up kicking yourself for not figuring it out.

One final example to get my point across. There was a German mathematician born in the late 1700’s named Carl Friedrich Gauss. When Gauss was a student, one of his teachers asked his class to add up every number between one and 100. This exercise was supposed to take about an hour to do, but Gauss had the answer much faster, almost instantly. How did he do it?

I’ve been asking my peers for the last few days, and no one knows the answer or how to really solve this problem other than adding up a long list of numbers. Well, the answer is 5,050—there are 50 pairs of 101. Most people will try to add up the numbers like this: 1+2+3+4+5+6………+98+99+100, but the key thing is to look for pairs like this: (1+100)+(2+99)+(3+98)+…..+(50+51) = 5,050.

What if Gauss was told that his method wasn’t the “right” way to get the answer? Many times it comes down to how we were taught to solve a problem. Today there are researchers, professors, and other speakers taking a different view of learning such as Peter Gray at Boston College, or Sugata Mitra who coined “minimally invasive education” that asserts there are many ways to study and learn.

These riddles and puzzles require each of us to look at situations in a different light and question our assumptions. Such is the way of transformation—it might be time to come up with new solutions, new inventions. Is it any wonder that we are seeing an explosion of new technology and new inventions coming not from schools and universities but from unexpected environments where students have been given freedom to create and learn? As members of the printing industry, should we be viewing the industry in a different light for growth?

Photizo has adopted the idea of transformation within our business by revamping our offerings to align with what our customers want. The process to do so was not easy (change is never easy), but the results have been encouraging. Check out our latest Imaging Practice offerings to learn more about how they can benefit you.

Just so you don’t leave this blog without answers, the first man was a runner at third base, and he was trying to score a run, but the catcher in a mask was there. The second puzzle was a skydiver, and the package that didn’t open was a parachute.

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Software, Software, Everywhere, Nor Many Americans to Program Fri, 16 May 2014 15:48:49 +0000 I just read an ITWorld article about the lack of American college students choosing to major in computer science, and this hits close to home for two reasons: I majored in computer science, and my daughter is now pursuing a Management Information Systems degree in college.

In fact, the percentage of U.S. college degrees awarded in computer science since 1981 has been fairly constant, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics’ Digest of Educational Statistics. The ITWorld article ponders the discrepancy between the high demand and high salaries for software developers and the low interest of American college students looking to tap into this lucrative job market, and author Phil Johnson offers a few explanations.

  • You can become a software developer without a computer science degree;
  • these days, you don’t even have to graduate from college to get hired as a programmer; and
  • you can always make a career of computer science and may as well study something else that you find more interesting.

While each of these may be true, I also think it speaks to the dynamic nature of today’s job market and the perspective of younger generations: if you don’t like what you’re doing, do something else. Quite a contrast to the “in it for life” career focus of the Baby Boomers to whom a change in jobs signaled a mid-life crisis—the name “crisis” alone tells you how disruptive a career change is perceived by older generations.

And while go-getter Baby Boomers may have looked down at people who left their jobs to take time to “find themselves,” Gen X and Gen Y consider finding themselves—and constantly improving themselves—integral to all aspects of their lives, both personal and professional.

So what does this mean for the imaging industry? Well, I doubt very much that the average college student is thinking about entering the copier/printer/MFP industry either. What can the imaging industry do to attract and retain the best and brightest of this young talent? Here are a few suggestions.

–       Provide career opportunities that go beyond “moving boxes” to engaging with business and IT executives to talk about value-add solutions;

–       offer vertical market training to prepare young workers for a future of industry-focused services and go-to-market models; and

–       challenge team members to uncover new sources of revenue by analyzing how your business can help clients improve their business-critical processes to deliver services-fed annuity streams to your business.

Actually, this advice can benefit employees of all ages and companies of all shapes and sizes. Still not convinced? Check out how Photizo Group is helping manufacturers and their workers do exactly that with our Value Creation for Manufacturers offering.

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Interpreting Photizo Group’s New 3D Printing Market Engagement Matrix Mon, 12 May 2014 12:59:06 +0000 In conjunction with our newest 3D printing research report, we want to be able to tell the world about how competitors are performing within the professional 3D printing industry and show the world how they are doing. But a list of companies ranked in a “best-to-worst” style doesn’t really show anybody much of anything—especially in the dynamic and rapidly evolving 3D printing industry. We need a tool that to capture the ups, downs, and performance metrics of each vendor’s entire business.

Thus, Photizo created the new 3D Printing Market Engagement Matrix. From products to services, printers to scanners, partnerships to research initiatives, the Market Engagement Matrix takes into account a wide variety of inputs to ultimately assign two scores to each vendor and then plot them on a map of the industry. The Matrix does all of this through mathematical formulas that combine vendor data with our expert analysis.

The two scores assigned to each vendor ultimately sum up that particular company’s 3D printing business relative to other market participants. Each vendor is scored in two areas: innovative performance and market depth. Although the first edition of the Matrix focuses exclusively on publicly-traded manufacturers of 3D printing or additive manufacturing systems, the Matrix can accommodate a variety of different types of companies participating in the 3D printing ecosystem—from on demand parts services to infrastructure providers.

The two images below show just a few of the inputs considered into each broader scoring category.

Source - Photizo Group

Source – Photizo Group

Additionally, the Matrix is especially useful because it can be updated over time to show incremental market evolution. Each market snapshot can be overlaid onto a single plane to show how each market participant’s position has changed over time. With each additional snapshot that Photizo Group releases (typically on a quarter-by-quarter basis), a “trending look” is provided to show how each participant is expected to move within the market in the future based on recent performance.

Speaking to the first snapshot of the professional 3D printing industry, we can see a very starkly contrasted market, which should be expected given the focus on publicly-traded manufacturers that are currently split between an industrial focus and broader application sets.

While Stratasys and 3D Systems landed within the “visionary” category, perhaps the most interesting result from the first snapshot (based on market activity through the first two months of 2014) is the positioning of the industrially-focused manufacturers.

Source - Photizo Group's Professional 3D Printing Competitive Intelligence Report (Q1 2014)

Source – Photizo Group’s Professional 3D Printing Competitive Intelligence Report (Q1 2014)

The financial community interested in 3D printing stocks seems to share the sentiment that voxeljet has a weaker offering, while Arcam has a relatively strong offering, but the Market Engagement Matrix shows roughly the opposite. Why? The answer lies partially in what the Matrix attempts to convey to viewers and partially in what we consider some irregular activity from voxeljet.

The most important thing to keep in mind when looking at the Matrix is that it represents where each participant is in a competitive position across a very high multitude of business factors in relation to all other participants. The Matrix also acts as a compliment to most equity research activities, as it examines a variety of deep business indicators specific to the 3D industry, without looking too closely at financial performance indicators that equity research companies tend to focus on.

While there are very few negative comments to note about Arcam’s current business, the relatively low scores are indicative of Arcam’s single technology, focused on serving two specific applications and customer sets. No doubt the company is already working to grow its addressable market (more on that later).

Alternatively, voxeljet saw its Innovative Performance score somewhat artificially boosted due to its record level of R&D spending expressed as a percentage of its revenue. At more than twenty two percent of revenue for 2013, this massive spending on research and development activities isn’t sustainable if the company wants to improve its financial standing.

Both of these interesting points are better understood when we take a look at the accompanying “trending look” snapshot that we provide, which provides our estimate of how each vendor will generally be positioned on the Matrix in the future. These estimates are general in nature and are based on the momentum and anticipated future market activity from each player.

Source - Photizo Group's Professional 3D Printing Competitive Intelligence Report (Q1 2014)

Source – Photizo Group’s Professional 3D Printing Competitive Intelligence Report (Q1 2014)

What will be extremely interesting, and likely very helpful to those wanting to understand the competitive elements of the professional 3D printing market, are the future snapshots of the Matrix which will allow viewers to track vendors’ progress within the market over time. Additionally, Photizo Group anticipates adding new participants to the Matrix as time goes on. Look for other manufacturers, like EnvisionTEC, EOS, Mcor, to be added in future versions.

We encourage questions and comments about the Matrix. For more in-depth information as to why the five publicly traded companies landed in these particular positions on the Matrix, we encourage you to check out our Professional 3D Printing Competitive Intelligence Report.


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MPS Verticals: What’s Hot or Not in Western Europe Thu, 08 May 2014 18:43:34 +0000 What industry verticals present the most opportunity? Which verticals are most interested in MPS today?

Clients are always asking us what’s hot and what’s not in MPS. We turned to the Photizo Group Decision Maker Tracking Study to illuminate what decision makers are saying about MPS in Western Europe, and illustrated our summary findings in the infographic you see here.

verticals-analysis 1000pxClick to enlarge

We analyzed over 2,100 decision maker encounters in 2013 to look at two key aspects of the opportunity in MPS:

  1. Which verticals have the highest percentage of company participation in MPS; and
  2. Which verticals present the highest and lowest opportunity ratios for MPS providers.

Highest Participation

This is very straight-forward. We analyzed twelve industry verticals to determine which of these had with the highest percentage of companies currently engaged in an MPS contract.

The top three participating verticals in Western Europe are:

  1. Manufacturing;
  2. retail and wholesale; and
  3. healthcare.

Why is this useful?

The higher the level of participation, the more likely it is that a company in this vertical is aware of MPS. In other words, your prospect should have some knowledge of and opinion about the benefits of MPS, making your job that much easier.

However, it also means the stakes are higher. You will likely have a more educated customer, and you will likely have more competition.

Heat Seekers

We also wanted to better understand where potential opportunities may be developing. So, we shifted our attention to analyzing how many prospective MPS decision makers indicated they were actively evaluating MPS and had plans to implement in the near future.

We established an “opportunity ratio,” which considers the number of companies in that vertical evaluating MPS against the total population of decision makers we surveyed. Heat Seekers are the industry verticals with the highest opportunity ratio.

The top three Heat Seekers in Western Europe are:

  1. Manufacturing;
  2. finance and banking; and
  3. retail or wholesale.

Why is this useful?

Heat Seekers represent the largest pool of prospects with the highest level of interest. In other words, there are more customers actively evaluating an MPS engagement. You should be actively tuning your marketing collateral and conducting orchestrated sales campaigns to capitalize on this interest.

On Ice

At the opposite end of our opportunity spectrum from Heat Seekers are “On Ice” verticals. On Ice verticals represent the industries with the lowest opportunity ratio.

The top On Ice verticals in Western Europe are:

  1. Legal services;
  2. utilities and energy; and
  3. K-12 education.

Why is this useful?

On Ice verticals represent the smallest pool of prospects with the lowest level of interest. In other words, there are fewer customers actively evaluating an MPS engagement.

This doesn’t necessarily mean these customers aren’t buying MPS, but we believe it does indicate there is a smaller number of total opportunities available to you and that you should expect headwinds in your sales efforts.

Put this information to work

Based on this information, we believe you would be well served to get your sales and marketing teams engaged to consider what you are doing to capitalize on these opportunities. Here are a couple of key points to consider:

  1. Do you have a presence in these verticals today? If so, can you leverage existing customer relationships to expand to new opportunities?
  2. Customers increasingly want partners to provide a host of services, so don’t forget to have conversations with your customers to explore how you can add additional value in their company.
  3. Consider a marketing or sales blitz to penetrate a new key vertical.
  4. For those verticals that may be a little cooler, can you expand while your competitors are focused elsewhere? Do you have relationships in these verticals that can help you secure business with the companies that are actively evaluating MPS?

Our Business Intelligence subscribers will receive some additional facts behind this analysis. If that would benefit you, we certainly encourage you to try us out.

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FOMO? Photizo Is the Answer Thu, 01 May 2014 12:00:59 +0000 In today’s fast-paced world, keeping up with new catch phrases and acronyms can be a full-time job, whether in the workplace or at home. I recently found myself having to Google “FOMO,” which I’m sure will make my children groan at my ignorance, but who knew that “Fear Of Missing Out” would become such an established condition that this form of social anxiety would become a commonplace acronym?

The same can be said for catch phrases and acronyms in the business world. Just as casual conversation is littered with constantly changing terminology, so too are new ideas and phrases entering business discussions. While you may be tempted to roll your eyes and think, “that doesn’t apply to me,” I recently compiled a short list of phrases that I ran across in news and articles that are very relevant to every business…even yours.

  • B4B, Business For Business;
  • bleasure, when an act of business results in immense pleasure;
  • turking, crowds of people who perform tasks that computers don’t do well; and
  • omnichannel, a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a brick-and-mortar store.

Some of these phrases have been around for a little while, so you may be aware of them and how they could impact your business.

I’d like to add a few other phrases to the list, and I know that they can be very impactful.

  • Partner Transformation, a program designed to measure, evaluate, and guide the transformation toward a profitable, services-centric MPS provider business;
  • Organizational Transformation, an assessment of organizational transformation, including employees, management, and culture;
  • Value Creation for Manufacturers, how business-to-business manufacturers can add the value of services components to product delivery; and
  • MPS for CIOs, provides data driven insight to find and implement MPS engagements that best fit each business’s unique requirements.

The imaging industry is undergoing significant change, and with change comes FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. As transformation experts, Photizo can lead you through this turbulent time. The best treatment for FOMO is to be informed, so contact us at to learn more.

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The Retirement of an Industry Legend Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:26:34 +0000 Two years ago, he sold one of the largest independent MPS providers in North America to Xerox.  Today, he steps away from the business for good.  Congratulations, Chris Stoate! Enjoy the hard-earned vacation.

LaserNetworks has long been acknowledged as a leader in the MPS space, which includes receiving the inaugural Photizo / MPSA award as the top MPS provider in the industry.  Back then, Ed Crowley, CEO at Photizo Group, was increasing the awareness of the industry and giving it the formal MPS name we have come to recognize today.  Years earlier, Chris and LaserNetworks had already copyrighted the term “cost per page” and owned the website

In Ed’s own words, “When I first started Photizo Group and I was looking for examples of industry leaders in the channel who were ‘doing it right,’ LaserNetworks was one of the first companies I gravitated to.  I remember the first interview with Chris.  He was very articulate, on top of his game, and clearly thinking ahead of the market.  I was incredibly impressed because of his strategic thinking, his success in seeing the future of the industry, and his leadership towards that end.  Since that time I have been lucky enough to get know Chris better and I continued to be impressed by his intelligence, personal warmth, great sense of humor, and strategic vision. Chris has had a great impact on the industry, and as he moves to ‘alumni’ status (I don’t like to think he ever really leaves it), he will be missed.”

Quietly going about his business in the small town of Oakville, Ontario, Chris Stoate was both a pioneer and a leader in this industry.  You’ll often hear Chris say that pioneers are the ones that clear the land and end up with the arrows in their backs, leaving it for others that follow.  Well, that didn’t happen to LaserNetworks.  Chris moved the cheese fifteen years ago and the vast majority of OEM’s are still trying to figure it out today.

While Chris has now retired from LaserNetworks, his impact on the industry and today’s MPS leaders is apparent.  Along with some of the top performing sales reps that have retired in the past couple of years, there are other talented employees that have chosen to spread their wings and now head up other MPS businesses across Canada and the U.S.

I would also like to thank Chris for the years we spent together growing LaserNetworks. He’s one of the smartest and most driven people I’ve come across and was always focused on finding the right outcome – not being right.  We ran very fast, but there was always time to take stock over a Macallan…gentleman size.

Chris has been a key contributor to my development, with much of his insight present in my company today.   He leaves this industry knowing he was both a pioneer that set the rules and a leader into what it has become.  All the best to Chris, Patti, and Hayley in their next chapter. I look forward to seeing you somewhere in the French Alps!

By Brian Stevenson, President at footPRINT Managed Services

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Is It Real or Is It Counterfeit? Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:00:24 +0000 An article recently appeared in the Tanzania Daily News concerning counterfeit ink and toner cartridges, which is a growing problem in Africa. An emerging trend is the use of Africa as a transit route for fake goods, which also poses an indirect threat to European and American markets, according to Fabrice Campoy, HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Africa Director.

To help educate and empower organizations across the continent against the negative effects of counterfeit trade, Hewlett-Packard (HP) hosted the 2014 Anti-Counterfeiting Africa Conference to bring together those most affected by counterfeits in the region, including policy makers and brands like Unilever and Nike, to work together to tackle this criminal activity.

Through its Anti-counterfeiting Program, HP has actively educated its customers and partners to be vigilant against fake printing supplies. The firm also cooperates closely with local and global law enforcement authorities to detect and dismantle illegal operations that produce counterfeit HP printing components.

Across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, from 2009 through 2013, HP has conducted around 1,600 investigations, resulting in about 1,300 enforcement actions (raids and seizures by authorities) and the seizure of around 11 million units of counterfeit products and components, thus preventing them from being sold in the EMEA marketplace and beyond.

In addition, HP has overseen around 4,000 unannounced inspections of HP products at the warehouses of HP Channel Partners across EMEA in the past five years to verify that they are not selling counterfeit products to their customers.

It might seem harmless to buy a knock-off item; prices for the originals, after all, are out of reach for most who are longing for a real designer label. The consumer side, however, is only the most visible effect of the illicit trade in fake goods.

Trade Barrier

The increase in counterfeit goods in a market represents a major threat to business and is also a key barrier to trade. The distribution of cheap and poor quality pirated goods in a market creates an obstruction to the distribution of genuine products.

A report published by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) called, “Effects of Counterfeit and Substandard Goods in Tanzania,” reveals that business people dealing in counterfeit products are able to sell more products at a lower cost, thus reaping huge profits compared to those dealing in genuine products, who face stiff competition from counterfeit dealers. The CTI report notes that unemployment caused by large imports of fake goods is also a big issue. In addition, counterfeit products deny domestic industries the opportunity to expand production and scare off investors who want to establish legitimate industries in Tanzania.

Although, CTI has recently called for the enactment of a comprehensive law and formation of an agency to spearhead the fight against the manufacture and importation of counterfeit goods, existing laws and policies relating to fake goods do not address the problem fully.

In one of the stakeholders’ meetings that was held in Dar es Salaam recently to discuss laws and regulations relating to counterfeit and sub-standard goods in Tanzania, CTI Chairman Dr. Samwel Nyantahe warned that the situation is deteriorating because some factories have been constructed mainly to manufacture fake goods for certain countries, including Tanzania.

Lost Revenue

Counterfeiting continues to be a serious issue for the printer supplies industry. The largest business opportunity is shifting to emerging markets where the price of hardware and supplies is an overriding concern for buyers, so customers gravitate to the cheapest products.

The CTI report estimates that Tanzania could be losing between 15 to 25 percent of total domestic revenue due to counterfeit products. So if estimated total government domestic revenue was 6.7 trillion/- in 2011/2012, subsequent loss in government revenue due to counterfeit products stands at well over 1 trillion/-.

OEMs and legitimate third-party supplies manufacturers also lose revenue. Non-OEM players lose out because buyers mistakenly believe they are getting real OEM products at a price lower than quality third-party products. OEMs lose revenue on the supplies sale and perhaps further business if difficulties with poorly constructed counterfeit cartridges result in the consumer buying another printer brand due to lack of confidence in the “OEM” cartridges.

Further, how much does it cost OEMs to track down these counterfeit cartridges? Over the course of five years, HP conducted 4,000 partner inspections, 1,600 investigations, and 1,300 seizures. Other printer companies may not have been that active, but they still have programs for tracking down counterfeits. All of these issues go to the bottom line, adding to the cost of genuine OEM supplies.

How Big Is the Problem?

Generally, the estimates range from 5 to 15 percent of the market in emerging markets, varying widely by areas depending upon the laws and the number of businesses engaged in manufacturing and selling these counterfeits. The Imaging Supplies coalition pegs the damage to the imaging industry by counterfeit supplies at $3 billion annually worldwide.

Compounding the problem is that these lower-cost cartridges bought on line may not be counterfeit but real OEM cartridges that are moving through the gray market, which is when resellers move excess inventory through alternative channels to keep their volume discounts on supplies.

In developed countries, laws are more stringent, resellers are more careful, and consumers aren’t quite as price conscious – yes, they want the lowest prices they can get but understand that they will “get what they paid for.” As a result, counterfeits show up, but in much smaller numbers, often stopped on the docks by government inspectors.

Still, moving product in other parts of the world can be easier, and as more factories are set up in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and other emerging areas to produce counterfeit supplies, major OEMs are stepping up their efforts. Moving products shorter distances across less guarded borders makes it easier to get counterfeit products into more countries, increasing the problem even in places like Western Europe.

Consumer education is one of the most important aspects. “Caveat Emptor” becomes the mantra.

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Will Printed Pages Disappear by 2018? Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:00:34 +0000 Recently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) made a bold prediction and claimed that due to the introduction and usage of tablets, printed pages will disappear within four years. The IEEE stated, “The printer will be a thing of the past, and there’ll be no need for hard copies.” Kevin Curran, a technical expert from IEEE, added, “The more time you spend online, the more at home you feel reading on tablets instead where everything can now be done virtually.”

Several years ago, I worked for IBM. We had a saying, “Paper free by ’93!” This had a nice ring to it, and because we were stating it in 1983, we were sure this was going to be the case 10 years later. Of course, 1993 has come and gone, 31 years have now passed, and our estimates were clearly off.

Yes, tablets are on a meteoric increase. Several industry analyst firms have predicted that global tablet shipments in 2014 would be in the range of 263 – 285 million. In the same period, worldwide PC shipments would be 260 million.

There are many factors that must be considered to make a bold prediction about the disappearance of printed pages: the effect of managed print services (MPS), worldwide laser and ink jet media shipments, age of MPS decision makers, BYOD, and the like.

According to Photizo Group’s Western European 2013 Decision Maker Tracking Study, half of the decision makers are Gen Ys. These individuals have been raised eating iPods for breakfast. Most understand the need for speed with respect to the consumption of information. As more of this generation takes over as managers, we will likely see a decrease in printed pages

In addition, Photizo Group’s 2013 Media forecast shows that worldwide laser plain paper media shipments sat at 2.1 trillion pages in 2013, with a 4.7 percent decline estimated by 2017. This decrease moves the needle slightly but is not nearly the 100 percent decrease “predicted” by the IEEE.

Granted some countries are digitizing books (South Korea and Canada). Even U.S. universities and colleges have started making the switch. However, various studies have pointed to the fact that printed material is more effective in learning.

From a purely historical point of view, you only have to look at how slowly technology change comes to the business world—which still relies on legacy programming languages, home-grown DOS-based applications, and old versions of MS Windows—to understand that while consumers may be adopting tablets for viewing, replacing paper entirely is going to take quite a while.

The bulk of the evidence suggests that printed pages will be around for more than four years, possibly more than 10 years. For all its intents and purposes, the IEEE’s claim may have been used to generate excitement and press or it could backfire. IEEE describes itself as, “The world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology.” Tablets support the advancement of technology, so this prediction is in line with the IEEE’s mission. However, if I were an IEEE member, I’d be concerned whether this claim was in the best interests and reputation of the membership—unless it could be substantiated.

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Meet Me in Louisville? Attend the 2014 Transform Global Conference Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:00:50 +0000 I am so excited about our 2014 Transform Global conference. Okay, I know, everyone who knows me is saying, “He always gets excited about the Transform events!” And you are right; I do always get excited about them. But this year, I am particularly enthusiastic about Transform. And this is why…

The Watering Hole Effect

Once a year, we have a chance to meet with the global players who are leading the charge in evolving the imaging market to the “next level.” These are the movers and shaker—at all levels of the industry: corporate decision makers, vendors, channel partners, the press, and industry analysts—who are providing thought leadership and slugging it out in the trenches with innovative offerings and ideas. It’s what Rob Sethre so elegantly dubbed “the watering hole effect,” where all the competing animals on the Savannah come together and peaceably “drink at the well.” If you haven’t experienced this, it’s a rather unique and fun dynamic!


Let’s face it, these events are fun. Whether it’s the pre-event day at the races (at Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is held) or golf outing, the opening reception, the Exhibit Floor Bourbon Trail (yes, exhibitors will be offering samples of famous Kentucky Bourbon), the VIP Dinner, or just sitting down and catching up with this amazing group of people who make up our industry, these events are fun.

Learning and Being Challenged

Of course, there are 27 tremendous sessions to pick from that cover the entire gamut of topics. There is something for everyone: MPS and how to sell it, moving beyond boxes to workflow solutions, our CIO track to help IT Decision Makers in planning and implementing MPS engagements, and 3D printing. And for an even more intensive session, there are the pre-conference workshops: one hosted by West McDonald for resellers and one hosted by Mario Diaz, Ken Stewart, and myself for OEMs. These are intense, move-your-business-forward sessions!

Great Speakers

We have great speakers, including our keynote, Jim Lawless (author of Taming Tigers); Josh Feathers of NationWide Insurance; John Taylor of M2, Greg Manganello, Senior Vice President of Network Services at Fujitsu; and Chris Froman, CEO of Pomeroy IT Solutions. Plus, one of the most fun sessions will be the debate between James Duckenfield (Newfield IT) and Kevin DeYoung of Qualpath on whether MPS assessments are necessary.

Industry Happenings

Transform is also a gathering place for industry associations. CompTIA and the MPSA are hosting events around the conference. The annual MPSA awards ceremony will be held at the event, as well as a very interesting MPSA panel. CompTIA is hosting a Managed Print Community Meeting.

A New Way To Have Quality Conversations

And finally, I’m excited about a new way we have to connect resellers and vendors: the “Meeting Place.” Instead of just standing at an exhibitor’s booth and trying to grab someone’s attention, you can now have a “sit-down” meeting with a vendor in a comfortable setting without leaving the exhibit floor. Think of it as facilitated quality time!

Supporting Some Great Causes

Part of Photizo’s mission is to do more than just help guide our clients in the industry. We feel that we have a bigger mission to make the world a better place (lofty, I know, but that’s who we are), which is why we established the Photizo Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization, to raise money for worthwhile causes. To date, the foundation has raised more than $25,000 for charities, including the American Cancer Society and Casas Por Cristo. This year, we have added Hope Hill and the Eastern Congo Initiative as charities to benefit from our VIP Dinner, which is held on Wednesday, June 4 (get tickets at

Getting Together With Friends

And last, but by no means least, one of the things I most look forward to is getting back together with old friends from the industry and making new ones. Usually, we are going at too fast of a pace to sit down and catch up with our associates from across the industry. This is a great chance to do that.

This is why I hope you will meet me in Louisville and share in our next, great event, the 2014 Global Transform conference on June 2-4. I can’t wait to see you there!

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Changing the Paradigm: Why 2014 Won’t be the Same… Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:00:50 +0000 My first job out of college was about changing service delivery paradigms. I was hired into a start-up company in order to build an on-line research service. Today this doesn’t sound too paradigm shifting, but back in 1984, before there was an official “Internet,” it was pretty ground breaking. At that time, we did surveys using either mail or telephone. A typical ad copy testing program could cost $50,000 or more for a single test and take two to three months to execute. The idea of being able to conduct and complete surveys using a panel of respondents within 24 hours sounded impossible. However, it was possible using dumb terminals (Minitel terminals for those of you who remember) and 300 bps modems with a relatively sophisticated Radio Shack TRS 80s (sophisticated is a relative word).

We were trying to change the model for conducting market research. There was only one problem—one that I learned and never forgot—don’t get too far ahead of your customer in changing their paradigm. At that time, market research executives simply weren’t ready for a change in each of their models: how you select respondents (we developed one of the first “panels” for research), how you conduct surveys (using computers was unheard of), and the speed of execution (days instead of months). It was simply too much change at once for traditional research executives to accept. It was so innovative and daring that it actually helped us get in the door to accounts that probably never would have considered us.

Personally, I love changing paradigms. I love the excitement of getting clients to think outside of the box—to challenge known assumptions. Changing the way business is done to drive more opportunity is fun! But now, I’m smarter about how I change paradigms and do so based on what customers need and are ready to accept, not just what I have to offer.

Now, I’m lucky enough to work with a company that is changing paradigms again! Almost 30 years to the day since I was product manager for my first paradigm-changing product, an on-line market research service, I am lucky enough to be the CEO of a company that is changing how market intelligence is delivered.

Photizo Group is changing the paradigm based on three core requests from our customers: unlimited, easy, and insightful. Photizo is launching three new services that are based on these key requirements.

  • The new Business Intelligence service offers market analysis, a product specification and pricing database, and concise insights from our analysts…all for less than $50 per month per seat. That is the easiest entry point in the industry!
  • The Navigator Service offers an easy entry point for competitive marketing intelligence and analysis with unlimited, yes, unlimited analyst inquiry. We don’t set a limit on the number of hours or even the types of questions you ask. This service helps you navigate the market using the guidance of our analyst team. And oh yes, with the Navigator Service, you receive unlimited Business Intelligence service seats for each Navigator region you subscribe to! Unlimited Business Intelligence seats. That is unprecedented. And the service covers hardware, supplies, digital workflow, and services. No limits. That is what our clients are demanding.
  • The Advisory Service is for clients who need complete market data and includes the Navigator Service, unlimited Business Intelligence seats, and market data and forecasts for hardware, supplies, digital workflow, and services—not just one topic area, but all topic areas in the imaging industry. And did I mention that we also provide our ground breaking Decision Maker Tracking Study as part of the Advisory Service? So this service gives you unlimited access, unlimited seats, and unlimited topics.

Why are we doing this? Why change the existing limited access, high cost-per-seat, limited topic area method of delivering market intelligence? Because our clients are asking us to. In eight short years, Photizo Group has gone from being a start-up to a member of the Inc 5000 list with a customer base that includes the top IT companies in the world. We have done this by listening to our clients, understanding their business, and helping deliver services that challenge them, but in a way that meets their core needs. Paradigm changing is fun. Changing them based on customer needs is more fun. This is why 2014 won’t be the same!

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Creating Value In Manufacturing Using Additive Processes (3D Printing) Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:00:52 +0000

One of the most exciting and rapidly evolving ways to add value to manufacturing environments today is through the use of additive processes, referred most accurately in this context as additive manufacturing (AM), but today commonly referred to in a broader sense as 3D printing.

Unfortunately, additive manufacturing has also fallen victim to some gross misrepresentations over the past two years due to a combination of media sensationalism and technology evangelism. It’s important to understand just what additive processes are capable of, and where they actually have the ability to add value to the manufacturing process.

Today, there are numerous well-documented cases of successful utilization of additive manufacturing to create value in manufacturing applications, especially in the areas of aerospace and medical devices. However, the same principals can be applied to many areas.

In fact, the use of additive manufacturing to address end-use components or parts (as opposed to applications in rapid prototyping) is one of the most disruptive areas of 3D printing, and many industry observers anticipate growth in this area to be the key driver in wider adoption of 3D printing technologies.

So how does additive manufacturing create value in a manufacturing environment? The most direct ways involve increasing the functionality of end-use parts or products and enabling new low-volume manufacturing use cases by turning traditional manufacturing economics on their head. Instead of needing to achieve economies of scale for financial viability of a project, additive manufacturing allows for a short run or even one-off of a complex part to be created in a relatively short period of time.

But it’s not always that simple. There are a few fabrication technologies used in additive manufacturing, and they all have shortcomings that currently limit their usefulness. To put it in the most general terms possible, material properties and costs preclude an incredible amount of applications from being commercially viable for AM. But as the technologies and materials mature, this situation is beginning to change.

The key to creating value in a manufacturing operation using additive manufacturing is to understand where additive processes can spark innovation. There are several steps to a complete level of understanding, but it starts with identifying the four broad areas where additive processes bring innovation, outlined below. I call these the value centers for additive manufacturing (or 3D printing).

3D Value CentersAlthough innovating the product development process typically stays within the realm of rapid prototyping (and therefore doesn’t address using additive manufacturing for end use parts), it is important to recognize that additive processes can be used in some instances to create injection molds and casting patterns to complement a traditional manufacturing process.

Where the value creation really starts to get compelling are in the remaining areas: supply chain innovation and product design innovation, which can result in business model innovation.

Applying these areas of thought to your products or a complex manufacturing environment is the first step in creating value using additive manufacturing. Next, a fundamental understanding of the individual fabrication technologies is paramount in order to be able to qualify the potential use cases that will arise from applying the value centers to a particular business or vertical market segment.

The last piece of the value creation puzzle with additive manufacturing is economic and lifecycle modeling. On purely a surface level, additive manufacturing will rarely provide cost savings over traditional methods of manufacturing, except in the cases where it enables a one-off or short run production of complex parts. However, the value often will be discovered when considering the trade-offs compared to the realistic life cycle of the part to be fabricated. The easy example here is to consider whether the higher initial cost of a piece of an aircraft that can be additively manufactured to be lighter than a traditionally manufactured one will offset the high price in terms of fuel savings across a lifespan of multiple years.

In summary, creating value in manufacturing can be approached in numerous ways, and additive processes can create value in a variety of areas (both direct and indirect) to a manufacturing environment. The key to beginning this value creation is understanding the value centers for additive manufacturing, gaining specific knowledge of the fabrication technologies and materials, and engaging in economic and lifecycle modeling to prove or disprove specific applications that relate to your market.

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From Encyclopedias to Phonebooks—How Generation Y Thinks Differently Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:00:22 +0000 I went to a religion-based high school, and one of the lessons I learned was how individuals in bygone years used to pass down stories from generation to generation through storytelling. In fact, oral history is the foundation of several historical texts. When I think about this, it amazes me. I can’t remember what I had to eat for lunch last Thursday. Another thing I find interesting are the little differences I’ve noticed between generations. One example of this is phone numbers. Ask yourself, how many phone numbers you know by heart. I know four phone numbers, and one is mine. That’s it. However, I have three different ways to find the numbers in my contact list that I can use at any given time. I also notice that I learn differently than many of my more experienced peers. Instead of memorizing information, I learn broad concepts, and then I learn how to retain access to the information. I think this is part of why I prefer digital documents. They are easier to store, organize, and retrieve for future use.

Researcher Betsy Sparrow from Columbia University is one of the few people who has performed research to understand how the Internet has affected people’s cognition and memory. Sparrow stated, “Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things.” She adds, “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member, or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

So before I forget my point and have to look it up, let me tell you why I think this matters by giving you an example. If you are going to travel to a new country to meet a client you want to work with, you are going to research their culture, learn their customs, and try to understand how they think. Why? Well, the reason you do this is so that you can relate to them and be relatable. You want to speak your client’s language and build rapport.

The Internet has changed society, and it has changed how individuals think, learn, and receive information, especially for Generation Y, who’s had the Internet since birth. Have you taken this into account in how you communicate your value proposition? How are you selling differently? Based on research from Photizo’s Decision Maker Tracking Study, we are seeing increasingly large numbers of IT decision makers that are in the Generation Y category. If you want to be successful in selling MPS, document workflow, managed services, etcetera, you’re going to have to know how to sell to the younger generation, and this isn’t going to change. In fact, as my generation gets older and gains more experience, it will only become increasingly more critical. Now is the time to act. Right now, the ability to work with and sell to Generation Y can be a competitive advantage. However, sooner rather than later, this will be a requirement for your company’s survival.

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Three Lessons in Employee Engagement Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:00:27 +0000 I recently had the privilege of receiving a personal tour of the GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation headquarters in downtown Cedar Rapids, IA from Doug Olson, vice president of the board and chief risk officer. Since 1992, GreatAmerica has built its business around providing top-notch customer service, a key differentiator in the leasing market.

During my tour, it became very apparent that Olson deeply cares about his employees, looking at them, not just as units of productivity, but as real people with real dreams and real needs. Executives can learn three things from GreatAmerica’s senior staff to more effectively engage employees.

1. The Problem is You, Not Your Employees

As GreatAmerica grew, senior management realized the culture was shifting away from the teamwork that marked the early days of the firm. Like every other leading company, GreatAmerica had split team members up by specialty, creating silos within its organization. Olson admits there was a period of time where he would hear the phone ring once…twice…three times, which wasn’t the top-notch customer service the firm had become known for.

“I knew it wasn’t because our team didn’t care about our customers,” he said. He admitted the fundamental issue wasn’t his employees not living up to his values, but the leadership team had not set up their employees to successfully execute the company’s values.

Great America executives committed to solving this issue by hiring an external consultant and working for more than a year to realign the firm’s team structure to match the company’s values. In the end, cross-functional teams of 10-12 people were formed based on division and geography. These teams sit in close proximity to one another with low cubical walls that foster collaboration and teamwork.

2. Get to Know Your People

The 412 team members on Olson’s payroll are not units of productivity to him and CEO, Tony Golobic. This was evidenced by Olson’s friendly conversation with team members in each location we stopped at on the tour. He knew their names, their families, and the projects they were working on that day—not because he had to, but because he deeply cared for them. In return, Olson’s employees deeply care for him and the organization that supports them.

3. Lavishly Recognize Great Work

You can’t walk very far on any floor at GreatAmerica before wondering why white eagle statues are sitting on cubicles in every division—hundreds of them across eight floors. These statues are to GreatAmerica what a gold medal is to the Olympics. Each year, team members nominate co-workers for a high achievement award based on going above and beyond to serve the customer with excellence and commitment. Twelve employees are selected by the previous years’ winners to be given this distinguished award. The winning twelve are then whisked off to an all-expensed-paid vacation with their spouse!

Monthly, all employees are set up on a bonus system, half based upon department performance and half based on company performance. Every employee is personally committed to helping the company reach its goals, from the executives to the entry-level assistants.

GreatAmerica has discovered that creating a great company culture depends on how the company treats its employees just as much as selecting great employees. And as a result, the firm has fiercely loyal, hard-working employees that embrace the company’s values.

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Disruption in a Bind: 3D Led Manufacturing Revolution Will Require Material Advancement and IP Protection Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:39:36 +0000 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Additive Disruption Summit, held by Infocast in San Francisco. Attendees from diverse industries came from all over to discuss and debate 3D printing. I led a discussion between a group of analysts describing market trends, how the market is measured, and how the market will grow. There were presentations by executives and scientists, designers, and capitalists. Two subjects stood out to me and seemed to ring in the air: material development and IP security.

Material Development is Being Hampered by Rules and Regulations That Don’t Fit

There have been advances in material technology across all printing platforms in recent years. But this isn’t good enough, according to many at the summit. There is a demand for better, smarter, cheaper materials for 3D printing. Materials that can do more things, like conduct electricity or convey information. But until industrial material manufacturers see the potential for making money from material development, they will not invest here.

The red tape surrounding the qualification processes for parts found in durable goods is preventing the widespread adoption of 3D printing. This is clear within companies and across industries. It is important to ensure certain products are genuine, reliable, up to snuff; a jet engine rotor blade for example. 3D printed parts are unproven, and the current procedures for qualification are too slow and rigid to be suited to the task of making us feel secure.

The Value of an Object No Longer Depends on It Being Real

Every object ever made has a recipe, a list of ingredients, and a process of combining them that make that object that object. Primitive makers had only vague recipes, ad hoc processes, and crude materials. The value of any object was in being made, being real. If your spear was better than the spear of your competitors, that meant something. We are now reaching the opposite side of this paradigm (having traversed the industrial revolution in the process). The recipe has now become so precise that it is virtually the same as the physical object, while automation has diminished the concept of making so much it has disappeared from our mind almost entirely.

This is risky territory for owners of intellectual property, a term whose very existence seems to substantiate my claim. The file, the recipe, is of inordinate value when making is as easy as pushing a button. And it is easy to steal. Companies like Authentise are seeking to address this very problem by attempting to make it easier to buy designs than to steal them.

It will be interesting to see who will be the first manufacturers to take advantage of the competitive landscape, and which players from the industrial materials market will play a significant role. We will not see true disruption in the main manufacturing sectors until one of these things happen. What value leaders will place on feeling safe in this transition will also be closely watched. But if we are indeed amid a revolution, and not at the apex of a pendulum swing, you can bet the value of an object will be found somewhere different than before.

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Are You Ready for a Brave New (Imaging) World? Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:00:26 +0000 brave new world infographicPredicting the future is always risky, and in today’s fast-paced imaging industry, a number of dynamics are shaping its direction. As part of Photizo’s Digital Workflow Transformation Advisory Service, we are closely following a number of overarching trends, including the adoption of mobile devices and the impact of digital workflows hastened by younger generations in the workforce (see image at left).

There’s no question that the world as we know it will be quite different in a few years’ time; the critical questions revolve around the pace of change wrought by these factors and how the imaging market will respond.

In his 1932 book, Brave New World, British satirical writer Aldous Huxley described a world where society was controlled by the use of science and technology and individuality was sacrificed for social stability. While I will not begin to tackle this topic at the same philosophical or ethical level, I find it interesting to look at the broader implications of science and technology on the brave new world of printing and imaging.

Between now and 2017, the use of smartphones and tablets by U.S workers for business will increase rapidly, by 52 percent and 93 percent, respectively, leading to a 3x increase in the number of mobile-enabled workers. So, if I can view data on a smartphone or tablet anywhere at anytime, why do I need to print it?

Generation Y is leading the way when it comes to printing less, if at all, and these digital natives established their behavior around the use of digital technology and favor electronic viewing over printed documents. So, why do they need to print?

why-printOf course, reasons for printing in the office still exist (see image at left), but advances in digital technology continue to chip away at the foundation of hard copy, and the transition to digital workflows is reducing the number of pages printed.

The simple fact remains that basing the long-term success of a business on the output of printed pages is akin to taking the drug Soma, the fictional drug in Brave New World that clouds the realities of the present and replaces them with happy hallucinations. Life may look good at the moment, but when the effects of the drug wear off, truth is revealed. Likewise, a company built on the traditional business models of the imaging industry may still be profitable today, but when the decline in page volumes accelerates, the delusions in that approach will be revealed.

If you are bound and determined to remain in the past, then tighten your belt and batten down the hatches, as you will need to cut costs and pick up the velocity of your sales. Alternatively, you can add value by partnering with others to add services and solutions to your offerings. And for the most daring and forward-looking companies, you can reposition your company entirely with a different value proposition altogether.

The first step is to ask, “How is my business engaged today?” The answer to this question will provide a direction for a more thorough analysis of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, which will form the basis for how you plan to take your company into the brave new world that awaits us.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Miss Transform 2014 Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:00:43 +0000 There are five reasons for you attend Transform Global 2014 Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Reason 1: Education

The conference includes two pre-conference workshops and 25 high-impact sessions with the leading experts in the industry, great case studies, and thought provoking discussions. In fact, one of our attendees, the owner of a leading reseller said, “The other events are grade school, you are graduate school!” He is absolutely right.

Reason 2: Deal Making

Our events bring together the leading industry resellers, vendors, infrastructure providers, and software vendors. Most attendees are director level or higher and are in organizations that are serious about engaging. These are not “tire-kickers,” these are the individuals who are serious about doing business. And of course, what happens in this environment is that deals are made—big deals, small deals, and in fact, one of the biggest challenges our attendees face is they are so busy in high-impact deal-making meetings they have a hard time attending all of the sessions they want to attend.

Reason 3: Networking

Of course, there is the optional “Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs (the home of the Kentucky Derby), the pre-conference golf scramble, pre-opening reception, the MPSA Awards Ceremony, or the Networking Reception on the second day…not to mention the breakfast and lunch each day, or the great exhibit and meeting hall. If you can’t network at this event—you can’t network. The people are there, the opportunities are there, all that is lacking is you!

Reason 4: Bourbon

Yes, Kentucky is famous for its bourbons, and you will have a chance to sample many of the leading bourbons by visiting the Bourbon trail in our exhibit hall. Visit the vendors to sample selections of Kentucky’s finest!

Reason 5: Quality

Many events focus on “volume” by bringing in as many exhibitors, attendees, and speakers as possible, regardless of their quality. Photizo takes a different approach. We focus on quality. Whether it is careful vetting of presentations to make sure the speakers are providing high value content—not infomercials, or selecting new speakers who have new insights—not just the same speakers each year, or attracting the leading and most innovative resellers in the world (yes in the world, not just the United States), we focus on quality…so much so, in fact, that we find our competitors typically copy our agendas and following our lead but typically lagging us by a year or more!

Photizo Group’s Transform Conference series is the event for the industry. With tracks for IT Decision Makers, 3D Printing, Managed Print Services, and the Imaging Industry, this is the most comprehensive, in-depth event to learn about the best and brightest in the industry. Do you belong at Transform 2014? Do you have what it takes to engage with the best? I hope you do, and I hope to see you there!

Find out more information regarding Transform Global 2014 at






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Americans Still Trust Libraries for Guidance in Digital Era Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:05:37 +0000 A recent Pew Research Center survey looked at Americans’ library use and found, among other results, that in spite of predictions that technology is making libraries irrelevant, technology users are actually also generally library users. The report is the latest in a series of library-related research surveys and the third of a three-phase effort undertaken by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The first phase of the research looked at the rise of digital reading, while the second considered how libraries are making changes to their services in the digital age. The current phase is examining library marketing and consumer perceptions. The recently released Pew Research Center Library Services Survey report was drawn from a poll of 6,224 Americans aged 16 or older, from July 18-September 30, 2013.

As a Publishers Weekly article explains, although the first report of the third phase of research, issued in December, 2013, offered something of a mixed message for libraries, finding that while 52 percent of those surveyed believe they do not need libraries as much as they used to, libraries remain incredibly popular, and survey participants regarded them as vital to their communities. The survey found that more than two-third of Americans are engaged with public libraries, with some 30 percent reporting they are highly engaged, and an additional 39 percent saying they fall into “medium” engagement categories.

In a New York Times piece about how the Boston Public Library was renovating to be (even) more relevant in the digital age, the article affirms that people continue to use libraries. In fact, visits to the library are increasing. The article quotes Susan Benton, president and chief executive of the Urban Libraries Council as saying, “Physical visits and virtual visits are off the charts.” At Boston’s central library alone, the article reports, the number of physical visits jumped to 1.72 million in 2013, up by almost half a million from 2012.

The Pew survey also found that people who have extensive “economic, social, technological, and cultural resources” are also more likely to use and value libraries. Although the “most plugged-in and highest-income respondents” are not as dependent on libraries, they are nonetheless “highly engaged” and are “the most avid supporters of the idea that libraries make communities better.” (Nevertheless, some 58 percent of those reporting that they had used a library said they considered internet, computers, and printers either very important or somewhat important)

More surprisingly, the survey also found that most Americans do not feel overwhelmed by information today. Among the people who feel “information overload,” most are actually less likely to use newer technologies than others—and less likely to use libraries.

“A key theme in these survey findings is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process in which trusted helpers matter,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, another main author of the report. “Even some of the most self-sufficient information consumers in our sample find that libraries and librarians can be part of their networks when they have problems to solve or decisions to make.”

While at first glance it is easy to assume that the proliferation of information in an electronic format is likely to push libraries – those bastions of paper-based information – into irrelevancy, the survey results show that people see their libraries as more than just a place to get paper – although “paper” continues to be important. Americans look to their library to help guide them and look as a place of technology solutions. As the imaging industry sees its customers make this same transition from primarily paper-based work processes to an increasingly digital world, it’s important that imaging companies establish themselves in a similar fashion to libraries in the minds of their customers. And, as libraries are demonstrating – seemingly despite the odds – there remains an opportunity to keep customers engaged with your company even as paper-based processes seem in danger of fading away.

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Do You Want A Refill…Coffee Pod? Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:00:11 +0000 A colleague recently forwarded a TechDirt article about locking out the refill market…in coffee makers. Keurig is one of several companies that has greatly benefitted from the single coffee cup craze, and in order to protects its dominant market share, Keurig has apparently been “striking exclusionary agreements with suppliers and distributors to lock competing products out of the market,” according to the article. Third-party pod refills often retail for 5-25 percent less than what Keurig charges, and as people look to cut costs, there has been a growing market for generic pods that generally cost between five and fifteen dollars.

TreeHouse Foods, the company that filed a lawsuit to stop what it claims is anticompetitive actions by Keurig maker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, adds that the firm is now developing a new version of its popular coffee maker that will incorporate lock out technology so that only Keurig’s own coffee pods can be used in it. The plan was confirmed by Keurig’s CEO, who stated on a recent earnings call that the new “Keurig 2.0” coffee maker, which is expected to launch this fall, won’t work with “unlicensed” pods as part of an effort to deliver “game-changing performance.”

After the obligatory remarks about drill and fill and managed coffee services (you just can’t keep a good analyst team from commenting on market events), I started thinking about comparisons to our industry.

  • Razor and blades business model: Like printer manufacturers, coffee makers can sell the hardware cheaply and make a big profit on selling replacement refill pods.
  • Patented designs: In this case, Green Mountain’s patent on the K-Cup design expired in 2012, enabling other companies to start making generic pods. Legitimate ink and toner remanufacturers design and produce third-party ink and toner cartridges that do not infringe on OEMs’ patents.
  • Customer driven: Green Mountain says that to ensure the system delivers on the promise of excellent quality beverages, every brew every time, the firm will use interactive technology to help perfectly brew all Keurig brew packs. This statement sounds a lot like what printer companies say when talking about the use of genuine OEM ink and toner cartridges and their efforts to restrict the use of or lessen the appeal of non-genuine supplies—can anyone say “smart chip?”

As a consumer of toner and coffee (made in my Keurig coffee maker), my loyalty lies with a company that can deliver the best quality and the best price, i.e. value. With my background in the imaging industry, I certainly understand the science (and investment) that goes into the perfect matching of an imaging system to its ink or toner, and I expect that a fair amount of science and money is also involved in developing a system that brews the perfect cup of coffee. What I don’t like is when a company tells me what it thinks is best for me and takes away my ability to choose. If your coffee pod (or ink/toner cartridge) is truly better, that will become obvious when I try a third-party or generic substitute.

Interestingly, the TechDirt article was posted “from the who-wanted-paying-customers-anyway dept,” and concludes with the observation, “French Press and pour-over manufacturers like Chemex have plenty of time to get their thank you notes to Keurig in the mail ahead of time,” as the author believes that Green Mountain’s high-handed approach will alienate Keurig customers.

I have to wonder, though, if anyone outside of the single-serve coffee machine industry will even know about this lawsuit, much less think about the ramifications. I have to say that my friends and family would be very surprised to hear about all of the legal maneuvering that goes on in the imaging supplies aftermarket. So, without my colleague bringing this article to my attention, this whole brouhaha (OK, I had to get one pun in here) would have passed by unnoticed by me.

The courts will decide what is anti-competitive behavior and rule accordingly. As a consumer, I will continue to buy based on value, and that means evaluating the options that are out there and making an informed buying decision. Companies that can truly deliver the ultimate customer experience will win my business…and my loyalty.

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Would Your Kid Buy MPS From You? Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:03 +0000 It seems that just about everywhere you turn, someone’s talking about the impact the Millennial Generation (Generation Y) is going to have on your business.

We were interested in better understanding how this transition is going to impact your managed print services (MPS) business. Does Generation Y even care about printing? In other words, would your kid even want to buy MPS from you?

I don’t think any of us would disagree that quite a few trends are forcing us to evolve the way we engage with our customers. While broad generalizations are dangerous, it’s pretty clear that every generational change brings with it some fundamental changes. So the reason everyone is talking about Gen Y so much is because of the new work habits and expectations they bring with them. Members of Generation Y are often considered digital natives, meaning that this is the generation that is born connected to the Internet, with a tablet in one hand and mobile in the other. They are spoon-fed massive amounts of content, gobbling it up eagerly and often. In fact, it’s even rewiring the way they process information—giving them the ability to process large swaths of data quickly and efficiently while limiting their tolerance for a deep level of analysis (think Twitter versus Oracle).

How Does This Relate to MPS?

If you have a child of your own, it’s pretty easy for you to witness first hand their printing habits. Many of you that I speak with tell me that the general impression is that printing isn’t that important to your kid. From my own experience, it’s not that my kid is particularly against printing—it’s just that she doesn’t really care either way. It’s really more about whatever provides the quickest gratification.

Source: Photizo Group 2013 Decision Maker Tracking Study, Western Europe

Source: Photizo Group 2013 Decision Maker Tracking Study, Western Europe

So have you ever thought about trying to sell your MPS program to your own kid—to someone who generally operates under this same bias?

As it turns out, Millennials are already making most of the decisions when it comes to deciding whom their company will work with in MPS. According to recent research in our Decision Maker Tracking Study (Western Europe, 2013), half of decision makers are Gen Y (see figure at left).

A Stark Contrast

Comparing this age group against those creating the MPS programs in the market today paints a stark contrast in that most MPS program managers are generally Boomers or late Generation X, themselves. So the real question is whether your MPS message is on target with your new buyers’ needs? Are you in-touch and relevant?

When I asked Kevin DeYoung, president and CEO of Qualpath, a leading independent MPS provider, what he thought about this data, he had this to say:

“This is accurate and provokes a lot of thought:

  • Boomers, like me, have to stay current on trends, jargon, and buying perspectives of a different age group;
  • Advertising has to adjust focus more on [online] strategies for this very informed buyer group;
  • Dress has to be less formal, but contemporary (I’m a tie person, but ditch it when meeting with this group);
  • Older can be better if it means your experience adds depth and credibility, but can be devastating if you’re perceived as being out of touch; and
  • Printers are boring to younger age groups, unless the message is about migrating to digital offerings.”

Connecting The Dots

While it’s easy to paint a picture of doom and gloom, we don’t think that’s the case. Sure, print volumes are under pressure, but what isn’t in this day and age?

What it does mean is that you have to take a good, hard look at your messaging, your offerings, and your team’s approach to your customers. It can be hard to digest broad generational trends, so I might suggest you don’t. Start simply to begin: just observe your kids’ habits at home, school, or work to begin to get some clues as to how to tune into this demographic. Then you can begin to test these new understandings against reality and find out how your own experiences can help you engage with your audience in an even more personal and impactful way.

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Why Are There So Many Old Rockers? Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:00:17 +0000 Triggered by my son’s pending college plans, I was thinking back to my own college days, and I am talking a pretty long time ago. One memory that occurred to me was that the Rolling Stones were in town back then, on what was rumored to be their farewell tour. Really?

Well, they are still playing, as far as I know. Maybe not on tour right now, but you never know—they just might hit the road again. You can’t rule out the possibility these days. And by the way, didn’t I read recently that Mick Jagger was about to become a great-grandfather? How would you like to see that family portrait?

More recently (about 7-8 years ago), I saw B.B. King in concert. By coincidence, that show was also billed as part of his final farewell tour. That billing was certainly more plausible, as he was over 80 years old back then. He had fun with that billing, claiming it was a misprint and that he had no intention of slowing down. Well, I just checked, and he is still touring—with 22 (!) concerts scheduled between now and May. The man is 88!

Really, why do they still bother? If you are old and rich, you surely don’t need life on the road. That B.B. King concert was in Europe, so the tour was not only throwing the usual stress at him, it also added weird foods, cultures, languages, and of course jet lag into the mix.

Sure, some old rockers need to get back on tour because they burned through all their cash. But why do the others do that to themselves, especially those that have enough money? And anyhow, what does all this have to do with our little industry? It’s common knowledge that some of those musicians are addicted to attention and fame, but the real answer is passion. They tour and they play because they love it. Evidently, they can’t picture life without it.

Hopefully you do what you do for the same reason. The printing and imaging market is certainly mature, but it is rarely boring. And don’t get me started on “commoditized.” By the way, as long as you are working the right pockets of opportunity, the business is also still profitable.

There are plenty of paths to pursue in life, but it only really makes sense if you are enthusiastic about your chosen field. And I think it’s fair to say that we have a lot of enthusiasts in this industry. Just think about your favorite blogger or analyst in the field. Where does he/she get that relentless energy and enthusiasm after all those years? And these folks are certainly not alone. If you talk with many industry veterans, you often get the same feeling: they love what they do. They know the world (customers, competitors, vendors), they have witnessed significant shifts in the technology, they know how to craft packages and manage the business…and they like to share those experiences. Given the opportunity, most people would probably like to have a private island somewhere warm. But in many cases, it’s fair to say these people in this field like what they do, or even love it, and that’s what keeps them going.

Now I don’t consider myself either old or a rocker, but I guess I’m both. Just like so many people I’ve met on several continents over the years, I’m proud of my experience, skill set, and achievements. Would I walk away from all this if I won the lottery tomorrow? Well, maybe—but only maybe. Lacking that windfall, many folks (myself included) really look forward to getting up in the morning and doing what we do. This is not unique to printing and imaging, and you want to hope that other industries have a lot of healthy enthusiasm as well. But amazingly, we probably have more than our fair share.

I spent a lot of time talking about the old boys, but the point is not actually about age, it’s about passion. Have it and keep it.

As Ian Anderson (66 years old, 37 Jethro Tull concerts scheduled for 2014) tells us, “You’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll if you’re too young to die…”

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Has Excellent Customer Service Become a Way of the Past? Mon, 03 Mar 2014 13:00:20 +0000 In today’s busy world, we are constantly interacting with other people, whether they are co-workers, customers, the gas station attendant, or the clerk in the check out lane. But how many of these interactions are memorable? And what makes us remember that conversation or experience? The sad thing is, most of our experiences are most likely memorable because they were negative. I know I always take notice of rude or emotionless sales staff, and what about the frustration of getting caught in the automated phone message vortex? I have said many times “I just want to speak to a live person!”

With the advancement of technology, e-mail, the Internet, and smart phones, we have lost the personal touch of years past when businesses physically interacted with their clients. Companies are more focused on reaching the masses than retaining the current client base. However, there are still companies who make excellent customer service look easy—Chik-fil-a, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Zappos, just to name a few. These companies set the bar for what customer service should look like and still manage to get their brand to the masses, but what are they doing differently? A quick search on the Internet returns a plethora of articles explaining just that.

One reason I believe they are successful is because they are focused. They spend many hours thinking, planning, and training their staff in order to create the perfect experience for their customers! You may have heard the famous quote by Coach Vince Lombardi, “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” In my background of printing and manufacturing, this concept was used quite frequently and has stuck with me. If we do not aim at a target, we will probably not hit one, but if we seek to serve our customers with perfection, to provide a positive experience for every single customer, 100% of the time, we CAN achieve excellent customer service!

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“Free, Perfect, and Instant” Drives Innovation Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:00:26 +0000 Last Monday, I attended an event sponsored by the Harvard Book Store at Cambridge, MA’s historic Brattle Theatre. The authors of The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, were there to have a Q&A discussion with a local National Public Radio (NPR) station host. I just picked up the book at the event, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it was obvious from the discussion that this book has relevance to our industry.

As evidenced by the title of the book, the jumping off point for the book is that the authors think we are in the midst of a second Machine Age. The first Machine Age was, of course, the advent of the steam engine. Machines were able to replace human muscle, and that advancement changed society radically. Now, machines are starting to be able to replace human thinking, and that is also going to change society. The authors say that machines are soon going to be better than humans at performing “routine cognitive tasks” and that development is going to mean middle-class jobs, like tax preparers and travel agents, will go away—in fact, such jobs have already started to go away.

To illustrate what the authors think is happening today with technology, they paraphrased a quote from Hemingway. Q: “How does a person go broke?” A: “Gradually, and then suddenly.” Artificial intelligence has been improving slowly, and as it takes advantage of the “oceans of data” that we are creating by using it, this technology is going to start accelerating.

Using the example of Turbotax, the authors explained that the ability of technology to make things “free, perfect, and instant” by delivering them digitally is creating a “winner take all” business environment where one company makes millions and everyone else goes bust. Because we can’t all be victorious innovators, what do we do? The authors suggested two main ideas: innovate and change the tax laws.

Acknowledging that changing the tax laws might be a tough sell everywhere but here in Cambridge, MA (fondly known as “The People’s Republic of Cambridge”), the authors largely skipped past that point to stress the importance of innovation and the role of entrepreneurs. The authors said that the right metaphor for innovation is not that of grabbing the low-hanging fruit, but rather playing with a set of building blocks. Innovation gets easier, not harder, as you see more of it. The good ideas don’t get “taken,” making it harder for people to come up with ideas; instead, new ideas are built on the base of old ideas. The authors say that we need to create an environment for innovation, but unfortunately, what they are actually seeing, is entrepreneurship on a downward trend, and they want to see this reversed.

The authors also point out the fact that trying to protect an industry from innovations is not the best idea, no matter how tempting. They paraphrased Tim O’Reilly, a technology futurist, saying, “We can protect the past from the future, but it’s better to protect the future from the past.” In other words, don’t hobble new business to keep old business safe.

In closing, the authors acknowledged that there are troubling trends in terms of how the second machine age will impact our economy and our society but stressed that nothing is unavoidable or pre-determined. There were similarly troubling trends in the first machine age, and we stepped around them. In the end, there’s no fatalism, but no sense in being a “techno-optimist” (someone who believes technology will just solve everything all on its own) either. Technology doesn’t drive things, we do. Technology can’t save us or doom us, we need to be responsible.

The authors concluded by admitting that they don’t think they have the answers to the problem, instead they want to “crowd-source” the question. They argue that academics aren’t going to predict successful new industries, entrepreneurs are.

They really want to start a conversation and see entrepreneurs discussing the issues that will be caused as machines further displace labor and upend familiar businesses models. You may agree or disagree with the specific remedies the authors recommend in their book, but I can only second the idea that this is an important conversation. And it’s one where our industry—which has been in the grip of the “Free, Perfect, and Instant” revolution for some time already—can make an important contribution.

This isn’t just about being socially responsible; it’s also good business. Don’t be a techno-optimist—are you thinking about how to change with the times, or just hoping the latest iteration or newest technology will “save” you? Are you creating an environment that is receptive to innovation, or are you trying to cling to the past or hoard the “good ideas” before they run out?

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Prepare Like an Olympian to Lead Like One Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:00:22 +0000 I have been an Olympic fanatic since I was a child. With the winter games just finishing up in Sochi, I’m reminded of some of my favorite U.S. Olympic moments.

  • Mary Lou Retton’s women’s gymnastics all-around gold medal during the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles;
  • Brian Boitano’s triple axel for figure skating gold in the 1988 Calgary winter games;
  • Swimmer Michael Phelps’s photo finish in Beijing’s 2008 games; and quite possibly my favorite,
  • Kerri Strug’s heroic gymnastics vault with a broken ankle to win a team gold during the summer games in Atlanta in 1996.

I guess I always knew in the back of my head the hard work and dedication it requires to become an Olympian, especially a gold medalist. It wasn’t until I started to dive into the requirements of leadership that I realized the parallels to competing in the Olympics and bringing vision and direction to a team.

Leading Like an Olympian

Real Business, a publication by Xerox, recently offered advice to business executives desiring to bring Olympic-like excellence to their team. Olympic training takes great levels of dedication and hours and hours of training, just like the effort required to lead a team. Real Business, though, dives into the “game day” experience of leading. How do you, as a leader, set yourself up to perform well?

The concept comes from sports psychology where research has shown the importance of “getting your game face on.” Olympians will listen to music, visualize the upcoming race, or go through a similar pre-race ritual—every time.

“Rituals focus your attention so you’re ready to race,” Darren Treasure, Ph.D. and a sports psychology consultant with the Nike Oregon Project, told a popular fitness website. “They may also trigger muscle responses that relax your form.”

As you scan the competitors prior to a race, you’ll see headphones, self-talk, and meditation. Recently, U.S. Olympian Kate Hansen has been in the news with her one-woman, pre-race dance parties. Contrast that to the typical rituals of the average business executive. We race in the door heading from task to task, hardly Olympic worthy.

Real Business offers advice for business executives to become more concentrated, and therefore more effective. Below is my interpretation of those suggestions.

Determine your “Pre-Game Ritual”

Your team members might get concerned if you roll into the office and blare the dance tunes of pop-star Beyoncé from your computer speakers, but if that gets you fired up to succeed, I’d say, “Go for it.” Perhaps you enjoy a good workout, cup of coffee, or a few minutes reading the newspaper to start your day. A mentor of mine recently said, “You are rare. Take care of yourself.” She’s right. As a leader in an organization, your team depends on you to be in top shape—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Do the work that leadership requires to carve out the time to be prepared to deliver your Olympic-worthy performance.

Be a Victor not a Victim

Real Business notes how snowboarder Torah Bright smiles and reminds herself to enjoy each run before taking the leap down the hill. Torah loves what she is doing, and you can tell. Do you love what you do or do you feel stuck in a sea of tasks that drain every ounce of enthusiasm you once had? Here’s the good news. You are not a victim of your circumstances, whether that is deadlines, cranky team members, or pressure from your boss. Leaders lift themselves and their team out from under the “victim mentality.”

How? The purpose of a leader is to see beyond the present circumstances and into a greater reality—and then help your team move in that direction. If you are a true leader, not just a positional leader (barking orders because you are the top dog), choosing this reality is well within your abilities. You can choose to look down the slope everyday and remember the joy of leading.

Focus on Your Performance Not Your Competitor

Good business strategy includes a competitive analysis, that’s not what I’m referencing. Leaders are, by nature, competitive people. This leaves us open to insecurity and fear when we don’t out-perform the people around us. Have you ever noticed that when Olympians talk about a race afterwards they focus on their performance? They know that is the only variable they can control. After the race, they will watch and re-watch the race to see how to improve their game.

If you aren’t convinced, maybe you remember the Disney movie based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team, Cool Runnings. When the team leader, Derice, was focused on being as good as the more experienced Swiss team, the Jamaicans looked incredibly foolish. We look foolish, too, when we try to be someone we are not. The best thing a leader can do is to focus on where they want to go and how they are individually performing toward achieving that goal.

The driver is the key player on a bobsled team. The coach in Cool Runnings described it this way, “You see, a driver must remain focused one hundred percent at all times. Not only is he responsible for knowing every inch of every course he races, he’s also responsible for the lives of the other men in the sled.”

He finished off the diatribe with a question every leader must ask, “Now do you want that responsibility?”

If the answer is yes, lead with all of your heart, Olympian-style.

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Is Demand “Soft” For Consumer 3D Printing? Thu, 20 Feb 2014 13:00:12 +0000 Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)]]> 0 The Final Frontier: Occipital’s 3D Sensor Bridges Gap Between Physical and Digital Space Mon, 17 Feb 2014 13:00:08 +0000 A new product is soon to emerge that will turn any iPad into an extremely powerful 3D scanner. The Structure Sensor, from Occipital, is a small device that clips to the back of your tablet. Using a 3D-sensing camera, the $350 gadget is able to construct highly accurate 3D models of objects and environments within seconds. Capture an antique vase in the round and send the digital model for appraisal. Capture your living room by turning in a circle and use the digital model to audition a new sofa.

The latter examples are what immediately come to mind when thinking of uses for the technology. The ability to generate 3D models of objects has immediate import for consumers and manufacturers, while the ability to generate 3D models of rooms almost instantaneously will be a boon for the building arts. This exciting technology will bring about a shift in the relationship between the digital and physical realms that will impact our lives in ways we cannot easily imagine.

The term “augmented reality” is used to describe the use of technology to enhance the experience of our real-world environment. A familiar example is using a GPS app to provide directions while driving. However this example, and most other examples I can think of, is based on our interaction in two dimensions.

This technology provides a way to translate our complex three-dimensional physical world into a meaningful digital facsimile. This means computers will be able to interact with our physical environment and our physical environment will be able to interact with computers. This has implications for robotics and will lead to the rapid development of technologies like self-driving cars. It will also radically change gaming, an area whose developments often lead the way for cultural shifts. Soon you can expect to interact with digital characters and objects in the physical environment.

This is not the only device of this kind—Makerbot’s Digitizer comes to mind. And companies such as Autodesk have released automatic 3D modeling software. What makes this 3D sensor so exciting is the integration of both of these technologies into a mobile device, which effectively brings the intersection of the physical and digital realms anywhere you are, which is exactly where you want it.

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The Shocking Truth about MPS Thu, 13 Feb 2014 13:00:49 +0000 In the process of preparing for our move to a newly outfitted office, I came across a shocking revelation. Firms are still trying to sell a traditional copier lease under the guise of an “MPS” contract! What was most shocking was not the fact that a local reseller did this but that many “dealers” say they are offering Managed Print Services when in reality, there is nothing managed about it, it’s just a traditional copier contract wrapped up in an MPS wrapper! What was shocking is that all three of the companies we asked to provide us with an MPS engagement (including an assessment) gave copier lease quotes. All three of the firms are from a traditional “copier background,” with two being resellers and one a direct office of a manufacturer. And only one firm even came out to visit our office! They didn’t assess our users’ requirements, they didn’t ask for our corporate objectives, they didn’t look at what user printing or copying patterns were, and they definitely didn’t have an understanding of our business needs.

Granted, we are a small business, less than 50 employees. So we are not on the radar screens of most companies. But even mid-sized companies face the same problem.  We are working with a client, a CIO of a $50M+ business, who has faced the same challenges. They were approached by the local office of a manufacturer (one of the big five), who proposed a standard rip-and-replace lease contract, with no assessment, that included replacing all of their printers with only a few A3-sized MFPs (even though this isn’t the optimal deployment).

Okay, given my knowledge of how firms are struggling to adopt MPS and given the fact that most MPS programs are not targeted at small business, I wasn’t really that shocked that we didn’t receive a single “real” MPS proposal. Here is what shocked me: every firm labeled their click-charge proposal as an MPS proposal! As if by labeling the proposal with MPS would make fool us into believing this was an MPS contract! And what was really surprising is that each of these firms knows what Photizo Group does; that we are the leaders in analyzing the MPS market. Of all organizations to NOT present a click charge proposal disguised as MPS, Photizo Group would certainly be the one firm that would see through this.

So what is going on? Are these firms being disingenuous and trying to pull a switch and bait, or is something else at work here? Knowing these firms, I don’t believe they are trying to pull a switch and bait. I think one of two things is happening. In some cases, I think the firms simply don’t know what real MPS is. As much as we have talked about it, as much as the industry has been educated, they mistake a financial contract (lease/click charge) for “managing” the customer’s environment.  They don’t understand that management means you have to understand the customer’s environment, understand what they are trying to do, and actually improve the customer’s environment. For many resellers and dealers, they still don’t have the knowledge, tools, or processes to be able to do that.  So they treat MPS as a “label,” a marketing program, a sales tool, or a “wrapper” to try and convince the customer they are offering a true MPS program and that they will make the customer’s environment better, even though the dealer is really doing the same thing it has always done.

For other firms, I believe they simply either do not want to offer or have the ability to offer a program for smaller businesses. Forget the fact that many small businesses like ours actually do huge amounts of printing. And forget that small businesses represent a huge opportunity (99.7 percent of all U.S. businesses, 64 percent of net new private sector jobs, and 49.2 percent of private-sector employment). Most firms would rather chase the whales than go after small or mid-sized businesses.

So what does this mean? It means there are places (including central Kentucky) where there just aren’t many firms offering real MPS services to small businesses. It means there is significant opportunity for firms to come into these markets and offer MPS agreements to firms that are highly differentiated from traditional click charge and copier lease contracts. This means that, as far as we (as an industry) have come over the last six or seven years, there is still a lot of room to go. So while this could be discouraging to some, I find it invigorating. It means that our industry is still evolving, there is room to grow, and there are opportunities to differentiate yourself by offering something more than the competition.

Yes, I am shocked to realize the truth about MPS: firms are still selling copier contracts labeled as MPS. At the same time, I’m encouraged that the market isn’t saturated—that there is still a lot of room to “get it right.” And that is good news for you, if you are willing to really deliver, to go beyond the easy labels and actually develop a true MPS program that makes your customers’ environment better, that helps them achieve real business results by understanding what their customers need, and by bringing true management to the customers’ environment. Are you up for the challenge in 2014?

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Who Will Lead the Imaging Industry Transformation in 2014? Mon, 10 Feb 2014 13:00:56 +0000 This might be the first year in many that I haven’t had a New Year’s resolution. I wish I could list some great resolutions I’ve had in the past, but like most people, I’ve long-since forgotten them. I’m sure they all had something to do with reading more or eating less – nothing worth remembering, really.

This year, rather than make a resolution, I’ve decided to make goals. At Photizo Group, we created company-wide goals that we then individually broke down into personal goals. For my part, I determined the things I will be focusing on this year, and developed a plan to achieve them in small steps over time.

The difference between goals and resolutions is that New Year’s resolutions—even set with good intentions—are lofty ambitions that are rarely backed by a good plan. They end up being more wishful thinking than a well-crafted plan. A goal, though, requires forethought, planning, and action steps.

Since the economic downturn in 2008, the imaging industry has been in transition. Budget-conscious end users started tightening spending, and layoffs caused a decline in printing. Simultaneously, the market started going digital, with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends and digital workflow needs exerting pressure on IT departments. The net result of these activities has been a nearly-across-the-board decline in worldwide shipments and revenue of imaging industry hardware and supplies. Opinions abound related to the implications and next steps for this industry in transition.

It is clear that it will take more than New Year’s resolutions to lead the imaging industry transformation and the companies included. Leaders will need to step into the light that are able to empower their teams with goals that inspire originality and dedication. The industry needs teams and leaders that have learned the lessons of the past and are willing to let go of outdated traditions to transform into the companies of the future.

Over the last few weeks, I have been interviewing executives from across the imaging industry in search of leadership best practices. How are firms adjusting their strategy to transform their business? How are they designing a culture that calls the best out of their team? What traditions are they starting or stopping in light of this new era? Here are a few of the highlights I’ve found.

  • Neenah believes that the ease of doing business and being best-in-class remain the cornerstones for the new digital market. “We continue to be a service leader with best-in-class digital products, marketing, and distribution, which will help us navigate the ever-changing market place.” – Neenah Paper
  • Konica Minolta is investing heavily in education for everyone in the company. “We offer 30-40 Harvard Leadership online classes for everyone in our organization as well as our dealers. We also hand pick mid-senior level managers to go to leadership courses led by BluePoint Leadership Group. Leaders are chosen across the organization to foster communication without hierarchy. These investments help decision makers have the knowledge they need to make good decisions at whatever level they are.” – Kevin Kern, Konica Minolta
  • “When we moved into the managed service space we did two things. First, we became a managed service customer ourselves. We looked at our current IT system, asked partners to manage those parts so we had a better understanding of service. Every employee had a direct connect to our partners’ help desks. Secondly, we intentionally created a synergy between sales, dealer support, tech support, and marketing. More collaboration utilizes knowledge across groups, and we can work together on all pieces.” – Jim D’Emidio, Muratec

All of our interviews will be published on the io360 in our 2013 Year in Review series of articles this month. You can log in or subscribe to read more insights from industry leaders.

I genuinely believe 2014 will be a year of transformation for the industry. Who will lead the way? I resolve to find out.

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Keys to Success Thu, 06 Feb 2014 13:00:04 +0000 Photizo Group has been really blessed with having a great team, great customers, and some great market success. This success has resulted in two MPSA Leadership Awards, being listed on the Inc 5000 list for two years, making the Tech 200 fastest growth list, and a number of other successes. The company has also grown from 1 person to more than 20 people in just a few years. We have also grown from one line of business (consulting) to three major lines of business (consulting, Market Advisory Services and Publishing, and Events / Conferences). While we have made more than our share of mistakes, I think the celebration of our fifth year in the Events / Conferences business is a great chance for reflection and to share some things we have learned. So here are some keys to success.

Way to Fail #1: Lack of Faith in Yourself, Your Product, Your _______

Five years ago, Photizo launched our first conference. It was the spring of 2009, there was a financial crisis in full swing, and at every conference I was keynoting, attendance was 1/2 to 1/3 that of the prior year. Everyone (including some of our staff and family members) said we were nuts to start a conference business. Well, I believed that when our clients and the industry said they needed a place to meet and learn about MPS, they meant it. I also believed that our team could do anything if they were given the opportunity! So we announced our first conference, planned it for six months later, announced it to the world, put down a (at the time for us) HUGE hotel deposit, and away we went. Of course, none of us had ever put on a conference before, so we had plenty of things we could have done better, but in the end we pulled it off. We had planned for 100 attendees (and we thought we were being optimistic), and we had more than 125 attendees! It was a success. Thus endeth the first lesson: YOU GOTTA BELIEVE! At any point, I could have listened to the naysayers and given up. We would have written off some investment and then gone home. But because I believed in my team and the opportunity, I committed, made the investment, and we had a great success.

Way to Fail #2: Lack of Follow-Through

Okay, so everyone said we were “lucky,” and the conference was a fluke. Well, if you know me, you know that is like laying down the gauntlet. So I challenged my conference manager and the team: “Lets do another conference in 6 months in Europe!” The unanimous response was, “Okay, before we thought you were nuts, now we know you have gone off the deep end!” Despite the reservations, my team showed that they were real troopers and before you know it, we held our first European conference in Amsterdam. Well, we actually beat our attendance in North America, with more than 130 attendees showing up. This was the second lesson. If you can do it once, you can probably do it twice, and probably do it better! Again, we could have been satisfied with one successful conference and stayed in our “home turf.”  But by taking a risk, we began building an international events business. Now, 5 years later, we have held 15 conferences around the world including countries such as Berlin, Brazil, Singapore and Tokyo. In fact, we have had almost 3,000 people attend our events around the world in person and somewhere around three times this number attend the associated web casts (click here to access webcasts from previous conferences). Once you figure out how to do it, do it again, and again, as long as you can! And by the way, this conference business has been a tremendous asset to help establish ourselves as thought leaders and create business opportunities for our consulting and publishing / market advisory businesses.

Way to Fail #3: Failure to Listen and Adapt

Our conferences began with a singular focus on MPS. As the market has evolved, as our audience has expanded, we have modified our content. Our events are now called Transform and deal with a number of transformation opportunities including MPS, Advanced Document Services, and 3D printing and additive manufacturing. At our upcoming Global Transform event in Louisville, KY, USA (our fifth anniversary of the conference portion of the business), we will have a 3D Print Track, A CIO/IT Decision Maker Track, A Vendor Track, and a Reseller track. We have added a “meeting space” for vendors, customers, and partners due to the feedback that our event was becoming THE deal-making event in the industry. Our venues have shifted and changed based on attendee feedback. We constantly finetune our speaker list based on attendee feedback forms. Our events continue to evolve and transform themselves based on the needs of our audience, attendees, and the industry. If we were still doing the same thing we did five years ago, we would have failed long ago!

Way to Fail #4: Buy Into Conventional Wisdom; Follow the Herd

When we started our events, people told us, “People won’t pay to come to conferences, it’s all about getting exhibitors.” We did not believe the conventional wisdom. Our belief was that if you provide high-impact educational content that is relevant to the customer’s business, combine this with great networking opportunities, and encourage collaboration through interesting venues and lots of networking activities, people would pay to attend. And we were right. Our paid attendance continues to grow, and while exhibitors are still very important, our business has shown that high quality, thought leadership content has value! By charting our course and ignoring the conventional wisdom, we were able to clearly differentiate ourselves and establish leadership.

Way to Fail #5: Forget What Got You There In The First Place

Our goal has always been to attract the best and brightest in the industry to our event. We always wanted to make our conference such a high impact event that it would appeal to the real leaders in the industry. Leo Bonetti (CEO of Flotech) summed it up best when he said, “All the others are grade school—you are grad school!” Wow, what a compliment from one of the real thought leaders in the industry. We have tried very hard to remain true to this goal and ensure our conferences are high-powered events that draw the leaders in the industry. And you can see this in our stats. It’s the owners, CEO’s, VP’s, and other industry executives who come to our events. We could have chased after “numbers” like so many other shows, but the reality is we chase quality. The numbers take care of themselves. If we had forgotten this and lost focus on our agenda and content, we would be just another “me too” trade show trying to look like a conference.

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t have it all figured out. We have made mistakes, stubbed our toes, and had our share of black eyes. And our success wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic support of our clients, our speakers, the industry thought leaders who have supported and engaged in our events, and of course, our tremendous team that works their tails off to put these events together. We are still learning. And man is it fun! It’s been great to have the support of companies like Adobe, HP, Konica Minolta, Okidata, Ricoh, and Xerox (to name a few).

This blog has talked about keys to success in the context of our conference business, but the reality is that these principles apply to almost any business. So I hope these thoughts help you as you think about your endeavors and that you will share with me the lessons you have learned in your journey by replying to this blog. And of course, I hope to see you at our next event, Global Transform 2014, in Louisville, KY, June 2-4, 2014, or our South American (Panama) conference, or our European conference in Prague! Good luck and God Bless.


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How Did We Ever Get Along without Phones? Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:00:34 +0000 My wife and I were having dinner at Melissa’s, a local café where we truly enjoy the ambience. During the meal our conversation turned to things that we no longer use now that we have our smartphones. Our server came over, and we got into a healthy discussion of the things our smartphones have made obsolete. While we certainly think of our phones primarily as phones, it is interesting to note what we no longer use as a result of its many functions.

How about you? When was the last time you put batteries in your flashlight or pulled your GPS out of the glove box? Or, even bothered to use a foldable map or Rand McNally atlas?

Here is the list we have generated so far.

  • Flashlight
  • GPS
  • Map
  • Atlas
  • Calculator
  • Wristwatch
  • Alarm clock
  • Notepad
  • MP3 player
  • Dictionary
  • Newspaper
  • Thesaurus
  • Camera
  • Address book
  • Phone booths
  • Calendar
  • CDs
  • Catalogs
  • Board games
  • Tape recorder
  • Bible commentaries
  • Yellow Pages
  • Fax machine
  • Level
  • Landline phones

So how do respond to these changes? Dave Ramsey, author of EntreLeadership, says he absolutely does not like to learn new technology, however, others thrive on conquering something new.

Looking at it another way, do you have an idea that will make people’s lives easier or a service you can add to your business? This is the time of the year where people make all sorts of resolutions. How about adding a strategic goal to come up with an idea that will make your company money? One of Arnold Glasgow’s quotes really applies here, “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” Don’t let that good idea slip through your fingers due to inaction. Great ideas are looking for a home and someone to nurture them.

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Unprinted Photos Mean Lost Stories Thu, 30 Jan 2014 13:00:06 +0000 The photo industry is facing a dilemma: though consumers are taking more photographs than ever — we’ve estimated that there are more than 3 trillion images stored electronically — these same consumers are not printing.

So with all of these photos being taken, why isn’t the photo printing market keeping pace? Clearly, part of the dilemma is that people can view their photos anytime they want if they have access on their smartphone. The various electronic vehicles also mean that consumers don’t need to print photos to share them. The problem for consumers is that while they have access to their recent photos now, will they be able to access them in a year? Two years? How about in 15 years, when young parents’ kids may just want to see their baby pictures? Who is to guarantee that the electronic versions will be available and accessible?

For its part, the photo industry is still mired in the old sales paradigm. In the old film days, people needed to print in order to see their photos, “double prints, if you please!” Manufacturers, photo labs, and retailers are still promoting their print products trying to upsell consumers to higher profit specialty items but haven’t addressed the issues of why consumers need to print at all.

But there is the disconnect: The photo industry is still pushing their wares in the same way as before – “Here is the product, here is the price (likely discounted), now buy it!”  Consumers are asking “Why? I can already see and share my photos without printing them.” It is up to the photo industry to educate the customers as to why it is important to print their important photos – perhaps because that cloud service where the photos are now may not be around in a couple of years? Maybe the consumer switched providers or lost the password? Consider what storage devices and operating systems you were using ten years ago, can you still access those files?

More effort is needed in educating consumers as to why and how to print. Because it is so easy and cheap to take and share photos, there are lots of pictures that have a very limited life to them and should go away quickly. But it is important for consumers to understand that there are some that need to be archived in a way that requires no electronic devices to access. These archived photos will be important in the future – or unprinted photos will become lost stories. Photizo will be delving into more details on these issues as part of the supplies topic area in our Imaging Industry Service.

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Online Shopping vs Buying Local: Who Are You Going to Believe? Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:00:49 +0000 There were two contradictory articles I read within days of each other. One espoused online shopping: “Online shopping’s rise somehow sneaks up on retailers – and consumers win.” The second article was a scholarly article from IBM Research called, “IBM 5 in 5,” in which IBM published five predictions about the next five years. In this case, IBM researcher, Sima Nadler, titled her piece, “Buying local will beat online.”

Actually I read the IBM article first because it flew in the face of current trends, and I wanted to see how the IBM researcher was going to state and support her prediction. Granted, a lot can happen in five years, however, Nadler states that IBM’s Watson supercomputer “will be your personal shopping assistant,” and that “being local will become increasingly important as shoppers demand the instant gratification of their purchases.” Nadler states that “two day shipping will feel like snail mail when a local store can offer customers a variety of fast pick-up or delivery options, wherever they are.” Interesting thoughts—I like to dream too.

According to the website Internet Retailer, global online sales were predicted to surpass $1 trillion in 2013. Today, the United States is the world’s biggest e-commerce market followed by the United Kingdom and Japan, however, China will quickly become the single largest market in the world.

The second article was not nearly as scholarly but noted that “visits to retail stores during the holiday-shopping season collapsed.” Retail companies are struggling with store closures. The heaviest discounting (on electronics) in years was during this past Christmas. It has been stated there are far too many stores in the country to support the level of in-person shopping. There are thousands of miles of strip malls that sit empty like the proverbial ghost towns.

The moral: there are always two sides of the story. For instance, Alvin Toffler, a futurist who wrote in his game-changing book, The Third Wave, reported a prediction put forth that mall cinemas were going the way of buggy whips and typewriters. At the same time, the entertainment industry started selling movies for VHS players and the prediction was dire: people were going to buy movies and watch them at home. Yet, it didn’t happen that way. Within a few years, more people were watching movies in cinemas than ever before. The explanation? Because of the technological advances at the time, people wanted to reconnect by being around other people; they desired “high touch.” They wanted to laugh and cry together. The researchers at the time forgot about the social aspects of entertainment.

Things aren’t always what they seem. Although I chuckled at the IBM researcher’s prediction that “buying local will beat online,” I have to take a step back and think through her reasons. Cloud-based technologies will help sales associates, product reviews will help online shopping buyers, and maybe Watson will be my next personal shopping assistant. Who knows? If stores can merge digital with the “instant gratification of physical retail,” technology will bring back the “high touch” of yesteryear and you won’t have to wait around for overnight delivery.

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CES International 2014: Adopting and Adapting Thu, 23 Jan 2014 13:00:48 +0000 Say goodbye to the Consumer Electronics Show. Well, maybe. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has dictated on all of its press materials that the name of the show, here forthwith, shall be the “International CES” primarily to get away from just being a U.S. electronic gadgets get together. Too bad the news organizations didn’t get the news, because every broadcast report we heard came from “the Consumer Electronics Show” in Las Vegas. Regardless of what it was called, it is still, to quote Ed Sullivan, “… a really big show!”

It was interesting to hear Gary Shapiro, President of CEA, touting 3D printing several times in his keynote address, along with Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV and electric cars. Shapiro was notably upbeat in his remarks about the industry. Perhaps he was excited about CEA’s role in making it possible now for passengers to use their mobile devices during take off and landing on airplanes, provided the device is in Airplane mode. Sorry, Alec Baldwin, you still can’t play Words with Friends once the doors of the airplane shut.

Electric cars, including the Formula e Racer sponsored by Qualcomm and the BMW 3i that was available for test drives, had a major presence at CES. Like many technologies, impatient industry watchers will point to the obvious limitations of electric cars—the limited range as a problem that is not one, and therefore never will be solved. Much like claims that Bluetooth would never go anywhere, we couldn’t possibly have wireless video or Wifi in cameras, so that technology has its uses. Likewise, electric cars have severe limitations and will need to develop an extensive infrastructure to be practical but, like with other technologies, designers just need vision, commitment, and patience to make it happen.

3D printing made a big splash with its own pavilion that contained approximately 30 companies involved in the business. Many of the companies in the pavilion were start-ups that were expecting to introduce their first consumer product soon. Formlabs’ booth was graced with the presence of Martha Stewart, but the real stars appeared to be MakerBot and 3D Systems, as these companies also had a number of applications and supplementary products that gave users a complete 3D printing system, as opposed to just a printer.

One ironic note, the 3D printing pavilion was located on the second level of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) on the exact spot that had been occupied by 2D printing vendors in years past.

A colleague in the radio business noted, “On Wednesday, I wished CES would go on forever, by Thursday I couldn’t wait for it to end!” There are so many products, technologies, and sessions that provide insight into the future of consumer high tech, it is a challenge to take it all in.

But CES International provides a great context for where the opportunities and the pitfalls lie over the next few years, picking out the real trends from the short-term fads. Existing technologies, like printing and imaging, can pickup some valuable ideas from other segments as to what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes it as simple as actually finishing the demo with a printout.

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Does That Benchmark Really Apply to Me? Mon, 20 Jan 2014 13:00:30 +0000 In our Partner Transformation Assessment Practice, I’ve spent several years consulting MPS providers around the world using benchmarks we’ve established through our research. It has been interesting to see the reactions each time I present the results from one of our assessments. While you might think you’d see a wide variety from all of the different executives we interact with, I think the most common response I hear is when executives essentially say, “Oh, that benchmark really doesn’t apply to me.”

One of the most common variations I hear is when I’m consulting with a provider outside of the United States. “That’s a U.S. benchmark, and so it doesn’t apply to us,” an executive will flatly state. Besides the fact that our MPS Leaders Index for Channel Providers is actually global data, the executive has missed the point of what we are measuring. Even in the United States, executives have a tendency toward disbelief—that they are somehow unique and different than every other provider out there.

I often chuckle, in that these reactions remind me of the first stage we experience for grief and mourning—that of denial. Let’s face it; having someone else tell you how you could be running your business better is threatening. I get that.

A benchmark is only as useful as what it is measuring. So, executives are absolutely right to be skeptical of any and all benchmarks. After all, he/she knows his/her own business better than any outsider ever could. But the most important point of any performance metric is really the fundamental, underlying questions it should cause you, as the decision maker, to ask:

  1. What is this metric really measuring?
  2. Does it measure something that will fundamentally make my organization stronger?
  3. If so, how can I tune my organization to meet or exceed this performance level?

As an example, a provider asked me, “How can I improve our score?” As I looked at the company’s results, it was clear that this was a good company. So my suggestions revolved around making it a great company. I quickly focused on the amount of revenue being generated per MPS customer. One of the most common issues we see is that MPS providers don’t fully penetrate the customer account, leaving money on the table.

The very next question was, “How do we generate more revenue per MPS customer?” That is the million-dollar question, now isn’t it?

This is where we have to start looking at what you are currently offering your customers, how deeply attached you are to each of your customers, and what your organizational capabilities really are.

When you ask yourself, “Does this benchmark really apply to me?” I’d like you to pause before you react. Instead, I’d like you to ask, “What is this benchmark really driving at?” It may create a small window of opportunity for you to view your business a little differently than you did yesterday.

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Mind the Technology-Customer Gap Thu, 16 Jan 2014 13:00:58 +0000 This time of year invariably serves up top 10 lists of retrospectives for 2013 and looks ahead to 2014, and Photizo has certainly published its share. As I scan these lists, because really, who has time to read all of them, I was struck by two seemingly divergent trends: increased automation and enhanced customer experiences — and the resulting technology-customer gap.

Last year, we heard so much about Big Data, Machine to Machine, and the Internet of Things (capitalized because they are Big Ideas) and how our lives are going to be enriched by all of the personalized, customized, and specialized goods and services these technologies will deliver. At the same time, we were bombarded with suggestions on how to increase customer engagement, improve customer service, and enhance the customer experience. After all, in this always on, anywhere/anytime/anyhow world in which we live, we have come to demand, and expect, instant satisfaction, without exception.

So, I have to ask you, when is the last time that data, a machine, or the Internet actually made a difference in your life? Isn’t it the way that these technologies are used in products and services that really made the difference? And how does technology know what to do to make a difference? By the people that design the technology. And how do they know? By asking the people that use the technology, product, or service.

My point is that while we can exhort the benefits of technology and evangelize the need to make our customers happier, unless we are bridging these two trends, we are not going to be successful. And people are the cornerstone upon which to build a bridge to cross the technology-customer gap.

In the imaging space, companies have jumped on the cloud, mobility, and digital workflow bandwagon, and we have seen a rash of cloud-based services, mobile solutions, and digital workflow offerings. This is all fine and good, but are companies really providing something new that will greatly enhance the customer experience or are they, in the words of my fondly remembered and sadly missed colleague, Steve Reynolds, “putting a shiny wrapper around the same old thing?”

Some food for thought as you digest the remains of your New Year’s servings of top 10 lists.

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Adapting to Change In an Ever-Changing World Mon, 13 Jan 2014 13:00:52 +0000 Welcome to 2014, the year of change! I’m sure that could be said for any year throughout history, but this year is sure to be another year full of change. The world around us is changing at lightning speed, and we have to be ready for it, both personally as well as in our businesses and industry. With new electronic devices and technology coming out every day, businesses going “paperless,” cloud-based storage and printing options, more and more online shopping options, and companies producing virtual instead of printed products, our industry is forced to react and adapt to these changes, however painful they may be.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.  ~Author unknown

Most people like to use the New Year as a time to make a change, with a resolution or goal. I normally try to set some realistic personal goals, such as trying to get more organized or trying to eat healthier, but what if we applied this idea to our businesses or industry?

What are your company’s New Year’s resolutions?
What steps are needed to get there?
What can you do to create a more positive experience for your customers, dealers, or vendors?
What can you do to ensure these goals are met?

I have been reading a great book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” which goes into scientific detail about how habits work and how they are shaped. The book talks about how habits can shape us or our businesses for success or failure and how changing the culture or habits of employees can drastically affect the success of a company! It has inspired me to think about my habits and make some changes, both personally and professionally. I hope you will join me!

Make 2014 the year of the best changes you’ve ever made!  And, let us know how we can help.

Happy New Year!


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2014 Trends and Predictions Thu, 09 Jan 2014 13:00:08 +0000 The holidays have passed. Trees and festive decorations have been put away, and the only remaining sign of the previous merriments seems to be my swollen waistline. With 2013 behind us, it’s time to look forward to what 2014 will bring, and here are my Top 5 trends and predictions.

  1. Ink jet in the office: For years, companies have tried to overcome the laser bias commonly held by many in the enterprise space to no avail. HP, Epson, Brother and others have all created devices that they deemed capable for the office, but there has not been a great deal of acceptance. However, when HP released the Officejet Pro X, this caused some raised eyebrows as the first ink jet device that corrected several of the weak points that other devices suffered from, including toner capacity, speed, robustness, remote manageability, and cost per copy (CPP). With the Officejet Pro X’s feature list, acquisition price, and competitive operating cost, I believe HP has found a recipe that will be a game changer. I would look for this device (as well as similar offerings I expect to be released in 2014) to fare well against segment 1 and 2 laser MFPs.
  2. Mobility and enterprise content management (ECM): OEMs have looked to increase print volumes through mobile printing. As of today, mobile printing has not proven to be a panacea to save print volumes, however, we are seeing some increases in mobile printing. We are noticing that the type of documents that users print from their mobile devices differs from those printed from a desktop. Further mobility advances have included NFC printing capability from Brother and Samsung that allows users to print documents by simply tapping their mobile devices to a printer. I expect the OEMs to continue to advance their imaging technology while shifting their focus to the device being an on-ramp for digital documents. It would be interesting to see OEMs utilize the NFC technology to aid in uploading documents to document management systems.
  3. Cloud: While cloud computing has been one of the buzz words du jour for the last few years, we are continuing to see an opportunity for growth in this area for service providers. Cloud storage for instance, offers dealers who are not highly tech savvy to offer further value to their clients without having to maintain the storage infrastructure. Furthermore, I am seeing more evidence of cloud computing acceptance, including less apprehension involving security concerns. While these concerns still exist, the benefits of cloud infrastructure are the reason for greater adoption.
  4. Servitization – In the imaging industry, Xerox is leading the way in the transition from a manufacturing focus to a services focus. During the third quarter of 2013, 56 percent of Xerox’s revenue was generated from services. The servitization trend is also having a much broader impact in other industries as well, e.g. Rolls-Royce is offering a cost per flying hour business model on its gas turbine engines through the firm’s TotalCare program. The key question that manufacturers are increasingly asking themselves has shifted from “What product should we sell?” to “How can we help our customers meet their objectives?” Currently, Japanese companies are struggling more with this transition. A successful transition will be essential to increasing revenues and profitability long term.
  5. Continued convergence: The creation and adoption of several technologies have created an ecosystem that provides greater opportunity for service providers. When you combine the flexibility of cloud computing with the increased power of mobile technology and wrap a new service-based business model around the offering, this becomes a recipe that allows users to take advantage of technology advancements while meeting business-critical objectives. 2014 should be a very interesting year in which I expect revolutionary offerings in terms of anywhere access to data and information.

2013 was an exciting year in our industry, and I look forward to what 2014 will bring. With the rapid change and evolution rampant in our industry, branching into new areas will be one of the paramount keys to success. I expect great things for this year. Stay tuned.

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A Year of Good Intentions Mon, 06 Jan 2014 13:00:44 +0000 This is the time of year that people traditionally reflect on the need to improve their situations or themselves. These resolutions for the new year might include setting goals of either a personal or professional nature, but the other part of the “tradition” is how quickly many of these well-intended plans are forgotten or neglected. Certainly some people achieve their goals, whether to improve their job situation, to lead a healthier lifestyle, or some other positive change. But many do not, and the big question for those is, “Why not?”

There are plenty of explanations, but the most straightforward one for a majority of these failed resolutions is weak execution. You need to plan a way to achieve the goal, whatever it is. If you want to lose weight, you need to map your plan. Twenty pounds are not shed all at once; you have to plan a way to reduce at the rate of about two pounds a month – or four, if you are looking to achieve your swimsuit look by the summer. But either way, you need to set intermediate goals and take concrete, achievable steps to achieve those milestones, as well as the ultimate goal.

Professional resolutions are similar, of course — not only on the personal level, but at the company level as well. Since we at Photizo talk a lot about the challenge of transforming a business from hardware to services, let’s consider that goal as a resolution for the New Year. Now is certainly not the only time, or maybe not even the best time, but it is undoubtedly a relevant time to think about how this transformation can take place.

A good place to start is the Photizo servitization model, which looks at this key transformation from a number of perspectives: technology, knowledge, people, skills, metrics, and partnerships. Obviously this variety and breadth of topics implies a major transformation, one that cannot be achieved all at once. So the company will need to break down the ultimate target into a set of more manageable segments and intermediate milestones. Benchmarks and targeted analysis will help to prioritize which topics need more immediate attention, but all topics will need to be addressed. And just like those 20 pounds, those topics will best be addressed in smaller steps.

That weight loss scenario is instructive, since many readers will recognize how challenging even that “simple” task can be. For a complete business transformation, multiply it by infinity, and take it to the depth of forever, and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I’m talking about (any takers on where that quote came from?).

Every New Year’s resolution is basically a project. Plan and execute that project, and you will achieve the target you set for yourself or for your company. But keep in mind: that process will continue for a long time, so it’s not just about today or this week. We need to plan and execute on an entire year of good intentions to make our resolutions a reality.

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Ownership In the Digital Age Thu, 02 Jan 2014 13:00:30 +0000 As we move away from hard copy in favor of digital files, we may also find that we are moving away from traditional notions of ownership. Whereas it has been a truism that possession is 9/10 of the law, many of us will no longer “possess” our files in any physical sense. Software and data storage are moving into the cloud instead of being stored in filing cabinets. Photos are being posted on social networking sites instead of printed out and placed in photo albums in our homes. We stream movies instead of buying DVDs. So far, we are still actually purchasing ebooks and music to save on devices that we own, but increasingly, device manufacturers are offering cloud storage and streaming for these types of possessions as well.

With so much of the things we are buying (and creating) moving off-site, it becomes reasonable to wonder if we need to own things at all. Services that operate more on a rental model are increasingly common. Music has Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes Radio. Books are still trying to hold the line of resistance with ownership, but attempts are being made there as well. Book rental services have been popping up, and at the end of October, major Japanese manga publisher Kodansha announced a partnership with anime-streaming website Crunchyroll to “stream” manga. While this may seem like a niche market, it skews young and may therefore have something to say about the future of publishing. In addition, Kodansha is a major publishing house trying something that still seems very new.

A Read.Write.Web writer recently wrote an article connecting this trend to other real world possessions, which may be a bit of a stretch. However, it does seem possible, as the author speculates, that the housing market collapse has changed some of our attitudes toward renting. There also seems to be a cross-current—perhaps inspired by the economic collapse—in people wanting to downsize and simplify possessions. Keeping your files, books, and music in a digital format takes up less space and seems like an excellent way to reduce the clutter that possessions create. As cloud storage improves and becomes cheaper, people are increasingly able to store their data there with seeming confidence. Not to mention, commodities can be said to have a fixed shelf life: you read a book, you watch a movie, you listen to music until you get sick of it, etc. And further, once you start becoming accustomed to the idea that you don’t need the item in your physical possession, it seems more reasonable to think maybe you only need to “borrow” it.

I have to admit I find myself resistant to this trend for a variety of reasons. Part of it might be a native tendency toward packratishness, and part of it may just be habit and a cautious nature. I worry about how safe my “belongings” are if I don’t hold on to them (or even own them!). I tend to remain skeptical, but I also have to admit that storing things on my own hasn’t always worked out all that well either—even hard drives and CDs in my possession can get damaged, and moreover, they can get lost. Storage in the cloud is not that much riskier—arguably it can be safer. And if I don’t need a physical copy in my possession, do I really need to own it?  Maybe a rental—for a limited or indefinite time—is all I need.

This time last year, I was talking about whether or not I wanted to buy an eReader, and I finally did break down and buy one this summer. I am about to convert my Netflix subscription over to streaming-only. Despite many concerns that need to be addressed about fair compensation to content-creators, I have to admit that there is much to be said for this model in terms of convenience.

This process of acceptance can be replicated in the business world. Remember that businesses are run by actual people—people who might be packrats, have a skeptical nature, or have (legitimate) concerns about the safety of their digital “possessions.” For better or for worse, humans make business decisions in the same way they make personal decisions. As people become accustomed to new models in their personal lives, they will look for them for their businesses too. These changing expectations are what provide the opportunity—and necessity!—for the imaging industry to keep evolving. With copier leasing being one of its original business models, the imaging industry has the advantage of already having a firm toehold in this new mode of thinking. The industry has also shown its adaptability, moving from cost-per-copy, to managed print services (MPS), to advanced document services (ADS) over the years. However, as decision makers continue to shift their thinking about what ownership in the digital age means and the types of conveniences they expect to have in terms of accessing and managing those possessions, the industry will need to continue to shift in order to keep up with its customers’ needs and behaviors.

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3D Systems’ Continuing Integration With the Imaging Industry Mon, 30 Dec 2013 13:00:27 +0000

It’s a trend that’s been many years in the making: 3D printing manufacturers integrated with broader imaging and IT solutions companies as a way to rapidly expand their global footprint. Although it would appear that one 3D vendor, 3D Systems, is particularly pushing this trend.

Yesterday, 3D Systems, a market leader in 3D printing solutions, announced its sixth acquisition since August of 2013 as the firm reached an agreement on December 18 to purchase a portion of Xerox’s Wilsonville, OR, R&D group. The group deals with product design, engineering, and chemistry and will bring an additional 100 engineers and contractors into 3D Systems’ R&D operations. The deal will be an all-cash purchase for $32.5 million and is expected to close before year’s end.

Xerox and 3D Systems have a long history of partnership, reportedly 15 years worth, and Xerox has served as a key partner in the creation of 3D Systems’ most popular line of ink-jet based 3D printers, the ProJet series. Some members of the ProJet series utilize Xerox advanced ink-jetting technology as a key component in 3D Systems’ patented MultiJet print engine.

Official press releases around the acquisition note that the deal solidifies “technology and marketplace leadership,” which speaks to what is likely the underlying motive for 3D Systems to purchase the Wilsonville group. Given that Xerox has supplied print heads for 3D Systems printers developed jointly by the two companies, 3D Systems is likely strategically shoring up its supply chain of print head components. This deal should also improve workflow between an important R&D group that 3D Systems has been historically very involved with by bringing it directly into the organization.

Interestingly, the acquisition also may have removed some future competitive elements by buying out a Xerox team that likely has significant ability to create 3D printing hardware. The traditional imaging technology OEMs could feasibly become a significant threat to the incumbent professional 3D vendors.

Accompanied by the news is 3D Systems’ plan to increase its annual R&D expenditures by 75 to 100 percent over “the next few years,” which could eventually bring expenditures around $40 to $50 million, according to financial data from the first three quarters of 2013. Increased research and development expenditure has been trending with professional 3D printer manufacturers and is a good sign that the industry is committed to moving itself forward rapidly.

The deal isn’t exactly the beginning of a new relationship with Xerox, but it does mean that as of today, 3D Systems is involved in a business relationship with at least 3 of the top imaging vendors in some way, shape, or form. Konica Minolta will soon be selling 3D Systems product lines in yet-to-be-disclosed geographies, as will Canon Marketing in Japan. For one 3D manufacturer at least, it appears that the world of traditional imaging and office technology is providing a gateway to worldwide dominance, at least for now.

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A Letter to the Imaging Industry Thu, 19 Dec 2013 13:00:05 +0000 After having concluded a recent circuit with leaders of the imaging industry, I find myself here at another year’s end. With one eye turned toward the present and one eye turned toward the future, I believe we have much to consider about the state of our industry. Rightly so, you are most likely busying yourself with closing out year-end business and planning next year’s goals. Because you are an astute professional, you look to replicate your successes and learn from costly mistakes. But even in all of this, I think you are missing something important. You are missing a fundamental shift in the tides beneath us.

You are here today because of your successes over the past years. You are a shrewd executive who has risen to many challenges and overcome each and every one – to this point, at least. With your ears perked and eyes keenly scanning the horizon, you have been sifting through the constant barrage of buzzwords du jour. You seek to sort fact from fiction; voraciously consuming evidence of what trend will lead to tomorrow’s successes. But for all your diligence, you are struggling with quantifying just what “it” is that will be so important to tomorrow’s customer. In essence, what will be the next “Walkman” or “iPod” of our industry?

Today you measure your journey in devices sold and pages printed. You pat yourself on the back when you help a customer scan to some cloud-based application, gesture enable your latest MFP interface, or create a new App Store for your family of output devices. You applaud yourself as you enable mobile devices to print. You think yourself clever as you look to deliver software solutions via the “cloud,” preoccupied with the thought of helping customers transport paper and its digital clones.

Yet for all your incremental successes, you are missing the broader point that customers are inundated with technology, left wanting for rescue in the cresting tide of today’s ocean of transactions and interactions. The very on-ramps and off-ramps you provided to our digital information highway have largely contributed to the issue at hand. Digital content screams past at breakneck speeds—colliding at the speed of thought. The very information contained within crashes together, like twisted metal in the impact of a car crash.

With information blurring together, our customers are left with the problem of making decisions in much the same fashion as before the advent of the first digital copier. Your customers desire rescue and crave help in showing them to the next meaningful decision point. They ask, “What should I do next? Where should I turn? Who can I call?”

I’ve heard your customers ask you these questions. Yet your answers are missing the mark. You see, you have busied yourself with helping your customers transform data from one format to another, and indeed this was important—but no more. Now your customers need your help turning information into intelligence and action. They want to interact with technology in their own way, not your way. So quit trying to emulate the MFP-version of an iPhone or App Store. That ship has sailed, and you need to meet your customer where they want to go tomorrow. They do not want your devices to be more like smartphones; they want their chosen devices to be the interface. Or even better, we customers want new interfaces to mimic our own natural ways of interacting with the world around us.

Dare I say that we don’t really even want your devices at all? Where does this leave you, then?

Tomorrow’s future is here today—I have seen it. Its interface is rich enough to keep an adult engaged yet simple enough for a two-year old to navigate without a single instruction. Today, it talks to us, asks us questions, and helps us as our friend might. For instance, it can help a housewife find where a complex circuit board is malfunctioning in minutes, or why a Formula One racecar loses a race by two tenths of a second. Tomorrow, it will counsel and mentor us in our daily lives. It is this dream (and beyond) to which you must aspire.

Understandably, you find yourself a victim of your own success. You have listened well to your customers, making your technology better with each and every generation. Indeed, you have become a master of your domain. But faster, better, and cheaper is no longer a sustainable paradigm. Instead, you must look beyond your own horizon of units shipped and pages printed—even farther than documents scanned or percentage points saved.

History is filled with successes. Ford pioneered the dream of “automobiling” when the paradigm was a faster horse. Microsoft dreamed of a desktop computer for every person when the paradigm was to make a bigger supercomputer. Google dreamed of a searchable world when the paradigm was simply finding efficient ways of moving data. Nintendo reached untouched customers when envisioning a fun, easy-to-play experience when the paradigm was faster graphics processing. These pioneers found markets where their competitors would not, or could not, imagine customers.

History, alone, won’t tell you the road you need to take. It will only tell you that such radical leaps are plausible. Instead, look beyond what your customers are telling you to what your customers need to have in order to be efficient, effective, and most importantly—enriched. It is there that you will find your answer. To do so, I challenge you to throw away today’s measures of success; throw away your devices, your pages, and your technology-driven perspective. If you are asking for the road you should follow, you are already asking the wrong question. Instead, ask how you can understand your customers’ paradigm and contribute meaningfully to that end. I grant you that it can be more challenging, but to the victor goes the spoils of war.

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Laser Printing DNA in San Francisco Mon, 16 Dec 2013 13:00:22 +0000

A startup called Cambrian Genomics has adapted existing technologies, like those found in laser printers, to synthesize DNA at a cost 10,000 times less than currently available.

There are two process involved in making DNA: sequencing (reading) and synthesis (writing). DNA is currently synthesized billions of strands at a time using biochips, miniaturized devices similar to a microchip that can perform hundreds or thousands of simultaneous biochemical reactions. This technology has been used for decades. However, one big challenge is that many of the strands created will be full errors.

The company solves the problem by optically sequencing the strands of DNA, tagging each of the four letters in a DNA sequence with a color tag. In this way, scientists are able to quickly identify and separate the sequences. The strands are tested in massively parallel processes for quality. Once the highest quality strands are identified, it is possible to replicate only those strands. The tagging and separating of the desired strands is done with lasers in a fashion that is essentially the same as laser printing (in microbiology, this process is called Laser Micro-dissection & Pulse Catapulting).

The radical thing happening here is the combination of existing technologies and synthesis processes in novel ways to dramatically decrease the bottom line. We have known how to do these discreet tasks, but putting them together creates something much bigger than the sum of the parts. Think of it as the development of the roles of a scanner, printer, and copier in an office environment.

As mentioned, this company’s main impact is how this has dramatically decreased the price of DNA creation. DNA is essentially code, so we can draw an analogy from computer programming. When writing computer code, zeroes and ones need to be stored. As storage for this information has become much cheaper, a barrier to programming disappeared, and the result is the technological world that surrounds us today. In 2003, the cost to write one letter of DNA code was $1. Now thanks to Cambrian Genomics’s laser printing DNA technology, we can expect to code 10,000 letters of DNA for that same price. The current price needed to synthesize a human being’s operating program, DNA, is more than $2 billion dollars. Cambrian Genomics thinks we can quickly reduce that price to $2 million.


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Destiny or Dynasty: What’s Your Business Game Plan? Thu, 12 Dec 2013 13:00:51 +0000 Living in Alabama, there was no way I could avoid the hype leading up to the recent Iron Bowl football game or the avalanche of comments after the game, especially considering the way the game ended—a missed field goal by Alabama that Auburn returned for a touchdown and a 34-28 win…with no time remaining. My daughter attends the University of Alabama, so while we have been a Florida Gator home for most of the 29 years I’ve been married to my husband, a Tampa native, we have become Alabama fans, at least temporarily, while our money and our daughter are in Tuscaloosa.

In the week that followed, despite the emotion that hijacked most of the conversations about the game and its position in Iron Bowl history, it occurred to me that there are some lessons to be learned from this game (and really sports in general) that could be applied to the imaging industry (and really business in general).

Win as a team, lose as a team. While Alabama’s field goal kicker, Cade Foster, was the goat for many people, he was really only the most visible person on the team that didn’t get the job done. Alabama’s defense allowed big runs by Auburn, and Alabama’s offense wasn’t hitting on all cylinders either. Even Alabama’s vaunted head coach Nick Saban made some questionable decisions during the game. Saban constantly preaches about execution and the responsibility of each player to take care of his job, and a failure to execute was clearly shared by the entire team.

So, what about your business team? While it’s also easy to place the blame for a failed customer relationship with sales or service people that have direct contact with clients, the support team behind those more visible roles shares in the responsibility of keeping customers happy and engaged so that those relationships result in new or continued business with the client. People may scoff at the idea that we’re all in sales, but everyone can effect a company’s decision to work with your business.

Have some class. There are so many facets of this statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. With respect to the Iron Bowl, I was impressed by the Alabama fans that offered sincere congratulations to the Auburn football team and threw their support behind this in-state rival for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game against Missouri. At the same time, I was appalled by the behavior of many Alabama fans that ranged from snide comments to outright hate in the form of death threats for Cade Foster. I believe that a true measure of a person is how someone responds under adversity. After all, it’s easy to be gracious and kind when things are going well—although some Auburn fans showed that it’s equally easy to be nasty and unkind when things go your way…something that all sports fans should think twice about because things eventually go the way of your opponent.

Do your employees act with class in all circumstances? Are they equally kind and gracious in victory as in defeat? Do you set a good example for your co-workers? It’s incumbent upon each of us to be professional at all times, even if you want to moan and groan—do it in private so you’re not contributing to an atmosphere of negativity.

Constantly improve. While this should be a given, both in sports and in business, teams and companies have a tendency to rest on their laurels when life is good, rather than continuously look for ways to improve. Auburn’s performance improved drastically from the first game of the regular college football season to the last, with head coach Gus Malzahn’s constantly preaching to the team and then praising them about the progress made after each game.

In the imaging industry, one of the biggest challenges is for vendors and channel partners to constantly improve their business model, given the still relatively high margins of the traditional hardware and supplies business. You shouldn’t wait to hit rock bottom, like the Auburn football team did last season, before looking for ways to improve your current strategy.

My final comments are about entitlement. I’ve heard a lot on this subject regarding Alabama, and the SEC in general, especially when it looked like no SEC team would play for the national championship this year. And while I am certainly biased in favor of the SEC, I have to agree that what happened in past years should not influence Bowl Championship Series (BCS) voters this year. Having said that, I believe that Auburn truly earned its way to the national championship game this year, and it’s not entitlement when you earn the opportunity.

So, a final question: Are you earning the opportunity to do business with your customers or are you counting on past performance to get you through? Whether you feel that your success is due to destiny, building a dynasty, or a combination of the two, executing as a team, professional conduct, and ongoing improvement are critical elements of any business game plan.

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Employee Engagement: Do You Love Your Work? Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:00:52 +0000 There have been several studies (Gallup, Dale Carnegie Training, etc.) over the past few months that show between 70 to 75 percent of employees are not “fully engaged” or have “checked out” of their jobs. Interestingly, this trend isn’t all that new.  The overall statistics have stayed pretty consistent since 2000 as 30 percent of American workers are normally engaged at work. Various organizations have called this fact troubling because the workers that are not engaged are costing the United States $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

The studies say a lack of engagement by employees could be a sign pointing to poor job satisfaction. Dissatisfied employees cost companies in more ways than one. Besides the high price of employee turnover, a company can lose money due to employees’ inattention or lack of engagement.

The Gallup survey found that employee engagement is “strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, including productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.” Another interesting fact was that employees that were allowed to work remotely were more engaged and ended up working four more hours per week on average than those reporting to an office.

The study acknowledged that wages have been flat or in a declining trend, yet “the main factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits, or hours, but the boss.” This is the Gallup report’s “most important point,” says Harvard Business Review.  Managers that focus on an employee’s strengths have employees that are more engaged than those who focus on weaknesses.

“Regular praise, opportunity for growth, and the occasional question from a higher-up… about how to improve things would go a long way toward getting the checked-out to check back in,” says Timothy Egan at The New York Times.

Not doing something about unhappy employees can affect your company or dealership in a negative way. The cost of turnover, finding a suitable replacement that will fit your culture, training the individual, and getting the person acclimated to your firm and customers far outweighs fixing the situation of an unhappy employee. It’s important for the well-being of your organization to get to the bottom of any suspected troubles and fix them before you lose a valuable employee, whether through being “checked out” or leaving for a competitor.

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Potential HP-Sharp Alliance Wed, 04 Dec 2013 17:52:38 +0000 Reuters Japan recently reported on a potential partnership between HP and Sharp. What does this mean for these two firms, their current OEM partners, and the imaging industry at large? Join Photizo CEO Ed Crowley as he ponders the implications of an HP-Sharp alliance.

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Leaks and Leaps – Services Are Fluid Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:00:31 +0000 I recently had the opportunity to speak to a U.S. dealer group and was asked to comment on the state of MPS and where the MPS market is going. That event preceded and somehow set the stage for a number of ensuing encounters. Right after the dealer meeting, I spent a week in Japan for client meetings. Shortly after that, I was in London for the Photizo Transform 2013 Europe Conference. Shortly after that, I was back in the states supporting a client who is preparing a North America market entry strategy.

That was a very compact and intense series of meetings, taking place on different continents with different stakeholders. But throughout these discussions, I kept returning to one of the themes from my dealer presentation: “MPS is fluid.” The visual I chose to illustrate the point was a dam with a crack in it, with the water just starting to push through the crack. That image is a bit ominous and pretty powerful and absolutely appropriate as well.

One reason why this message is important is that MPS and services business are a big shift for companies that normally build, sell, and support hardware devices. In that hardware-based world, you need a sizable infrastructure to open up a new line of business: you have to design the product; ramp up production; deliver the goods (factory ==> warehouse ==> dealer ==> customer); stock consumables, options, and spare parts; and staff and train service teams.

Obviously, any software or service offering is also a product that goes through a similar design and refinement phase. But that is where the similarity ends. Assuming a modern cloud-based architecture, distribution is nearly painless, both regarding the associated costs and the physical shipment and stocking requirements. Some options can also be added or activated, but the process involves a software switch as opposed to a physical delivery. With software and services, I can literally parachute into a new location or market and be up and running.

Well, not quite. I definitely still need local sales and support, and the product has to be appropriately localized for the necessary languages and preferred workflows. Still, the process to ramp up a new business is less problematic and less dependent on building a complex infrastructure. Services are fluid and pass through cracks and barriers quickly.

What does this mean? In a nutshell, no market is safe. Service providers can go anywhere, and the most attractive markets are the biggest markets. We can expect to see a lot of activity involving new players crossing old barriers, especially into Europe and North America. Sometimes those barriers are oceans and country borders, but sometimes those barriers are simply matters of perceived capabilities and customer acceptance: “I never expected company A to be offering me that!

A famous expression from the investment community is to find or build a business with a robust “moat,” implying some technology or logistical barrier to market entry. But services are fluid, and market shifts can be sudden and massive. While the established companies prefer their moated markets, we see great opportunities for new entrants to disrupt and succeed in ways and at speeds which were previously unimaginable.

Interestingly, there is one important corollary to this observation. With the right attitude and skill sets, hardware companies can transform themselves into services companies. At the same time, IT services companies are also increasingly interested in managing hardware, but those that view it as just another node on the network will be challenged to say the least. They may appreciate, more than ever before, that their services are fluid…because that hardware element most definitely is not.

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Transformation Lessons from the Music Industry Thu, 28 Nov 2013 13:00:40 +0000 The following is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared in the io360 publication. Visit our website to learn more about how Photizo is leading the conversation in the transformation of the imaging industry.

Sharp’s 2013 national dealer meeting on November 11 through 13 in Orlando, FL featured the theme “Tour de Force.” In addition to providing an opportunity to add rock and roll touches to their presentations, Sharp highlighted some strong parallels between the transformation of the music industry and the transformation of the copier/printer industry that make the choice of theme particularly apt.

Starting around 2000, the music industry experienced major changes that affected everyone and every aspect of the industry. With digital downloads replacing the need for album sales, it was change or go extinct. While some companies and artists did go extinct, or are still hanging on by a thread, others survived and even thrived. A major disruption in existing business models creates an opportunity for new ways of approaching things. Looking at the music industry’s path in transitioning from physical to digital is instructive, and has the potential to provide many lessons for the imaging industry.

Perhaps surprisingly – at least on face value – the man to highlight those lessons at the event was Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, a heavy metal band originating near London. As Dickinson reminds us, businesses aren’t selling products, they are selling relationships – people need to trust the company and trust the product, because when something breaks, it’s personal. People feel that their trust has been violated. Should that happen, admitting mistakes and listening to complaints are also ways to show integrity. However, if you disrespect your fans or show a lack of integrity, you can lose them. And once a fan is no longer loyal, they are only a customer and are ripe for moving along to become customers for other companies.

Transitional periods tend to create doom and gloom because people don’t like to change. They don’t want to deal with the nonstandard. However, when a person or business embraces the change, they have the opportunity to make the overall industry better. Those who found their success from luck or who have become complacent get pushed off the top, and then there’s room for someone with a new way of doing things to come in.

Dickinson concluded with a message everyone in the imaging industry, or any industry in transition, would be wise to keep in mind: it’s important not to bury your head in the sand and just complain things are not like they were. Accept the new reality, embrace change, and look for what’s good about it. If you are successful at seeing those opportunities and – with the help of the right people around you – turning them into products, then you will be able to turn customers into fans.

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A Different Application Twist on Toshiba’s eStudio306LP/RD 30 Erasable Toner MFP Mon, 25 Nov 2013 13:00:17 +0000 Toshiba introduced its eStudio306LP/RD30 MFP erasable toner MFP in 2012, and this model was again featured at Toshiba’s LEAD 2013 Conference at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, FL on November 11 to 13, 2013.

The eStudio306LP/RD30 gained considerable press due to the system that saves paper by recycling the pages that are printed on the eStudio306LP MFP using special removable blue toner. Pages can then be collected and run through the RD30 unit that will evaluate whether the page is suitable to be reused, and if so, will remove the toner and place the sheet in a drawer for reuse. Pages in poor condition will be placed in a separate output drawer for disposal.

According to Joseph Contreras, director of product and solutions marketing for Toshiba’s Electronics Imaging Division, the paper can generally be reused about five times, but reuse will vary due to the content and condition of the paper.

Contreras also noted that the RD30 eraser unit has a built-in scanner that will capture information as the page is erased. Being able to capture data that had been printed, along with information written on the page using Pilot pens specifically designed for use with the eStudio306LP/RD30 MFP, perhaps signed, scanned, and then erased, may have applications in specific markets.

Though many outlets wrote about the eStudio306LP/RD30 MFP system when it was first introduced, the reaction was more curiosity than real interest. The cost savings attained by reusing standard office paper are outweighed by the effort required to manage the reuse operation. Companies that purchase the MFP are stating their commitment to the environment and saving some resources but likely paying a higher price to do so, much like buyers of many hybrid automobiles.

However, having a scanner in the RD30 unit opens some possibilities for certain applications that require the capture of a completed form with signature, but for security purposes, the physical page can then be erased while the information is captured in electronic forms.

There may still be some issues with the system – the blue toner may not be acceptable for certain applications, there is a bit of ghosting of erased images on the page – but depending upon the applications and further development by Toshiba, the eStudio306LP/RD30 MFP unit may have some usefulness beyond a feel good environmental message.

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Transformation: The Sony PlayStation 4 Story Thu, 21 Nov 2013 13:00:19 +0000 When the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) was launched in 2006, it touted a $600 price tag and only 12 games. Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 in the United States for 32 consecutive months, according to Wired magazine. I pay very little attention to the gaming market, but Wired’s recent article about Mark Cerny, the systems architect of the PlayStation 4 (PS4), caught my attention.

There are overarching themes across industries that help determine which companies will remain viable in transformation and which ones will shrink into the background. There are lessons the imaging industry can learn from the gaming market and vice versa. Specifically, when reading the article I asked myself, “After the crash and burn performance of the PS3, how did Sony plan to redeem its place in the market?”

According to the article, the business structure of Sony during the design of the PS3 lacked collaboration as the hardware and software teams worked virtually independent of one another. The result was a disastrous demo at the E3 game and entertainment conference in Los Angeles (the who’s who conference for the industry) and a loss in gamer confidence.

Enter Mark Cerny.

Cerny was invited to lead the hardware development of the next generation of PlayStation; a bold move as his 30 years of expertise were in software as the developer of Marble Madness, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon among others.

“Cerny’s new role is just one indication that this is a new Sony, a Sony intent on opening up its development process and building its game gear in a way that better anticipates what the gaming world wants. It’s a change driven by necessity,” says Wired.

For the PS4, Cerny and his team gathered data and opinions from numerous sources inside and outside of Sony, previously unheard of at the electronics giant. Operating under “the Cerny Method,” the PS4 team designed simple versions of new games and tested them with real gamers shortening the product development cycle by about a year. Additionally, the new PS4 was equipped with cutting-edge processing capabilities to compete with PCs.

Cerny helped bring collaboration back to Sony. His disruptive influence in the development team brought the momentum and the know-how Sony needed to remain competitive in the market. What can we learn from the last seven years at Sony?

There’s an old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” I would revise it to say, “…try something else again.” Sony realized the market was shifting and its current strategy just wasn’t cutting it. The PlayStation team didn’t tweek a few systems or try to streamline its processes. Sony radically changed its mentality by bringing in the one person it knew had the expertise and drive to make change happen.

Sony exists in a complex and highly competitive ecosystem; a $58 billion global traditional video game market (excluding mobile games on smart phones and tablets), according to Reuters. The PS3 has sold 77 million compared to 77.2 million Xbox 360 units and 99.8 million Wii units. In this market, moves like bringing in an American software developer to lead the hardware design of a Japanese gaming system are just risky.

The new PS4 launched on November 15, just in time for the holiday rush. Ultimately, consumers will make the final decision on Sony’s move as they cast their votes at retail outlets, but one has to at least admire the makers of the PS4 for their gutsy determination to stay viable in the gaming industry.

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From London With Love: Transform Europe 2013 Mon, 18 Nov 2013 13:00:21 +0000 We’ve just wrapped up Transform Europe 2013, and our spies were on the ground to catch all the action. See if we spotted you or check out what you missed. Watch the video now!

Be on the look out, information about Transform Global 2014 is coming your way soon.

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The Only Appropriate Response to the “First 3D Printed Metal Gun” Thu, 14 Nov 2013 13:00:05 +0000

Last week, a reputable additive manufacturing service provider by the name of Solid Concepts made 3D printing history by producing the first 3D printed firearm worthy of being called a firearm.

Replicating the timeless design of John Browning, Solid Concept’s project created an acceptably functional, fully metal 1911 pistol capable of firing the .45 ACP cartridge –and every part, save for a couple of springs, was printed using a 3D printing technology called direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Although I have no data to back it up, I would wager that more than half of everyone in the world that knows what 3D printing is first heard about it because of the story of Cody Wilson printing a plastic “gun.” What Wilson created is no more a firearm than a paper airplane is an aircraft, at least compared to what Solid Concepts created with its recent 1911.

What Solid Concepts has achieved is exciting and remarkable on numerous levels. While the design of the firearm itself has been proven over a hundred years of military service, there is no doubt that it took a special level of expertise to design a barrel with printed rifling and adapt key aspects of firearm design for the additive processes used to make it. There are very few applications that can prove the hardiness (and worthiness) of a fabrication technique than the creation of a working firearm.

In fact, in many ways, firearms like the 1911 are one of the ultimate tests of a manufacturing process. The 1911 has been in service for more than a hundred years due to its bullet proof (pun intended) design and accuracy—both products of tight tolerances and robust metal construction. Being able to reliably cycle a .45 ACP cartridge requires materials that can constantly withstand pressures of around 20,000 psi and won’t deform or break down under intense heat.

By simply creating a functional 3D printed metal gun, Solid Concepts has undeniably proven that metal 3D printing is in fact capable of fabricating things traditional manufacturing methods have previously only been able to do. And the importance of that cannot be understated.

And yet in the light of this breakthrough, there are massive amounts of critics the world over that criticized Solid Concepts for choosing to make a real firearm instead of a different application, as if some manufacturing applications are more bonafide than others.

Listen up folks, cause this is an important point if you believe in a future where 3D printing benefits the world:

If you support the expansion of 3D printing as a mainstream technology, you can’t pick and choose which applications (assuming they are, indeed, legal) are “good” or “legitimate” and which are not. They’re all good. They’re all legitimate. It’s black and white—you either support expanding the known capabilities of 3D printing or you don’t. Condemning progress just because of how it may be perceived by outside groups is not productive.

Solid Concepts set out to prove what metal 3D printing technologies are capable of. What it created was a relevant and proven tool capable of performing under extreme pressure and heat, over and over again, with immediately measurable results. And it also happened to be one that millions of people in America and all over the world own and enjoy.

So for everybody wringing their hands about how 3D printing might be demonized by the media or regulated by the government because of a firearm, think about this: if we can’t get behind an ethical, legal, intelligent and truly remarkable example of 3D fabrication and engineering, then we have other issues to worry about besides how the general public views 3D printing.

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Lessons from Apple for the Imaging Industry Mon, 11 Nov 2013 13:00:21 +0000 I have to make a confession. I’m a total technology and gadget nerd. In fact, when I come home with a new gadget, I now just get a knowing smirk from my wife – she is no longer surprised and rarely impressed. This weekend, I finally took the plunge and bought an Apple TV. I hadn’t bought one in the past because I was able to do most of the functions an Apple TV provides by wiring my phone or laptop to my computer.

However, my view on this changed when I decided to cancel my cable service and replace it with other services. The Apple TV made it easy to play services like Netflix or Hulu, and it also made it very easy to wirelessly connect my iPhone or laptop to my TV to watch movies. My wife asked how she could do the same thing with her older laptop, and I showed her how she could get the same benefit without the resident IT department (me) around. For the first time in a long while, she was definitely impressed with this gadget.

This got me thinking. What does Apple do that makes its products stand out? What could our industry learn from the firm? I came up with three lessons from Apple that we can take away.

Lesson 1 – Platform > Product

One of the things that Apple has done really well for the last couple of years is to create ecosystems around its offerings. If you look at an iPod or an iPhone, they are interesting but not really spectacular as a stand-alone product. In fact, often Apple is behind in terms of features such as 3G, LTE, and currently, NFC technology. An iPod is nothing more than a case with a hard drive, a simple UI, and an audio port. All of these components existed prior to the iPod. However, when you consider that the iPod along with iTunes was the first time users could easily download legal copies of music at a reasonable price, this becomes a revolutionary change in the personal music industry.

This is a model for how OEMs should view their product design. Currently, the focus is typically on better, faster, cheaper. In reality, however, printers are fast enough, and the quality is good enough. Unless you are significantly reducing the cost to print, these features aren’t going to mean much to consumers and businesses. OEMs are beginning to view MFPs as onramps and part of the overall document workflow. This is the right idea. If these companies follow Apple’s example, we will soon be able to interact with our digital documents on the MFP, or our laptops, or our smartphones in a universal holistic experience. The MFP could become more than the sum of its functions, it would simply become a piece of hardware in the overall workflow.

Lesson 2 – Not Invented Here

Too often I hear of companies that are constrained by being wary of using technology or ideas that didn’t originate organically inside their organization. I recognize that there is definitely a benefit in IP and patents, however, the cost of focusing on always building technology can be very high while causing significant delays to market.

What Apple does really well is look at the technology available in the market along with its own creations and combining these into an overall package. Good technology and ideas come from inside as well as outside organizations. What could be built today with this focus?

Lesson 3 – Simplicity

One of the areas where Apple is praised strongly is in the simplicity of its user interface. I’ve seen one year olds and 80 year olds using iPads. I’ve never seen this with laptops or any other technology. However, when our remote team members visit the home office, it’s not very long until someone asks me how to use the MFP! I’m not talking about just anyone either. I’m talking about individuals who have been in the industry for decades—many of them with product development and other senior-level roles within the OEM companies. One of the goals I’ve always heard Steve Jobs strive for was to make technology work like people, not the other way around.

This has grand implications for our industry. There seems to be a disconnect between many of the engineering groups and the marketing groups. They seem to have different focus points and are rarely aligned. Marketing is focusing on how a new device can make your life better while engineering is focusing on how to make the product better, faster, and cheaper. In order for a revolutionary product to come to market, it will take alignment between these groups.

Additionally, when our industry moves to a more workflow-based focus, simplicity will be paramount. Companies should focus on designing new products and services around the need of the user, not the requirements of the technology.

In summary, Apple has its share of successes as well as shortcomings. However, there are lessons for our benefit.

  1. Platform > Product: Focus on how users could use the technology. What are the implications beyond the device itself?
  2. Not Invented Here: What technologies could be combined, or what partnerships could be formed to bring about the next breakthrough technology in the office?
  3. Simplicity: Focus on the user’s needs, not the technology.
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Upstream: Ahead of the Curve, Down Under Thu, 07 Nov 2013 13:00:30 +0000 Upstream Print Solutions describes itself as the “pioneers in the print less world.” It seems counterintuitive that the firm would encourage its customers to “print less,” but that is exactly what Upstream does quite effectively. I recently sat down with Damien Pigott, training and development manager, and Rory O’Dowd, senior enterprise manager, to hear how this forward-thinking print management group from down under is getting ahead of the imaging industry curve.

Neil Tilley, formerly of Lexmark, and Gorden Hoen founded Upstream Technology in 1995 with a focus on Lexmark printers and Optra Forms. The firm merged its printer business with the solutions expertise of Print Solutions Australia a decade later to become Upstream Print Solutions. Three years later, Fuji Xerox (FX) acquired the company. As part of the acquisition, Upstream continued with its already successful business model, offering solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses, while FX reaches the enterprise space.

While speaking with Pigott and O’Dowd, a few guiding principles for Upstream became evident. They didn’t point to written rules or a company code of conduct, but the clarity in which they both spoke about the vision of Upstream made it clear that some form of these principles were passed on to every employee in the organization.

The most predominate aspect of Upstream is its clear direction. Pigott and O’Dowd point to the business acumen and clear vision of Tilley that provides the solidity upon which Upstream is built. This guiding principle is woven into every part of the business – from who gets hired (and fired) to how solutions are developed. In a constantly changing industry, the purpose and focus of a leader is crucial to business success.

The second guiding principle I discerned is going deeper into their expertise rather than widening their offerings. From sales training to marketing pieces, Upstream is unapologetic about its focus on print solutions – both traditional managed print services (MPS) engagements and its Print Less Solution platform to improve business processes. This approach flies in the face of the current MPS conversation that encourages providers to expand into various managed service spaces to increase revenue. Upstream understands the risk in getting away from the core competencies of an organization and has opted to remain true to its heritage.

Finally, Upstream invests in its employees. More than half of Upstream’s employees have been with the organization for more than five years, and of those, thirty percent have worked with Upstream for 10 or more years,  unheard of statistics in today’s economy. Part of the retention rate is the benefit of the clear direction and vision of the organization, but there is also very intentional sales training that provides real-world simulation with the opportunity for feedback. Additionally, each salesperson is encouraged to gain a specialty in a market or software solution and target the top 25 companies within that segment.

The reason Pigott and O’Dowd were able to sit down and chat with me at the Photizo headquarters was because each year nearly a dozen members of the Upstream team take a learning tour to meet with and learn from key businesses across America. Both men were incredibly grateful for the investment Upstream made in them.

As other MPS providers and printer dealers struggle to shift their organization to meet the new demands of the industry, Upstream clearly has set its course to penetrate its core market with solutions and services with excellence.

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Sharp and Panasonic Develop New "Growth" Strategies Mon, 04 Nov 2013 15:58:45 +0000 Recently, Sharp and Panasonic ventured into a new business segment: agriculture. This outlandish move will surprise most people but not those paying attention to how companies are transforming themselves. The manufacturers are not exploring new technologies. Rather, they are leveraging existing technologies in novel ways, looking to create alternative business models at a time when their traditional consumer electronic businesses are shrinking.

Sharp, for instance, is using LED flat panels to grow 3,000 strawberries a month in a climate controlled facility in Dubai. Panasonic is working with similar technology to make use of an empty space in its Fukushima factory to cultivate low-potassium lettuce–as many as 2,000 heads a day–for people with kidney disease.

You might interpret these actions as signs of desperation. I take a more optimistic view. While it is true that these companies are having to make some radical adjustments to survive, the effects of these changes will have a profound impact on the quality of life of people everywhere.

Pasona tomatoesTo provide an example of what these changes might look like, lets take a look at an office building in Japan that also contains an urban farm, employing technology that is similar technologies to what Panasonic and Sharp are developing. The architecture firm Kono Designs created the nine-story office building in 2010 for Pasona, a company based in Tokyo that provides a variety of staffing services. The employees here are encouraged to grow and harvest their own food at work. The resulting environment is breathtaking. There are tomato vines suspended over the conference room, and broccoli fields at the reception area. Lemon and passion fruit trees provide divisions between workspaces. There is a large rooftop garden, and the whole facade is exploding with vegetation. According to the firm’s principal, Yoshimi Kono, “Workers in nearby buildings can be seen pointing out and talking about new flowers and plants, and even the seasons.”

These cases may seem only tangentially related, but I interpret them as two points of view in an ongoing dialogue about sustainability. Panasonic and Sharp have realized that a sustainable business model cannot be built on selling consumer products alone. Pasona wanted to cultivate a more holistic way their employees and the community thought about their daily lives and career choices. These examples illustrate that with a little imagination and courage to try something new, growth strategies to improve business and quality of life may be taking root.

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Getting "On-The-Line" with Mobile Printing Thu, 31 Oct 2013 12:00:42 +0000 At some point during a flight “across the pond,” your brain needs to shut down for a little while. One of the best ways, for me at least, is to watch one of the movies that I probably wouldn’t bother with at home. On the trek to Transform Europe in London, that turned out to be “The Internship,” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

The story basically was how two fast-talking salesmen lost their jobs and wound up in the intern program at Google competing with some of the brightest young minds for jobs. It’s the old story of the bright agile minds versus the older, more street-wise veterans that continues to play out. The humor is mostly in how both groups have their own frames of reference and almost view each other as being from different planets. Still you don’t have to be a twenty-something to want to scream out “ONLINE!” every time Vince Vaughn says “… on-the-line,” perhaps to let many of us older folks show that not all of us are lost by technology – we get it!

Spoiler alert: the team with Vaughn and Wilson wins the overall competition by blending the new with the old – what a surprise!

So what’s the relevance? Mobile printing. The Mopria Alliance is a classic example of how technological communications is changing and the old communications platforms need to adjust to new times, but the new platforms need to include the old style. Mobile communications via smart phones and tablets can be exceptionally efficient in accessing and sharing information, but there are times that print is either needed or desired.

Perhaps some of the target market is not “on-the-line” and requires hard copy. Yes, it can happen. Some attendees at a recent meeting of volunteers for a benefit concert revealed that they had no e-mail address, much to the surprise of many other baby boomer folks.

Maybe the amount of content and complexity makes it difficult to read on small screens, or perhaps there are legal issues that require hard copy.

Whatever the reason, the advances in mobile communications do not necessarily have all of the answers in the new technology, but printing must adapt to the new reality and work with the new communications paradigm to still remain relevant.

At one point in the movie, the former boss, played by John Goodman, calls and tells them he needs them to come back in their old sales roles. That didn’t work any better than going back to a paper-based system now that the digital workflow is up “on-the-line.”

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Imaging Channel at a Crossroads Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:00:18 +0000 The imaging channel is at a crossroads: keep doing what you’ve been doing with hardware, transition to a services model, or evolve into providing advanced document services and managing business processes. Join Ed Crowley, CEO of Photizo, fresh from the Transform 2014 Europe conference, as he talks about the direction of the channel based on market maturity and ecosystem development and provides some examples of the best of the best in transforming their business. Now is the time to commit, engage, and move forward before it’s too late.

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MPS According to Coach John Wooden Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:00:45 +0000 Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was one college basketball team that stood head and shoulders above all others. Its legendary coach John Wooden amassed multiple records, including an amazing 88-game win streak, four straight undefeated seasons, and 10 national championships—seven in a row. Yes, you might say that UCLA had the best players— Lew Alcindor, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, Bill Walton, Sidney Wicks, and others—however, the one constant during the team’s 27 years was its coach, the “Wizard of Westwood.”

Wooden was a thinking-man’s coach, and he believed as much in success off the court as on it. Much of his wisdom, now documented, was powerful life messages that any MPS provider would be wise to post around the proverbial water cooler and on walls beside their MPS customer awards.

So, I thought it would be helpful to take a few “Woodenisms” and apply them to MPS. For instance, Coach Wooden was keen to state, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Sometimes, you just need to push the envelope and try new things in MPS. For example, MPS providers talk about helping their customers mitigate risk and yet they themselves rarely try new methods and technologies. It’s highly doubtful that Wooden would have won 10 NCAA titles in 12 years with that attitude.

As I’ve written in other blogs related to transformation, this next Wooden quote sums up the notion in 10 words, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Risk-taking implies possible failure, and those that want security at all costs might be doing a disservice to those employees that depend on management making “risky” decisions. Risk is generally thought of in negative terms. However, understanding the situation and becoming educated ahead of time helps make decisions less risky with more confidence of success.

Another Woodenism is, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Early on, MPS providers were ambitious and tried unusual implementations. Some contracts did not turn out well at all. Some valuable employees left. Today, basic MPS is becoming a commodity so to provide value add, futuristic MPS providers must move toward advanced document services. Taking these engagements requires training and experience. A poorly executed deployment involving workflow and business processes is time consuming and a bear to correct. Do it right the first time.

One of the qualities I have most admired about Coach Wooden was his understanding of the power of right thinking. He was more interested in the process than in the result. Wooden believed that right thinking was the best way to overcome any obstacle on and off the court. The most important thing was the process, not the result. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” And here’s one that bears repeating, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

My dad coached grade school and high school basketball for 41 years, although he never attained the college ranks. Instead, he was an avid reader of Coach Henry Iba and Coach John Wooden—Iba with his ball-control offense and Wooden with his fastbreak offense. Both coaches had success in their careers by winning national championships. Dad was able to merge these two offenses, and fans enjoyed many years of winning seasons. But above all, with Coach Wooden as his mentor, he taught us, “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” And the same thing can be said of MPS.

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Transform Europe 2013: Not for the Faint of Heart Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:00:57 +0000 Upon arriving in London, England on a brisk Sunday morning, the Photizo team gathered for a low-key dinner at a local restaurant to discuss our roles in this year’s Transform Europe conference. These events are often flush with as many veteran faces as first-time faces—all eager to learn and debate what today’s trends mean for tomorrow’s business.

Beginning on Monday, West McDonald led an informative workshop for a small set of conference attendees. He took us through an interesting set of twists and turns as we explored how technology trends are continuing to impact our paradigm. But most intriguing was the discussions around “per seat” billing models for MPS (as opposed to the standard “per page” billing models currently en vogue). While the financing aspect was interesting, perhaps the most revolutionary point was that a “per seat” billing model finally allows our industry to embrace true volume reduction. This billing model was the first I’ve seen that promises real alignment between the industry and customer and doesn’t reek of some altruistic public relations diatribe to sweet talk prospects into thinking we have their best interests at heart.

Transform Europe began in earnest on Tuesday and kicked off with a stellar talk by motivational speaker Jim Lawless. Of his “Ten Rules for Taming Tigers,” the most profound message I heard was that outsiders have a distinct advantage over insiders because insiders are often blinded by the paradigm of the status quo. Almost in fulfillment of the keynote message, I had the occasion to lunch with a gentleman at the conference, who at the age of 50, had set about changing his own life. He was exercising regularly, learned to play the guitar, reduced his debt substantially, and was working normal hours. These changes allowed him to more fully enjoy his life and life with his loved ones. Who said the conference only has to be about MPS?

During the afternoon, we dove back into meaty topics surrounding market trends and predictions. From the supplies and hardware market (Larry Jamieson, practice director for hardware and supplies) to servitization (Ed Crowley, CEO) the Photizo team was on-hand to deliver on a data-rich and insight-loaded track. The afternoon finished in the Solutions Showcase, with refreshments and networking for all.

Picking back up on Wednesday, Crowley delivered a healthy dose of medicine in his keynote address about moving beyond services. This session was followed by a candid “Ask the Experts Panel,” with leading executives from HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox. After lunch, break-out sessions challenged us once again with informative presentations featuring seasoned executives. Of note was that of John Taylor, CEO, M2, whose colorful presentation left little to the imagination about how committed you must be to succeed.

Of course the real test of any conference is asking if you would attend next year, knowing what you know this year, and my own response will certainly be biased, so allow me to ask you.

  • Does it appeal to you to rub elbows with some of the leaders in your industry?
  • Does a hefty dose of industry insights from research and real-world examples excite you?
  • Does it appeal to you to have your way of thinking challenged by thought leaders who don’t blindly accept every thing they read on the Internet or hear from their marketing departments?

If you want to play it safe, then we’ll put you on the mailing list for next year and you can read all about it. But if any of those questions made you nervous, then I’d argue that you should attend—you should challenge yourself and stretch your boundaries. Even better, if you have something important to say, then this is the event you need to attend. Come and challenge us—challenge our industry to sit up and take notice. The name of the event is Transform for a reason, after all.

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Value-Based Services…and Trash Mon, 21 Oct 2013 12:00:59 +0000 Talk about obscure comparisons: can I connect trash collection to the world of services? Sure. First of all, trash collection is definitely a service. Don’t even think about life without it. But more importantly, there are lessons to be learned regarding variable packaging and delivery of standardized offerings.

For a bit of background, I’ll go back (again) to my time in Europe. Our city provided a trash container as thin as a rail, or so it seemed, and that container was emptied only every two (!) weeks. Yes, you could order a larger container, but that would triple your fees, which were pretty substantial to begin with. Talk about learning to focus on the essentials—we became extremely disciplined about sorting, composting, and recycling.

Side note: one of the most interesting consequences of German “trash policy” is that most stores have unpacking stations. After you check out, you unpack your wares and leave all the unnecessary packaging right in the store. It’s impressive how much you can save, but I don’t advise trying that at your local grocery store!

Now we have moved back to the states. The trash is collected weekly, and the containers are huge. We could not fill that container in a month, so I asked our collection company for a smaller container, which would save us a bit in fees.

Now to the topic of value-based services. The trucks make the rounds anyhow, it’s the same people pushing the same buttons, so how can they charge me less than my neighbor, and why should they? It’s costing them exactly the same amount to empty a smaller or a bigger bin.

Well, remember the concept of “value-based pricing.” A good service provider is not looking (only) at his or her internal costs but is also keeping an eye on the value for the customer and creating a benefit through differentiated pricing. My bin is maybe half as large as the full-sized version, but I don’t pay half the fee, maybe just a 10 percent discount. I don’t mind that, the trash collector has to maintain his margin. But I feel like my provider understands me. He has created a trade-off that is meaningful for me, and I appreciate that.

Services (managed print and others) are similar. Even an entry-level package can be differentiated with various output volumes, service add-ons, and specialized software features and components. More complex packages are built on the premise of flexible deliverables and modular pricing. The vendor is providing multiple “strands” of value: you are offering an optimized service package that is meaningful to the customer, and you are building a bridge to future business by demonstrating an understanding of the customer’s concerns and requirements. If value-based services works for trash, it most certainly works for other industries, like managed print.

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Servitization Does Not Mean Giving Up Manufacturing Thu, 17 Oct 2013 12:00:45 +0000 Ed Crowley, CEO of Photizo, talks about how services are a way to add value to the technology platforms that companies are building — servitization is not an “either/or” situation.

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3D Printing: Your Traditional Market is Not Safe From Competition Mon, 14 Oct 2013 12:00:35 +0000

I hear the same things from current manufacturers of 3D printers over and over. Everybody thinks they’re the best, that nobody can “truly” compete with them. Everybody thinks they know everything about their competition, customers, and markets. They’ve all got something that gives them an edge over the competition. And today, none of it matters.

Ok, I get it. You’ve made it this far. You’ve developed a decent product and moved a few units, hit sales targets, and are expecting rapid growth over the next five years. Or maybe you’ve been at it for a while—built an entire product portfolio of multiple 3D printing technologies and spent years developing materials and a vertical market strategy. Regardless of your position in the 3D printing market, I’m here to tell you one very important thing that you may not want to (or have chosen not to) hear:

In this age of 3D evangelizing and media coverage, your position in the 3D printing market is not safe. What you have built so far does not guarantee future success. There are potential players out there with budgets bigger than your annual sales revenue, watching and waiting for the right time to buy into the 3D printing market to do what you do, better than you are currently doing it.

Through serving clients in the imaging industry, I’ve seen what multi-national, billion-dollar technology companies are capable of doing. Factor in the “spotlight effect” on 3D printing that has occurred since the technology started becoming affordable (and more effective) on a wider scale, and now you’ve got the eyes of a lot of people who have vastly more experience and infrastructure with technology products and more money to spend on developing them, all focused on the “next big thing,” 3D printing.

Name the billion-dollar industries where the pioneers are still the most relevant player in the market today. There aren’t as many as you’d think. What Apple did to the smartphone market could easily be done to the 3D printing market as the potential revenue opportunities continue to grow.

It’s not totally about the outsiders, either. Many current players in the 3D printing market seem very confident that existing competition isn’t going to encroach on their territory just because they’re based in a different part of the world. 3D printing is a global technology now. The time to fortify your position and offerings is before the competition starts to pinch your market share.

Players in the 3D printing market have enjoyed a few decades of steady growth, flying under the world’s tech-hungry radar, protected by patents, and, to some degree, the price tag of their products. But things are different now. In a world still reeling from the global recession, everybody needs a competitive advantage, and 3D printing is near the top of the list for new technologies that can help businesses reinvent themselves. To make it to the next evolution of the market, current participants in the 3D printing market are going to have to take active steps to stay ahead of the ever-growing pack.

To learn more, visit the Photizo 3D printing information service.

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Thank You for Helping Us Make the Inc 5000 List, Again! Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:00:38 +0000 Ed Crowley, CEO of Photizo, offers his thanks to Photizo clients, the Photizo team, and the imaging industry community for helping the firm make the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies two years in a row.

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Photizo Transform Conferences: A Calendar Highlight Tue, 08 Oct 2013 12:00:13 +0000 468x60-transform

Since 2009, Photizo Group has touched down in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Orlando, Paris, San Antonio, Sydney, São Paulo, Scottsdale, and Tokyo to champion managed print services and the future of the imaging industry around the globe at the Photizo Transform Conferences. Photizo’s goal is to provide a prime venue for networking, education on emerging trends, and honest discussion on best practices and success among industry leaders.

I have been to ten Photizo events in the past four years and can honestly say that attending is a highlight of my career at Photizo. As soon as our team steps off the flight, we are filled with energy and excitement, which is good because for the next week, we will be going non-stop, from early morning check-ins to midnight networking over cocktails. (And does this industry ever love cocktails!)

It’s not just the Photizo team full of energy, but as soon as you enter the exhibit floor with all the sponsors and exhibitors putting together their booths, the room is buzzing. I’ll admit, some of that buzzing is curse words over a display that arrived with no instructions and a million pieces, but most of the buzzing is good. We have really been honored to have so many amazing exhibitors and sponsors at each event. Many of the faces in each booth are there year after year and have become friends, but there is always an aisle of new faces which I so enjoy meeting.

Sometimes the energy among attendees gets out of hand – like when there is so much discussion going on in the hallways we can’t get the attendees into the sessions. Then when the sessions end, there are so many questions for the speaker, we can’t get the next session started on time. And it’s easy to lose sight of this and get frustrated that we’re behind schedule until someone stops you and says, “I love this event. I get more done in three days than I do all year.”

I will tell you truly, each person at Photizo cares about your experience at our events. All year, we plan a show that will provide truly remarkable education and bring together a great group of attendees. We stay late to make sure the details are right, and we arrive early to make sure each speaker, sponsor, exhibitor, and attendee feels welcome.

These events wouldn’t be possible without you, so thank you for making these possible!

And I have great news; the next event is only one week away! I hope you will be there – it will be another fantastic show!

Transform 2013 Europe, 14-16 of October, London UK []


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