Is The Imaging Industry Under a “Positive Illusion”?
Investors tend to be overly optimistic and too confident when it comes to forecasting returns. Newlywed spouses routinely hope and believe that their relationships will thrive, but research shows these hopes are often overly optimistic. People are basically overly optimistic (okay – it’s a generalization and I certainly can name a few people whom I wouldn’t call optimistic!). We tend to overestimate the chances of something good happening to ourselves and underestimate the chances of negative events. So what does this have to do with our industry? Perhaps a more than we think.
A recent headline caught my attention: “More growth predictions for MFPs”. The article referred to a forecast by Market Analyst HTF Market Intelligence, which predicts growth of 3.35 percent for the MFP market through 2021. Given the impact of MPS in reducing fleet sizes (an average reduction of 60% in terms of units during the first contract based upon Photizo Group research), the saturation of markets in business worldwide, and the slow-down in BRIC economics or at least the BRC portion it is really hard to imagine someone predicting growth.
So what gives? Two things. First, many OEMs are desperate for good news showing the market will grow to support optimist market projections to support a favorite project, or to gain more funding for marketing spend. Secondly, there are the natural human biases that things are going to be more positive in the future than they really are. Bad stuff happens to other people (and companies) – right?
Photizo Group believes that, for a number of reasons the market is entering a critical phase. One which is going to drive further consolidation of the market and declining unit and page volumes. We are being a contrarian in this – our competitors IDC and InfoTrends are forecasting growth. However, we don’t really worry about being contrarian. In 2006 we began saying MPS would be a game changer. At the time, and for several years there after, major firms such as IDC and Gartner said the market was over-hyped, that it was a passing fad, that it wasn’t that big of a deal. We were contrarian then, and we were right.
Understanding the potential for market contraction is particularly important because it requires very different strategies than growth markets. It requires a focus on business model and cost restructuring (not just reduction – but radical restructuring). Down markets require investment in process and logistics optimization which will drive fundamental shifts down in operating costs.
Most of us at Photizo Group have spent our career in this industry so we would love to call for growing unit volumes, increasing pages, and increasing profits for the industry. But we can’t – this would be a disservice to our clients and even our own integrity. As a trusted advisor to our clients, we have to give the unvarnished truth – whether it is easy to accept or not. And our view of the truth for the future is that we expect unit and page volumes to decline. And this is going to drive a fundamental shift in the industry. Are you ready for the shift?
 Handbook of Contemporary Behavioral Economics, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, © 2006, p. 713
 Justin A. Lavner, Benjamin R. Karney, and Thomas N. Bradbury, “Newlyweds’ Optimistic Forecast of their Marriage: For Better or Worse?”, Journal of Family Pscyology 2013, August (27)4: 531-540
by Mario Diaz, VP Consulting Services, Photizo Group
January 30, 2017
The last few years have set a record pace for mergers and acquisitions. According to The Wall Street Journal, the value of mergers and acquisitions globally was over $4.3 trillion in 2015. Consolidation in the IT channel accelerated, as large solution and service providers acquired competitors and firms with strategic assets. The CRN Solution Provider 50, the fifty largest solution providers in North America, collectively executed more than 50 acquisitions in 2015.
Private equity (PE) is rapidly driving consolidation in the channel as PE-owned partners rapidly acquire smaller, regional players, and extend their reach in key geographies and industry verticals. Vendors will find that some of their largest partners are getting larger and gaining more channel power, which will have a significant impact on global and regional sales programs.
Business models in the channel are blurring. Leading solution providers are taking steps to capitalize on the growing demand for cloud services, software and application development, mobile solutions, and security. Innovative channel partners are investing to reduce dependency on declining technology resale margins and to develop higher-margin professional and managed services beyond print to support the SMB and Enterprise markets.
Along with solution providers, distributors, and service providers some vendors are making strategic acquisitions as well. The Apex acquisition of Lexmark adds software, services and an Enterprise focused channel presence to their business. Konica Minolta is aggressively acquiring managed services providers in Europe and North America. These companies provide a portfolio of IT services and related services such as application management, desktop, mobility, communications, hosting, and cloud. Ricoh acquired several leading providers of managed IT, cloud, data center, and professional services to small and mid-sized organizations. These acquisitions are examples of the strategic investment by vendors to expand and deepen their services portfolio to target the global SMB and Enterprise markets.
As the pace of mergers and acquisitions changes the face of imaging technology and solutions delivery to the customer, channel partners will need to take the right steps to be competitive. To help move in the right direction, it is critical to know the real level of performance when measured against the ‘best of breed’ competitors in the industry.
Manufactures will need to know the composition of their channel partners by measuring them using objective, independent measurements (such as the Photizo Leader’s Index) rather than just sales revenue. Sales may be great today if that is the only measurement of success, but what if the partners are the ones who get displaced? Can manufacturers afford to depend on the partner’s subjective perception of how competitive they are?
Finally, Imaging Industry OEMs need to support channel partners by providing the proper tools, training, and high-value sales, marketing and customer success content in real-time. Along with hardware, channel partners are selling more complex software and services to maintain customer engagements as they position their companies as a trusted IT partner to grow revenue.
Remember several years ago the movement to install Wi-Fi throughout cities? Apparently, the movement stopped mainly due to competing interests by telecom companies. News from the Big Apple might refire the kindling in that movement.
New York has started to install the fastest public Wi-Fi in the world in some of the unused phone booths located throughout the city. These “Wi-Fi hubs” will provide free gigabit downloads, free domestic VOIP phone calls, Internet browsing, and USB charging. The name of the plan getting implemented has been dubbed LinkNYC and will see a total of 7,500 installations scattered throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan. (By the way, Barcelona is one city that has been trumpeted as a leader in providing free Wi-Fi for its citizens).
The plan was to have about 4,550 hubs installed by July 2019 and 7,500 hubs by 2024. By 2024 LinkNYC is supposed to be the largest and fastest public, government-operated Wi-Fi network in the world.
How’s New York going to pay for this? Glad you asked – over 80 percent of the hotspots would have over 1,500 square inches of advertising displays built in. It has been estimated that this will generate over $500 million in revenue over the next 12 years. Besides the eyeballs that will see the advertising, the data collected will be a treasure trove of information that will be aggregated and anonymized and used to target ads for pedestrians.
Besides this project, New York is considering another new cellphone-signal-boosting technology (that is currently being used in Los Angeles) that would be installed on New York street lamps. Both of these undertakings could create a new economic business model that adds more choices, raises competition, and lowers the costs of Wi-Fi for consumers.
This is a new way of addressing the ‘digital divide’ in the U.S. This experiment is worth observing and supporting because most of the public libraries have lines of consumers waiting to get online because they don’t have access to broadband speed home Internet.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, the World Wide Web was born. Yes, each time you type www.xxx.com you are using the World Wide Web, the Internet! The rise of the Internet was in many ways a golden time for paper. Initially, email was predominantly used as a creation and ‘transport’ mechanism. People would write emails and send them from their desktop (or by the late 90’s, their portable), but most people still printed off emails to read them. In fact, during the 90’s one of the highest volumes of printed material was email.