Konica Minolta held its annual dealer conference in Carlsbad, Calif., Oct. 3-5, and, reflecting Konica’s vision these days, the event was themed “Futuready.” With a focus on its more high-tech offerings and a streamlined agenda that, in some ways, was quite representative of its business model (shake things up, let’s not do things the way they’ve always been done), the two-day event was a little different, a little edgy and a lot focused on the future.

Over the last year or so Konica Minolta has been focused — literally — on the Workplace of the Future (they’ve trademarked it). So it’s no surprise that its dealer event had a heavy focus on technology and diversified product lines that Konica has made investments in recently, such as telephony, and at some points it almost felt like more of an All Covered event than a strictly Konica Minolta one.

managedIT1

None of this is a bad thing. We’ve been preaching the need for diversification in the imaging channel for a long time. In recent BPO Media research we’ve noticed a couple of interesting trends — for one, many dealers we would have normally considered to be pure BTA/copier dealers are identifying themselves as IT services providers. Another is the type of diversification respondents are looking at — when asked where they want to add product lines, document management, scanning, data security and network management all rank high. So Konica is definitely hitting a sweet spot when it comes to those needs, and the event reflected that, not just in the content but in the products, or lack thereof. There was no traditional hardware at the event — just a production device and the Workplace Hub (which we’ll get to in a moment) — which EVP Sales and Business Development Sam Errigo explained as follows:

“That’s why there’s no product here. We just want this to be eye-opening. [Dealers] have to step back and take a look at the business and where it's going. It’s going to move very quickly,” he said, noting that the requirements for what customers are asking for are changing, and that when we regroup next year “we’ll be talking about … technology and partnership.”

If I were going to boil down the KM 2017 event in two words, in fact, that’s what they would be: “technology” and “partnership.” (Konica actually broke their opening presentation into “people, spaces and technology” but I’m further simplifying things here.) “Partnership” comes first, of course, and Konica Minolta’s dealers are the key partners, as emphasized by President and CEO Rick Taylor repeatedly. Dealers were also present on stage with the KM execs for much of the opening presentation, driving home the importance of those partnerships to Konica Minolta. Taylor, in fact, noted that last month was the best month, revenue-wise, for dealers in KM history. However he also noted that in order to continue to thrive dealers need to move away from their traditional offerings or models and “pick something. Do one thing … maybe look at [your customers] geographically and see what kind of customers you have there … well, this [solution] works there. … You’ve got to take that first step. It’s a transformation, you can’t just flip the switch.”

Rick WOTF

All Covered President Todd Croteau agreed that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the many opportunities available to dealers. “They all have different competencies. … there are dealers that have their own IT that we haven’t talked to before. [But] even if you’re a big dealer with a big IT group … we can help you in some way.” He emphasized that voice (telephony) is a good way to get recurring revenue from existing customers.

SVP of Marketing Kay Du Fernandez concurred. “If you go down to the technology expo, we’re providing a pretty systematic approach for dealers to get into the managed service business. Step 1, managed voice. This is easy – there are product ties, hardware; add on managed hardware. Step 2, IT services. And eventually it’ll be Workplace Hub. We want to move them along this continuum to really help them grasp the business.”

This brings us to the Workplace Hub, which Konica introduced in March and is close to rolling out. You can read our full coverage of that launch here, but important points to note are that the launch of the product was described as a “strategic shift” for the company – one we saw last week.

I will borrow the four bullet points from Patricia Ames’s April blog on the hub, because it’s truly the best way to capture what this device is and the role it plays in Konica’s vision for its future. Essentially, the hub is either a standalone server or one integrated with an MFP, incorporating these four core competencies:

  • workplace hubManaged IT Services including system security and data protection, storage and backup management, and professional services.
  • An admin dashboard providing a single interface for IT including Wi-Fi management, asset management (wrapping in IoT), user management and a data security dashboard.
  • Team spaces for connected team working. It integrates with standard office applications, allows for better file sharing, print support, enhanced communication capabilities and “smart features.”
  • MarketPlace platform, which is an app store.

We noted in our initial coverage that the Workplace Hub was a play for the SMB, and that was hit upon again in Taylor’s discussion of the Muratec acquisition, which took place just about two months ago. Although not a huge focus of the meeting, Taylor took some time to note the positive aspects of adding Muratec to the fold, not the least of which was the idea that Muratec “will be a good resource for the Workplace Hub because they can take it into the SMB.”

Taylor also noted the importance of All Covered and IT services to the Workplace Hub, saying it could not exist without the All Covered group. In case there was any doubt — yes, All Covered was a very good addition to the portfolio. This was emphasized again by Taylor’s observation that July was a tough direct sales month — except for IT services and software.

Croteau added, “Two-thirds of MIT wins have come from new customers. Sales reps are pivoting.” He explained that they often can lead with IT, then come in with MFPs, and that the Workplace of the Future has also led them to new clients. “Downstream is very easy once you’re in,” he said.

Konica offers many “ins.” Partner MWA Intelligence was also in evidence during the event, with a couple of presentations dedicated to “Forza, SAP and KM: Forging the Platform of YOUR Future,” led by KM’s Director, Business Consulting Services RJ Tarantino and featuring Russell Fisher of BOSS Business Systems along with MWA’s Mike Stramaglio, speaking about ways dealerships can harness integrated IT systems to run a business.

MWA

Additionally, the technology fair featured two rooms showcasing vertical markets including offerings for education, government, production and legal. Let’s use the “picture is worth 1,000 words” concept to illustrate that:

If it’s hard to reconcile robotics and artificial intelligence with a “copier company,” well, then I think our work here might be complete. Times are changing and companies must do the same.

There was much more to the event, but we’ll just end with one more item in our wrapup. The final evening ended with musician Don Felder, a founding member of The Eagles, performing a private event, and with special guest star Kevin Kern, SVP, Business Intelligence Services and Product Planning for Konica Minolta on guitar. Now THAT is one impressive partnership.

Amy Weiss
Amy Weiss

is editor-in-chief of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. She has more than 20 years' professional writing and editing experience and has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 15 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, managed print, document management solutions and software, business solutions and more. Contact her at amy@bpomedia.com, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.