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SA software takes on Japan’s SMEs

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South African Columbus Technologies has been chosen by Konica Minolta to deploy its remote systems management software within the SME (small & medium enterprise) market in Japan. 

Konica Minolta has created a new subsidiary, Konica Minolta Bizcom, to pursue the opportunity, partnering in a joint venture with Computer Engineering & Consulting.
Columbus Technologies, which co-develops software for Swiss-based Brainware, has been responsible for the creation of applications that permit remote management of any network-attached device. This has allowed Konica Minolta to manage large numbers of office devices in the field without dispatching costly field service engineers.
"Since 2003, Konica Minolta has embarked on a focused strategy that saw it combine two of the world's largest imaging companies into one," says Ricus Ellis, executive director of Columbus. "As part of its growth, it is moving into the SME market, but this is costly using traditional field service skills and technicians, and impractical given the scattered nature of this market.
"To address this challenge, they turned to Columbus Technologies' remote management software, which gives them many benefits. They can sell office technology and IT equipment and resolve most issues far off-site, and only send a technician out when absolutely necessary. They've been able to expand into the server and PC markets, where they can both sell and service large numbers of units in the field.
"Without Columbus's tools, this would not have been possible."
Konica Minolta employs more than 32 000 people worldwide and had revenues exceeding $1-billion in its most recent financial year.
"We established a Japanese office knowing the market was under-represented with technologies such as ours," says Reynald Schallberger, CEO of Brainware. "At the same time, we were working with our South African partner, Columbus Technologies, to act as co-developers of the product code in our offerings. It is this software that Konica Minolta is using to penetrate new markets."
Konica Minolta can manage hundreds of clients across Japan with a wide range of services on multiple devices, delivered remotely:
* Copiers, printers, MFPs, PCs and servers, from sale to maintenance to disposal, including online asset management; and
* Remote management, including system imaging, data backup, patch deployment, security and remote repairs.
"Konica Minolta stands to do very well out of this business model," says Ellis. "Each device under management carries an annual systems management fee of $40.00. The barriers to entry are high, with a great deal of up-front investment. It's an issue of volume: once the company passes the 1 000 device mark, it enters into profitability, and it has set a target of 2 500 customers in Japan over the next two years."
Columbus, in turn, benefits as Konica Minolta grows, as it earns a percentage of the overall, repeat annuity revenue.
"Our success with Konica Minolta, along with the deep penetration we are enjoying in South Africa, underscores the talent available in the local ICT sector," says Ellis.