The obvious trend in office automation is for colour equipment. This is a significant development in the industry, with customers across the board realising the advantages of colour reproduction. Colour equipment used to be a luxury or nice-to-have – but this only forms part of a far larger picture.
“What we are really selling to our customers today is a complete solution – not just an array of equipment that handles obvious needs,” says Michael Powell, product marketing manager at Kyocera Mita South Africa. “This is driven by two factors: tight integration with the IT network and the need to manage equipment assets as carefully as the rest of the IT infrastructure.”
Office equipment has, traditionally, been the “poor sister” when compared to core assets such as desktops and servers. But getting real results today involves much more than just dropping some top-end machines around the workspace and hooking them up to the nearest PC.
“What customers are looking for is an economic and effective way to address their business needs,” says Powell. “Many vendors offer machines that can do the job but the real value is in integrating the reproduction equipment with the core IT network to make it more productive, to save on costs and to gain all the advantages that the technology offers.
“Buying the machine is easy. You can do it online. The challenge is finding a vendor that offers the right consulting and support so that the machine isn’t just a technical upgrade for a legacy system or just an add-on peripheral that doesn’t generate value for the business. It’s all about how the equipment can support optimising business processes.”
Parallel to this, there is the downside that, if a business doesn’t manage its equipment assets well, it just becomes a cost burden – not a cost saving or value-adding exercise.
“An office automation consultant who is aware of this trend will be a step ahead of the competition,” says Powell. “The consultant must thoroughly do the homework to understand the customer’s business and its needs. Then it is a matter of making sure the technology and procedures are in place to achieve the customer’ goals – typically saving costs and improving productivity.”
As in the rest of the IT industry, the focus is on the customer’s needs, not selling technology for the sake of technology – and then letting the system dictate how the business is being run.
“Obviously, having the right equipment, supports the goal of giving the customer what they are looking for,” says Powell.
Ideally, the solution delivered should exceed the customer’s expectations and deliver additional value. If it is properly planned and deployed, it will have the flexibility to grow with the business, adapt to changing needs and probably deliver more value in the future, in ways that the original project roadmap did not even consider.
“This is where the industry is heading – the point where the leaders are already. It’s not about ‘box dropping’ new technology – it’s about getting real business value out of that technology with a complete solution,” Powell adds.