Solutions selling has become the central theme for document imaging companies looking to regain growth as print volumes decline. That includes large manufacturers like Canon USA, which spent a great deal of time explaining its solutions strategy to press and analysts at its media event held last week in Boca Raton, Florida.
“Solutions” is one of those words that often creates confusion rather than clarity. It is overused to the point where its meaning has become fuzzy. Sometimes companies say they have a solutions focus in the hope that it implies a real strategy where none exists. For these reasons, it was refreshing to hear Canon clearly define its solutions strategy and provide examples of the work it has done and with whom it is partnering
Canon’s solutions strategy targets workflow and business process optimization (BPO) with an eye toward reducing operating costs for the customer. That often means showing them how to print less. Canon’s message for how to compensate for the loss of print volume: Companies are willing to pay a premium if they see value in what’s offered them.
To illustrate this point, Canon cited its experience with the University of Notre Dame. Canon’s engagement with Notre Dame began three years ago when the university put out an RFP for a partner to revamp its printing strategy across the campus. Valerie Belli, vice president of the Enterprise Managed Services Division at Canon Solutions America, warned Notre Dame that Canon would likely not have the lowest bid. She said she knew Canon was the right fit when the response was, “We’re not looking for the cheapest solution. We’re looking for the correct solution.”
Canon worked with Notre Dame to not just make changes in its copier and printer fleet, but to set up rules and workflows to improve processes and minimize print costs. In 2014, nearly 12 million pages were printed on the Notre Dame campus. That number fell to 7.9 million in 2016. More important, Canon was able to help Notre Dame improve workflows around critical areas such as recruiting, student engagement, and athletics.
This solutions focus has benefited from the company’s recent One Canon philosophy, which was intended to break down barriers among Canon U.S.A.’s divisions to foster greater collaboration. Specifically, Canon Solutions America and Canon Information and Imaging Solutions (CIIS) divisions work more closely to develop full customer workflow, document management, and BPO solutions.
Canon Solutions America sells printing solutions around document management and business services, while CIIS builds automation solutions around document imaging and business processes. For example, CIIS is currently working on contextual management technology that will automatically “understand” the context of data within a document. This will allow for faster, more accurate transfer of information from documents into databases or systems of record.
Working with technology partners is another key part of Canon’s solutions strategy. “Boundaries are breaking down within the industry,” said Dennis Amorosano, vice president for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group Solutions Marketing and CIIS Professional Services. “We are looking beyond Canon for tools and technology.”
For example, Canon announced its partnership with Box and mxHero. Box is a popular cloud-based document sharing and collaboration platform, and mxHero provides secure email integration services with document storage that works closely with Box. Canon has integrated both companies’ services into its output and content management solutions. Through those solutions, users can now easily transfer email attachments to Box or another cloud platform. Canon expects this capability to be especially important for verticals such as legal, finance, and healthcare.
The solutions approach seems to be paying off for Canon. Once an engagement gets to the proof of concept stage, Canon has roughly a 70 percent success rate for landing the business, according the James Sharp, executive vice president of the Canon Solutions U.S.A. Professional Services Group.
Canon is working to help channel partners be part of its solutions strategy. Dealers have the option, for example, of reselling Canon’s solutions and leaving implementation to Canon or doing the implementation themselves if they have the infrastructure in place. Canon also provides training programs for selling its solutions offerings.