Best of ECS: From Yesterday’s Tools to Tomorrow’s Solutions, Sharp’s Mike Marusic Suggests Following the Information Trail

Mike Marusic, Sharp

Often times, too much attention is paid to technology itself as opposed to the intention of it. This is why history is littered with examples of tools that overstayed their practicality, not to mention the many victims that fell by the wayside because of their loyalty to past methods of accomplishing business-related tasks.

One of the industry’s most relatable executives, Mike Marusic—president and CEO of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America—held court for a 30-minute presentation at Executive Connection Summit, in January at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in Arizona. His segment was titled “Cabinets to Cloud,” but it was less of a dissertation on the many Cloud-based solutions and more of a history lesson/cautionary tale on embracing change.

“We’ve always said this is a people industry,” Marusic told the crowd. “The common thread is people always want to communicate, always wanted to share. In essence, that’s what we do as an industry. We’re in the information industry; paper pays the bills, but information is what we’re selling.”

Marusic really drove home the information management bottom line in his first 10 minutes. The industry is comprised of hardware, software and services that help businesses in their quest to input information, share information and store it. He spoke of change and evolution, providing reminders of how we, as an industry, sometimes allowed the allegiance to technology tools interfere with evolution.

As a testament to his belief that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” he cited the technology that had the greatest allegiance. Marusic came across information about a 1960 NOMDA meeting in which Hubert Humphrey—a Minnesota senator and soon-to-be vice president—had written the association to underscore his commitment to help the industry transform from typewriters. Humphrey was at least 20 years ahead of his time in discussing tax breaks and economic policy that could facilitate the transformation.

“Sixty years later, we’re still talking about things like this to initiate change,” he added, noting that IBM was essentially the lone survivor.

Repurposed Cabinets

Marusic conceded that Sharp, as a business, was loathe to mothball its office cabinets, only exiling them seven years ago (they probably serve as room dividers, he mused). They’re hardly alone in the plodding DX push to the cloud; mainstream businesses, out of muscle memory, still find reassurance in keeping hard copies of its records.

Not all technologies take hold, though some were on the right track. Not long ago, Marusic found a sales sheet for an early document management solution released by Panasonic (his former employer) which, despite its good intentions, had much less firepower that a garden variety smart phone. He also cited the BlackBerry, which remains patent rich but has fallen behind the pace it once set for mobile communications and security.

Marusic noted that at the core of every challenge the industry is facing is the concept of the cloud. “The core essence of the cloud, first and foremost, is sharing information,” he said. “We’ve got to make all the core products, the products that have brought you all into this room and made your businesses, relevant in a cloud environment.”

As more and more elements are moved to the cloud, it also has to be brought back into the tangible world. Herein lies the opportunity for physical conversion.

“We take the data out of the cloud and put it into something tangible,” Marusic said. “We service and manage things that are tangible. We bill for things that are tangible.”

AI is Here

No discussion of future success would be complete without an overview of AI’s influence. Information sharing has never been greater, according to Marusic. Sharp’s parent company, Foxconn, is developing what it calls the “AI factory,” where information is the output. As autonomous cars continue to proliferate, passengers will want to leverage the riding time by logging into meetings, applications and the like, opening the door for business opportunities for dealers.

At CES earlier this year, Sharp demonstrated a technology that replicates the sense of smell, and other companies are devising techs that can emulate all five senses. The important thing is to consider how these technologies can be managed, controlled and made a part of business.

While Foxconn lacks the R&D firepower of a Google or Microsoft, Marusic believes Sharp can leverage the technology between the giants. Sharp’s Synappx solution has the follow-me ease of data and application portability anywhere within the office. The OEM also teamed with ConnectWise on a tool to manage print security.

While the ways and means may change, the fundamental requirements of inputting, sharing and storing will continue to present opportunities for those seeking to play a custodial role. “When you look at the business itself and what companies need, if you focus on information and data, you will never be disappointed,” Marusic said. “It will continue to grow.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.