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Noel Ward

Real World Digital

By Noel Ward

About Noel

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at noel@brimstonehill.com. His website is brimstonehill.com, and he has a YouTube channel.
 

Konica Minolta Doubles Down on IT

 
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It was fitting that it was in Las Vegas that Konica Minolta announced to its dealers that the next move in the company’s evolution is offering managed IT services. This takes the company a giant leap beyond the more commonplace offering of managed print services and positions Konica Minolta and its dealers to play at a different level than most of its competitors. It also offers about $100 million a year in recurrent revenue, which makes for a pretty appealing win.

But this is not some crazy bet at the high-stakes table. Konica Minolta has acquired All Covered, a leading provider of managed IT services to the small- and medium-size business (SMB) markets. All Covered has been in the IT-support game for 14 years. It has some 250 engineers certified in all the major IT technologies and operations in 22 cities.

Like the acquisition of ACS by Xerox in 2010, this move puts Konica Minolta squarely in the business of managed print and IT services and, with All Covered’s track record, gives it instant credibility. All Covered will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. as a Konica Minolta brand. It will continue to support its existing customers while expanding services to Konica Minolta customers through that company’s dealers.

With All Covered at their backs, dealers will be able to offer customers desktop management, e-mail security, server and network monitoring, and 24/7 client help desk support, in addition to complete managed print services. Augmenting this, Konica Minolta also rolled out a new technology platform for its Enterprise Optimized Print Services (OPS) program through a collaborative development agreement with Pharos Systems International, a leading provider of enterprise print management solutions. Together, these high-value services stand to make savvy dealers far more profitable.

Dealers at the table
This IT play, to be sure, is something of a gamble for Konica Minolta and, were it a home-grown move, it would seem pretty sketchy. But All Covered’s IT services legacy in many vertical markets in the SMB sector should provide the backbone for this venture to be successful.

Still, it is the dealers that are on the sharp end here, and anyone who’s been around the block a few times knows copier/printer dealers are not all created equal. So I asked Sam Errigo, senior vice president, Business Intelligence Services at Konica Minolta Business Solutions, about bringing dealers up to speed on the world of managed IT services.

He explained that All Covered and Konica Minolta are working up a full array of training programs for dealers’ sales and service teams that will prepare them to open new conversations with customers and show them how KM can provide the IT support they need. All Covered will be on hand to help get things rolling with new customers, too. This is terra incognita for all dealers, but also a huge opportunity for them to grow revenue and expand their offerings. “The smart ones will jump at the opportunity,” said Errigo.

It is also a game-changing move for Konica Minolta. “We’re changing the company,” Rick Taylor, senior executive vice president and COO at Konica Minolta Business Solutions, told me. “We’re not just selling boxes and service anymore. This is a fundamental shift in the company. We’re adding managed IT because it’s needed, it expands our service-oriented approach, and our dealers should do this, too.”

My Take
Konica Minolta’s dealer conference also featured announcements of many new office and production machines coming over the next 18 months, numerous improved programs that add value for dealers and their customers, better ways of balancing the direct vs. dealer sales channels, and more. All of it makes the company a player to watch, especially if you’re competing against it.

To me, the move into managed IT is the most important and will continue to reshape the company and influence the market. If the energy at this conference was anything to go by, this has to be an exciting time be at Konica Minolta.
 

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