As we begin another New Year, PrintIT Reseller asked a panel of the UK’s leading dealerships to consider what 2017 holds for the print and IT sectors
2016 was an eventful year in the print industry, what has impacted most on your business?
Mark Smyth, Operations Director, Vision: “In our financial year 2016, Vision has seen some great wins from all sectors. We have also experienced some slowdown in the months leading up to Brexit with economic uncertainty impacting on and delaying some decisions. Plans to leave the European Union has also resulted in currency fluctuations and we have been impacted by price increases from supply chain and vendors, resulting in some increases being passed on to clients, something we always aim to avoid where possible.”
Phil Powell, Managing Director, Midshire Group: “Thankfully our business hasn’t really been affected by anything so far this year. The news of Brexit did suggest that maybe there could be some uncertainty about buying decisions being delayed, but the reality of the situation is that growth remains steady across all of our businesses, at around 11 per cent year on year.”
Matt Goodall, Service Director, Office Evolution: “The Brexit decision impacted prices from suppliers. Although we did not choose to pass these on to our customers, it was evident that customers were more cautious when making decisions about purchasing or leasing equipment.
“The other big impact this year was customer awareness of controlling costs and wastage at their offices. We have seen a huge increase in the supply of software such as Papercut and this has increased our customer base and its security.”
Colin Griffin, Managing Director, Blackbox Solutions: “Looking back, the past year has certainly been eventful for Blackbox Solutions. The business has continued to grow and our close relationship with Samsung has seen us move to third in Samsung’s UK dealer rankings, up from 30th just two years ago.
“We moved to new headquarters in Maidstone at the start of the year, which has given us plenty of opportunities for new business growth, and we’ve launched a Copy Shop in the centre of town to expand the range of services we can offer to local businesses.
“We see the integration of document solutions and IT services as vital to our ability to sustain continued growth. Blackbox launched our in-house IT division early in 2016 and we’ve seen increasing demand for IT services from our clients, who have consolidated their document solutions and IT accounts with us, as well as picking up new accounts which is very encouraging.
“The new premises have also given us the opportunity to launch an in-house data centre which has allowed us to provide additional services to our customers.”
Clive Hamilton, Group Managing Director, Pinnacle Complete Office Solutions: “Developments in technology have enabled us to generate new revenue streams in security, cloud services and content management, however this is very much all wrapped in document work?ow opportunities.”
Steve Hawkins, Managing Director, Xeretec: “Interestingly, the thing that impacted our business most isn’t related to any political or economic turbulence, but something far closer to home; managed print service.
“Specifically, the number of companies that have come to us because they have been dissatisfied with their current managed print service provider where they haven’t realised the benefits they were promised. We’ve seen considerable growth from those clients and anticipate this trend will continue in 2017.”
What are the biggest challenges facing the channel currently?
Mark Smyth: “Our market and the channel, remains fiercely competitive, with margins squeezed continually and this means you must remain as efficient as possible in all areas. Currency fluctuations and economic uncertainty, are adding to pricing pressure and this will further expose any business weakness and inefficiencies.”
Phil Powell: “Some of our suppliers have announced price increases, which so far haven’t affected us due to the stock we are holding and the availability of alternative suppliers. Unless the pound does recover, I do feel that our long-term buy prices will increase. However, all of our competitors will be facing the same challenges as us.”
Matt Goodall: “The channel faces challenges from companies that aren’t traditional imaging suppliers, offering machines that have alleged lower running costs and simpler maintenance, but as we have seen in the past, these often result in high TCO and greater waste, as units cannot have individual components replaced.
“Dealers need to focus on the associated products such as software and mobile printing, to stay up to date with the market and continue to offer the solutions that the market demands. Dealers that ignore mobile and BYOD printing will rapidly be left behind.”
Colin Griffin: “I think the biggest challenge facing our sector is adjusting to the potential impacts of Brexit. At Blackbox, we don’t conduct much trade with Europe directly, but of course we’re operating in a global economy and elements of our supply chain are located in Europe. Obviously, Britain’s future access to the single market, the current currency fluctuations and threat of inflation, all have the potential to affect our business, and the UK economy as a whole, but it remains to be seen what the effects of the referendum result will be.
“We’re now seeing caution and increased price sensitivity among some of our customers. Due to the uncertain economic climate, it’s only natural that businesses will exhibit more caution when it comes to investment in new technology and pay closer attention to their expenditure, including print and IT costs, which has potential to squeeze our profits.
“However, business’ caution also presents opportunities for us to sell other services, such as print management software to help businesses keep a better handle on their print costs. I think we’re going to hear a lot about ‘efficiency’ and ‘productivity’ over the coming year!”
Clive Hamilton: “Recruitment of good sales staff that have the ability to add real value to customers rather than just sell on price.”
Steve Hawkins: “Broadly, there are of course concerns about Brexit. But many companies, especially those that have an international presence, will probably press ahead with their plans anyway. Overall though, I think the channel will have to prove how and where, it is adding value against a backdrop of tighter budgets.
“I think that both distributors and resellers will face the ongoing challenge of demonstrating to customers how they can differentiate their services. Agility will be key, too; how quickly can the channel either anticipate or respond to customers’ changing needs.”
What are your print predictions for 2017? What do you believe will be the major trends and developments within the print and IT sectors?
Mark Smyth: “We see market developments with managed printing solutions as the platform and foundation for digital transformation. This customer journey can really start to make business impact, improving business processes and efficiency, combined with increased security controls as data protection and new legislation is introduced and tightened.
“With organisations in their second and even third generation of managed print, our prediction is that clients will be focusing on digital transformation, quality of service, as well as costs, and I do not believe cost will be the only driver as was previously the case.”
Phil Powell: “My print predictions from reading the trade press, would suggest that page volumes will fall. I have been expecting to see this for the last three years or so, but so far the average revenue billed per customer has remained steady and this is despite reducing page costs.
“Page volumes are also remaining steady per device, the biggest positive impact to our business has been the move to colour as more and more customers print and copy in colour which is typically eight to ten times more expensive than black and white.”
Matt Goodall: “The reduction of waste through software control, on and offsite printing and mobile solutions. In the IT sector, the expansion of single point cloud storage and the unification of data, will form a large part of the challenges in 2017.”
Colin Griffin: “I think we’ll continue to see businesses expanding their investment in cloud technology. We see that many businesses want to support their increasingly mobile workforce with solutions that enable employees to access and print information from their devices, irrespective of where they are.
“While some companies have been slow to take-up cloud storage and document archiving solutions, many are realising the advantage of cloud-connected printers and this trend will continue as more businesses cotton on to the benefits.
“As a result of the current economic climate, we’re also seeing businesses seeking to consolidate and streamline the number of suppliers they use. Following the launch of our IT division earlier in the year, we’ve picked up plenty of accounts for IT services with our existing document solutions customers, and we’re also able to market MFDs and bolt-on software solutions to our IT clients. Ultimately, I think print vendors will need to offer IT services and support in conjunction with document solutions, or risk losing clients to competitors that do.
“The print industry has already faced years of disruption due to the advent of many new digital technologies, which means information is increasingly read, shared and distributed online rather than on paper. Further innovations like 3D printing promise to shake-up the market further. That said, print still remains an incredibly popular format and over the coming years, we’ll see manufacturers work to improve the way they connect their print offerings into the digital and online world.
“This is already happening, with mobile and cloud printing and smart multifunctional devices that feature an expanding range of customisable apps, which incorporate print devices into the digital document work?ow. To ensure that print devices remain relevant to the modern office environment, manufacturers will investigate further opportunities to make MFDs an integral component in the digitisation, dissemination and archiving of documents.”
Clive Hamilton: “Content management, cyber security, cloud services, high end inkjet, production, 3D printing and developments in A4 printing; both from a technology point of view and of course the inclusion of a varied number of apps that enable far easier print and work?ow ability from your print devices.
“We all know that printed pages are declining, but document creation is on the up; we have to help the clients manage those documents and digitise their legacy documents.”
Steve Hawkins: “For economic reasons, print in 2017 will be characterised by customer caution, but I think that will be true across all industries.
“Within this industry specifically, I think customers will start to show more interest in device security. Security attacks aren’t going to go away, and as the realisation that MFPs could be breached increases, it’s likely that more customers will ensure that their MFP is included as part of a company’s broader security policy.
“I doubt that the BYOD model will fade, as it’s now an established template for workers in the digital economy. With that in mind from a print perspective, it’s likely we’ll see more interest in mobile print solutions.”
What does 2017 hold for your business?
Mark Smyth: “Vision’s business plan for FY2017 continues to focus on our core offerings of managed printing solutions, managed document solutions and unified communications, with routes to market through our key sales channels in commercial, strategic corporate and public sector.
“Over the past two years, we have focused on strengthening the team in all of these important planned growth areas, with key appointments including head of strategic corporate clients, head of public sector and head of enterprise services, finance and administration areas, to support and sustain our continued growth.
“We have another aggressive budget and plan for FY2017 with double-digit growth targeted for a fifth consecutive year. We have recently enjoyed fantastic success with public sector frameworks and awards that provides Vision with the required compliance and tools to compete and win, within government, local and county councils, education and the NHS and we aim to capitalise on these opportunities with our public sector team.
“We also plan to continue our target of the right ft acquisitions and we are highly committed to acquiring in our sector in 2017!”
Phil Powell: “Next year offers significant opportunities, brought about by new and exciting technology that will hopefully continue to give the Midshire Group a competitive edge, and guarantee our continued growth.
“We forecast by the end of our financial year in August 2017, group turnover will be circa £35,000,000 with around 250 staff working from our four offices in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Cardiff. We are proud of the fact that this has been achieved purely by organic growth, brought about by the retention of our loyal customers and the addition of new customers attracted to Midshire by what we can offer in advance of our competitors.
“Our own in-house hosted desktop product – Desktop Monster was nominated for two awards and we are confident this will be an exciting growth area for Midshire into 2017.”
Matt Goodall: “We have continued to grow throughout 2016, expanding both our team and customer base. Our intentions in 2017 are to continue the approach of simple straightforward business backed up with a superb service.
“Customers have proven to like this and have been extremely loyal. Through this, combined with our investment in software training and new products from Develop, we expect another record breaking year.”
Colin Griffin: “We’re currently in the fnal stages of launching a new service management system, Service Accent. This platform will yield significant time and cost savings by providing access to upto-date and accurate information, whilst enhancing the level of service provided to clients by speeding up maintenance and repairs and minimising equipment downtime.
“We’ve continued to experience growth in our document solutions and IT services and we’re looking at options to expand our sales team to ensure we can continue to meet demand. We’re looking forward to a busy year in 2017!”
Clive Hamilton: “Exciting opportunities in our industry offering real scope for expansion, through change and organic growth and of course through mergers and acquisitions.”
Steve Hawkins: “Despite some caution, we’re quietly optimistic that with some deft moves and constant attention to customer needs and requirements, as well as evolving our service and offering, we’ll come out of 2017 even stronger and with more highly satisfied customers.”