On the growth path

The move from basic image processes to more integrated printing systems based on document and content management is opening up opportunities for the channel to sell printing solutions and services in the region

Tags: HPLexmark International IncorporationOki Electric Industry CompanyWestcon Group Incorporation
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On the growth path
By  Piers Ford Published  March 21, 2013

The move from basic image processes to more integrated printing systems based on document and content management is opening up opportunities for the channel to sell printing solutions and services in the region, writes Piers Ford.

With so much customer emphasis on cost of ownership and improving operational efficiencies, it is not surprising that printing – a function fundamental to businesses of every kind – is increasingly targeted as a necessary overhead that is ripe for reassessment.

The good news for the Middle East channel is that this trend coincides with a widespread shift in attitude to outsourcing many basic IT functions, driven by the appeal of the cloud model and the way it enables managed service delivery. Managed print services (MPS) are coming of age.

Traditional printer vendors have been quick to spot this shot in the arm for an industry that, in recent years, has been deemed mature and even verging on the stagnant. Forecasts vary for the rate of expansion. Back in 2011, analyst TechNavio anticipated annual global growth of 20.62% looking ahead to 2015. More recently, International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated more modest but still eye-catching growth of 11.7%. In November 2012, Xerox – one of the giants in the arena – declared that half of its revenues now come from MPS.

This radical shift is now beginning to take shape in the Middle East region, and vendors are looking to their channel partners to develop models that will allow them to own their customers’ printing environments rather than simply fulfilling demand for product.

“The use of MPS among corporates and SMBs is definitely on the increase as realisation grows of the myriad benefits that accrue from its implantation,” said Naji Kazak, regional channel manager at vendor Lexmark International. “Better communications about the advantages of streamlining production processes has definitely had a positive impact on the popularity of MPS implementation.”

At another major vendor, Oki, general manager John Ross reserved judgement on SMB uptake but said there is considerable interest in the region from multi-nationals and more enlightened indigenous organisations. The channel, he suggested, could work harder to exploit this.

“From a total market perspective, we agree with IDC that it will grow in the coming years as more and more SMBs move away from single-function, standalone, entry-level mono products, or inkjets, into networkable mono or colour multi-function products,” said Ross.

“This lays the foundation across the Middle East region for MPS to become an accepted norm. We believe that vendors who offer value-added services will be in a better position to retain and increase their customer base as the market evolves, which means the focus needs to be on solutions-selling rather than box moving.

“It is not difficult to develop a MPS business model,” said Ross. “MPS is more of a solution-based selling approach than a transactional one, which Oki has built its reputation upon; however, the vast majority of resellers in the Middle East region are not familiar with this approach. This means current levels of acceptance in the channel are not as high as we would hope. It is a matter of investing and educating the channel and the end-users. Having the availability of resource to do that across the region is a major constraint, hence our training programme for our direct partners.”

However, at distributor Westcon, divisional director for critical infrastructure and enterprise mobility James Saldhana disagreed that it is such a straightforward proposition for resellers.

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