by Robert Palmer
The Photizo Transform Global conference, held June 2-4 at the Galt House in Louisville, KY, was an interesting mix of the old and the new. As its name implies, Transform is positioned as a venue to showcase the transformative nature of the imaging and printing industry. With its roots firmly planted in managed print services (MPS), the Transform event has evolved to address a much broader array of issues facing our industry, including the ongoing transition from hardware to managed services, document workflow, 3D printing, and other market dynamics.
The event kicked off with a rousing keynote delivered by Jim Lawless, a well-known motivational speaker and CEO of The Velocity Corporation. Among his many feats, Lawless has advised companies globally on creating organizational cultural change. If you have never heard Lawless speak before I highly recommend it. He leverages tips from his bestselling book, Taming Tigers, along with personal experiences to explain how individuals can overcome life’s obstacles to achieve goals and transform their lives -- either from a personal or business perspective.
Lawless has accepted numerous challenges over the course of his own life to help prove his point. In August 2010, he used his techniques to become Britain’s deepest free diver, the first in Britain to dive below the 100-meter barrier on a single breath of air. In 2003, he accepted a challenge to become a televised racehorse jockey in just 12 months. At the time, he was notably heavy by traditional jockey standards and had never once even ridden a horse.
Accomplishing that goal was a foundation of the keynote speech at Transform. Lawless spoke with great fervor about the discipline and determination required to lose the necessary weight and gain the appropriate training required. By the end of the session, he even had the entire audience standing up and mimicking the ride of a jockey to help visualize the experience -- a sight that many of us never expected to see. Considering that this year’s Transform was held in Louisville, the whole scene seemed entirely appropriate.
As is the case with many industry conferences, there were a couple of recurring themes running throughout the course of this year’s Transform event. The first was the future of printing -- a topic that continues to foster significant debate regardless of the forum. Some interesting discussion in this area came on day two during Photizo CEO Ed Crowley’s keynote session: Print is Dead…Or Is It?
Crowley focused his comments on the traditional market metrics, suggesting that Photizo is forecasting only slight decline in overall page volumes for the next five years. Nevertheless, that statement was followed closely with a chart showing more troubling news: the rate of growth for laser and inkjet cut-sheet paper shipments in the office has steadily declined over the past few years. Clearly, this is an indication that the market for office pages is shrinking.
Crowley says that Photizo is forecasting slight declines for media and hardware through 2017, but the firm is projecting growth for MPS and advanced document services over the same period. Like most other research firms following the imaging market, Photizo remains bullish on the opportunities for document-based services, particularly for what Crowley describes ad “outcome-based” services -- those that provide high value add focused on solving customer needs as opposed to delivering products or solutions.
According to Crowley, as the overall market continues to shrink it will lead to an increasingly competitive environment. It could be argued that entry-level MPS is already commoditized, with basic fleet management services providing little differentiation and low customer value. Of course, there are pockets of opportunity for growth but the trick is developing expertise combined with the proper solution set to target those markets. That is why most vendors and channel partners alike remain focused on vertical solutions and a more vertical approach to solutions selling.
MPSA at Transform
The other recurring theme at this year’s Transform event was the consistent visibility of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) and its members. Of course, the MPSA has always been an integral part of the Photizo conference, but this year the relationship seemed even more significant.
To begin with, MPSA members were highly represented among the speakers for the various conference and breakout sessions. By our count, 20 of the 25 Transform sessions were led by current individual or corporate members of the MPSA. This is an amazing statistic that speaks volumes as to the depth of knowledge within the MPSA membership, as well as the influence that the organization has within the managed services marketplace.
Indeed, the MPSA itself was afforded its own time slot with a prime spot in the overall agenda: a general session immediately following the opening keynote. In a session titled “MPSA Managed Print Services Framework – ITIL in Motion,” six different MPSA members took the stage as a panel to discuss one of the most important initiatives to come from the MPSA Standards and Best Practices committee.
The intent of the Managed Print Services Framework is to outline most of the elements that businesses need to consider when developing a Managed Print Services (MPS) program, as well as an accompanying framework to identify best practices and solutions for MPS implementation. The MPSA Framework is based on a proven method and format using the ITIL Framework Service methodology as a guide. The session produced a lively discussion regarding the need for standards in the MPS space, not only in terms of definition and implementation of MPS, but more importantly in the addressing the emerging overlap between managed print services and other ongoing IT strategies.
It should also be pointed out that the MPSA held its fourth annual awards ceremony during the Transform Global 2014 conference. (Read more on the awards here).
The Great Debate
Another session that sparked significant interest was “The Great Assessment Debate: To Have or Not to Have.” This session pitted two MPSA members, Kevin DeYoung and James Duckenfield, in an open debate regarding the need for MPS assessments. DeYoung, who took the “devil’s advocate” position to argue against the need for assessments, quickly pointed out at the beginning of the session that he is indeed pro-assessments but for the purposes of the debate came fully prepared to build his case -- and indeed he did.
DeYoung did a masterful job, arguing that assessments are designed primarily to benefit the dealer and not the customer. In other words, the assessment is performed for the purposes of allowing the dealer to sell something to the customer. At the same time, he planted the notion that MPS assessments typically only provide a snapshot in time, while also leaving customers with the thought that the added time to perform the assessment will lead to additional cost in the overall program. Meanwhile, Duckenfield played his role quite nicely by vigorously promoting the obvious benefits and need for MPS assessments.
By the debate’s conclusion, both sides were well represented and no clear winner was declared. Nevertheless, the session prompted heartfelt discussion among audience members about the importance of understanding customer needs. DeYoung, in particular, noted that the entire process caused him to think much differently about how he and his organization will approach assessments in the future. A fitting end to what by all accounts could be considered a very successful Transform Global conference -- both for Photizo and the MPSA.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.