by Robert Palmer
In this industry, there is no shortage of announcements covering strategic partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. The phrase “partner or perish” is a term that resurfaces on a regular basis and always seems to find its way into industry blogs, articles, and presentations at various conferences and events. There are so many partnership deals these days—particularly between OEMs and software/solutions providers—that it can be difficult to sift through the numerous cross-functional relationships.
Last week, however, an important strategic alliance was announced that is likely to have major implications for the printing business. On February 17, MWA Intelligence Inc. announced that it has partnered with Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) to offer MWAi’s FORZA platform to dealers and other providers in the imaging channel. Built on the highly successful SAP Business One platform, MWAi’s FORZA offers dealers an alternative to current business systems and third party software programs by providing an open architecture ERP system designed specifically for the office equipment channel.
As a true ERP system, FORZA enables real time business decisions by capturing all critical information across various departments, including sales, customers, operations, finances, and service, making information instantly available and accessible. As a result, FORZA can help dealers replace disparate legacy business systems to provide improvements in data access and integration, while meeting the needs for system automation and big data analytics as the industry continues to evolve. Meanwhile, FORZA supports and in fact expands functionality in many of the core business components that are essential to office equipment dealers, such as meter management, CPC and MPS contracts, rentals and leasing, service dispatch, and the list goes on.
Why is this deal so important? As the office industry continues to evolve it is putting increased pressure on dealers and service providers to diversify and expand their businesses. Transformation is yet another buzzword that has become synonymous with the office imaging market. Yet, business model transformation does not come easy. There are explosive growth opportunities in adjacent businesses such as managed IT services, digital signage, 3D printing, and workflow solutions, but many dealers are often stymied by limitations with existing business system software, which could be decades old and not designed to support the integration of new business lines.
What FORZA with SAP Business One provides is a platform for growth. The office-imaging channel has enjoyed great success over the years by creating a high-value service model that attracts customers and turns them into long-term clients generating significant annuity business. The channel has demonstrated a unique ability to adapt to changing market conditions over the years, but the game is definitely changing. The idea that legacy systems designed specifically for the copier/MFP business could be customized to support multiple business models is no longer a safe bet. In reality, dealers need to optimize not just to support a new line of business, but instead to support any new line of business.
What is interesting and quite telling is that Konica Minolta has recognized this trend and is partnering with MWAi to help its dealer base make the transition. Of course, Konica Minolta is transforming its own business by moving to a services-led model, fueled by the acquisition of All Covered and its growing position in the IT services space. Konica Minolta understands the importance of shoring up its core printing business, while at the same time diving deeper into adjacent markets to drive growth. Now, it is partnering with MWAi to help its dealers achieve similar transformation. The partnership between KMBS and MWA Intelligence could well represent a watershed moment for the imaging channel.
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. 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.