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How to manage MPS in a VUCA world 2/5

By Jean-Louis de la Salle

Because VUCA is the way it is, I start this series with the V letter

V = Volatility. The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.

If you were a casual onlooker of our industry, you would see it as extremely stable. There were 15 vendors 10 years ago and still 10 of them are here with us with reasonably healthy balance sheets. Not bad for a high tech industry. They are all household names and if you asked a client: well they make copiers (respectively printers) don’t they?

Similarly the channel partners, we meet regularly have been around for some time and most of the owners are seasoned and in their mid 50’s with plenty of experience behind them.

So why vulnerable, you may ask. I am not trying to be pedantic but the very words used by Wikipedia in the term Vulnerable speak a lot.

First half of the sentence says it requires an understanding of change, which I believe has been with us and all over this industry for approximately 10 years.  The dynamics are quite reasonably understood by most of us.

  1. Shrinking Hardware margins due to commoditization and overcapacity resulting in fierce competition.
  2. Diminishing supplies volumes and revenues due to shrinking numbers of printed pages, whether due to newer document and information processes, or simply less waste.
  3. Providers struggling to define easily marketable service offerings that are appealing to customers, so they would pay a fair price for them.

What I find telling is the second part of the sentence which relates to the speed of change and what may create the turning point. We all intuitively know it will happen but when is the core question.

There are two aspects at work here. It is rational and emotional. Call it our usual fight between right and left parts of our brains.

If you take the numbers coldly and listen to the various market data houses, MPS represents anywhere between 30 and 50% of the total market. This is, from a supposedly laggard industry, a remarkable transformation success. And emotionally, you still find an incredible state of denial in the industry. Is this going to work? Is it even good for me? Can’t we continue on the old transactional model? How do I pay today’s bills? Why abandon a comfort zone where value and power are clearly delineated?

I think the waiting period has been just too long for executives that are used to quarterly reviews and have to keep the shop running meanwhile. What can we do about this? We need a more accurate understanding of the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.

It is essential that our executives realise that they have to overcome the disenchantment of this transformation that is taking place over a very long period of time.

My perception is that the greatest vulnerability in the Industry (we all know the objective factors) is this fracture between “going forward” and “ passive, if not active, resistance to change”. It implies that the company’s resources are not aligned adequately. We see it in many organisations we work with. And as the market is getting tougher everyday, alignment is so necessary.

For those with literary and movie tastes check the desert of the Tartars

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This article was written on 06 Mar 2014, and is filled under Business Forecast, Managed Print Systems, VUCA.


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