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Managed Print Services: Why would I need a consultant? 1/5

By Jean-Louis de la Salle

We very often get questions on what benefits a consultant brings to a channel partner? Isn’t a consultant the kind of Headquarters’ luxury that is not fit for mid sized SMBs, which is the size of your average dealer. Isn’t it going to be too theoretical?

This article, or rather series of articles, as it is a never ending subject, is all about aligning goals and objectives and making the money spent worth while.


The first article of the series will try to lay out the differences we see, the perceptions we feel, and the way we address them. This blog is open to debate and we would welcome views from the “other side” because it is from these discussions that we challenge ourselves, produce new ways and can move forward. In following articles we will take real cases and show the practical improvements that we were able to make for dealers who felt it was their responsibility to move their company forward.


MPS Indirect distribution is a new business. It involves multiple parties whose goals differ, and there are some potential conflicts of interest.


The challenge is that all parties should agree on the definition and the business benefits of MPS. This is usually not the case and it varies quite a bit between the OEM, the partner and the customer. So saying we want to address change is not obvious as parties do not agree on what the change is, let alone the ways to adopt it.



Because the MPS definitions are unclear at all levels, the market data that OEMs purchase is too general and cannot be used to create a real business plan at dealer level. Larger countries are privileged in this respect, as data is more available but even so, it lacks granularity. Most of the information at the dealer’s level is gathered by sales encounters with existing clients or prospects, which can be incomplete (depending on which segments the dealer addresses) and can leave a lot of room for interpretation. That conversation with the customer is not very transparent because of the business impacts to both parties; no sales person will speak about the promise of MPS without being sure his organisation will embrace it quickly, thus creating a disorganized rush rather than a planned movement.



Channel partners that are seen as “preferred” by the OEMs are on the average highly successful businesses that have created a trusted relationship with their suppliers and with their clients. So why change? This could be very disturbing to the business.

It takes quite an effort for anybody to recognize that a business model is ripe for change, especially for those who have been very successful at the old one. So it needs for both parties to agree on the goals as well as a need for synchronization. Is the dealer ready to embark when the OEM is or vice versa? Quite a few cases involving tension have been generated there.



Data of all sorts (financial, productivity, etc.) is not readily available which impairs decision ability and quality.

Financial data may be incomplete, as dealers tend to be mid-size companies whose reporting mechanisms were good enough when the times were good. As the business both stiffens and changes, they do not have access to systems that enable the improved decision process required in this tougher and changing environment. Because of the negotiation spirit that prevails between suppliers and customer, the system is not highly transparent, clouding real issues.



Operations prevail over strategy and the lack of objective measurement is a problem. In a dealer’s organisation short term decisions and operational activity represent the majority of the activity. The scale of the company usually does not permit anything else. So they have had little time to compare and benchmark themselves and are not used to it. Dealers have certainly not been static and have adopted a lot of systems and embraced a lot of technology. Are they used correctly, when compared to their peers and/or to competition? The question remains open.


Weakness is not a welcome perception

So it takes a lot of pressure on a dealer organisation to accept consultancy. Potentially it takes a major client loss or a series of bad quarters to ring the alarm. Business people have a strong personality and have been great at creating “their” self-standing company. MPS makes it become part of an ecosystem, whose future itself is not always very clear. It is not pleasant for a business owner who has been steering his company successfully to accept somebody coming in and pointing at areas of improvement, which could be felt as weaknesses. Weakness is not a welcome perception when there is traditionally hard negotiation between supplier and customer. It must become a partnership (a real one, not one in theory and this needs to be proven daily by changed attitudes from all sides). Difficult decisions must be taken with this in consideration. This is a big personal challenge for business owners and this should be treated with empathy by OEMs sales organisations, which is not necessarily their forte.


Our experience as consultants is precisely there. We are knowledgeable of the Industry; we worked in OEMs either in Operations or in Strategy or both. Today we run and have been running our own business for some time. We do not have a hidden agenda. So we know how to bridge these requirements and make sure everybody finds what he needs for the money he is spending.

The OEM wants a channel partner with a future so placements can continue. The partner wants a future for himself and his company without being overwhelmed by theories that are difficult to evaluate. And the customer wants a quality of service delivered that improves his productivity, efficiency and TCO.

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This article was written on 11 Apr 2013, and is filled under Managed Print Systems.


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