Here’s how to deploy technology to streamline processes in order to reduce costs and improve customer service.
The economic challenges that businesses faced over the past several years have had a lasting impact in many different ways, but surprisingly, not all of them are bad. One positive outcome is that companies have learned to do more with less in order to reduce costs and boost profitability. This trend has created significant opportunities for equipment vendors, VARs and service providers who all come together to offer solutions to the challenge of doing more with less.
There are several methods of doing this. The most basic—and sometimes the most difficult—is to streamline existing business processes. Simply because something has always been done a particular way does not necessarily mean that it’s the best way of doing it. Companies that are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the bottom line have found that reinvention, reconfiguration and reengineering can go a long way towards increased profitability. There are of course limits to how far this can take a business, but streamlining existing business processes and practices is a great place to start.
The hardest part about this approach is that sometimes it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Helping companies to reinvent themselves has long been the province of management consultants who consider this service their stock in trade, and charge dearly for it. On the other hand, an equipment vendor who partners with other solution providers, and who has the advantage of working on solutions for many different organizations, can often offer similar services as a part of a solution bundle, delivering the customer significant value—and saving a tremendous amount of money—in the process.
As companies seek to accomplish a process reengineering project, they often come up against challenges that can’t be resolved through simple changes to workflow. When this occurs, they turn to technology vendors, VARS and other providers to create entirely new solutions and processes that ultimately reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ultimately, increase profits. Unlike simple reengineering however, there’s a paradox when it comes to using technology to boost the bottom line—you have to spend money to make money.
In order to meet these requirements, companies are demanding much more than simple equipment transactions. Instead of deciding on a single piece of equipment and buying it, businesses today want end-to-end, comprehensive solutions that solve many different business needs and problems at the same time. Successful equipment vendors are already capitalizing on this need by offering bundled packages that combine diverse technologies with a broad range of professional expertise that are all brought together into a high value problem solving offering.
Technology is rarely cheap and it tends to get even more expensive the more complicated it gets. This is especially true for technology that is used for very specialized applications in particular industries. Whenever technology is deployed, the cost of the equipment—including not just the cost of acquisition but also delivery and installation as well as ongoing consumable supplies, service and support—must be carefully weighed against the cost savings in terms of operational efficiency that the solution will deliver.
Technology vendors need to be very sensitive to this fact. Because specialized, bundled technology solutions can become very expensive, the more value-adds that can be incorporated into the solution the more cost effective it becomes. This leads us back to the idea of providing expert services as a part of the solution development and delivery process.
For example, an office equipment vendor might partner with a telephony VAR as well as a network integration company to offer a managed services solution that ties all of the customer’s copiers, printers, and scanners into the network. This is an end-to-end approach that starts with the equipment vendor and all of the other participating providers combining their professional expertise to develop an appropriate solution based on the needs of the business
Many vendors are finding that not only can these services be provided by the other solution providers that are collaborating on the project, but also by the financing partner as well. Many progressive finance companies are leveraging the expertise gained over years of financing technology solutions in order to add value to transactions they are funding.
Highly capable financing partners are also important because many small- and mid-sized businesses are still feeling the effects of the recession. When sales are flat and credit is still tight, business tend to hold both cash and credit lines in reserve for major business emergencies. Acquiring equipment requires not only creative financing by a creative financing partner, but also requires an approach that delivers maximum value for every dollar spent.
This type of solution does several things. First, there are tremendous economies of scale that enable the customer to maximize the value received from every solution dollar committed. Second, there is significant value to be gained from the combined expertise of the diverse vendors who participate in delivering the solution. Third, a managed services solution of this type is multi-dimensional. Instead of addressing and solving one isolated business problem, it has a much broader impact in several different areas of the organization. But most importantly, a well designed and properly delivered bundled solution saves the customer money.
Every business today is striving to do more with less. For equipment vendors, the opportunities are endless, provided they can move beyond merely selling equipment. Today’s business buyers want solutions not just hardware, and it’s up to the progressive equipment vendor to create and deliver those solutions.