The global pandemic is far from over and there are still many countries around the world where, for a variety of reasons, the situation remains serious. However, with vaccine roll-outs beginning, sometimes slowly, to gather pace globally, there is some cause for optimism and the belief that there may be light at the end of the (long, dark and harrowing) tunnel.
Now might be a moment to take a look at what the effects have been on working habits and then the current and potential future impact on our customers. It is reasonably uncontroversial to say that there will be some permanent changes to working habits, but the true extent of these is likely to vary by sector and by country and will probably only become fully clear over the coming months and years.
One key continuing theme is likely to be that of collaboration. In some respects, this has got easier, as we have all, from large businesses to local sports clubs, embraced the opportunities of using Teams or Zoom to communicate. However, the absence of informal spontaneous interactions, in the corridor, in the kitchen or by the water cooler, is likely to have had a large, but totally unmeasurable, impact. These conversations can be vital for passing on snippets of information from customers, creating the germ of a new idea or maintaining relationships between teams.
Flexibility should also be a vital factor on all sides, as expectations, habits and practices have evolved dramatically. Working from home, travelling to meetings and attending conferences are all very different now and all will require flexibility from all parties once some semblance of normality is restored. From the customer perspective, it has undoubtedly been a very challenging year in the MPS industry. However, as with quite a few sectors, we are starting to see the shoots of recovery and we are pleased to see that some customers are beginning to ramp up their activity levels.
While few things are currently absolute certainties, one thing that has been clear ever since the first lockdown is that the move to cloud-based solutions has been accelerated. The overall market trend was already moving in that direction, but the need to operate remotely and still easily access client data has definitely driven more people to go down the SaaS route, which is, obviously, a road that we already know very well indeed. We expect that this trend will continue at a similar pace into the future, as the need to be able to operate easily remotely has become a necessity in many sectors.
Another trend that was already underway, but has been given real added impetus by the pandemic, is the drive for many of our customers to look at alternative offerings and revenue streams outside their traditional copy / print activity. Quite logically, they are working on the old, but still highly relevant, adage that it is easier to sell more things to an existing client than it is to sell anything to a new client.
So, we are seeing increased demand for use of our solutions to service, maintain and invoice for complementary offerings. These typically range from IT services, office coffee, digital signage and telecoms to a myriad of workflow and productivity software solutions. For some, this is a completely new venture, while for others it is an expansion of an existing line of business. In both cases, it is just as important for us to help them to measure the success of these activities as it is to enable them to manage them day-to-day. This means that they will have the data on which to judge viability and profitability of these various ventures and the tools to deal with management of contracts and invoicing made up of an increasingly complex array of offerings.
It is also interesting to see that we are now working with a growing number of new clients who are acting as service providers to the “traditional” dealers. Sometimes, this is for complete outsourcing of support and maintenance, while in others it is a case of offering additional resource on an “on-demand” basis. Again, flexibility is the key driver behind this trend. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out over the coming years.
Like Asolvi, our customers have had to be resilient, resourceful and creative, but we are working hard to help them through and we see that there are definitely opportunities ahead.