Konica Minolta reboots Workplace Hub as workplace of future focus, with new dealer resources

Konica Minolta’s Workplace Hub has been on the market for over a year, but the company thinks that what it sees as a ‘next-gen’ product is now ready for prime time with their dealer channel, and so they featured it heavily at their Dealer Conference.

The Konica Mionolta Workplace Hub

NEWPORT BEACH — Almost two years ago, Konica Minolta unveiled their Workplace Hub, touting it as future-proofing workplaces of every size as they work towards digital transformation, by unifying all of an organization’s technology in a single centralized platform. It reached the market late in 2017, but still doesn’t have a lot of penetration in the company’s dealer channel. The company thinks that needs to change, and so the Hub was front and centre at their just-concluded Konica Minolta 2019 Dealer Conference here. Konica Minolta also announced new resources to help dealers sell the platform.

The Workplace Hub was announced in March 2017 at an event in Berlin.

“It seems like the wall was still up,” said Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A’s CEO, at the event’s keynote. “It was so long ago.”

While the Hub rolled out in late 2017, it had the disadvantage of being seen as more of a futures rather than something that dealers can sell now, said Sam Errigo, Executive Vice President, Sales and Business Development at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A.

“The issue is that it really was different,” Errigo said. “A good analogy would be at an auto show, where a manufacturer like GM shows off their concept cars for the future. Sometimes they never see the light of day. Two years ago, Workplace Hub was more of a concept car for us. Over the last two years, the product has changed dramatically as we got better information around customer requirements.”

As a result, Konica Minolta is now making a big push to re-introduce the Workplace Hub to their dealer channel, and get them to look at it as a way to expand their business beyond legacy copiers and printers.

“A few dealers have them in their office now, but we are now investing in resources in the field to help them to sell them,” Errigo said.

Workplace Hub Edge

“This is more than a product,” said Nick Pegley, Deputy GM, Workplace Business Unit at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., in a well-attended breakout session at the event. “It’s a way of thinking about the way companies communicate with each other and the way they process communications, so that you don’t have either the problem of too much data or too little data. The Workplace Hub is a family, with an edge form factor as well, providing the server capability without the print. This is the beginning of a long series of products, which we see as a transformative product, that can be used in SMB as well as scaling up to the enterprise.”

For Konica Minolta, this is a software product. It runs on an HPE server. The security software comes from Sophos, while Microsoft provides Office 365 and a wrapper for SharePoint.

“It provides one bill, and one line of support in a single business unit, said Tim Holl, Product Marketing Manager, Solutions, at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. “It offers a strong managed firewall and server, and workflow applications running on Hub that include secure document exchange, document management, asset management and user management, and storage backup and management.” Holl said that customers have said that the biggest SMB pain point it addresses was a lack of internal IT management resources, following by aging infrastructure, and then a lack of backup and storage.

“They say the number one reason they choose this is piece of mind,” Holl added. “Someone else maintains it.”

HPE provides onsite HPE FoundationCare support while Konica Minolta provides 24.7 remote support, managing the firewall, managing patches and ports, and backing up both the NAS and Konica Minolta’s own cloud.

“We will manage everything relating to the hub itself and do the Level 1 to 3 support,” Holl said. “We will assist with scoping each deal, and do the delivery and installation. The dealers sell, do triage onsite, provide remote hands for remote IT support and support the MFP part of the hub.”

“Right now, everything will be managed by us because we need to bring our expertise here in to make sure things go well for your customers,” Pegley said. “Later in the year, if you have significant IT talent, we would step back and you would provide the Level 1 and Level 2 support – once you have a level of comfort with the system.”

The dealers are required to sell a reseller agreement which is different from the All Covered one and requires agreement to go through sales and technical service training.

“We offer virtual instructor-led training as well as live one-on-one sessions, in three modules lasting about an hour each, on ‘What is Workplace Hub’, the value proposition and qualifying questions, and target markets,” Holl said. They are creating a playbook of sales tools and are working on further training courses around  selling managed services, and synergy selling – selling the hardware and software together.

The technical training takes place in Chicago and Anaheim, and requires training of at least one engineer. There are separate classes on Hub Engine and Controller Support, and on Server Solutions.

“We have also opened up our marketing programs around this to dealers,” Holl added.

For dealers, the key question is whether they can make enough margin on the Hub to make it worth their while, and Konica Minolta is emphatic that they can.

“We built it so that there is margin,” said Kevin Kern, Senior Vice President, Business Intelligence Services and Product Planning, at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. “One issue is that it really depends what the dealer already has as a technologist, but we are hiring people to support them in that venture. Some customers have bought both the copier version and the edge version as well. It really depends what the customer is trying to accomplish. We are also selling more All Covered services around this that we had anticipated.”

“The AWS Cloud gives 30 points of margin,” Taylor said. “We give 60 points or more. And you will also track services along with that for a long time. There is a great margin on hardware and the services come with it.”

Errigo said that the multiplicity of ways to make money on the Hub is the key.

“It’s not just one thing,” he said. “It’s convert data, convert applications, add security services, provide redundancy. The margin stacking has been very strong.”

Taylor also came back to the core message of the conference that more dealers needed to become more aware of and sell Konica Minolta’s whole portfolio. He restated the company’s position that a third of the dealers already get this, a third are wavering and a third aren’t interested.

“Those third of the dealers that aren’t in can’t sell this,” he said. “They can’t give the customer answers because they don’t even know the questions. It’s really that third in the middle who we have to get into the 21st century here.”

Finally, Taylor noted that even for customers who aren’t ready for Workplace today, it still helps sales by providing an opportunity to talk with customers.

“We will sell a ton of stuff just by talking about Workplace Hub,” he said. “Some customers aren’t ready for that right now, but this still helps sell them MFPs.”