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Simplifying IT for SMEs

James Goulding finds out more about Konica Minolta’s intelligent Workplace Hub from its creator Dennis Curry

Konica Minolta is making good on the promise of the intelligent Workplace Hub it frst unveiled in 2017, with the launch of an expanded range of form factors and capacities to meet the diverse requirements of small and medium-sized businesses.

Following the launch of a rackmounted version (the Edge) and discrete model housed within an MFP (the Hub), it is shortly to bring out an eye-catching standalone version, which, like the Edge and Hub, will be available in a choice of capacities to suit the varying needs of customers (see captions).

Konica Minolta has taken its time to get to this stage, which is to be expected considering that in developing an all-in-one IT system that seamlessly integrates hardware, software and services into a multi-vendor, one-stop solution, the company is effectively creating a new category of device.

Dennis Curry, Konica Minolta’s Deputy CTO and inventor of the old Technology Reseller that, as the first entrant into this market, Konica Minolta was determined to launch a fully formed solution.

“We didn’t want to be one of those first entrants that are only recognised for being first; we wanted the Workplace Hub to work really well from the outset. Being a Japanese company, it was important to us that the quality was good and that it was positioned dead right for our customers. We also wanted to make sure the delivery infrastructure and the sales and support functions were in place,” he explained.

Expanding network
Curry added that quality control is why, to start with, the Workplace Hub will only be available from Konica Minolta. However, he expects this to change soon, as existing and new resellers start to take on the product and either resell Konica Minolta’s IT services or integrate their own.

Workplace Hub
Workplace Hub

“Workplace Hub is presently sold by us direct, but very shortly it will also be sold through dealers,” he said. “As the opportunities for us to provide additional value to SMEs increase because of the platform, we are looking at additional partnerships, including with resellers that are more IT-orientated. But before that we need to make sure we have checks and balances in place, because we want to make sure this thing meets the customer’s expectations.”

To this end, Konica Minolta will also be expanding its network of partners, which already includes companies like Microsoft, HP Enterprise, Sophos, Acronis, Canonical, Elastic, Oracle Dyn, ScienceLogic and ServiceNow.

“We have numerous smaller SMB partners and are creating a marketplace on Workplace Hub through which users can connect to them. There will also be a developer support programme for partners and customers, so that eventually companies that have something of value will be able to plug that back into the Workplace Hub and offer it out to other customers,” he said.

Phased implementation
The ability to integrate solutions from companies other than Konica Minolta is important as it gives customers the flexibility to implement the Workplace Hub alongside existing services.

“We can provide most of the managed IT services ourselves, but the challenge we face is that when someone introduces our platform to their office, they can’t just switch everything off. They may already have several different contracts with different suppliers, so we have to build in the ability for them to leverage existing contracts within the platform,” explained Curry.

The rack-mounted Edge can provide a complete managed IT service or it can complement existing systems and manage a specific operational task or tasks
The rack-mounted Edge can provide a complete managed IT service
or it can complement existing systems and manage a specific
operational task or tasks

“Obviously, we want to provide all the services ourselves, or through our dealers or partners, but the reality is this won’t happen at the beginning and customers will need time to switch, which is why we are enabling the Workplace Hub to connect to third party resources, such as Box, Azure, Office 365 and Sharepoint.”

That said, the benefit of a platform is commonality and the ability to deliver a uniform service quality to customers, so it is likely that in the future, as Konica Minolta develops the Workplace Hub with advanced solutions and services based on AI and machine learning, it will look to gain additional expertise and capabilities through acquisitions as well as partnerships.

PROBLEM IT

To coincide with the launch of the Workplace Hub, Konica Minolta surveyed small and medium-sized businesses to find out how their current IT provision was letting them down.

More than one in five respondents reported problems in the following areas:

Hardware not working (cited by 27%);

Admin IT problems (24%);

Outdated software (24%);

Security risks (23%);

Poor internet connectivity (20%);

Servers crashing (20%). Consequences for survey respondents include:

Time spent fixing problems (cited by 41%);

Lower employee productivity (37%);

Cost to fix the problems (35%);

Diminished quality of work (35%).

Almost one in five respondents (18%) cites problems with IT infrastructure as one of the three most significant challenges facing their business. Even so, 95% say they are satisfied with their current IT solutions.

http://workplacehub.com

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2018