When you think of a supercomputer, what comes to mind? How big do you think it is? Are you thinking of the WOPR in War Games? Are you thinking of those old IBM data center pictures from the late 60’s and early 70’s? Not even close. Let me help you, because it’s way bigger than you might be imagining. How about a supercomputer that uses over 10 million CPUs? One that can create an entire virtual Universe and keep it simulating for over an hour? Some scientists in China recently did just that! It’s a cool story and you should check it out HERE.
Reading that article got me to thinking about what we’re doing for our customers today in the office equipment and imaging channel. Do they feel we are offering the 10 million CPU experience or do they think we’ve just given them a Commodore 64? The world has come a long way in the last decade and yet most of what I hear us still talking about is a faster MFP or a cheaper color page. If we’re to push the industry forward, if we are to remain vibrant and profitable, can we continue to talk the same ol’ game?
I’m off to ChannelCon in Austin this week. It’s a great annual gathering of a diverse set of I.T. related channels that allows for a lot of great cross pollination of ideas and business discussions. I view CompTIA as a kind of human supercomputer. Instead of CPUs, think of great minds, all gathering together to dig into some of the most challenging issues facing our businesses today. I don’t think we’ll be cracking the mysteries of the Universe this week, but we will be working together as a collective to dive into topics like 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence, Predictive Analytics, Cyber Security, and yes, we’ll even spend some time discussing the future of office printing. Hopefully I’ll see you there and we can talk about some of the innovations you are working on. If we see each other I’ll probably bug you in person about the whole 10 million CPU supercomputer Universe simulating thingy. If not, here are some things we should be talking about together when we do connect as it relates to giving our customers what they want, and ultimately, looking to grow our businesses:
- What our customers need today: Not every conversation has to be about cutting edge stuff, in fact, it would put us all out of business. That being said, when we look to what our customers need today do we really ask enough questions? Our default is swapping boxes and providing better pricing. But the truth is, there are a ton of proven and innovative things we can do TODAY (that we are not) to help our customers do a better job of managing their costs and workflows. All we need to do is ask the right questions. Do they have a document digital migration plan? Are their specific workflows that are driving them crazy today? Do they have examples of other initiatives being done by partners that intrigue them? These questions can lead to document management and digital workflow opportunities that we can provide TODAY if we’re willing to add a few CPUs to our selling process.
- What they will need tomorrow: Our customers are investigating new and innovative ways to do things and save money. Some of the things are longer term initiatives that will take 5 to 10 years, but they’re talking about them. We need to engage in these conversations because some of the things that they may think are science fiction could, in fact, be available today. Our customers look to us not just to provision things but to provide expertise and advice. When you go to your family doctor to get one thing looked at have they ever asked you about other things? The good ones do because they know you want more care than just what is being taken care of today. Prevention is worth 1,000 cures, right? So let’s do more to help them take better care of their businesses today to save a lot of fire fighting in the future. BTW: They’ll pay for that kind of expertise and assistance!
- Invest in our futures: Yes, it is going to cost us money, and yes, it is going to take some cycles away from things that get us paid today. I’m sure Kodak and Blackberry felt exactly the same sentiment! “We don’t have time for that, we’re too busy ruling the world!” But we need to pay our tithe for future profit and success. That tithe is ensuring that we’re doing as much as possible for our customers by looking beyond printers and pages and towards integrated workflow (of which pages are, shocking I know, still a big piece and will remain so for a long, long time!)
10,000,000 CPU supercomputers. That sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, because the pace of innovation and change in the age of information is staggering. I’m not asking that we invest in CPUs or supercomputers though. Well, come to think of it…okay, another topic. Stay on topic Westley! For today, we need to work at a different pace when it comes to innovation than ever before in the history of our businesses. It is essential that we do so to ensure the health of the companies that are paying our bills because when they are healthy and thriving so are we.
Will I see you at ChannelCon this week? I hope we do so you can share your own thoughts and ideas with me in person, no CPUs required! Otherwise feel free to leave your comments and get in touch with me digitally. CPUs required. ;)