Figuring Out ‘Techmanity’

Earlier this year at an analyst and media event hosted by Canon in Boca Raton, Florida, a panel of solutions experts discussed how advances in technology are reshaping the office landscape and how Canon plans to help customers navigate the new environment. Not surprisingly, the cloud and security were two major themes as Kristen Goldberg, Mark Sinanian, and Karsten Huster fielded questions from CSA’s VP of Marketing Eric Hawkinson.

While a lot of people focus on the implications of the recent and rapid advances in technology, Goldberg thinks we often overlook people. Ultimately, she said, customers are all real people with their own objectives and goals, and as technology continues to improve, it’s helping customers communicate and share information like never before. “They’re leveraging the advances in technology to be able to better communicate, to create communications that are better informed, more efficient, more secure,” she said. “The advances that we’re seeing in technology are helping to achieve that.”

To help customers succeed in such a volatile technological environment, Canon is employing a two-pronged approach, marrying humanity and technology into a strategy that they’re calling “techmanity.” “In 2019, Canon is taking our strong products and our strong technology and backing it with our network of partners, our channels, our expertise in the industry,” said Goldberg.

uniFLOW in the cloud

Indeed, the cloud is one of those revolutionary technologies that is impacting just about any industry you can think of. But Huster, president of uniFLOW developer NT-ware, reminded us that the cloud has been around for a while. Most folks have been using cloud services like iCloud and Box for nearly a decade now. It wasn’t until recently that the corporate world embraced cloud-based solutions. That’s because they found out that in the cloud, there is far less upfront investment required, no additional physical infrastructure to manage and maintain, and way fewer headaches compared to on-premise solutions.

So if businesses want the cloud, then Huster is going to give them the cloud. “Obviously since more business processes are going into the cloud, having an online service like uniFLOW Online to connect devices directly to the cloud is the logical next choice,” he said. According to Huster, NT-ware has been developing uniFLOW Online since 2016, architecting it from scratch.

A blended approach for 2019

While the folks at Canon and NT-ware are proud of their uniFLOW offering in the cloud, Huster said that the company will be pushing a hybrid approach in 2019. Sure, many customers will prefer to move some of their business processes to the cloud. But they’re not going to host them all, be it because they want to take a phased approach, or security concerns with devices talking to the cloud unheeded, or for technical reasons like running a big Oracle system in the background. But with a hybrid approach, customers can get the best of both worlds, lifting the systems that they feel comfortable with lifting, at a pace that isn’t too fast.

The hybrid approach will also employ new pricing schemes to simplify pricing structures and smooth over transaction processes. Typically, customers have to purchase perpetual licenses and pay an annual maintenance fee to use on-premise solutions, whereas cloud solutions are purchased on a subscription basis. So obviously, this can make it tricky to come up with a price structure for hybrid solutions that is easy for both Canon’s dealers and customers to transact business. But according to Sinanian, senior director of marketing at CSA, the folks at Canon have it figured out. Now, uniflow — online, on-premise, or hybrid deployments — will be sold on a subscription basis.

Security concerns in 2019

Plenty of folks are becoming increasingly concerned about security as we see more systems lifted to the cloud. Even MFPs are vulnerable. “We can’t think of the MFP as just the MFP,” said Goldberg. Instead, they must be treated just like any other computer on the network. To help customers, Canon is beefing up the security in their latest version of the imageRUNNER ADVANCED platform. The latest devices will leverage “verify system at startup” technology, which checks the integrity of the firmware and of any applications that are loaded onto the device.

But customers aren’t looking at their MFP and asking someone how they can secure it. No, they’re asking, “how can I create a secure environment for my organization?” Goldberg says Canon can provide that answer.

Ultimately, good security isn’t about any one component of your customers’ infrastructure — it’s about securing the infrastructure in its entirety. “A lot of IT management and CSOs are concerned right now with making sure all the information in their organization is secure,” said Goldberg. “They need to secure their employee information, their customer information, their business information, both within the network as well as what’s coming in and out of their network.”  It’s a huge undertaking, which even if done correctly does not completely eliminate catastrophic breaches. Afterall, no system is entirely locked down, whether it be in the cloud or on-premise.

As more and more customers migrate to the cloud, OEMs and technology providers are going to have to change their approach. Canon’s new “techmanity” strategy looks to marry the company’s proven technology with their expertise and partner network. As they lift some of their tried and true technology into the cloud and introduce a new pricing structure, the company has also made a commitment to security.

is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.