Over the past three weeks I have been working with a client that is looking to buy a new wide format (engineering) MFP. In that time they have demo'd four makes and models of equipment and looked at the plot management software that supports the hardware devices. The client's need is well defined and they understand what they are looking for.
We have looked at three hardware vendors for their purchase and have had interesting results for each.
Vendor One: The vendor took the presentation seriously and devoted significant time and effort to do a great demo. Clients got a good understanding of the capabilities of the device and the bundled plot management software available.
Vendor Two: Again a great demo, very knowledgable staff and a good handle on the needs and the potential of the equipment and the software. At this point the software was showing this as the leading result.
Vendor Three: One of the major multinational vendors in the space. Did not have a version of the current equipment available for demo. All machines were tied up in a training centre. It would be three weeks before they could do anything to help us. Luckily I had a another client who has a previous generation of the device they wanted to see and I was able to get that client to run a demo for them. The result was very favourable.
Software vendor: The client is very focused on the plot management software that they need to run their high volume operation. They have little control of the drawings which they need to print or scan and therefore the flexibility of the software has a major impact on their productivity. The vendor of the plot management software for the hardware from vendor three has been superb. In less than 12 hours we have a fully configured quotation and it is in the hands of the client. They knew exactly what was needed, responded to a web enquiry in less than three hours and offered any assistance needed to win the deal...what a contrast to the hardware company.
So who wins?
In a perfect world the vendor who took the demo most seriously and offered the best combined package should win the deal. Unfortunately in this case the software package is as critical or even more so than the hardware...and the software for the product from the vendor who took the least interest in the deal looks like it is the winner.
What is the moral of this search?
First. Work with an integrator who is not stuck to one vendors choice of hardware. Like in other MFP fields, the wide format MFP products have matured to the point where those remaining on the market all perform very well. In the end it is going to be the total package, hardware and software that is going to impact your productivity.
Second. Be prepared to do your homework to find the solution that best matches your needs. My client has invested substantial time in going out to see what they need. This is a long term purchase for them and one which has major impact on downstream users in their office so taking the time to evaluate what they need is paying off in the search.
Third. Be prepared to invest the money it takes to buy the right solution. The solution my client is buying is not the lowest cost nor the least complicated. It is however, the right solution to meet their defined needs. They will see gains and long term benefit from taking a value versus a price approach.
What have I learned from this exercise? Take the time to work with clients to finalize what at times has looked like a fruitless opportunity. In the end I consolidate my value to the client by having used our contacts and resources to assist them in searching out the solution that best matches for them. I don't love the idea of rewarding a vendor who showed little interest with an order (hardware vendor 3) but if it is right for my client it is something I have to do.
At the end of the day it is a satisfying effort because the client wins.