The Power of Partnerships for Digital Transformation

December 2, 2020

As our industry changes and evolves, and in uncertain times such as we’ve experienced for much of 2020, business transformation is key to maintaining profitability. An increasingly popular strategy for companies to steer through this transformation while continuing to grow and build revenue while staying ahead of the competition is partnerships. Partnerships allow companies to obtain and integrate new capabilities into their offerings; creating new opportunities for themselves and their customers.

In 2018, I was approached by Konica Minolta to lead the company’s partnership strategy. Known for offering ‘best in class’ business solutions to its customers, Konica Minolta created this new position to focus on further developing its Workplace of the Future™ portfolio of products and solutions. Having dedicated my entire career to technology-based industries, the role was a great match to my knowledge and expertise.

I joined Konica Minolta in late 2018 after many years at Toshiba America, holding senior executive roles in sales and management, and serving as President and CEO for my last ten years at the company. Since that time, we have entered into quite a few exciting and lucrative partnerships, including one that will significantly impact our cloud business.

Earlier this year, we became a Google Cloud Premier Partner, which enables both our company and our dealer partners to offer the full suite of Google Cloud solutions, as well as facilitate technical development of advanced productivity tools between the two organizations, all built on the Google Cloud. The Google alliance furthers Konica Minolta’s mission to bring to market tools that enable businesses to better manage their digital transformation.

There is a great deal to consider when determining the right partnerships to move your business forward. Below are some takeaways from my experience you might find helpful.

Getting started

When starting a new position at any company, you do your research and learn the business. I began my journey at Konica Minolta by learning the core assets the company had, including products, services and people. Our company is a great example of “it starts with the people.” There are countless people in this organization whose breadth of reach and skills facilitate and enhance Konica Minolta’s own journey of transformation. I traveled all over the world to gather information, meeting with executives at our global headquarters in Japan, R&D in Rome, London and our All Covered (IT Services Division) headquarters in California. I also looked at our acquisitions over the last ten years, assessing why they were chosen and how they each served to benefit the portfolio of offerings.

Determine what partnerships will make an impact on your business

Have a clear vision of what types of partnerships will benefit your company. Determine how you can be strategic and meaningful, not only with each partner but by providing value to your customers. At Konica Minolta, we developed strategic themes around our partnerships based on the current and future needs of our customers. They include:

  • Mobility: Access to information anytime, anywhere – “Work is where I’m at”
  • Connectivity: Ability to connect and share regardless of device or activity

As part of the acceleration plan to empower small to medium-sized businesses with the latest technologies while ensuring continued success, our current suite of comprehensive IT services, office technology solutions and consulting services deliver a connected platform to enable companies to build their Workplace of the Future. We needed solutions to complement our current offerings that we could bundle and go to market with to positively impact dealers and customers.

For example with Google, we can offer  collaboration and productivity tools with Google Workspace to help businesses re-imagine how their teams work, without disrupting existing infrastructures or the need to have an IT manager on site to install across devices. The focus is on seamless integration, and that kind of simplicity is what we want our customers to continue to come to us for.

Before meeting with potential partners, make sure your story is well documented.

When I started talking to potential partners about our assets, they had no idea of our variation and reach. The more they learned, the more they wanted to talk about developing more than just a partnership. Be sure to be an active listener and focus on their story as well, as this will ensure alignment with your company now and in the future. A few other important tips:

  • Consider your customers’ pain points and find partners that can resolve them. As the workforce transforms and remote work increases, we try to stay ahead of that trend. Workers continue to do more and more work outside the traditional office. And this goes for all generations, from Boomers to Millennials, the technology they have in their consumer lives is driving expectation for their business lives. Along with All Covered, we need to keep our dealers and customers top of mind for what will keep us moving in the right direction to serve them now and in the future.
  • Look for unique alliances. In our core industry of printing and imaging, no other company has a relationship on a cloud platform like Google. We are establishing an industry standard going forward on what cloud activity can be. This partnership differentiates us amongst our competitors – these are the kind of partnerships you should consider.
  • Evaluate the whole company. Konica Minolta places a great deal of importance on the impact we can have on society, and we want our partners to share in this passion. True synergy does exist between partners if you choose the right ones.

Look to the future

Know what your business strategy looks like now and in five, ten years from now. What does the future hold for your industry and what partnerships will help you keep up? If we look at the emerging trend in start-up companies, they are launching on an open environment, which leans to Google. Today, All Covered offers solutions primarily on the Microsoft platform. Now, we will be developing solutions on the Google Cloud Platform as well, to truly be able to offer our customer’s the best solutions for their needs. Our strategy looks at the short term but also long-term view of Google as a platform.

From a strategic point of view, our interest in Google was driven by our core strategy of Cloud First, or everything in the cloud.  It is a long-term view that will continue to develop over the next five to ten years. In the North American market, Google is the market share leader in the K-12 education segment, which means that the next generation workforce will desire and demand the Google ecosystem.  We are starting to see this trend as well in start-up companies.

Only about one-third of companies, especially in the SMB segment (our sweet spot for All Covered) have any sort of cloud strategy, putting them at a significant disadvantage. Things in the cloud need to be secured, no matter what the size of your company. In fact, smaller companies are more likely to be compromised than larger companies.

Know that the work is never done

It takes months of hard work and collaboration to get to the point of executing an agreement, and then the work really gets started! In the case of Google Cloud, we are currently rolling-out our first phase of implementation across North America.

Our relationship is focused around reselling the Google Cloud portfolio and developing unique solutions with Google technologies, the latter of which is a longer-term strategy. The reselling of Google Cloud’s portfolio includes Google Workspace (and related productivity tools), Google Cloud Platform (cloud storage and solutions), Jamboards (video conferencing/whiteboards) and Chrome devices.  Given the unprecedented increased demand for remote working this year, these tools have never been more relevant. As an example, Google Meet, the secure video-conferencing in-browser application, surpassed new milestones with over 3,800 years’ worth of meetings taking place in a single day!

We are also utilizing Google’s pre-developed solutions for some of our vertical markets including education, healthcare, professional services and manufacturing. For educators and IT administrators preparing for potential school closures and extended distance learning needs, we have been providing educational virtual events to show how platforms like G Suite for Education can shorten the learning curve without disrupting workflow.

And as a technology partner, we plan to work with Google’s Development team on next gen technologies such as Document AI, robotic process automation, facial recognition, Hyperledger, Blockchain and more to create new innovations. These technology developments will be exclusive to Konica Minolta and our dealers. All of this will be rolled out to all areas of our business, including our direct salesforce, indirect dealer channel and All Covered.

Looking ahead

As we travel our own path of transformation, we continue to look for new partnerships to bring more value to our offerings and provide opportunities for our dealers to support SMBs and the workplace of the future.

But, ironically enough, to look ahead it helps to look back. Seeing the progress we have made with partnerships in the last 18 months already only reinforces how Konica Minolta is not only helping others with their digital transformation journey, but that we are still on our own. I’m excited to see what additional innovative solutions come out of these existing partnerships, and where additional alliances may offer value to our customers.

In the meantime, I leave you with a personal favorite quote of mine, which seems rather apt given my role:  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  – Simon Sinek

Mark Simons
Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances

Mark Simons joined Konica Minolta as Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances in November 2018. In this newly established role, Mark works to further develop Konica Minolta’s Workplace of the Future portfolio of products and solutions, and focuses on building strategic partnerships that enhance and complement the goals and objectives for this area of the business. Mark has 35 years of experience in the personal, mobile and commercial computer industries, having served in executive-level positions with Toshiba, IBM, and Smith Corona Corporation. He joined Konica Minolta from Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., where he served as President and Chief Executive Officer since 2008. During his tenure, revenue exceeded $5 billion in the mobile computing, television, telecommunications and imaging systems businesses. Mark resides in Southern California, where he is an active member of the UCI Chancellor Roundtable and board member of the Hoag Sports Charity Foundation.