Innovation: It's Right In Front of Us

I was recently asked to present at a Center for Nonprofit Excellence & Social Innovation (CNESI) event on the topic of innovation. So I had to ask myself, what makes Marco innovative? Sometimes we get credit for being innovative just because we are in the technology industry. But our products are not unique. We don’t manufacture anything or hold any patents to validate those claims.

Yet, we have been recognized in our industry as innovative for our effective execution of several go-to-market strategies that have been the catalyst for our strong growth. Our products may not make us innovative like Apple, for example, but our ability to take existing products and services and deliver them in a way that is profitable and sustainable does.

Organizations in most industries can say the same. As leaders, I challenge you to look inside your existing business model for opportunities to be innovative. They are usually right in front of us.

Take Amazon, the world’s leading online retailer, as an example. There is nothing innovative about the products they sell, but they are very innovative in their approach to their procurement and delivery system.

So, how do you become innovative?

1. Take a play from Amazon and execute a new delivery model.
A call center is not innovative. A technician fixing devices in the field is not innovative. Not even a remote Help Desk is innovative. The individual pieces of IT that we provide at Marco are not innovative. What is innovative is how we connect the pieces together through Managed IT Services. We combine field technicians, help desk services, and network administration into an affordable monthly investment. 

We transform traditional IT services into a predictable operational cost by allowing organizations to pay per user through contracts over three to five years. The customer adoption rate has been strong because it lowers their IT costs, reduces the need for IT training and recruitment, and allows them to focus on revenue generating elements of their business, rather than general day-to-day IT issues. It’s a win-win.

Our Managed IT Services has grown from $2.6 million with seven employees in 2009 to $19 million and 49 employees today. This profitable business model is projected to surpass $25 million in the next year and looks to be a very sustainable part of our future.   

2. Make something you have better.
FedEx shook the shipping world and grew its business when it began guaranteeing next day delivery and committed to delivering packages faster. We have opportunities every day as businesses to take a deeper look at the products and services we provide and apply some ingenuity to make them better.

That’s what we did when we created Managed Print Services. For 40 years, we have sold printers and copiers – outright – and made money doing it. Through Managed Print Services, we created a new structure that allows organizations to receive supplies, equipment and support by paying a monthly fee per print for what they use. We implemented customized software to track utilization, automatically alert us to potential issues and give us the ability to replace toner before it runs dry.

Through Managed Print, we can provide more value to customers than we did when we were just selling a device and providing reactive technical support. Today, we support 49,000 devices, producing 3.2 billion impressions a year. We now sell more toner in a month than we did in a year when we were an office supply retailer. Same products, vastly different results. 

3. Try something new.
Yes, this seems to be the hardest way to be innovative. It requires some invention. But it does not have to mean reinventing the wheel. It challenges us to look outside our organizations and identify what’s missing. For us, that has been hosted/cloud services.

We just completed a strategic acquisition to expand our well established Managed Services offerings to include hosted applications and infrastructure as a service. We now provide customers a choice: cloud or on-premise solutions, or a combination of the two. It creates a unique offering in our industry.

We used to be a copy and print company that provided IT service. Today, we are a technology services company that happens to be in the printer and copier business. This shift has been one that few, if any, in our industry have been able to effectively duplicate. IT decision makers seem to like this model, and so do we.

We are continually challenged to keep looking around corners to expand technology services that customers need and are willing to pay for. Innovation is a key attribute of a growth company. If you’re not being innovative, you’re probably not maximizing your potential. It’s not just about inventing or holding patents. It’s often about developing new go-to-market strategies for things you may already be doing. It might be sitting right in front of you. Take a look, take action and be innovative. 

Topics: Innovation