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News & Articles

April 8, 2019 |

Konica Minolta Wants It All

The onetime printer/copier vendor is eight years into a journey toward delivering comprehensive technology services, with its legacy print dealers along for the ride. Will IT-oriented channel pros be invited to participate as well?

The strategic journey longtime office equipment vendor Konica Minolta Business Solutions is currently embarked on proceeds from an all but indisputable proposition: Businesses today are generating less paper but more data.

Indeed, global data stores will leap from 33 trillion gigabytes last year to 175 trillion in 2025, according to IDC. Yet a steadily declining share of that information will eventually make its way to printers and copiers.

“The rate at which information is being created is astonishing,” says Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta’s president and CEO. “We are trying to make that information that was on that page available to you in any form in which you want to consume it.”

That’s a more ambitious mission than selling office equipment, and involves not just hardware but a wide range of software and services as well, notes Taylor, who spoke with ChannelPro roughly a month after Konica Minolta’s 2019 Dealer Conference. The nature and importance of that mission, for Konica Minolta itself and its partners, was a key theme at the show.

“Every customer that I talk to, every prospect that I talk to, has a desire to be more efficient, more effective, wherever they are because of the pace of business today,” Taylor says. “That opportunity is what we’re trying to capitalize on.”

Though that opportunity is still in its infancy, he continues, Konica Minolta has been pursuing it aggressively since 2011. “We saw the changes in how print is going to be utilized and be valued in businesses quite a while ago,” Taylor says.

It’s been expanding its capabilities ever since in a bid to remake itself as a provider of comprehensive technology services to businesses of all sizes. Today, Konica Minolta offers solutions for everything from content and document management to business process automation, voice over IP, HIPAA compliance, and more.

Acquisitions have played a central role in that strategic pivot. “In the last eight years we’ve purchased more than 20 companies, and they have a broad base of services and software that we can provide to really round out our business,” Taylor says. Though its core print business continues to grow, it accounts for a smaller percentage of income every year in relation to those other offerings.

As most channel pros know, those offerings have included managed IT services ever since Konica Minolta’s blockbuster 2011 purchase of All Covered Inc., an early leader in managed services with a national footprint. With help from that firm’s dozens of locations, Konica Minolta can now provide not just business hardware and software but remote and in-person support as well.

“You combine 24/7 cloud support and the capability to get somebody onsite, if necessary, to make some change or adjustment or to install services in less than four hours, [and] that’s a compelling value proposition,” Taylor says.

It’s a value proposition no other legacy printer/coper manufacturer, office equipment dealer, or smaller IT provider can match, he continues. “Taking responsibility for all of IT and business systems inside of an organization is what separates us from others,” Taylor says.

Workplace Hub, the centralized “workplace of the future” solution Konica Minolta introduced just over two years ago, is emblematic of what Taylor has in mind when he speaks of taking on all of an end user’s IT and business system needs. Built around a customized server developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Workplace Hub provides Wi-Fi networking, onsite and cloud-based storage, and multifunction print services, all protected by Sophos XG Firewalls and backed by end-to-end managed services.

“We install the platform, we unify the IT issues that they may be having, take responsibility for everything, and make sure they are functioning as they would like,” Taylor says. “That’s been very well received by that sort of SMB market that we’re very, very tied into,” Taylor says.

Konica Minolta sees SMBs as a market ripe for further expansion. Though the vast majority of businesses in that cohort have an IT provider, Taylor notes, relatively few have one they love. “I would say they’re settling for their IT,” he says. “The business is operating, but it’s not operating efficiently, and it’s not going to ever take advantage of things like AI and machine learning, those things that we can bring to their business over time.”

Traditional office equipment dealers are very much a part of Konica Minolta’s vision for how it delivers comprehensive technology services. “We encourage our channel to enter this space along with us,” Taylor says, noting that many of its dealers have already attempted to add IT services to their repertoire independently.†”What they’ve learned is that to really make money in this space requires some scale,” he states. That’s where Konica Minolta can help, he continues, by delivering supplemental IT skills and capabilities either under the All Covered brand or on a white-label basis.

“We are partnering with our channel partners kind of in any way that they would like us to,” Taylor says.

The model appears to be working: March was an all-time-record sales month for Konica Minolta’s channel organization. According to Taylor, business in general has been strong for some time. “We’ve grown sales more than a billion dollars in the last six years,” he says.

Could IT providers working their way into print participate in that success just as print providers entering IT have? Taylor has no immediate plans to start recruiting IT-oriented channel pros, but sees potential for the future.

“Many of the products and the services that we sell are very relevant to a more traditional IT channel partner,” he says. “I think as we go forward many of the services that we offer will be expanded to a different type of channel then we have today.” The trick, however, will be doing that in a way that doesn’t create conflict with the company’s existing partners. “We have longstanding relationships and we try not to overdistribute the products and services we sell,” Taylor says.

More such products and services will become available this year, either directly from Konica Minolta or in collaboration with outside vendors. Without divulging specifics, Taylor hints that conferencing and cybersecurity are two likely areas of emphasis. Two of many, that is.

“We’ll be looking at every area that you can think of in an office where you would need expertise that relates mostly to technology and how you operate your business,” he says.

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