Ricoh and Sharp Announce New Plans to Bring IT Services to the Channel

Brendan Morse
May 1, 2015

 

Ricoh Americas Corporation and Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America (SIICA) announced new additions to their channel programs this week; both targeted to help their dealers provide IT services.  Ricoh’s program named CHAMPS will offer what is being branded as Cloud IT Services, which will be available exclusively for Ricoh Family Group dealer partners in the US. This is made possible through Ricoh’s 2014 acquisition of mindSHIFT. Sharp is going the partnership route by naming Continuum, a channel-only IT platform and services provider, as a Strategic Alliance Member. While not exclusive, this is the first such partnership between an OEM and a company like Continuum in the US.

Ricoh’s CHAMPS program will give dealers access to a variety of the most common cloud and IT vendors through a web-based control panel that provisions services and allows for account management. Ricoh cited “Total IT Help Desk, Server Management, Hosted Exchange Email, and Email Archiving” as key components of the Cloud IT Services offering. This list will likely grow as times goes on to capitalize on other pieces of mindSHIFT’s portfolio. This will add significantly to the portfolio of services available to dealers; which now includes Cloud IT Services, Managed Document & Business Process Services, Digital Imaging Services, and Production Print Services.

Sharp dealers that choose to use Continuum’s remote monitoring and management platform (RMM) will benefit from strategic pricing, on-going IT services training and processes that help dealers develop successful business models. Dealers can use the RMM to monitor and manage cloud and on-premise IT environments (including endpoint devices) and can use it to provision additional services from Continuum like infrastructure as a service and backup and disaster recovery.

The CHAMPS Cloud IT Services offering is very similar to the one Konica Minolta started providing to its dealers in November of 2013, whereas the Sharp-Continuum partnership is the first of its type in the US. While each approach will help dealers make the transition and avoid some of the significant capital and operational expenditures that would otherwise be necessary to move into managed IT and cloud services, both the Ricoh and Sharp offerings have advantages and drawbacks.

The Ricoh program should be easy for dealers to adopt because the services are cloud-based, where scale and service automation capabilities are excellent. The drawback to these offerings is that mindSHIFT (and AllCovered) may compete with dealers, in an already very competitive SMB managed services market.

There are also advantages to the Sharp-Continuum partnership. The Sharp-Continuum partnership does not require a long-term commitment and gives dealers access to Continuum’s 24/7 network operations center and helpdesk. Neither Continuum nor Sharp sells IT or cloud services directly to businesses of any size, so there is not any concern about channel conflict with this arrangement. Continuum does have a very capable RMM and offers other services that would helpful for the dealer channel. From Sharp’s perspective, this strategy also avoids the costs, commitment, and other difficulties around an acquisition.

Sharp dealers will still have to develop IT expertise to handle on-premise service visits. Dealers will also have to lean heavily on Continuum, who has brought in an ex-Sharp executive Ed McLaughlin and has been producing reams of education materials, to deliver training and support for dealers.  While these are certainly steps in the right direction, it is unclear whether this will be enough.

OEMs must make it a strategic initiative to help their dealers transition into services. This is necessary for OEMs to build their own services business and to guard their legacy businesses. InfoTrends recent channel survey of dealers shows that 72% of dealers who do not currently provide IT services are definitely or are considering moving into these services. And 94% of dealers already providing IT services expect to increase their business in this space over the next five years. While dealers can be very loyal, they are forward-looking businesses in their own right and must adapt to what their customers are demanding. Clearly, office equipment dealers see IT services in their future and OEMs must adapt to that reality. Given this, we expect to see continued moves in our industry around managed IT and cloud services in the coming months.

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