Ask a member of the general public to play word association with the brand name “Canon”, and the most common answer is likely to be “camera”. Play the same game in an office, and you might get “printer” or “scanner”. All three are vital elements of the Japanese manufacturer’s business, but there is so much more than that. Not least, innovative business services.
“We have a lot of new capabilities, in particular three B2B value propositions,” says Ferenc Mezei, business unit director at Canon Hungária Kft. These include the managed print services of Canon Global Services, offering fully integrated hardware and software, business information security and, most recently, information management and business process outsourcing.
“This was reorganized into a new business this year. In the past two or three years, we have started building up this business area. Now we have created a new business unit. Information management is a special area for a company like Canon. It is less than 20 years since we had a footprint in this area. Initially we concentrated on hardware, but now we also have a focus on software and complex solutions.”
And it has already started to pick up some very high-profile customers. “Because of our software system integration and service platform, we have a very good relationship with Magyar Posta,” explains Mezei.
Using Canon solutions, the Hungarian government has developed a central digitalized mailroom, the so-called “Citizens Mailroom”. “Traditional mail communications are sent to the mailroom, where they are opened and digitized, and the digital format forwarded by email, meaning the relevant ministry or institution gets to work with digital documents.” The answers come back to the central mailroom in digital format, where Magyar Posta prints them out (again, using Canon printing technology and services) and forwards them to the citizen concerned.
With B2B business consultants, technical consultants and social architects, plus the background of hardware and increasingly sophisticated software solutions, Mezei says Canon is “ready to step into the info tech market; we believe we can compete with the biggest IT players.” Indeed, as the company website makes clear, Canon’s application palette spans five key areas, each focusing on a different way to improve business:
Differentiate: Marketing solutions that enhance customer communication;
Accelerate: Document management solutions for today’s business challenges;
Transform: Business process management solutions for the digital office;
Simplify: Out-of-the-box solutions that reduce complex admin; and
Evolve: Innovative solutions for print services providers.
One such way in which Canon is aiming to make life simpler for its clients is through its information management companies, Therefore and I.R.I.S., which were acquired in the past five-ten years as a natural step in its strategy of providing customers with end-to-end office solutions that complement its existing world-class portfolio, and developing a more consultancy-based sales approach.
“Initially it was based on a relatively simple piece of software that was able to recognize and manage invoices. Now we are ready to build up a whole back office ecosystem,” Mezei says. “We have been looking at how we can help customers digitize the back office and free up time for other activities. We have all the necessary software and expertise to do just that.”
That has already happened at one bank, where, over a period of five or six years, Canon has built up what is now a fully digitized back office. Another satisfied customer has been a Hungarian real estate developer, where back office support for project management and consultant invoicing is handled.
One particularly complex customer is Hungaropharma Zrt., the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in Hungary. The company distributes altogether some 16,000 different kinds of medicaments, and another 6,000 or so products that do not qualify as medicine but are sold in pharmacies. Canon’s back office support enables Hungaropharma to marry up its SAP data archiving system with invoicing data into one seamless digital ecosystem.
The net of potential clients is spreading, with shared service centers, law firms and HR departments all in focus now. “If you analyze any general company activities, you will always find some document intensive areas. We are able to offer out of the box solutions for document management.”
But it will never be enough just to offer off-the shelf software. There is rarely a one-size fits all scenario, which is where the human element, the consultants, come into play. Mezei says a vital element behind the business Canon has been winning is the knowledge and expertise of his colleagues.
“You have to understand deeply the business requirements of the industry segment. If you are sector specific you can build trust that you know how you can increase efficiency appropriately, and trust is vital to making these decisions.”
That level of expertise is just as important among the software developers. Canon has a team of 40 or so down in Szeged, for example, working on cloud-based solutions. “Canon’s approach is to build up more developer centers around Europe, and this is one of those.”
One of the cloud solutions the Szeged team has been responsible for developing is Canon’s Picasa-like service Irista, launched in 2014, which allows users to store and share (and even print in book format) photos and video across multiple devices, and includes 15 GB of storage free.
Of course, you are never far from printing in one form or another where Canon is concerned. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the company is active in field of 3D printing services. “A lot of automakers use 3D printing and are looking for service providers. We can supply them with the most modern machines and technologies. Initially, automakers want to pay for the services rather than buy the machines. In the next two or three years, we are going to see a lot of new technologies and innovations coming from this area. This is a huge opportunity for Canon in the B2B arena.”