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Going Beyond Print: Ricoh USA Accelerates Expansion Into Digital Services

The company’s recent launch of a Digital Services Center is the latest step in Ricoh USA’s transformation, including offering through the channel services in cloud and IT infrastructure, process automation, cybersecurity, and remote work communication and collaboration.

Ricoh USA has launched a Digital Services Center for developing, managing and supporting the company’s growing portfolio of digital services – including products and services that will provide new opportunities for Ricoh’s legions of dealers and solution provider partners.

The new center is the most recent step in what Ricoh calls its transformation into an information management and digital services company as it expands beyond its roots as a manufacturer of printers and copiers.

While sales of printers, copiers and related supplies and services remain a big part of Ricoh’s business, the company has been significantly broadening its IT software and service offerings over the last couple of years. That expansion includes not-so-surprising practices such as managed print and document outsourcing. But it also includes a broad and growing portfolio of offerings in cloud and IT infrastructure services, cybersecurity, business process automation, and remote/hybrid work collaboration and communication, among others.

[Related: 10 Top Printer Industry Trends To Watch In 2021]

“We’re bringing people, processes and technology together,” said Bob Lamendola (pictured), Ricoh senior vice president of technology and head of the digital services center, in an interview with CRN. “The history of Ricoh has always been in print and data management and [data] capture. And it’s still a big part of our business going forward as we deal with process automation and digital transformation.”

Ricoh channel partners see the vendor’s expanded IT services offerings as a way to bolster their own service capabilities and generate new business opportunities.

KDI Office Technology, an office technology and IT services provider that’s based in Aston, Pa., and serves the mid-Atlantic region, has long sold Ricoh products and has just started to engage the company for Ricoh’s higher-level IT services and expertise, said KDI CTO Greg Bryan, in an interview with CRN.

“Which then subsequently lets you open up your portfolio when you might otherwise walk away from opportunities because it’s outside your scope” in geography or IT capabilities, Bryan said.

Based in Ricoh USA’s Exton, Pa., headquarters, the Digital Services Center serves as the hub for the development, management and operationalization of the company’s digital services strategy, roadmap and solutions portfolio, according to the company. The center includes staff who follow customer and market trends and influence the company’s product development process.

Of most interest to partners, the new digital services unit will be the nerve center for the company’s digital services portfolio strategy and incubation, portfolio management and governance, portfolio solution development, and portfolio solution management.

“We often require a unique solution and I really dislike walking away from any opportunity and [the Digital Services Center] will allow us to develop and test less common applications,” said Dawn Abbuhl, co-founder and president of Repeat Business Systems, an Albany, N.Y.-based office technology and IT services provider that works with Ricoh. “Our production specialist is beyond excited – I am as well,” she said in an interview with CRN.

Ricoh’s transformation into a digital services company has been gestating for some time. It goes as far back as January 2014 when Ricoh bought managed service provider mindSHIFT from retailer Best Buy. Mindshift today is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ricoh that provides IT outsourcing and cloud services.

Another milestone in the company’s digital workplace transformation came in August 2019 when it acquired DocuWare, a leading developer of cloud and on-premises document management and workflow automation software. Ricoh worked with DocuWare prior to the acquisition, using its software internally and marketing it to Ricoh customers through partners.

The Ricoh Smart Integration platform, part of the Ricoh Cloud Workflow Solutions portfolio of subscription-based, cloud-hosted automation solutions, is another key component of Ricoh’s digital services lineup. Originally focused on scanning and information capture, Ricoh expanded the Smart Integration platform in June 2020 with new security, reporting and device management capabilities, along with workflows specifically for the heavily regulated legal and healthcare industries.

Ricoh is also partnering with some industry heavyweights as part of its digital services offensive. The company’s disaster recovery-as-a-service for its Mindshift customers relies on VMware technology to replicate data from on-premises data centers to a private cloud. In October 2020 the company expanded its collaboration with IBM under which Ricoh taps into IBM’s hybrid cloud services to deliver its information management solutions.

Ricoh has even jumped into the security arena with the March launch of RansomCare, a multi-layered ransomware containment solution designed to identify, contain and isolate ransomware attacks at the source, limiting their impact on data integrity, system downtime, productivity and overall operations, Ricoh said at the time. The solution is based on BullWall’s RansomCare technology.

Today Ricoh’s digital services are built around four “customer challenge” pillars: cloud and IT infrastructure, process automation, remote worker, and “smart & safe workplace,” said Steve Burger, Ricoh USA vice president of technology innovation and new business development, in an interview with CRN.

The company’s comprehensive digital services portfolio today covers digital workplace (managed print, managed workplace, and communication and collaboration services); infrastructure and cloud (networking services and solutions, business continuity and disaster recovery, and public, private and hybrid infrastructure); digital experience (data and analytics, software engineering, ecommerce and multi-channel communications); cybersecurity (security solutions, managed security services and professional security services); and business process and process automation services – all wrapped in consulting, integration and managed services.

Ricoh USA isn’t moving into digital services on its own. In November 2020 parent company Ricoh announced that as of April of this year – two years earlier than originally planned – the Tokyo-based company was transforming its organizational structure to accelerate its transformation into a global digital services company.

The demand for digital services, especially those around remote/hybrid work and smart/safe workplace, has also accelerated in the last 16 months with the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced millions of people to work from home.

Ricoh’s moves are getting noticed. In February the company won the Best Cloud Hosting Provider award in the international Cloud Computing Awards program. And in April Ricoh USA was named to Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services, North America – the first time the company has been included.

As Ricoh expands into digital services, the office equipment manufacturer is becoming more of a solutions and strategic services provider. Ricoh IT Services, in fact, was No. 176 on this year’s CRN Solution Provider 500 and the company has appeared on several lists of managed services providers.

But does that create the potential for conflict with its more than 400 dealer partners in the U.S.?

Burger says Ricoh knows how to avoid channel conflict after working with the channel for so many years. “It’s a lot of lessons learned, a lot of challenges in the field, and realizing who’s better to support the different levels of customers and how to engage with the service,” he said.

Ricoh, nevertheless, does have a significant direct sales footprint, Burger acknowledges, selling services directly to midsize companies (starting around 250 employees), large enterprises and global accounts. But Ricoh is packaging up all its digital products and services for the company’s dealers and solution provider partners, counting on them to sell them to small-to-midsize customers.

“Our partners love it because it’s just more business, different types of business, services revenue and an annuity stream from cloud workflow that they’ve never seen before,” said Ricoh’s Lamendola.

Abbuhl at Ricoh partner Repeat Business Systems says she trusts the company to avoid channel conflict. While she occasionally finds herself competing with Ricoh for a new midsize account, she has never hesitated to send the company purchase orders with customer account information – colleagues who sell other brands warn her the vendor will use that information to steal her accounts.

“In all these years they’ve never crossed the line in that way,” Abbuhl says. “Ricoh just doesn’t do that. That’s not their culture.”

Repeat Business Systems even benefited from a major change in Ricoh’s sales strategy several years ago when the company decided to turn over many direct accounts it had in 21 second-tier cities to local dealers – Abbuhl’s company picked up 500 new customers in the Albany, N.Y, region. “They made the decision that the local dealers were in better positions to maintain relationships with – and really make a better profit margin on – those small and midsize businesses,” she said.

While some partners have the staff and expertise to meet all of a customer’s needs around Ricoh’s services, customer engagement often a hybrid approach with the vendor and its dealers working together to service customers.

Burger, for example, cited the case of an Ohio partner who sold a document outsourcing services package to a customer but relied on Ricoh personnel and facilities to actually deliver the services behind the scenes.

Lamendola said a common model is for partners to provide managed print services during regular business hours, then hand the support chores over to Ricoh for the rest of the 24-hour cycle. “It’s really tailored to the reseller and the style of the engagement they prefer,” he said.

“We depend on our partners to leverage Ricoh’s resources, services and capabilities in the best way that fits their requirements for their customers,” Burger added.

Repeat Business Systems leverages Ricoh’s products and capabilities, including the DocuWare software, the company’s support and trouble-shooting services, and even Ricoh’s implementation and project management expertise for large deployment contracts, Abbuhl said. “The combination of my well-trained team and Ricoh – I just know it’s going to go well.”

“Ricoh is always on the cutting edge of the market in so many different ways,” Abbuhl said of the company’s expansion into new areas. “We have really benefited from their intelligence and foresight. They were always – and still are – ahead of the curve on just about everything.”

Solution provider KDI relies heavily on its own in-house resources to provide managed services, although CTO Bryan said KDI often engages Ricoh professional services for product-specific implementation tasks. And he called his company’s support relationship with Ricoh “second to none.”

Bryan said KDI more recently has begun working with Ricoh to bring MindShift IT services to the dealer’s clients. “I think the advantage, for us and pretty much any dealer, is the advanced services. That’s where I think this program is going to benefit dealers like ourselves.”

Ricoh also is expanding the amount of training and go-to-market sales and marketing materials it provides partners as part of the digital services push.

“Now every one of our partners can send out messaging to their customers about process automation, about smart and safe workplace, with the power of Ricoh behind it,” Burger said. “We’re enabling our partners to drive that marketing message and digitally market to their customers. And our partners love it.”

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