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Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Louella Fernandes

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Sharp Unveils New Strategy for the Interconnected Office


By • on October 19th, 2015 • in Articles • 3,942 views • No Comments

At its recent Inspire Expo event in Malta, Sharp Europe unveiled a new strategy and vision for broadening its portfolio of products and services to address the needs of the interconnected office.

Paving the way for a return to growth

Once a stalwart of Japanese electronics, Sharp is a company in need of a major reversal in fortunes. Sharp gains much of its revenue from LCD screens and TVs – and is a major supplier of display screens for Apple and other smartphones. However it has suffered stiff competition with smaller rivals in China and Korea, which has led to a slump in its LCD panel division culminating in an overall company annual loss of ¥222.35 billion ($1.9bn) in fiscal 2014. Sharp has also forecast a loss for the April to September half of this business year.

Sharp’s range of restructuring measures includes its withdrawal from the consumer business. Its LCD TV business has already been terminated in the US and Europe. In Europe it has transferred exclusive brand license rights for both its television business and audio products to Slovakian TV maker Universal Media Corporation (UMC). UMC also owns Blaupunkt, Eternity and E-motion.

Sharp’s return to profitability is now centred on its focus on high value products and the business-to-business (B2B) market for the two Document Solutions and Visual Solutions business units which have maintained some growth.

A new vision to deliver greater business value

Sharp is looking to create a unique value proposition for its customers in its ability to offer an integrated solution that encompasses multifunctional printer (MFP) hardware, cloud portal software and visual solutions such as interactive whiteboards.  As such, Sharp Europe has combined its sales and support structure for its Document and Visual Solutions businesses across the region, and now offers a complete portfolio through a single B2B sales organisation.

Sharp has ambitious plans in Europe to broaden its portfolio of hardware, software and services to create greater customer value. Its vision is to ‘transform the way organisations engage with information through connected technologies,’ which it explains as a process to tailor solutions based on how, where and when people need information. The Sharp team will work with customers, examining how they capture, process, display and share information, developing solutions which make information more applicable and more accessible.

 

The Inspire Expo event saw the following announcements:

  • A major refresh of its colour A3 MFPs range. Sharp announced 13 new MFPs that will become available next year to address the 30 to 60ppm printing market. The new MX series will simplify Sharp’s print portfolio, replacing three different A3 ranges with one common unit design and user interface, which Sharp claims is easier to use, sell and service. New benefits include an out-of-the-box pull printing solution and reduced warm-up made quicker with the addition of a sensor which recognises an approaching user.
  • Sharp Cloud Portal Office (CPO) v2.0. Provided on a cloud subscription basis, aimed at SMBs, this is the next generation of Sharp’s cloud storage, collaboration and simple workflow service. Cloud Portal Office v2.0 now includes entry level document management features to make data easier to structure, find and use. Cloud Portal Office enables the access, upload, download, sharing and management of documents, from any PC, mobile device, Sharp MFP or Sharp BIG PAD interactive whiteboard
  • The Sharp Optimised Solutions Portfolio. This is its first combined software offering designed to complement Sharp’s MFP range and provides customers a turnkey option for their print and document management needs. Sharp’s Optimised Solutions Portfolio provides software for Output Management, Capture Workflow and Mobile Working to optimise business value, improve productivity, reduce costs and help businesses regain control of their documents. Sharp plans to extend the portfolio in the coming months.
  • A European partnership with Crestron, a leading provider of control and automation systems. The partnership brings together Sharp’s range of BIG PAD interactive flat panel displays with the Crestron RL group collaboration solution which incorporates Microsoft Skype for Business.

Quocirca Opinion

Sharp has shown commitment to a market which is both mature yet highly competitive. The MFP hardware market is increasingly commoditised and all the major players in this market have stepped up their efforts to broaden their workflow solutions portfolio to address the growing mobile convergence that is characterising today’s digital office workplace.

Nevertheless, Sharp’s sweet spot is primarily the SMB market, which is vastly underpenetrated when it comes to managed print services and solutions. As such, Quocirca notes the following challenges and opportunities for Sharp:

  • Accelerate its workflow strategy. Sharp’s competitors are increasingly thinking “beyond-the-box” and have invested heavily in their workflow strategy – both smart MFP hardware and integrated document workflow solutions. With a broad and re-engineered A3 hardware portfolio and its updated Cloud Office Portal, Sharp is well positioned to offer SMBs a compelling and low cost integrated document workflow solution. With SMBs increasingly confident about the benefits of cloud services, the ability to offer document workflow cloud-based services will be a key differentiator for suppliers in this market.
  • Maximise the Managed Print Service (MPS) opportunity. Sharp’s hardware and software offerings are critical to success in this market which is dominated by mature and established players. In the UK, Sharp has recently launched Optimised Managed services (OMS) in a renewed attempt to expand its presence in the MPS market. Although Sharp has so far lacked a significant presence in the market, it has a comprehensive A3 hardware and software portfolio combined with a strong reputation for service delivery. Sharp needs to build on its existing regional successes in the MPS market, establishing partnerships in order to fill the gap in its A4 portfolio and foster broader awareness of its capabilities in this space.
  • Nurture its partner ecosystem. Sharp has promoted a number of features of its new MFP range which make it easier to sell, service and support. With service delivery a top requirement for SMBs who do not have the resources or time to dedicate to print management, this is a strong differentiator from a hardware perspective. However, beyond this, Sharp needs to incentivise, train and certify its channel to sell solutions and services. This will be key to gaining longer term customer relationships that can pave the way for broader adoption of its expanded and integrated solutions set.
  • Quick wins through integrated document and professional display offerings. Sharp needs to develop a convincing use case scenario for joint solutions that encompass its document solutions and visual display technology. Only a small percentage of its channel offer both product ranges and these products require different sales processes, different skill sets and ultimately different stakeholders in the decision making process. While Sharp may gain some quick wins in this space, Quocirca believes that this is a longer term opportunity which will rely on successfully expanding its partnerships and indirect channels to reach more SMB opportunities.

 

Ultimately, Sharp needs to strike while the iron is hot.  It undoubtedly has a robust product portfolio and a strong heritage in both the print and visual solutions market. But competition is fierce, and it will need to accelerate its sales and marketing initiatives to compete and deliver the business value to its customers and gain a competitive advantage.

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About the Author

With 25 years’ experience in the print industry, Louella Fernandes is a respected and globally recognised analyst focusing on the evolution of print in the digital age. Louella is currently Associate Director for Print Services and Solutions at Quocirca.



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