Top: Stephen Young and Square 9 Vice President Tony Bishop spend some quality time with Loffler Companies CTO and Director of Information Technologies, Jeff King at the Encompass 2018 Edge Awards Ceremony honoring Square 9’s elite dealers for top performances. The awards ceremony was held at the historic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN.
CJ Cannata with Woodhull’s Director of Sales Brandon Meek–one of the five senior software-savvy reseller representatives The Cannata Report interviewed for this story–at the Encompass 2018 Edge Awards Ceremony.
Although 2017 was an atypical gap year between the most recent two Square 9 Encompass reseller and end-user conferences, the company seems to have not missed a beat. In fact, its tempo seems to have picked up. With more than 305 guests at the 2018 event in vibrant Music City (Nashville, TN), from October 3–5, Square 9 experienced an uptick in attendance by 17% since its last Encompass in 2016.
With a packed agenda, accessible hosts from the top down, and an engaged audience, the bustling event was infused with energy from one conference session or event to the next. To gain a broader perspective of the key learnings from this event, The Cannata Report reached out to solutions experts at various renowned dealerships across the county. These include Andrew Dixon, business development manager, Advanced Office; Ty Bartels, division manager, Document Management Software and Data Conversion Solutions, ACP/All Copy Products; Jeff Balacek, assistant solutions manager, EO Johnson Company; Paul Gieson, director of software solutions, ProCopy Office Solutions; and Brandon Meek, director of sales, Woodhull. Based on feedback from these five influencers and our own observations, we developed a list of the following Top 10 Takeaways from Encompass 2018.
- Encompass 2018 Attracted a Wide Array of Attendees, Overall Enhancing the Event
Both The Cannata Report and the dealer representatives we spoke with appreciated the broad base of attendees, including dealer colleagues along with the many vendors that were not associated with the copier or imaging industries. Many of us agreed that it was insightful and thought-provoking to engage with the wide range of customers attending Encompass 2018, including those from the robotics and AI industries.
- Encompass 2018 Aptly Nurtured the Sharing of Best Practices Among Attendees and Hosts
Most dealers, as well as manufacturers, selling document management and other solutions are struggling to shift from the old school mentality of selling boxes to selling solutions, as well as the solutions an optimally configured box can provide. No one has perfect how to most effectively sell solutions; they are all experimenting with how to generate more software sales within the copier environment. Square 9 understands that struggle and aptly emphasized it throughout the conference.
- Encompass’s EDGE Group Meeting Is One of the Most Engaging and Productive in the Industry
This takeaway is really an extension of No. 2, but it deserves a separate entry given how popular and unique this particular sessionis. The Encompass EDGE (Elite Dealer Group Experience) group meetings are hosted and moderated by Square 9 CEO Stephen Young and his senior executive leadership team. During the session, they specifically targeted a group of top Square 9 resellers who shared their successes and challenges with each other and Square 9’s top brass. In addition, Square 9 provided some of the dealer channel’s solutions thought leaders attending the event with insight into where the product is going, positioning the product more effectively, and discussing how Square 9 can be a better support agent.
While this meeting is about three hours long, many participants I spoke with would like to extend it by as much as double the time allotted. We heard the same thing in 2016 while attending the last Square 9 Encompass Conference. Young invited Frank Cannata and I to observe that session and we were extremely impressed with how open Square 9’s executive team was and how engaged the dealer representatives were. (Unfortunately I had a conflict and was unable to attend this year. However, I will make a concerted effort to join at 2019’s Encompass.) Getting dealer thought-leaders engaged for an hour to an hour and a half, much less that length of time regardless of topic is always a challenge. While no one reseller may yet have the secret sauce for selling solutions, Square 9 has developed and nurtured an environment conducive to developing it according to a few of the dealers I spoke with for this piece, and I believe it based on what I observed back in 2016.
- Square 9’s Deeper Dive into Cloud-Based Solutions Development Is in Alignment with Market Trends
Square 9 is looking at more cloud-based solutions. The hosted offering that Square 9 is developing is becoming an increasingly major focus that’s aligned with market trends. Everything is becoming a web-based product even though Square 9 maintained they plan on maintaining their desktop Windows client for the foreseeable future. It’s clear the company’s primary focus is developing their own web products, such as those in the workflow and capture segments. This ultimately will enable more efficient set up and deployment.
- Square 9 is Making Substantive in-Roads to Simplify and Shorten the Sales Process
What Square 9 is doing¾and several dealer representatives have been asking for this¾is eliminating the need for incorporating the often tedious, cumbersome, impersonal, and time-consuming Webex or webinar process into its solutions sales cycle. As a more efficient alternative, Square 9 has developed standardized interactive presentations where sales representatives don’t have to be live to conduct a solutions product demo. This helps them more effectively qualify prospects and shorten the sales cycle, and in some cases eliminates the need to engage a solutions subject matter expert (SME). Square 9 had already done this for its GlobalSesarch C2 cloud hosted ECM product, and is increasing the adoption of this practice across its solutions portfolio.
- Global Search Capture Was Almost Too Flexible; Some Standardization Has Made It Easier to Sell
While Square 9’s Global Search Capture product is considered a highly flexible solution, sometimes it’s high-degree of flexibility can be a detriment to a dealer attempting to engage a customer. One of the dealer representatives I spoke with offered a compelling analogy, which was agreed upon with other dealers I spoke with. He indicated the product was so flexible that you could almost literally build it from scratch¾similar to designing and constructing a custom home for which only the most basic of blueprints exist. Now, however, there are more substantive versions of the product, where a dealer can work with a customer on a more manageable level of customization (particularly for the SMB space). This is more analogous to looking at a residential developments where there is a specified set of exterior and interior designs and a manageable menu of customizable options in terms of finishings, colors, and hardware to choose from.
- Global Search Capture is Simple to Use, but Other Capture Products are Simpler to Implement
Many dealers prefer to lead with capture. This strategy responds to current market trends¾specifically, the increased rate at which SMBs are prioritizing the digitization of their documents to optimize workflow. Square 9 has clearly done a lot of work on its capture product and its ease of use continues to make it a sellable solution. However, it still needs development. As one dealer representative commented, “From the standpoint of implementation, it’s easier with a PSICapture [from a company like PSIGEN Software] than with a Global Search.”
- Global Forms Release Is Gaining Momentum, but Has a Ways to Go From a Reseller Perspective
Square 9 heavily emphasized its Global Forms release. The company constructed several sessions around the product, which is an online web form creation package that enables users to customize their own forms. They are then automatically rounded and captured into the Global Search Platform. However, from a reseller’s perspective, the product still has quite a way to go. Top dealer representatives are seeing some momentum, but in some cases, they, along with their engineers are not confident it’s there yet. That said, I and those same representatives, were encouraged that Square 9 is working on it and felt it was helpful to learn more about it.
- Square 9 Emphasized its Focus on Development, but the Company Will Still Provide Installation Resources as Needed
Square 9 is doing so well in terms of growth according to the many dealer representatives we queried for this piece. Some commented that Square 9’s professional services department tends to get overwhelmed and that the company prefers to work with dealers that can handle the installation on their own. However, as one dealer representative put it, Square 9 still offers full blown installation services and support if we need it. Mid-sized dealers may not want to employ a full suite of professional services resources. [Understanding that], the company is open to both; doing installs for dealers or empowering the dealer to do it [autonomously] and this was emphasized at Encompass 2018.
- Square 9’s Leadership Team, as Well as the Entire Staff, Were Extremely Accessible
Virtually every dealer I spoke with commented on the accessibility of CEO Stephen Young, CTO Brian Banet, and Vice President Tony Bishop, along with the marketing team and beyond. As one dealer representative put it, the availability and accessibility to talk to Stephen, Brian, Tony, and others about specific issues and how to accomplish specific objectives was super helpful, [and they made themselves available] both in and outside of the sessions. In terms of my own experience, Young and Banet made a concerted effort to engage the audience and encouraged them to be as open and honest as possible in terms of Q&A and conveying any issues, questions or concerns they may have had. The audience responded with questions and Young and Banet allowed the session to extend beyond its allotted time to accommodate as many questions as possible.
Consistent Tier 1 Performance
The Cannata Report announced the winners of 2018’s Frank Awards, as determined by the results of our Annual Dealer
Survey, live and across social media during our 33rdAnnual Awards & Charities Dinner on November 8th. However, we also just launched and extensive recap with highlights, photos, video, and more in The Cannata Report’s December 2018/January 2019 issue and thecannatareport.com.
Although Square 9 did not take home the “Best Software & Service Provider” Award this year (that honor went to ACDI for the third consecutive year), Square 9 was the runner up. More significantly, Square 9 won in this category the first year that The Cannata Report introduced the award. That makes Square 9 one of only two companies who have won in this category since its inception four years ago. Square 9 is also the only software company who has been consistently ranked in the top four (we make it a point to highlight the top four in our analysis of survey software data), in Square 9’s case the top two over the course of five Annual Dealer Surveys since we started probing dealers about software and service providers. (We introduced the award the second year.)
Most significantly, dealers have consistently ranked Square 9 as the No. 1 document management software and services provider over the past five years*.
*Source: The Cannata Report Annual Dealer Survey