The Konica Minolta Workplace Hub: 10 Things You Need To Know

One Box To Rule Them All

Konica Minolta believes their new Workplace Hub will change the face of how IT is delivered now and in the future.

The single Workspace Hub box covers all of an SMB office’s needs from printing, copying and scanning to email, custom applications, and even integration with public cloud providers AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google. The services for Workplace Hub are being provided by Konica Minolta's MSP subsidiary, All Covered, which will provide full service IT including email, backup, data recovery, and network security.

Nick Pegley, Sr. Vice President, Solutions and Services, Konica Minolta Business Solutions and Sam Errigo, EVP of Sales & Channel Programs at Konica Minolta, spoke to CRN about the Workplace Hub and why they think it is the future of IT.

“Imagine a multifunction product, and then embedded inside that multifunction product is a platform that can run all the services for that SMB. All their IT service. Whether its email, all their applications, everything resides within that architecture,” Errigo told CRN. “Its on prem ... Complete back up, complete redundancy of everything that is loaded on that platform.”

Eight Years In The Making -- The Genesis Of Workplace Hub

Pegley came from an IT background, and was one of the executives that joined Konica Minolta when the printer giant bought MSP All Covered eight years ago. All Covered is No. 110 on the 2018 CRN Solution Provider 500 and moved up three places from 2017.

“We really couldn’t have done what we’re doing here with Workplace Hub without having built the IT services business here in the US. So the foresight to realize, with a company with an amazing history in the print area, actually realizing that everything is becoming data, ‘So we needed that IT bench strength’ and so that’s a terrific asset. It’s really hard for others to replicate. Its working really well for us.

We’re bringing to market products that are the fruits of all that kind of thinking.

I think that’s why you’re seeing something kind of different. I think there’s a much stronger IT core to the business here. And really what has been a pretty significant transformation to be more IT centric, data-centric, and focused on the customer’s needs more broadly than print and print solutions.”

‘Like Turning On A Switch’

Errigo and Pegley say there is growing frustration among end users in the SMB community around their IT service. The goal of Workplace Hub is to eliminate those pain points by providing a box that allows the business owner to take back control of their IT with a touch screen interface, built into a box that is connected to techs at All Covered.

Pegley said Konica Minolta wants to make IT as simple as turning on an air conditioner.

“We really think we’ll look back in a few years, and think ‘Wow, about this time, 2019, 2020, is when at least for small and medium sized businesses IT really started to change. It started to change from something that is complicated, that you have a lot of headaches around, that you have a lot of risks and concerns around, to something that you basically use like turning on a light switch, setting your AC to the right temperature, or getting in your car and driving.’ It’s not been like that.”

“We in the IT business. We’re all guilty. We have sort of created complexity by throwing a lot of solutions at people, a lot of vendors, that really the customer has to be the integrator in a lot of ways. We think there’s an easier way. We call it simplified IT. Think about it differently. Just use it, and pay for the use of it. Everyone’s use to that in the cloud now. Subscriptions. Pay for what you use. On premise IT. Most businesses are still owning all that equipment and paying people to manage it and we think that model will fade away. It will become more of a utility model, a monthly recurring model, a flat inclusive model, and that’s the core of the product.”

Protecting Against Different Attack Vectors

Pegley said Workplace Hub comes standard with Sophos firewall protection, as well as back up and data recovery from Konica Minolta’s own private cloud. He said the company also partners with security vendors and can provide different packages based on a customer’s needs.

“Depending on the customers situation, you have to bring different tools to bear. There are different threats. Different attack vectors. So in the workplace Hub we wanted to start with a really strong core and the partnership with Sophos is critical to that. They’re a top ranked, leader-of-the-pack, enterprise-grade firewall and really unified threat management vendor. So we put that right in the heart of the product, and that’s going to be the primary firewall for most customers.

Ultimately you really need a very strong front door to your network. It does go beyond that as well so we can deploy the end point protection, solutions down to the user level, because if you’re sitting in Starbucks you’re more likely to be attacked than if you are sitting in your office. So you have to protect those endpoints.

We run a full 24/7 security operations center and a lot of MSPs talk about security and its covered, but ultimately you need people. You need experts, you need response teams, and its 24 hours a day. It’s not just a 9 to 5 responsibility. With Sophos at the core, Workplace Hub gives us great strength, but then we’ll wrap a whole bunch of other solutions around the security area to really build out the complete model and then back it with the team. We actually enlarged that team about a year ago, made an acquisition specialized security services company that has given us a great bench of security experts because it is so critical now. It really is one of our core assets is our ability to deliver that security to manage that proactively and to deal with incident response more quickly.”

Home Grown Management Solutions

Workplace Hub does not integrate with any of the popular PSA (Professional Services Automation) tools to manage a customer’s network, but instead relies on organic All Covered solutions, Pegley said.

“We’re a little bigger than most MPSs so we have a blend of sort of professionally developed software that we have that sits on a combination of industry standards. Because of our scale, over 1,000 employees, we’re beyond the scope of most of those MSP tools,” Pegley said. “Our help desk is Remedy which is enterprise grade, so it’s evolved over 20 years of sophistication, a whole bunch of third party tools put together alongside our own ERP and help desk environment.

Are there popular RMM tools?

"We do use some, but we blend them together into our own model," Pegley said. "We do use some of the industry stuff, but with a lot of added value put on top for a lot of added scale. We’re supporting over 100,000 users, so you’re not going to do that with a lot of the off the shelf tools designed for the 30-person MSP.”

Cloud Backup/Public Cloud Integration

Konica Minolta Uses Its Data centers, said Pegley. “Our target storage is primarily in our own, top tier data centers,” Pegley said. “And there are times when we use public in some cases, if there’s a need, but that’s really part of our service, that we’re managing that cloud environment as well.”

As for public cloud support, Pegley said some SMB customers resist putting all their data in the public cloud, but if they choose to do so, Workplace Hub can accommodate them.

“We can fully manage that, there’s no problem with Google. We have a lot with Azure. We’re big Microsoft partners. That’s probably the next most common is Azure, some Google and AWS. We can absolutely manage it and for some people that might be the right place to stay. It depends on their goals and requirements.

“We do find with SMBs, there’s still a little hesitation about the public cloud and my data is going to be there? What if somebody breaks into the whole thing? So we see some people like the private data center approach that we can offer, or with Workplace Hub, they may say ‘I’m going to keep my data inside my firewall primarily.’ Local backup. And then maybe cloud back up just for portions.”

Ready To Run In A Hybrid IT World

Workplace Hub is suited to meet the needs of those customers working in a hybrid IT environment, Pegley said. He said Konica Minolta commissioned a study that found between 30 - 40 percent of respondents were planning to bring at least one application back inside their own firewall and away from the cloud.

“Either for compliance reasons, or their auditors told them we just can’t guarantee things enough in the public cloud environment. Or sometimes because of costs,” Pegley said. “It was higher than I expected. It’s like most things in IT. Everything is a pendulum swing. Everything’s going one way, everything is going to the cloud and then it starts to settle back in the middle. There’s not one answer to every data requirement. Some things make sense to run locally. Some things make sense to run in the cloud … that’s exactly the kind of job Workplace Hub can do. The trend towards Internet of Things, whether its sensors in a factory, or collecting data in a retail environment, its back to on prem. It is inside the network. It is inside the firewall where all this massive amount of data is being collected. You need this point of concentration, this pre-processing place, then you decide what you want to move to the cloud. It is this debate, do I move the data to the analytics platform in the cloud, or do I move the analytics to the data? Again, its going to be a hybrid answer. IoT is driving massive data generation in the physical world that needs handling. IoT applications are one of our big drivers for this.”

Workplace Hub – A Global Solution

Konica Minolta has begun to roll out Workplace Hub to the US, Europe and sales are underway in Japan as well.

“We’re seeing it so far in the 10 to 100 employee range … 10 to 100 knowledge workers. It could be on multiple sites, it could be on a single site. … So the main focus is small medium businesses. The US economy is stacked very heavily towards that 10 to 100 space. There are 1.4 million businesses in that range, so its very target rich. We’ve got 100,000 customers already in that space. So that will be the most common target size.

“Europe is happening as well. We’re rolling out in seven countries in Europe right now: France, Germany, UK, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, with more countries to follow. Japan and Asia Pacific. We’re a global footprint company and this product will follow that footprint.”

Workplace Hub's Local Touch

Pegley sees Workplace Hub as the foundation for a high touch, local relationship with customers.

“The local relationship is critical to us. They are always going to meet someone from Konica Minolta. We’re always going to hear directly from them. We’re going to come sit in their office. We’re going to interview the people. We’re going to hear the owner’s challenges and the CFO’s concerns and so on. So every deal is customized for the customers’ needs and that intimacy of relationship, is just the beginning of what we hope is a long one. For execution and remote management and all the rest of it, we don’t have to be there all the time.”

“The relationship and the understanding is managed locally by the solution. We do a technology business plan for each customer. We say ok here’s what you told us about your business goals, here’s how we translated this into a technology roadmap. We understand you can’t do it all at once. You need to spread it out over time. That’s a very common process.”

Konica Minolta Resellers Are Key To Workplace Hub

Pegley said Konica Minolta resellers are key to the success of Workplace Hub. "The channel is for when we need to reach further," he said. "We only have the size sales team that we have. We can’t reach every customer. As I mentioned there are 1.4 million SMBs. In the future it would be about channel expansion. Already our dealers on the multifunction print side are getting access to the product. They have relationships that we can’t get access to.

That’s the future. Indirect, the dealer model, has been very important to Konica Minolta on the multifunction print side and I think it will be for this product as well.

Konica Minolta Will Manage The Customer Directly

“Right now, we are self-sufficient. We are managing the customer directly. We’re now opening up to our authorized dealers the ability for them to start selling the product as well. So, we’re not ready to go beyond that at this stage.

What you’re seeing is a manufacturer bring a product to market. You know we designed it. We’re the only people who can really manage it. It’s a sophisticated product and its new. And we’re very excited to get it to our customers. We’re opening it up to our channel, our multifunction dealers there’s over 300 of those in the US.

To them it’s a reseller model. They resell it like they resell the Bizhub multi-function printers. It’s a beautiful thing. They sell the hardware, but they get to keep the recurring software and services. They’re very used to that model on the multifunction printer side. Most of them go through a financing model where they get a customer who pays monthly but they get the money upfront for the hardware and then the ongoing services revenue. It’s a nice monthly recurring revenue model that makes it all work.”