What a supplier should be: extraordinary

20110331-205907.jpg Canon has an office in central London; it’s known as ‘The View‘, just around the corner from the Old Bailey and St Pauls. You can see the lofty tops of both breaking through the skyline from the seventh floor showroom. I attended what I expected to be a day filled with product demonstrations and news about how Canon products can support the educational sector. That’s exactly what I got.

The thing is though, we’ve got some Canon hardware. We’ve also got some Canon software. I neither need, nor really want to experience a sales pitch. What I want is to find more value in the product we’re using. For me and a colleague from Arts University College at Bournmouth, it seems we had a slightly different agenda (or at least were looking for a different outcome):

  • We’ve both got some established products (uniFLOW in this case).
  • We both have an evolving fleet of printers and multiple function devices.
  • We both want to find more value in the products we have and remove those that we no longer need from our infrastructures.

During the course of the event at Canon HQ, I was fortunate enough to meet much of their UK team; experienced staff with a variety of responsibilities. It is reassuring how even a large organisation like Canon is listening to, and acknowledging how educational organisations are employing more advanced tools and making greater demands of them. I look forward to being involved in the formation of uniFLOW specific user groups for those already using, or considering investing in, the product (and if you are reading and want to participate, please do get in touch!).

It is extraordinary how suppliers to the education sector are being challenged to evolve to meet these demands. No longer is it enough to simply present your product and hope that the price is right, or even that it can save the buyer some money. Enabling progression beyond some obstacle at the point of implementation is great, but where does that leave us in two or three years time? More – much more – is being demanded in the form of genuine involvement of suppliers in understanding the intimate needs of an organisation, although not necessarily through paid consultancy, but rather through effective engagement. They know we need to save money (but really, who doesn’t?). They know we want to do things more efficiently (again, who doesn’t?). Do they know, and understand, the factors currently influencing us and the decisions we might be about to make? What characteristics of our learners are our suppliers aware of? These characteristics will influence the choices we make in delivering our services, and the demands we will make from future products and services.

I want to engage with suppliers who want (and need) to understand me, my team, our organisation, our customers.