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Cranel Celebrating 30 Years in Business!

06/08/2015 09:48:06 AM

Document Imaging Report discusses Cranel's past, present and future!

--From May 29 Document Imaging Report by Ralph Gammon

Value-added distribution (VAD) has been a staple of the document imaging market since I startedcovering it in the mid-1990s. By then Cranel had already been in business for 10 years. In fact, next week, the Columbus, OH-based VAD will be celebrating its 30th anniversary at its annual North American Executive Partner Event

According to VP, Marketing, Scott Slack, Cranel is expecting 80 attendees from more than 60 partners at the two-day conference, which, as usual,concludes with an outing at the PGA’s Memorial Tournament to watch the first day’s pairings. To celebrate three decades in business, Cranel is hosting an opening night reception at a local
restaurant, to which partners, employees, and “friends of the company” are all invited. In between there will be a keynote presentation by AIIM’s Director of Research and Development, Jesse Wilkins, a vendor showcase, an awards dinner, and plenty of
entertainment and networking.

“We have changed things up a little to make the event bigger relative to our 30th anniversary,” noted Slack. “It’s quite a milestone and our Founder Jim Wallace and
President and CEO Craig Wallace wanted to do something to show that we appreciate the support of all our partners over the years.” 

Cranel was founded in 1985 as a VAD focused on peripheral storage. Of course, back then, document images were considered large files that required additional storage to what you’d typically find on the minicomputers of the day. “We evolved into a VAD for document scanners and eventually launched a service component to complement that,” said Slack. “In recent years, we have been moving slowly but steadily toward
selling more software. Our traditional hardware and service businesses continue to be solid and provide a strong foundation. The software piece continues to evolve as we look at adding more value for our partners in the ECM and document capture market.”

The Platinum Sponsors for NAEPE include a hardware vendor, Kodak Alaris, and a
software vendor, Digitech. The eight additional sponsors are also divided evenly between hardware and software. One new sponsor is Objectif Lune, a print management ISV which Cranel signed a partnership with last year [see DIR 10/24/14]. NSi AutoStore, which was acquired by Nuance last year, will also be shown.

The debut of these two products at NAEPE is reflective of the steady growth in the number of office equipment dealers (OEDs) Cranel is working with. “Attendance will probably be about 50% traditional ECM partners, 40% OEDs, and 10% check scanner partners,” said Slack.

Cranel considers these partners when looking at new technologies.“We assess our portfolio daily,”said Slack. “There are definitely a couple things our on our short list.
Cloud and mobile are definitely two areas that interest our partners. A lot are looking for hybrid options that would enable them to install software on premise or in the cloud. That said, I doubt we’d ever host anything ourselves, as there are ISVs we
can partner with that have already made serious investments in hosting infrastructures.

“We also keep our eye on some of the market shifts related to acquisitions. We look at things from multiple angles. At the end of the day we want to provide what our partners are asking for and help them acquire it. Whether it’s product A or application B, it’s our job to better educate our partners,help them understand where it fits in the market, and assist in their sales process.”

Positive trends
2014 saw a couple of fortuitous turns for Cranel’s business—both related to Kodak Alaris. First, its biggest scanner vendor partner enjoyed a strong bounce back year in its first full year of separation from Eastman Kodak (and all the uncertainty surrounding its former parent). Second, Kodak Alaris acquired Eastman Park Micrographics’ [EPM] hardware service business, eliminating some competition.

“Kodak Alaris is still gathering its legs as it becomes a new company,” noted Slack. “They are still working through some of their old ways vs. trying to evolve and change. We are working with them to figure out what needs to be next. I expect them to continue their evolution as [recently appointed GM for the US&C] Martin [Birch] puts his spin on things
“The acquisition of EPM Service reduced the noise in the market. There was a lot of confusion, and with EPM out of the service business, it’s calmed the waters down. Resellers aren’t being pulled in as many directions.” Cranel typically acts as a broker and first point of contact for vendor service and maintenance contracts. It helps resellers manage the multiple contracts that can be related to a single implementation.

Slack concluded by commenting on the slew of the M&A activity we have seen recently in the market. “Each time something happens, we have to assess how our partners are affected,” he said. “We have to factor in variables like how tight we are with the acquiring company vs. the company being bought. I think we will continue to see consolidation, both on the vendor side of things, as well as with partners
looking to get larger.”

As far as Cranel itself goes, M&A does not seem to be a strategic focus. “But, you never say never,” said Slack. “If there is something we think would be a good fit, we might entertain it.”

Security Becomes a Differentiator for ECM VARs

Document management solutions providers often find profit in developing repeatable solutions with a vertical slant. DataBank IMX, a national document solutions provider, says that approach has worked for it well. But DataBank has taken that process a bit further, adding a security certification–SAS 70 Type II–to the mix and creating a differentiator for which many verticals are willing to pay a premium. Read more.