The Changing Face of Technology: Century Business Technologies
The ever-changing face of technology has dramatically altered the needs of its customers, and the company has added and changed services to meet those needs.
New Business Model
In the early 1980s, Dawna McCabe went to work for an office equipment company that sold black and white copiers. Today, that same company, which McCabe now owns, provides services ranging from print and scanning services to software, information technology (IT) services, cloud storage and professional services.
“Our primary focus now is not on that piece of paper, but on business productivity,” McCabe said. “If that involves a copier or printer—great. We can provide that, but now if that need involves software or data integration, we do that, too.”
Growth & Transitions
When paper was the primary way businesses communicated and kept records, Century Office Products, Inc., now Century Business Technologies, sold black and white copiers and single function office devices. As the company grew over three decades, it acquired more than 15 office equipment dealerships across Kansas and Oklahoma and expanded to 47 employees in Topeka, Lawrence, Chanute and Dodge City. Its most recent acquisition in August 2015 was a custom software development company, which will help provide its customers with an integrated suite of data technologies.
The first changes in the way the company did business came with changes in equipment technology. Copiers went from analog to digital devices that could print and scan as well as perform various other functions. Sales began to focus on higher-end production equipment, including wide format copiers. As businesses became more technology dependent, customers’ needs dictated that Century Business Technologies evolve into something more than an office equipment company.
In response, Century Business Technologies added:
• Managed print services to help companies handle a fleet of copiers and printers. Software to optimize the total print environment of any office.
• Software to optimize the total print environment of any office.
• Managed document service to store information digitally in a centralized content repository.
• Scanning bureau to provide assistance with scanning paper documents.
It can also provide IT network services as well as business optimization services to help a business analyze and develop workflow processes to become more efficient.
“It’s all about connectivity and the management of information in a business.” McCabe said.
A greater need for connectivity and security has elevated information technology to a central business function, and many business owners are beginning to understand the advantages of evolving with technology.
Jon Hickel, ISG Technology, has worked with business connectivity for decades. ISG started out building personal computers for customers in the 1980s, but began offering cloud and data center services in the last 12 years. Like Century Business Technologies, ISG offers data management services, an increasingly complicated and vital function.
“Ten years ago, if your network was down, you took out paper and you could continue to do business,” Hickel said. “The way things are today, if your network is down, you aren’t doing business.”
Hickel says this reality has brought a change from the attitudes of business owners toward technology—they are realizing effective IT can be a part of increased revenue.
A decade ago, a company’s network was comprised of dedicated computer resources in a box with processors, memory and hard drives for storage. Virtualization separated the software application from the dedicated hardware, giving users more freedom to pool resources from several machines. “Since it’s now virtual, I can copy a virtual server to drop to another location almost as easy as copy and paste,” Hickel said. “That opened up the door for affordable backup and disaster recovery solutions.”
Businesses are no longer limited to what they can store on the machines in their offices. They can buy space on a network that allows them to tap into the larger resources of a data center and have their network connections secured at a central location. This becomes much cheaper for the business owner because it does not require the large capital investments in equipment that may be outdated before that investment pays off.
IT has also become increasingly complicated, particularly when it comes to security. Hickel refers to a higher number of components working together to keep information flowing as converged infrastructure. Interconnected networks have virtually eliminated the need for silos managed independently.
Cloud computing and the virtualization of software allows business owners to essentially use a small piece of a larger network. For instance, ISG owns the equipment and employs the software and security engineers to keep the larger system secure and updated. ISG has three data centers to use for its services, the largest is located in Topeka.
“We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in enterprise class solutions, which we can offer to a lot of smaller organizations that would not otherwise be able to afford those resources,” Hickel said.
Not all businesses are changing so dramatically in response to technology. Hickel and McCabe say their companies still have customers requesting the services of years past, and so they still provide them. McCabe says some customers look at everything individually. They still go to one company for equipment and a different company for IT.
“We have developed a bundle of products and services,” McCabe said. “We want to show our customers that by working with one company that has the resources and technical expertise to help with all their business processes, they can realize so much more efficiency.”
Some business owners are reluctant to embrace new technology because they question the ability to make changes without disruption.
Hickel says the best way to make changes is to take a look at your industry and find out what other people are doing. Get to know your IT provider. Take a tour of their data center. Remember that your technology needs are still about relationships.
“It’s about the people we have deployed,” Hickel said. “The systems are great. We spend a lot of money on the infrastructure, but it’s the people that make it work who are important.”