If you own or work in a printing operation, Is a forecast of inkjet print volumes valuable? Does it matter how many pages were printed on an inkjet device and how many on a toner device? Does it make a difference in how you approach your next hardware purchase?
What should you take-away from announcements that tout a first-place rating in a review of software in a given category. Does it mean that the second-place finisher isn’t worth considering? Or those rated third or fourth are less capable?
The truth is that forecasts and reports can be guidelines, but they aren’t gospel. To use them wisely, first consider how they are made. Let’s start with forecasts.
When you see forecasts created by your favorite market research company, this is their work product. It is part of what they sell. Who they sell it to informs what they cover and, to some extent, where they get their information. Let’s say that a market researcher has a great relationship with three of eight major providers for inkjet printheads. Three of them provide information on how many printheads they have installed in a month or a quarter, and they may even share how many were net new installs and how many were head replacements. They may share how much ink they’ve sold and provide details by region.
The companies that decline to provide details make creating a forecast a challenge because the researchers are left to their own resources to figure out their placements and consumable volumes. They call friendly customers. They look at press releases. They track public presentations. They look at government filings for public companies and wander through websites that focus on investments in private companies. They look at the business filings in each country. The accuracy of what they learn is a function of the strength of their research, their sources, and the breadcrumbs they can follow.
Out of that data, they create a forecast. Or, rather, they create an overview of the trends in the market that may or may not reflect actual installs or volumes or revenues. They may be directionally correct, but it doesn’t take much for them to out of sync with the market. A pandemic or a serious market correction can throw the value of a forecast out the window.
Should you buy a forecast or a report that purports to have real numbers about installations of hardware or software? The value will be in how much time you spend with it, how you intend to use the numbers and the quality of the analysis that comes with the forecast. Before you buy, ask how the forecast was assembled and who has done the analysis. Then you can make a decision on the value. If you can not get answers, consider passing by.
True Story: Last year I was looking for some numbers for a specific market segment. I started getting emails and offers from a dozen different organizations, more than half originating in Asia. None gave a price, but claimed to have data that met my needs. I settled on three and asked for quotes. They all wanted north of $5000, payable in advance, for the data. Everything is negotiable. I got to a reasonable price with one of them and paid with my credit card. I asked for the report, which I had been told was ready to send. It came 45 days later and it was not at all what was represented. I went back to the organization quite a few times. In the end, the data was not usable. I asked for my money back and disputed the charge. I came to understand that most of the offers I was getting came from the same company operating under multiple names, and they built reports to order. Lesson learned.
So, forecasts and reports that purport to have accurate data on installations of hardware and software may not be all they claim. Be skeptical.
What about reports written by known organizations? There are some that are brilliantly done, contain excellent analysis, and are well-researched. However, they are expensive to produce, which is why many organizations embark on creating content with an outline and a pitch. The hope is to get a few early adopters on board to fund the cost of the research. In many cases they have the option to set some of the tone of the report and they may have input into survey questions. While some organizations self-fund and do not offer companies they report on an option to influence, the pitch approach has been a common methodology for decades.
Before you buy your next report, ask some questions. Remember, no report is written without some bias. Each carries the coloring of both the researchers’ background and their relationship with the companies featured. Are you buying a report that is restricted to covering companies that were willing to pay to be featured? You may still want to buy the report if it covers a segment or solution that you are investigating, but knowing that a company paid to be included can help in your evaluation of the analysis.
Be wary of reports that declare winners. The hardware and software markets are vast. There are dozens of solutions that may fit any specific need. The British say that there are horses for courses – that is, not every horse was made to run every type of course. Some are mudders, some are half milers, some do better in crowds, some are long course. Hardware and software are the same.
As you read reports covering inkjet hardware, consider your needs and uses. You may need specific speeds, specific substrates, or specific types of ink to create your vision. A general report may not give you the insights you need to make your decision. As you read reports covering workflow, prepress, and document composition software, consider your current environment. What are the gaps and bottlenecks. Are you running back-level versions of composition products or preflight tools that are leaving you with inefficient print streams? Is your software old enough that it is missing modern configuration options? A report will not draw the lines from what you have to what you need.
Forecasts and reports can be excellent resources as part of any investigation, but review them carefully. Be wary of over-the-top predictions of growth and over-the-top declarations about products and services. It will help you make better decisions.
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have a question for Pat? Get in touch.