As we head into the fall season, I thought it’d be a good time to check in with Imaging Office Systems president Brian Kopack. We talked about trends in information management technology that have emerged during the pandemic, best ways to utilize cloud computing technology, and the sport of running. Yes, running!
Last January, Brian was named the head coach of the cross-country team at Delphos St. John’s High School in Ohio. It won’t be a major transition. Kopack—a former competitor on the Butler University cross country team—was already involved as an assistant coach, along with his wife Amy, and he has two kids on the team. However, what might have been new for Kopack was having me ask him to draw comparisons between the sport of running and running a business—but I’m glad I did. What he had to say was really thought-provoking.
Q&A with Brian Kopack, President of Imaging Office Systems
For the last 6-7 months of the pandemic, can you talk about patterns or trends you’ve seen emerge in terms of what customers are asking for and/or the types of issues we’re being asked to solve?
There has definitely been a more intense focus on sharing and accessing information. Once everybody went into work-from-home mode, I think a lot of organizations pulled back the covers and found out how deficient they were in terms of dependency on physical paper, direct human contact, and being present in a physical location. I think the shift to more independent, remote work has really intensified the need to be able to have, for example, four people living in four different parts of a city access the same document to do whatever piece of work they need to do to complete their part of a job.
If you were able to take on the role of an adviser to the IT department of a small to mid-sized manufacturing or technology company or governmental or educational organization, how would you advise them to use cloud computing technology to realize the greatest benefit to the business?
I would advise them from a few different angles. As the shift to a more remote workforce happens, the need for in-house servers and IT infrastructure becomes a little less important. You need to be able to have your people do their work from anywhere, and having a cloud-based system makes things a lot less complicated for real capital- or property-intensive companies.
I’d also advise companies to take advantage of the skillsets of the people that are currently in the workforce. They’re tech savvy and computer literate, and they don’t need to be tied to a desk at an office in a city. Giving people more flexibility is also very helpful in their lives as a whole—especially now when they’re dealing with a lot of things outside of business, such as remote learning for their children, remote work for a spouse, or even healthcare responsibilities for an aging parent.
It also makes sense for the company because it helps them become nimbler. Having employees that are able to work from anywhere removes the barrier of “that’s an 8-to-5 function.” While there may be some work-life balance issues to navigate, it does makes it possible for an employee to respond in real time, on their own time—which means work can be done in off-peak hours, which could create some efficiencies all the way through the product development cycle or the supply chain cycle.
What would be the biggest benefit for a business to set up a cloud-based virtual office solution that provides all the workflow, content, applications, and information management functionality that they would need to replace their physical office?
For a number of industries, I would be surprised if it ever goes back to what we thought was normal before. Companies have now gotten a crash course in how to run their business in a crisis. Not everybody was great at it. It got bumpy, but coming out of it, I think a lot of companies have put together wish lists for what they would need to do it better. Or, maybe they’re saying, “Why would we ever go back to the way we used to do it if we can now do the same or better with three-quarters of the headcount and one-fifth of the investment in commercial real estate?” Everything is being reimagined now.
Originally, organizations just wanted solutions just to get by. They needed something fast, easy, and relatively cheap. Going forward, people will take the next step. They will want something better than a band-aid solution. They want the next phase of digital transformation, where it’s not just capture, retrieve, and disseminate. Now, it’s those things, plus put it into workflow and run it all through whatever cycle you’re in. The trend will be to do more with less, do more from anywhere but the office, and eliminate brick-and-mortar. I know we’ve seen in downtown Indianapolis, less than half the people have come back to work so far. Major companies are telling people stay home for the rest of the year and into next year, and that’s creating new challenges.
As organizations try to move beyond the band-aid solution and into some sort of cloud-based remote work posture that’s a little more robust and permanent, what would be the biggest benefit for them to give somebody like us a call?
What people need is actually what we’ve been doing forever. For the longest time, being digital, the latest electronic communications technologies, workflow management, process automation...those things were maybe thought of as “big company” things or luxury items before. But now, they’re necessities for everyone.
I kind of think about it like...back when my generation was in school, you had to memorize math formulas and science calculations because there was no Google. You couldn’t just look up an answer. Now, it’s easy to find an answer, so why would you start from scratch? Why go back to the pencil and paper and try to figure it out yourself from scratch if people are already solving these issues? It may not be 100 percent fit to your specs, but if it gets you 80 percent of the way...why wouldn’t you leverage the power of our expertise? It doesn’t take a lot to get a head start. People may just need a nudge.
Are there any parallels you can draw between the challenge of running a business and running a long-distance race?
It’s not just running, but with individual sports in general, consistency, effort, and dedication get rewarded. It’s the same thing in business. You just have to do the work. There are no shortcuts, no magic pills. Every once in a while, you might get lucky, but more often than not, success favors the prepared. Don’t expect instant gratification. Everything’s a process and takes time, and in the end, effort is rewarded.
What’s your take on the role of a coach in a sport that relies so much on the competitor’s individual initiative?
Especially working with younger kids, what we try to do is get them to understand the value of the team, of being part of a team. Everyone has to do their part. It’s important to shift the emphasis away from how well you’re doing individually to what are you doing to support the team? What are you doing to support the values of the team? It’s especially important to get younger team members to understand their decisions impact not only them, but also the team. It’s kind of looking inward and outward at the same time. And if your value system is based on “what can I do to make everyone else better,” eventually you will get better yourself.
How important is strategy in the long run? In both running and business?
In running, as people get better and you get more competitive in bigger races, everyone is fast, so strategy usually carries the day. What you’ll find out is that dumb loses more than smart wins—and that’s true for most every sport. The team with the most turnovers in football loses. In baseball, the team with the most errors usually loses. In running, it’s the same thing. If you start out too fast, you’re probably not going to last until the end. If you wait too long, you’ll probably put yourself too far behind. If you don’t run the course tangents, you’re running extra, and why would you want to do that? So, strategy is always important just to be able to maximize your effort. Business is the same way. If you’re always chasing the bright, shiny thing or don’t recognize patterns or don’t address shortcomings, again, dumb loses more than smart wins. Everyone gets excited about the big sale, but if there’s only one big sale a year, you kind of miss the forest for the trees.
Let’s talk about adapting to conditions...you have to do that in training, in races, and in business. How important is the ability to adapt? And what is the role technology can play in adapting to changing business conditions?
Technology is supposed to be a benefit, an aid in the pursuit of working better, smarter, or faster. However, I think a lot of times, we see tech as a nuisance, saying or thinking things like, “Do I really need another login...or is that really another website I have to go to?” Workers, who are more resistant to change than others, may focus on all the problems and headaches associated with getting acclimated with and using new technology...instead of focusing on how it can help. The changing landscape in business is that technology is always changing, and people are getting smarter. Sometimes, what you have is good enough, and other times, old habits are hard to break, and you’re not willing to take the next step to embrace the next level of technology. The constant evolution of technology makes the conditions for improving business a lot easier. Now, you can’t exist in a constant state of change, so there’s a right way and a wrong way to adapt. The strategy should be to adjust to your conditions effectively and efficiently.
Where do you see the future of information management and content services going?
I think businesses are going to retain employees with specific, valuable skillsets, and repetitive clerical-type tasks are either going to be outsourced to firms that specialize in that type of work or completely digitized and automated. The goal will be to keep a lean workforce, retain good talent, and keep them doing work that really adds value to the business.