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Managed IT Service and Managed Print – Converging Practices?

On the face of it these two practices should work hand in hand, a printer is essentially just another end point on a network. Why then is managed print, typically the realm of the printer manufacturers or dedicated managed print providers only relatively recently being offered as part of a Managed IT Service?

Let’s go back in time just a few years, in the “good old days” photocopiers were usually controlled by purchasing or facilities, the networked printers were controlled by IT. Over time as photocopiers became Multi-Function Devices and were networked the responsibility passed to IT.

From day one office print became a headache for IT Directors, previously they were used to dealing with “real” IT issues not changing toners, clearing paper jams or placing service calls for print devices, these mundane tasks really began to eat into the resources of the IT support team.

So Managed Print began its evolution, this was typically a hardware lead offering by the printer manufacturers or their channel resellers, mainly because of the level of experience that had been gained over many years of supporting print devices.

More recently managed print has become a service offering of IT Managed Service providers with much less focus on hardware. Clients now are much more focused on reducing print by using MFP’s as onramps to document management.

The challenge for the customer is how to build the enterprise content management (ECM) process so that there is consistent and systematic adoption that improves operations at every level of the organization. The next challenge is how will that content or data be stored, on premise or in the cloud, and how easy is it to remotely retrieve the e-document quickly and efficiently.

The mid/long term aim is to reduce dependency on paper based documents by using software such as digital signature, capture & route, print release or rules based printing linked to active directory etc. and therefore not printing unless absolutely necessary.

The integration of Managed Print into Managed Services especially around remote monitoring, service desk, software, cloud storage, back up and data transfer is now almost seamless.

So, to conclude, a Managed IT service provider may actually be better suited to deliver a service based Managed Print solution as these two areas continue to merge together.

Why is On-going Print Management so Important?

Many Managed Print projects are concentrated on initial cost savings around cost per page and capital cost or lease, however leading edge MPS programs will also focus on ongoing efficiencies throughout the life of the contract.
Remember the definition (according to the MPSA) of MPS is

“Managed Print Services is the active management and optimization of business processes, related to documents and information including input and output devices.” At Printerlogix we take the ongoing active management and optimization of the print fleet very seriously, below are two recent real life examples:

  1. 1. During preparation for a Quarterly Business Review for a mid size insurance company our analyst noticed that there was a high volume of colour printing from outlook, after a little more investigation he also noticed that when printing from outlook the colour toner coverage was well below average. After a conversation with the client we found that many emails were sent to print on default settings and the url in the email was triggering a colour print instead of mono. A small adjustment was made to the existing software suite and the situation was remedied, now, when printing from Outlook the default is always mono, the user must select colour if required. This resulted in lower colour usage and of course cost savings for the client.
  1. 2. We were in the process of assessing the current state environment of a large Real Estate company, some of the data collected concerned our analyst. In a fleet of approximately 200 devices there was very consistent toner coverage except for four devices all located within the shipping department. We contacted the client and asked to interview the users of the devices and try to ascertain the reason for this.

After making further inquiries we found that these four devices were used solely for the printing of delivery documents for signature, the documents had very heavy bold text blocks across the top half of each page thus resulting in high toner usage. A design change was suggested to the client and implemented, this small change reduced the clients toner spend significantly.

So a couple of cases that highlight the importance of ongoing monitoring, analysis and management – managed print is not a “set and forget” program, often the major savings are made as the contract develops and understanding of the environment increases.

True Neutral MPS: NO Preconceived Objections to Centralize or DeCentralize

Is the result of your managed print assessment a forgone conclusion?

It is essential that any Managed Print program be measured over the term of the contract, in order to do this the current state and environment has to be assessed, this provides a benchmark around number of devices, print volume and of course costs.

These assessments are frequently offered at no cost by both manufacturers and their channel resellers, the problem is, how is the outcome defined, is the process data driven or are there other factors involved?

In my role as Practice Director at PrinterLogix I spend a lot of time with potential clients who are currently committed to a Managed Print contract, behind this contract there is always a current state assessment document, when I get the opportunity to view this document I often find that the recommendations for future state are at odds with what I may consider to be the optimal environment for that client.

Consistently we find that future state recommendations are driven by the product portfolio of the vendor. An OEM with a heavy product profile in larger MFP’s for instance will be very unlikely to suggest a decentralized small A4 desktop MFP future state environment. In contrast an OEM focusing on desktop A4 devices will be more likely to decentralize with less emphasis on larger MFP’s.

There are some very simple ways for a client to avoid getting led down a predetermined path:

  1. 1. Insist on reviewing the raw data from the assessment, then have your MPS provider explain exactly how they transition that raw data into a future state design.
  1. 2. Get involved with the future state design, at PrinterLogix we often provide our clients with alternative future state options, maybe centralize and decentralized options or a hybrid model.
  1. 3. Work as much as possible with service focused providers as opposed to companies that mainly drive revenue from hardware sales – in my 25 years in print most of the very successful programs that I have been involved with started initially with minimal hardware replacement so primarily a service takeover of the existing fleet.
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