Taming printer chaos

As more regional enterprises look for ways to reduce costs and move from a Capex to Opex model, many are looking at managed print services as a way to tame largely undocumented and unpredictable annual printing costs. 

It is estimated that managed print services can reduce printing costs by as much as 30 percent. It provides a flexible way for organisations to procure printing hardware, supplies, service and support in one bundled contract.

The way managed print services works is rather simple. It starts with an audit to analyse and document usage patterns in an organisation and figure out the inefficiencies and where improvements can be made. If done correctly, this audit can throw up valuable information such as the number and type of printers, locations, users, supplies required and how efficiently the printers are being utilised, both in terms of usage, and the number of machines currently in use.

Hendrik Verbrugghe, Marketing Director, Canon Middle East, says organisations increasingly understand the benefits that can be achieved by outsourcing the management of their print services to a specialist third party. “The management of print services is an effective way to lower print costs, heighten productivity and improve the security of business-critical information. Additional environmental benefits can be achieved through reduction in print output, paper usage and electricity consumption.”

Though it is quite a mature and proven model worldwide, the market for MPS in this region is still pretty much at a starting point. “The majority of printing customers are buying printers and supplies on a transactional basis. There are, though, some customers who are used to having a contract per device to cover basic services and supplies. A small number of customers have a true MPS implementation – i.e. a supplier taking full care of their printing environment,” says Kees Verton, Manager. Printing Categories, HP Middle East.

He adds that the MPS growth opportunity comes from more customers being aware that there are considerable benefits in the latter approach, which is a full outsourcing of their printing needs. Print services will continue to grow, as companies of all sizes recognise the savings and efficiencies that can be achieved with such programmes. Other key factors behind MPS growth are that customers require sustained consistency of delivery, as well as some security requirements.

In a way, the managed print services business has eaten into the printer market worldwide, and the time is ripe for channel partners to take a long, hard look at the current strategies and jump onto the services bandwagon to make fat margins.

“The opportunities for channel engagement in MPS are huge, and offer an opportunity for partners to contract to consistent revenue streams through the services model. Xerox are conscious to ensure that its partners are properly skilled to deliver the MPS message. In order for channel partners to sell Xerox MPS, they are required to go through a structured training programme, which focuses on both the sales side but, importantly, the technical aspect, too. If successful, Xerox will then accredit the partner to officially sell Xerox MPS and thus open up a completely new market opportunity for them to help rapidly grow the business,” says Dan Smith, Head of Integrated Marketing, MEA, Xerox.

Mathias Militzer, General Manager, Lexmark Middle East and Africa, says to succeed in the MPS market, it is important to have an integrated approach to any client relationship. “Once potential customers have been identified, it is important to work closely with them to ascertain their particular needs and then be able to provide customised solutions. To enable this, vendors and partners need to ensure proper training and guidance to the customer facing representatives who are the first point of contact.”

HP claims it is revolutionising the way it approached MPS delivery by focusing on selling services and then attaching hardware. It has been shown that for each $1 spent on printing, $9 is spent on managing the process. HP and industry analysts believe that potential savings in this area may be one of the “last bastions” of significant savings for any organisation.

“Just by optimising the infrastructure, a managed print services engagement can save approximately 10 to 30 percent in a client’s overall print environment. This is a different approach to many other providers, who focus solely on reducing on the cost per page (CPP), rather than all of these associated costs. Therefore, there are numerous profitable opportunities for channel partners looking to explore their options in the managed services arena,” says Verton.

Reji Mathews, Marketing Manager, Oki Middle East, offers a different perspective: “Channel partners through MPS engagements can build on their existing revenue streams. Oki’s MPS programme provides the channel the access to products, services and competencies to capitalise on MPS opportunities, thus providing them with the ability to investigate and propose potential TCO savings, and enhanced productivity levels to the existing and prospective customers.”

Canon has identified the regional hospitality industry as a key area for MPS business growth. “There is a lot of potential for business to grow in this sector, given the high volume of printing and document management requirements involved in their operations. In addition to hospitality, other vertical industries that have potential demand include banking, utilities, oil and gas, media and healthcare. For the managed print services channel, new opportunities come from providing value-added services to the customers, such as audit, fleet management, configuration management and maintenance services,” says Verbrugghe,

Most of the major printers have a managed print solution offering and they help the channel to build a business in this domain.

“In today’s economy, everyone is looking for ways to cut costs. For most companies, the ongoing expense of office printing – cost per print, routine maintenance, and service – is an unexplored opportunity for significant, cumulative savings. Our worldwide network of certified reseller partners deliver managed print services to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) centralise management of all their devices—including printers, copiers and multi-function printers from multiple manufacturers,” says Smith.

HP says it has solutions tailored to each partner’s offerings and requirements. As part of its partner programme, HP says it is actively helping its channel partners achieve their MPS objectives with funding through various programmes.

Oki says MPS means different things to different people. It can mean a click charge or it can mean a paid-for service for a number of printed pages and an agreed support level with no hardware being purchased by the end user or anything in between.

“For Oki, we are offering our channel partners a suite of software solutions that can audit, monitor, extract reports, manage billing, handle secure printing, permit ‘follow me’-type printing to allow them to tailor a solution for their customers. We also have a number of solutions aimed at the software developers who want to access the controllers of the MFPs to provide a complete customised solution, so pretty much we can provide, via our partners, a solution that will meet the needs of most SMBs in the region,” says Mathews.

Lexmark provides its channel partners with extensive solutions tailored for its customers with its BSD Line and programme as well as the Lexmark Fleet Manager and Page Plus. “With LFM, we combine our device data collection and management system with Lexmark’s uncompromising support to enable our partners to confidently pursue and support MPS solutions to their clients. Our Page Plus programme, ‘pay per page’ offering direct from Lexmark, dramatically simplifies your life by uniting the most-essential services into one all-inclusive contract. These offerings enable our channel partners to compose our Lexmark MPS offerings to their business customers,” says Militzer.

For channel partners exploring business in this area, it is important to keep in mind that customers typically look for multi-vendor capabilities in their MPS engagements. “This is an increasingly important requirement for many clients. The ability to manage a multi-vendor fleet ensures that the client can pass over the responsibility of their print infrastructure to an industry expert to deliver a contracted service. At the heart of the service is the device management software. In the case of Xerox, this software sweeps the network and provides feedback not only for Xerox devices, but for non-Xerox also. This enables Xerox to provide a true holistic offering and lift the burden of responsibility from the client whilst in tandem maximising the return on any non-Xerox product investments,” says Smith.

Mathews agrees: “Most of the customers who are looking for a MPS solution are those who already have a multi-vendor fleet of print output devices and are looking for a solution provider who can do assessment, and implement hardware (optimisation), thus ensuring fleet efficiency. Hence, customers want to engage with the vendor who has the competencies and resources to support the needs in an MPS contract.”

The MPS model is still in its infancy in the region and most vendors have many initiatives to educate both customers and the channel about the benefits. “We have regular contact programmes with the channel partners aimed at increasing awareness about the myriad benefits available to business through the implementation of customised integrated imaging and documentation solutons,” says Militzer.

HP says customers who engage with HP on MPS can realise improvements on all three levels – lower costs, increased efficiency and productivity. To educate customers, HP is holding media briefings, reactive commentary and proactive pitching to highlight HP’s vision and benefits of the channel strategy around managed print services. On top of that, HP offers various training programmes to partners to build their knowledge regarding MPS and document solutions.

“We see managed print services as an important requirement for customers.  Xerox has been delivering against this strategic requirement directly for some years – and now we are helping our channel partners to deliver the relevant services. This is a true wining scenario for all players. Xerox is helping the channel to be strategically relevant and lock in their relationships with customers. Xerox is also helping resellers to improve profitability and cash flow by contracting for recurring revenues. For customers, we are helping them control costs, improve budgeting and deploy better document processes that support their businesses,” says Smith.

To sum up, printing and supplies still account for one of the biggest expenses for an organisation. Yet many don’t have the staff or skills to effectively monitor or manage their print environment. This is where the channel can step in and help their customers manage their document output and associated business processes in a managed services model.

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