Printing is hardly the most exhilarating technology the IT industry has to offer, but Gwenyth Taylor seems genuinely excited by the potential of managed print services (MPS).
That strange state may have something to do with the environmental and cost impact her employer has seen – some 37 million pages saved annually since 2004 – during the five-years since it switched to from plain old printers.
It could also be the number of personal printers legal firm Allens Arthur Robinson has eradicated and the consolidated printer fleet that resulted, not to mention the improved efficiency and reduced requirements for end-user support.
Most likely, however, it’s a combination of all of the above, and the continuing opportunities for improvements that make an almost evangelical example of why any company should switch to managed print services.
Of course, like many firms, Allens Arthur Robinson is a big printer – a “sausage factory for documents” according to Taylor’s partner in crime, Peter McGrath – and it ultimately has a big stake in the printing arena.
Still, it’s likely that more Australian companies will exponentially increase their own stake in the near future.
After all, the MPS market is booming. IDC statistics indicate Australia accounts for more than 45 per cent of spending on the service in the Asia Pacific region, with forecasts the market will see double digit growth to reach $440 million in value by 2014. The usual suspects, Fuji Xerox, HP, Canon, Lexmark and Toshiba, are battling it out to get attention from potential customers, and signs indicate that even Dell wants to move in on a maturing market.
As that market grows, the number of vendors and the types of services on offer are likely to multiply, making the MPS uninitiated a little uneasy, but McGrath says there is little argument against the service: “I’m amazed there are still some companies that aren’t doing it”.
Outsource the boring
Like the “cloud” conundrum, there are multiple connotations for managed print service. As a point of differentiation, Canon even scraps the term in favour of “managed document services”, indicating its focus on documents rather than printers. To follow the old adage, the cheapest document is one not printed.
We’ve now got people coming into meetings with a one page agenda and other people looking at them and saying ‘did you really feel you needed to print that?’ It’s a cultural thing.
To add pressure to pain, analyst firm IDC refuses to refer to MPS as an isolated term. While MPS can be generally defined as enabling organisations to outsource print related services and solutions so they can re-focus on their core competencies, IDC’s research manager of the Asia Pacific services team, Suchitra Naryan, argues “value-add MPS” is a more apt term for the wider market.
In the value-added version, MPS is a proactive service designed to improve business workflows and reduce costs in a targeted manner. Beyond the basics of consumable and paper supply, and even hardware maintenance, the vendor or third-party supplied service often encompasses document workflow management, fleet consolidation along with financial and environmental assessment with a view to set key performance indicators designed to cut down both.
The process, often available in five year contracts, involves close negotiations with the customer to set service level agreements, deployment preparation, and ongoing communication to ensure the best efficiencies are met.
In many respects then, there is some truth to Canon’s methodology. What is clear is that it isn’t about the bulky beige piece of plastic churning out pages.