by Michell Filby, First Rock Consulting
With MPS gaining momentum and growing in popularity, there is no shortage of suppliers and providers ready to jump on the bandwagon. Today, virtually every equipment manufacturer is selling some form of managed print service (MPS).
Likewise, most traditional office equipment dealers and resellers have adopted MPS programs – even retail stores and computer dealers. Meanwhile, channel providers that previously had little desire to sell printers or multifunctional printer (MFP's) – IT VARs and managed service providers (MSPs) – are now getting into the game to expand their services portfolio and drive new revenue opportunities.
Implemented and managed effectively, MPS can certainly help businesses reduce costs and gain control of their document environments. Nevertheless, among all the success stories are many examples of MPS engagements that fail to meet customer expectations. Why?
Poorly structured contracts, tying implementation to improper data metrics, lack of due diligence during the planning phase, and failure to properly consider strategic goals at the onset of the program are all common explanations. Often, the underlying problem can be traced to a simple disconnect between customer objectives and the capabilities of the MPS provider.
Unfortunately many customers around the world have become despondent or questionable to the real merits of MPS from a multitude of providers. These customers have found that the provider that sold them an MPS program did not match their own expectations, the expectations that were sold to them or how they benchmarked MPS against other managed services programs.
Most of the customers saw their MPS nothing more than a traditional hardware sales and a break and fix service support, which was the same as they had been offered over the last 20 years with a somewhat different finance package.
The sales process would be hyped up when the customer was approaching the buying cycle or when their existing contract was coming to close to expiry. Providers would role the MPS story out and the client would buy the expectation only to find out that nothing had really changed. The sales person would move on and the customer was left actively managing their own print environment and asking "is this it?"
However, what we have found is that some customers have not prepared themselves well enough to understand where the scope of "service provision" starts and ends. A customer must be very clear where they need to build their internal capabilities to manage and direct the MPS provider. As we know not all MPS providers are the same. Therefore knowing where your own capabilities are is crucial in selecting the right MPS provider for your business.
For example an MPS provider may offer to provide a call centre service provision as part of the larger MPS offer. They may communicate to the customer they will take first or second level help desk calls when a user has a problem with one of the devices on the network.
However some things to note with this situation are:
* This may not include devices that are not on the clients network i.e. USB devices
* They may only support devices that they have sold to you under this contract and may not include specific models or devices under a pre-existing contract
* They may only support specific models or brands i.e. they may not support legacy devices or brands from a competitor
* Their level of support may differ due to the above exceptions
Different providers see 1st level support and 2nd level support differently, so a clear understanding how you want your devices to be supported on your network is mandatory. Many MPS providers will not be in a position to identify if the device problem is actually a network or application problem as their access to your network may not be part of their existing scope.
In many cases when a device does not print, it could be a network issue or the user's application that they are trying to print from. However as history shows in the past, if a device could not print, the business would just call the service company to fix the machine. Service engineers would attend the call only to find out that the device is in perfect working order and the fault really lied with either the end user or the network itself.
When a provider doesn't have an integrated approach across the clients network all they can do is to work through a quick check list of potential problems with most arranging a service technician to visit on site anyway.
Although today the vast majority if not all MPS providers will have specifically loaded software on the network so they can see and receive communication from their devices, so fault monitoring and service diagnostics can done. In most cases this process supports functions such as automated meter readings, parts replacement & stock management for the provider such as automated toner replenishment. However it also provides benefits to the client in that it allows for a more rapid service fix as service engineers can track service history so device uptimes can be increased.
But to many customers they continue to debate how pro-active this managed service really is.
This is one area where MPS falls down in the customers eyes. It is the belief or perception that providers are constantly managing your printing environment. That they are continually looking at ways to better optimise your existing fleet and in the perfect world finding a way to actually reduce you're physical reliance on the printed page.
As a test ask yourself this question - when was the last time an MPS provider came to you within the first two years of your contract with a way to substantially reduce your device fleet or reduce your total print volume? If they did - was it more than 20, 30 or 50 percent?
Today customers have to be ahead of the curve and build their own core skills and competences how they deploy a best of breed or best of class MPS provision. Identifying and knowing your capability gap is essential. To partner with an MPS provider means knowing what a good fit looks like and more importantly knowing what the wrong fit is.
As they say "you can't outsource your accountability or responsibility" - so don't do this when it comes to partnering with a MPS provider.
Mitchell Filby is the founder and Managing Director of First Rock Consulting, Australia’s leading and most recognized independent Business Consultancy, IT Advisory and Media organization. The business was specifically shaped and fashioned around supporting and servicing all the elements that interact and grow out of the office printing and document imaging industry in Australia.