There is no doubt that the SMB market is the sweet spot for MPS these days. Coverage is saturated in the enterprise segment, where the focus has shifted to workflow, process optimization, and high-value document services to drive additional value and margin. The SMB space is viewed as the prime opportunity for growth in managed print, and nearly every OEM is touting strategies and toolsets to attack the market.
Taking MPS to the broader market requires an entirely different level of engagement with the channel, which is where the conversation begins to get muddled. MPS has its roots in the enterprise — mostly direct engagements established to outsource the management of complex print fleets. In those types of environments, reducing the cost of print became the primary motivator for MPS. Interestingly, many OEMs continue to push a similar go-to-market strategy for MPS tools and programs designed for the channel and aimed at the SMB customer.
But for smaller businesses, particularly those with fewer than 500 employees, that value proposition is no longer relevant. In the first place, many smaller organizations looking for immediate cost savings from MPS may not see the kind of results they expect simply because their current printing costs are relatively low compared with other business expenses. Delivering 20-30 percent reduction in printing costs for some businesses might provide very little impact to the bottom line.
At the same time, there is significant risk for smaller businesses in pursuing MPS programs without first considering the impact to overall document workflow. With a general lack of workflow automation and a high dependence on paper-based processes, these businesses stand to lose more in productivity than could ever be gained by reducing print costs.
The reality is that there are two completely different sets of triggers when it comes to the value proposition for MPS. In the enterprise sector, businesses are primarily looking to consolidate devices, eliminate or significantly reduce printing, control color usage, reduce paper consumption, and develop an overall digital content and security strategy. In the SMB space, the need is for providers that can help manage devices, provide simple workflow automation, reduce requirements on IT staff, and consolidate vendors.
Basically, the MPS conversation with SMB customers needs to flip. Instead of leading with reduction in costs, the best approach is to lead with services and solutions that can deliver greater productivity, drive process efficiencies, and save time. These are the issues that will likely resonate more fully with smaller businesses. In fact, document workflow is probably the first place smaller businesses to look when searching for ways to take cost out of the operating environment. Outdated or inefficient business processes could be costing companies much more in wasted effort and lost worker productivity than could ever be recovered by making output less expensive to produce.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.