by West McDonald, Tigerpaw
I’ve been involved in the Managed Print Services (MPS) space, in one form or another, for more years than I’d care to count now. I’ve worked with a ton of office equipment dealers and office print providers that provide incredible managed print for their end-user customers. I’ve also had the experience of working with others that say they offer managed print, but really, well, ummmm, yeah. Unfortunately, the term MPS is thrown around rather loosely, often to the consternation of customers who expect more of the “managed” piece.
I also have the good fortune of having done a ton of assessments for end users looking to acquire MPS. Whenever I’ve worked with them doing an assessment, I make sure they ask the following 5 questions when deciding on a provider:
Question 1: “Are you an MPSA member?”
Anybody can put MPS on their website, but the providers who really offer it are members of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). This organization has done more, and continues to do more, than any other industry association when it comes to refining and improving how MPS is delivered. It is comprised of volunteer members who care about improving the delivery of MPS and helping the entire industry to do a better job.
Question 2: “How do you approach auto-toner fulfillment?”
This one is a base-level MPS requirement. If a provider only supplies toner when a customer asks for it, well, move on and talk to somebody else.
Question 3: “Other than for billing, what do you do with meter information that you collect?”
Billing by page is NOT managed print: It’s billing by page. The information available from meter collection is much more powerful than that. A few examples of how true MPS providers will use this meter information in their quarterly business reviews to uncover:
- Devices being over or underutilized: A true managed print provider helps customers to understand how effectively they are using their fleet of devices and can make recommendations on improving this.
- Color reduction strategies: Considering color is 6 to 10 times more expensive per page than monochrome, volumetric analyses can help customers to uncover areas for reduction. The good providers use user-based software tools to dig as deep as which applications and users could use help.
- Workflow improvements: Many things are being printed in workflows that could benefit from printing alternatives like document management and process automation. Is the same PDF document being printed and signed 500 times a day? A good MPS provider will provide more cost-effective and time-saving workflow options to replace those pages. Helping customers improve workflows, save time and reduce cost: That is management.
Question 4: “Who are your MPS ecosystem partners?”
What on earth is an ecosystem? No, I’m not talking about an interaction of plants and animals. In the MPS world, an ecosystem is a defined group of partners that make the benefits of an offering stronger. These ecosystem partners aren’t just providing software or hardware, they meet as a group on a regular basis to tighten up overall interaction of MPS components specific to their ecosystem, entirely for improved experience by end-user customers.
Question 5: “What key things will you do to help me reduce our print spend?”
If the answer is “We’ll provide more cost-effective equipment and less expensive toner” RUN AS FAR AWAY AS YOU CAN! This is not MPS, it’s a dangerous race to the bottom. True MPS providers can save a customer money while maintaining healthy profit levels on the things they sell. True MPS providers understand that workflow improvements have a far deeper impact on costs than the cost of the box and the cartridge. True MPS providers will have managed IT services offerings and be able to bill in different ways like device-based or seat-based. If all a provider offers is CPP, they are a print provider, NOT a Managed Print provider. Period.