MPSA Commentary

MPSA Member & MPS Industry Commentary
  • 08-Jun-2015 8:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Mark Schneider, Y Soft

    As an MPS provider you have already decided that services and solutions is an area that will help you expand your business and position yourself for the direction our industry is heading. Have you considered adding print management to your offerings? Here is one good reason (out of many) to consider it.

    When asked “What is the cost to your organization of a confidential or sensitive information getting into the wrong hands” it is not surprising that security is at or near the top of IT’s most worrisome issues. Because of recent high profile consumer data thefts, most people would think of this type of security issue. But to the IT professional, security threats can include malicious or accidental employee access to confidential or otherwise sensitive documents. Many of our customers start a conversation with us around this concern.

    Companies today deploy solutions to mitigate the risk of improper access to information. They vary from simple shredding services to securing or limiting access through an electronic document management system. These are great steps to take and can help efforts in security compliance especially in industries where financial, medical or other personal information is gathered.

    However, an important step often overlooked is access to the MFD. A document left at the printer for any amount of time is a potential breach; consider a disgruntled employee who picks up a financial document or plans about an upcoming layoff.

    Then consider scanning or copying of paper documents. Scanning and copying of documents also pose a risk. Who is scanning and copying and what documents are involved?

    Securing access to these devices from unauthorized users is a first step in print management. Securing access can be accomplished by having users authenticate themselves either with a swipe of their company-issued badge or entry of their username/password, a PIN or any combination of the three entry methods. This ensures that access is given only to authorized users; administrators can even limit the times of day the print/copy/scan functions are enabled or which employees can print but cannot scan for instance.

    This does not alleviate the problem of users who don’t pick up their print jobs in a timely manner or print jobs accidentally picked up by others. However, print management solutions today can solve for these security risks with pull printing or what we call print roaming. Print roaming means the user sends a print job to any printer from his workstation or mobile device as usual. However, the job does not print until the user goes to the printer and authenticates himself. At that time, the job can print immediately, or the user can select (or delete) any jobs in the print queue. The user picks up his documents immediately.

    Similarly, a print management solution can provide an audit trail of scanned documents. While the workflow can allow for scans to be sent to an authorized email address or folder on a workstation (or automated to route to authorized third-party applications, print management can provide reporting that documents who scanned what (meta data about the document) and where it was scanned. For customers that require to know what has been copied, a workflow can be created that scans and stores documents before producing a copy.

    For customers looking to increase security of their document assets, the three things I just described (secure access to the MFD, print roaming and scanning with an audit trail) all help your customer meet their security compliance goals.

    The cost of a document in the wrong hands will vary depending on the type of information the document contains to the malicious intent of the individual who has it. Locking down a company’s document assets must be weighed with the need to do business efficiently.

    The steps to increase the security of a company’s document assets with print management is possible with minimal IT intervention and impact to users. With the additional benefits of reducing costs, increasing workflow efficiencies and supporting mobile workers, a print management solution on its own or as part of an overall MPS offering makes a lot of sense for companies interested in securing their company’s document assets.

    Working together with a print management solution provider, such as Y Soft, you have an additional solution to add to offering to not only expand your business but to offer additional value in an MPS solution. 

    Mark Schneider is the national sales manager for Y Soft, North America

  • 26-May-2015 5:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you look at studies that identify the top IT concerns for businesses today, you will see that security always ranks at the very top of the list. Of course, IT security can involve many different layers: protecting the network from outside attacks, securing devices, managing access to connected assets, maintaining content integrity, and preventing the disclosure of confidential information, just to name a few.

    If you think about it, most of these issues revolve around the need to protect an organization’s most valued asset: information. Businesses are spending billions of dollars on enterprise content management (ECM) software and investing heavily in both internal and external systems to help gain control over business-critical content. Compounding the problem is the continued drive toward mobility and the cloud. In today’s business environment, knowledge workers demand 24/7 access to information, which means that content must be constantly accessible both from inside and outside the corporate firewall.

    Straddling the fence between convenience and the protection of content is where many organizations find themselves today — looking for solutions that will help catapult them into the new world of digital data while mitigating the risks from additional exposure and outside threats.

    It is interesting to see how the office imaging market has evolved as it relates to the issue of IT security.  Today’s MFPs represent an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, the connected MFP is a potential security risk as an unmanaged connected device. On the other, the MFP could be leveraged as a front-line asset for managing content security and protecting access to information. Even so, most businesses do not think of the office MFP as a security risk, or for that matter as potential device for managing content security.  

    As a result, office equipment dealers and MPS providers should become experts at security solutions built around the MFP. These solutions not only represent an important opportunity to drive incremental revenue and profit, they can also help strengthen the bond between you and your customer. Once involved in helping your customers manage security you become a trusted advisor — likely the highest level you could reach as a recognized service provider.

    Make no mistake, there is a plethora of new security solutions coming to market for the MFP, some of which are standalone software applications and others that can be embedded in the device. These software applications address issues such as secure print and mobile print, device access management, digital rights management, secure document capture and routing, data protection, network protection, secure network access, and the list goes on. Many of these solutions are designed to integrate with third-party document management and ECM systems to provide further protection and to address governance and regulation compliance issues. 

    As service providers, we must focus on those issues customers value most. When you consider the amount of money that will likely be spent over the next decade in areas of content management and information security, it only makes sense to expand deeply into those segments. If you are actively searching for ways to increase customer spend and enhance the value of your customer relationships, look no further than developing significant expertise in content security.  


    Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He has 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 robert@bpomedia.com.


  • 27-Apr-2015 3:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Amy Weiss

    I was watching a geeky sci-fi show not long ago in which a time traveler from around 70 years in the future made the bold statement, “There is no paper in the future. Or more accurately, there is no future in paper.”

    Deep stuff. But is it really true?

    Science fiction has been predicting the paperless society for, well, almost as long as there’s been science fiction. It seems one of the most futuristic things we can imagine is a world without paper.

    From fiction to fact, though, is another story. The transition to a paperless society has been ongoing and complex – and it’s far from complete. In fact, one thing I’ve noticed lately is a trend away from the word “paperless” and toward the phrase “paper-light.”

    Recently, between different trade shows I’ve attended and projects I’ve been working on, I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with IT end users — everyone from CIOs to technicians and administrative assistants. It’s been a fascinating collection of industries, comprising everything from government IT people to AP managers at small architectural firms, from CIOs responsible for large educational environments to those representing small nonprofits. But the goal these people either have, or have been charged with, is generally similar: Make things simpler, easier to find and more manageable.

    There is always one common concern as well: letting go of paper. Whenever I attend a presentation or webinar on going paperless, without fail, at least one audience member will address this concern: “What do I do with my important paperwork? Do I have to get rid of everything? What about security?” And the issue isn’t necessarily with transforming information captured on paper into digital format and entering it into an electronic content management system; it’s with letting go of the originals.

    This is where paper-light versus paperless comes into play. Google it and you'll find pages of references. One of the top results comes from Canon Business Process Service’s Melissa Carlis on Workflow Magazine (I promise I didn’t tweak the search). Carlis is director of records development at the firm and often writes about records management. She suggests that going paperless is not sustainable nor strategic, as it often leads to a “scan everything” approach that results in digital chaos. That term probably rings a bell with many of us.

    Other articles on the subject cite a number of studies (AIIM’s “Paper Wars” being a constant). These articles discuss the barriers to going paperless — one of which is the overwhelming prevalence of printers and MFPs in offices. While those MFPs generally come with a “scan” function, “print” is likely the button more commonly used.

    Over the years I’ve heard a number of companies discuss their attempts to move toward digital systems, usually involving adoption of enterprise content management programs. The process is rarely smooth, even in the most successful. In one case study, 7,000 documents were added to the company’s new ECM in the first year. Over three years, more than 132,000 were added. That included client and vendor invoices, purchase orders, contracts, HR documents, W-9 forms and more. I heard testimonials from numerous employees who raved about increased productivity, time savings and better efficiency.

    I wondered, though, was the transition truly paperless? Or are papers being stored away “just in case”?

    In some cases, it is truly a paperless process (at least, if you believe what they say). No paper is retained. But does that mean you won’t find a single piece of paper in these organizations? Not likely. After all, even the most militant adapters of electronic everything must bow to certain rules and regulations, depending on the industry, that regulate the retention of paper records. It just means that the most efficient means are being used to achieve the most efficient ends.

    There will always be those who are loathe to give up their hard copies. That’s OK. No one is going to pry the paper from their hands. But as content consumption continues to evolve, we’ll end up with a society that is much more comfortable with digital content and more willing to let go of the hard copy. It’s less a matter of not generating any prints, but more a matter of finding the balance between storing them and trashing everything — of the balance between digital chaos and a world overrun by paper.

    Amy Weiss is vice president and editor-in-chief of BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. Contact her at amy@bpomedia.com.

  • 30-Mar-2015 7:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) held its board meeting and inaugurated its new board of directors and executive committee at the recent ITEX show, March 10-12 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. To welcome its new officers and thank its members, the MPSA held a reception on the first day of the show at the nearby Bimini Boatyard. Hosted by MPSA corporate member Epson, incoming and outgoing officers mingled with MPSA members and guests, and the mix of members at that event was again indicative of the mix within the industry. Independent dealers joined hardware OEMs, software firms, consultants, VARs, supplies manufacturers and resellers, and more.


    New MPSA members present at the event included Digitek, a new Gold corporate member


    New Vice President Doug Bies of Canon (center) chats with members as the blue-shirt-clad members of event sponsor Epson enjoy food and networking.


    Board member Robert Palmer chats with members.


    Newly elected President Kevin DeYoung chats with Muratec’s  David Clearman, with Greg VanDeWalker of GreatAmerica in the background.

  • 30-Mar-2015 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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.

  • 26-Feb-2015 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    In this industry, there is no shortage of announcements covering strategic partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. The phrase “partner or perish” is a term that resurfaces on a regular basis and always seems to find its way into industry blogs, articles, and presentations at various conferences and events. There are so many partnership deals these days—particularly between OEMs and software/solutions providers—that it can be difficult to sift through the numerous cross-functional relationships.

    Last week, however, an important strategic alliance was announced that is likely to have major implications for the printing business. On February 17, MWA Intelligence Inc. announced that it has partnered with Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) to offer MWAi’s FORZA platform to dealers and other providers in the imaging channel. Built on the highly successful SAP Business One platform, MWAi’s FORZA offers dealers an alternative to current business systems and third party software programs by providing an open architecture ERP system designed specifically for the office equipment channel. 

    As a true ERP system, FORZA enables real time business decisions by capturing all critical information across various departments, including sales, customers, operations, finances, and service, making information instantly available and accessible. As a result, FORZA can help dealers replace disparate legacy business systems to provide improvements in data access and integration, while meeting the needs for system automation and big data analytics as the industry continues to evolve. Meanwhile, FORZA supports and in fact expands functionality in many of the core business components that are essential to office equipment dealers, such as meter management, CPC and MPS contracts, rentals and leasing, service dispatch, and the list goes on. 

    Why is this deal so important? As the office industry continues to evolve it is putting increased pressure on dealers and service providers to diversify and expand their businesses. Transformation is yet another buzzword that has become synonymous with the office imaging market. Yet, business model transformation does not come easy. There are explosive growth opportunities in adjacent businesses such as managed IT services, digital signage, 3D printing, and workflow solutions, but many dealers are often stymied by limitations with existing business system software, which could be decades old and not designed to support the integration of new business lines. 

    What FORZA with SAP Business One provides is a platform for growth. The office-imaging channel has enjoyed great success over the years by creating a high-value service model that attracts customers and turns them into long-term clients generating significant annuity business. The channel has demonstrated a unique ability to adapt to changing market conditions over the years, but the game is definitely changing. The idea that legacy systems designed specifically for the copier/MFP business could be customized to support multiple business models is no longer a safe bet. In reality, dealers need to optimize not just to support a new line of business, but instead to support any new line of business. 

    What is interesting and quite telling is that Konica Minolta has recognized this trend and is partnering with MWAi to help its dealer base make the transition. Of course, Konica Minolta is transforming its own business by moving to a services-led model, fueled by the acquisition of All Covered and its growing position in the IT services space. Konica Minolta understands the importance of shoring up its core printing business, while at the same time diving deeper into adjacent markets to drive growth. Now, it is partnering with MWAi to help its dealers achieve similar transformation. The partnership between KMBS and MWA Intelligence could well represent a watershed moment for the imaging channel.   

    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 robert@bpomedia.com.

    In this industry, there is no shortage of announcements covering strategic partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. The phrase “partner or perish” is a term that resurfaces on a regular basis and always seems to find its way into industry blogs, articles, and presentations at various conferences and events. There are so many partnership deals these days—particularly between OEMs and software/solutions providers—that it can be difficult to sift through the numerous cross-functional relationships.

    Last week, however, an important strategic alliance was announced that is likely to have major implications for the printing business. On February 17, MWA Intelligence Inc. announced that it has partnered with Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) to offer MWAi’s FORZA platform to dealers and other providers in the imaging channel. Built on the highly successful SAP Business One platform, MWAi’s FORZA offers dealers an alternative to current business systems and third party software programs by providing an open architecture ERP system designed specifically for the office equipment channel.

    As a true ERP system, FORZA enables real time business decisions by capturing all critical information across various departments, including sales, customers, operations, finances, and service, making information instantly available and accessible. As a result, FORZA can help dealers replace disparate legacy business systems to provide improvements in data access and integration, while meeting the needs for system automation and big data analytics as the industry continues to evolve. Meanwhile, FORZA supports and in fact expands functionality in many of the core business components that are essential to office equipment dealers, such as meter management, CPC and MPS contracts, rentals and leasing, service dispatch, and the list goes on.

    Why is this deal so important? As the office industry continues to evolve it is putting increased pressure on dealers and service providers to diversify and expand their businesses. Transformation is yet another buzzword that has become synonymous with the office imaging market. Yet, business model transformation does not come easy. There are explosive growth opportunities in adjacent businesses such as managed IT services, digital signage, 3D printing, and workflow solutions, but many dealers are often stymied by limitations with existing business system software, which could be decades old and not designed to support the integration of new business lines.

    What FORZA with SAP Business One provides is a platform for growth. The office-imaging channel has enjoyed great success over the years by creating a high-value service model that attracts customers and turns them into long-term clients generating significant annuity business. The channel has demonstrated a unique ability to adapt to changing market conditions over the years, but the game is definitely changing. The idea that legacy systems designed specifically for the copier/MFP business could be customized to support multiple business models is no longer a safe bet. In reality, dealers need to optimize not just to support a new line of business, but instead to support any new line of business.

    What is interesting and quite telling is that Konica Minolta has recognized this trend and is partnering with MWAi to help its dealer base make the transition. Of course, Konica Minolta is transforming its own business by moving to a services-led model, fueled by the acquisition of All Covered and its growing position in the IT services space. Konica Minolta understands the importance of shoring up its core printing business, while at the same time diving deeper into adjacent markets to drive growth. Now, it is partnering with MWAi to help its dealers achieve similar transformation. The partnership between KMBS and MWA Intelligence could well represent a watershed moment for the imaging channel.   

    In this industry, there is no shortage of announcements covering strategic partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. The phrase “partner or perish” is a term that resurfaces on a regular basis and always seems to find its way into industry blogs, articles, and presentations at various conferences and events. There are so many partnership deals these days—particularly between OEMs and software/solutions providers—that it can be difficult to sift through the numerous cross-functional relationships.

    Last week, however, an important strategic alliance was announced that is likely to have major implications for the printing business. On February 17, MWA Intelligence Inc. announced that it has partnered with Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) to offer MWAi’s FORZA platform to dealers and other providers in the imaging channel. Built on the highly successful SAP Business One platform, MWAi’s FORZA offers dealers an alternative to current business systems and third party software programs by providing an open architecture ERP system designed specifically for the office equipment channel.

    As a true ERP system, FORZA enables real time business decisions by capturing all critical information across various departments, including sales, customers, operations, finances, and service, making information instantly available and accessible. As a result, FORZA can help dealers replace disparate legacy business systems to provide improvements in data access and integration, while meeting the needs for system automation and big data analytics as the industry continues to evolve. Meanwhile, FORZA supports and in fact expands functionality in many of the core business components that are essential to office equipment dealers, such as meter management, CPC and MPS contracts, rentals and leasing, service dispatch, and the list goes on.

    Why is this deal so important? As the office industry continues to evolve it is putting increased pressure on dealers and service providers to diversify and expand their businesses. Transformation is yet another buzzword that has become synonymous with the office imaging market. Yet, business model transformation does not come easy. There are explosive growth opportunities in adjacent businesses such as managed IT services, digital signage, 3D printing, and workflow solutions, but many dealers are often stymied by limitations with existing business system software, which could be decades old and not designed to support the integration of new business lines.

    What FORZA with SAP Business One provides is a platform for growth. The office-imaging channel has enjoyed great success over the years by creating a high-value service model that attracts customers and turns them into long-term clients generating significant annuity business. The channel has demonstrated a unique ability to adapt to changing market conditions over the years, but the game is definitely changing. The idea that legacy systems designed specifically for the copier/MFP business could be customized to support multiple business models is no longer a safe bet. In reality, dealers need to optimize not just to support a new line of business, but instead to support any new line of business.

    What is interesting and quite telling is that Konica Minolta has recognized this trend and is partnering with MWAi to help its dealer base make the transition. Of course, Konica Minolta is transforming its own business by moving to a services-led model, fueled by the acquisition of All Covered and its growing position in the IT services space. Konica Minolta understands the importance of shoring up its core printing business, while at the same time diving deeper into adjacent markets to drive growth. Now, it is partnering with MWAi to help its dealers achieve similar transformation. The partnership between KMBS and MWA Intelligence could well represent a watershed moment for the imaging channel.   

    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 robert@bpomedia.com.
  • 27-Jan-2015 6:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    There is increasing discussion these days regarding best practices for MPS assessments. In fact, the value of the MPS assessment seems to be coming under constant scrutiny. You may remember that this topic served as the foundation for a lively debate at last year’s Photizo Transform conference. In a session titled “The Great Assessment Debate: To Have or Not to Have,” two MPSA members, openly debated whether MPS assessments were actually needed in today’s environment.

    Much of the conversation revolves around the question as to who actually benefits from the MPS assessment: the customer or the provider? In other words, is the assessment designed to help identify areas for improvement within the customer environment or rather to drive profit and margins for the MPS provider? Obviously, this is not a question that can be answered with a blanket response, but there are things to consider when we look at how assessments have evolved over the past few years.   

    Historically, the MPS assessment was crucial in identifying areas for improvement and optimization within the print infrastructure and other document-based processes. In the early stages of the market, the assessment helped providers identify device deployment and understand where to consolidate assets, reduce costs, improve productivity and efficiencies, and reduce waste.

    Today, the role of the MPS assessment is changing. Research indicates more businesses are performing their own internal assessment prior to selecting a provider, while others will augment the provider’s assessment with their own internal program. Interestingly, these figures seem to be fairly consistent regardless of company size and vertical market, which would indicate that this is an overarching trend. 

    Businesses also seem to place greater value on those assessments that are performed either as part of the MPS offering or on an ongoing basis. The concept of the “free assessment” has negative connotations. Businesses seem to be adopting a viewpoint of “you get what you pay for” with the MPS assessment. MPS deals that include a provider-delivered assessment seem to be trending downward over the past few years, but among those where an assessment is performed, the percentage of “paid assessments” is growing steadily.

    As MPS engagements become more complex, customers are looking for extended value beyond reducing print costs, which means there is growing need to expand beyond the capabilities of the typical device assessment. Customers are seeking out providers with the ability to perform more holistic assessments of the entire document infrastructure, and not just the allocation of print resources. At the same time, the holistic approach to the assessment is helping to foster increased interest in Intelligent Print Management software.

    Assessments that go beyond device distribution, utilization rates, and print volumes help to glean a better understanding of how devices are used and could uncover document-based processes that might be ideal for optimization. A deeper dive is also necessary to discover personal and desktop printing devices that operate locally and are not connected to the network. The holistic MPS assessment is not a process that can be accomplished through a simple “current-state” evaluation. Instead, it involves the added ability to track actual user activity—not just device-level activity.

    Tracking usage data requires two separate but equally important capabilities. The first involves a deeper understanding of your customer’s environment. This could mean personal interviews with office workers and managers, working sessions with IT staff to better understand how documents and other content is used, identifying what applications are deployed, and uncovering any potential bottlenecks in document workflow. Next, and perhaps most important, is the ability to track and report actual usage data through the deployment of Intelligent Print Management software. 

    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 robert@bpomedia.com.

  • 30-Dec-2014 5:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    The office imaging market has always had its own particular set of clichés and overhyped buzzwords. In today’s environment, the most persistent themes involve the need to change, to adapt, and transform. Indeed, the message that is most often repeated to dealers and service providers these days is that printing is not enough. It is not just that the need for print is on the decline, but for many organizations printing has become deemphasized as a business function.  

    This is really nothing new. The hard copy industry has been in a state of flux for the past 20 years. During the market’s early stages, buying decisions were primarily driven by changes to hardware design and product functionality. Vendors invested heavily in new technologies, which fostered increased demand fueled by hardware innovation and compressed product replacement cycles. In those days, success was measured by hardware unit share.

    Not that long ago, the office equipment market witnessed one of its most fundamental changes when it moved from a hardware-centric to a page-centric model. Products reached parity and it became extremely difficult to differentiate based on feature sets, price, and performance. At the same time, businesses began to look more closely at the costs of office printing. This, of course, fueled the early stages of managed print services. With unit sales declining and margins for hardware and traditional break/fix services contracting, MPS became the new path to the customer. With the focus shifting away from hardware, the number of pages captured became the most effective means for measuring success.

    Today, the mantra is services. If you are not investing in cloud, managed IT, and other services-led strategies you are in danger of being left behind. Once again, the approach is driven by the need to transform and move beyond print to capture additional share of customer spend.  Of course, MPS has always been viewed as a means for OEMs and their channel partners to drive incremental revenue, not only by capturing pages from competitive devices but also by leveraging the MPS customer relationship to push additional value-add services. For some, this transition is easier, but for incumbent providers that are heavily invested in traditional business models that type of change is harder to achieve.

    As the market continues the transition to services, success is no longer measured by unit share or page share -- it is all about customer share. How much of your customer’s wallet are you capturing and what can you add to your solutions/services portfolio to drive that ratio even higher? It is interesting to hear OEMs these days placing renewed emphasis on the customer. Listen to the quarterly earnings calls and the messages are all quite similar: “we are focused on solving business problems and not selling products.”

    In some ways it is an interesting distinction to make. But the reality is that the customer has always been the primary focus -- particularly within the office equipment market. Customers choose their channel partners based on a broad set of criteria: experience, capabilities, product portfolio, services, infrastructure, just to name a few. It is an investment in a relationship, a partnership, and it is fundamental to the value of the channel. After all, it is the local dealer or reseller who often owns the relationship with the customer.

    But in today’s climate, success is determined not only by the ability to solve business problems but also by developing a deep understanding of the needs of each individual customer. How well do you know your customer? What are their pain points? Where are the bottlenecks within the IT and document infrastructure? In a services environment, customer intimacy is crucial to becoming a trusted and preferred provider, and it is key to strengthening and protecting existing customer relationships.

    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 robert@bpomedia.com.

  • 25-Nov-2014 6:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    I am fortunate to be able to spend a good portion of my time on the road in front of customers, vendors, and channel partners. This experience offers valuable feedback and provides insight from those working hard in the trenches. It is interesting to note that the key issues driving corporate decision making today are fairly consistent among businesses of all sizes and target markets. Of course, the ranking and priority varies, but in my experience the top IT concerns among business professionals remain constant regardless of organization type, products produced, and even the markets that are served.

    Controlling expenses and reducing operating costs remain at the top of the list for just about every organization today. Any conversation focused on current business challenges usually starts and ends with this issue. The economy is a driving factor, but there are other outside variables forcing businesses to focus on streamlining operations and strengthening the bottom line. 

    Security is obviously a major concern for all organizations and is the primary issue for many. Security today involves everything from securing computing devices to the protection of data, networks, and processing power. These issues have become even more complex with computer processing and content moving to the cloud, and with both mobile and network devices being enabled for applications and Web-based content. Today, virtually any device that is attached to the network becomes an access point to business assets and corporate information. Security concerns are exacerbated by the promise of the fully connected office and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    The remaining issues often get lumped together because they are so intertwined. Moving from paper to digital, supporting mobile device platforms and mobile work processes, dealing with an increasingly distributed workforce, streamlining workflow, and meeting the needs for globalization -- all of these are key issues facing businesses today. When you boil it all down, the primary goal for most organizations is to increase operational efficiencies and become more productive.

    So, what does it all mean for this industry -- particularly when you think about transitioning from a business world dominated by paper to one that is increasingly digital and mobile? I think the most important aspect is the timeline. The transition from paper to digital is happening much faster than most people realize, and the impact to all areas of our business is likely to be greater than many expect. 

    The old view is that paper will be around forever. Some say the paperless office is no nearer to reality today than it was when the concept was first introduced decades ago. The other argument is that paper is so entrenched in today’s business process that it will prove difficult to remove. But office users are quickly migrating to digital display as a preferred medium for information consumption. In reality, there will always be pockets of opportunity and areas of need for the printed page, but there is little doubt that paper usage is and will continue to decline.

    Suppliers are reacting to these changing market conditions in very similar ways. As print volumes continue to decline, vendors and their channel partners are investing in strategies to expand beyond print. In some cases, it is a movement toward additional services -- whether that is managed IT services, managed print, or managed document services, for example. There is good strategic reason for this: vendors and the imaging channel already have a strong service infrastructure and a service-oriented sales model already in place.

    MPS has been viewed in recent years as the growth engine for the market, but the reality is that print is only a component of the entire IT infrastructure, and the overlap between IT services and MPS is a strong growth opportunity for service providers.

    We are also seeing strong movement toward value-add solutions and services such as document management, content management, capture and conversion, and workflow solutions. These high-value solutions allow providers to take advantage of expertise within the document arena and leverage that in ways to grow incremental revenue. Meanwhile, some vendors are pushing into adjacent business opportunities such as 3D printing and digital signage.

    The combined effect of these trends is shaping the future of our industry --most especially the future of the office equipment channel. One the one hand, businesses continue to migrate toward managed print services (MPS) as a means to gain better control over the document infrastructure and, ultimately, reduce document output costs. But increasingly, organizations are looking to gain better, more strategic value from their MPS engagements. This requires service providers to develop MPS solutions that are built around a core set of document services and solutions.

    Whether it is expanding into adjacent markets or complimentary services, there is no one strategic play that is necessarily more effective than the other. What is important, however, is the ability to develop strong expertise and intellectual property steeped in process automation and document workflow. By integrating ourselves within our customer’s workflow we can solve more business problems, address specific problem areas within the IT infrastructure, and in turn drive additional revenue opportunities. 

    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. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. 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 robert@bpomedia.com.

  • 28-Oct-2014 6:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    The continued transition to services is having a profound impact on the design and functionality of office printers and MFPs. In fact, the emphasis on products and the role they play in a managed print environment is changing steadily. Not that long ago, products drove the customer relationship. New features fueled hardware replacement cycles, and vendors constantly pushed technology to deliver “faster, better, and cheaper” products. Hardware vendors focused on specifications such as print speed, resolution, duty cycle, and paper capacity as a way to differentiate from the competition.

    In a services engagement, the customer relationship is defined by the supplier’s ability to meet overall business objectives through the structure of a managed services contract. Products remain important, but MPS customers rarely choose their provider based solely on product capabilities. The customer is interested in results defined by cost targets, improved productivity, more efficient business processes, or some combination of all of these elements.

    As the transition to MPS continues, there is a risk that office customers could become increasingly indifferent to printing hardware. This creates challenges and opportunities for equipment vendors developing printers and MFPs. The result is a bevy of new products that are designed to work well in a services-led market, while providing new levels of functionality to further exploit the services paradigm. 

    Identifying End User Needs

    Interestingly, it is the transition to services that is enabling hardware vendors to gain a better understanding of customer needs. Once a printer or MFP is installed under MPS it becomes a managed asset, a device that is consistently and routinely monitored throughout the life of the contract. Part of what allows service providers to evaluate and optimize the print environment is the ability to capture and analyze usage data obtained from devices installed in the fleet. For many OEMs, this data has become a valuable source of end user feedback that can be factored into future product design.

    As the number of devices under contract continues to grow, the overall installed base will diversify to provide an even clearer picture of device usage by application and vertical market. The data collected not only shows print volumes and usage rates, it can help vendors determine product needs in areas related to document management, workflow, and printed output. This becomes particularly important when you think about how customers use their MFP with integrated document solutions.

    Serviceability is a key area of focus for hardware vendors these days. The last thing that any MPS provider wants is a fleet of unstable devices that require repetitive onsite service calls. Servicing hardware eats directly into MPS profits. Indeed, the perfect MPS product could install itself and then, once in place, never fail, never jam, and never run out of paper or supplies. It is unlikely that we will ever see that type of product, but vendors are clearly exploring options to help limit downtime and reduce the number of service calls for MPS hardware. New workgroup devices feature capabilities such as remote management, early system failure detection and warning systems, even self-healing device capabilities.

    The MFP as a Platform

    Improved serviceability is predictable, but we are starting to see more revolutionary changes to hardware design. The transition to services turns products into delivery vehicles. As a result, value is tied more closely to the solutions and applications that run on the device rather than the device itself. Sound familiar? Smartphones and tablets are actually fairly simple devices with limited hardware features and functionality. It is the applications that run on these devices that turn them into productivity tools.

    Office-printing hardware appears to be marching down a similar path. Early on, this has manifested itself in the way that vendors are now pushing an entire ecosystem or platform, rather than individual products. There is a noticeable move to develop not just products but a “series of products” that all provide the same level of functionality, with a consistent user interface and end user experience. The “product as a platform” approach is basically essential to long-term success in a services model.

    Another important element of this transition is the ongoing trend toward smart controllers. A crucial attribute of any services-enabled product is field-upgradability. As new features, software, applications, etc. are rolled out through the ecosystem, the hardware in the field needs to be upgradable to support these features. Constantly updating the brains in the machine helps to extend product life, allowing devices to stay in the fleet longer, which not only improves the service provider’s return on investment but also helps reduce the overall solution delivery cost.

    Meanwhile, many MFPs are starting to look and behave less like output devices and more like tools for managing information, with embedded Web browsers, intelligent UIs, and the ability to run both server- and cloud-based applications. This could be very disruptive for OEMs and their channel partners in the effort to further monetize the delivery of various business solutions and services.

    Mobility and the transition to mobile workflows is also playing a key role in the design of office hardware. Already, vendors are designing products to support access from mobile devices, not just for printing but also for an entire range of document-based business processes. The evolution of office imaging hardware will be fun to watch as the market continues to shift to a services model.    

    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. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. 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 robert@bpomedia.com.

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