MPSA Commentary

MPSA Member & MPS Industry Commentary
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  • 27-Aug-2014 11:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    Change is the one constant in today’s fast-paced business world. How we work, when we work, and the tools we use to conduct business are evolving at rates much faster than most organizations could have imagined just a few short years ago. Success hinges not just on the ability to accept change, but to embrace it. 

    Despite this notion, organizations often struggle with managing change. The tendency is to focus on corporate directives, strategic plans, and tactical programs while minimizing or completely ignoring the potential impact on employees and existing processes. Effective change management involves corporate policies that influence end-user behavior to produce the desired results, rather than simply forcing change for the sake of corporate objectives. 

    Change management is one of the most important elements of any managed print services engagement. The benefits of MPS are well documented and easily understood: reducing print costs, driving operational efficiencies, and improving sustainability, for example. But delivering on the MPS value proposition requires the customer to make significant changes in a myriad of areas such as device deployment, service delivery, supplies sourcing and fulfillment -- the list goes on. 

    That is why change management should be a pivotal component in any MPS solution. MPS providers must work closely with their customers to help manage change and to ensure that overall objectives are met. This requires buy-in from both employees and management, which is fundamental to the overall success of the program. There are so many factors that go into a successful strategy, but I believe there are three key principles that will serve as a strong foundation to any change management strategy. 

    1. Employee investment

    Employees are resistant to change and often feel threatened by any tactical or strategic initiatives that directly impact their personal work environment. It is important for employers and providers to recognize that these are not irrational fears, but instead deeply rooted anxieties based on current work processes and emotional attachment. The simple task of replacing personal desktop printers with shared network devices can result in serious consternation from employees. 

    Most of us feel threatened by changes that are forced upon us, especially if those changes represent a perceived threat to personal productivity. Employees expect their personal and individual needs to at least be understood and considered when changes are proposed. To help alleviate these fears, ensure that employees are involved in the MPS process from the beginning. Ensure that they understand the objectives, benefits, and long-term implications so that they can support and promote the desired changes to infrastructure and policy.

    2. Motivate and incentivize

    Gaining employee acceptance and participation is crucial, which is why change management strategies need to be in place at the onset of any MPS implementation. To be truly effective, change management must include communications that articulate both corporate and individual goals. It is also very important to understand that corporate goals -- even those that directly impact the company’s bottom line -- may not necessarily be perceived as beneficial to the individual employee. 

    Employers and providers should focus on issues other than cost savings as a means to capture employee hearts and minds. It is always helpful for employees to understand specific cost-targets and potential benefits in overall cost savings. Nevertheless, individuals often place little emphasis on printing costs, and this is especially true for employees whose print requirements are so small as to have very little impact in the overall scheme of things. 

    One area that resonates strongly with employees is sustainability. Explain how your MPS program can reduce environmental impact by curtailing waste, driving down print consumption, and promoting recycling efforts. Many employees today are heavily invested in green initiatives and corporate policies for reducing environmental impact. Building sustainability programs and targets into your change management strategy can help bring employees along for the ride. 

    Incentives are tricky but they can also be very effective, not only for gaining employee acceptance but also for involving them early in the promotion and implementation of the MPS program. Incentive programs that encourage individuals or departments to hit certain targets, such as reduction in print volume or departmental cost savings, can be very effective if implemented and managed properly.   

    3. Evolve and revise

    Any good MPS solution is one that continues to evolve based on the changing dynamics of the customer environment. This also holds true for any effective change management strategy. It is vital to recognize that procedures and policies put in place at the beginning of the program may no longer be viable later on. 

    Establish specific milestones and targets for your change management strategy, just as you would for the overall MPS program. Put systems in place that allow you to monitor the effectiveness of your change management strategy and be prepared to continually revise and improve based on evaluation against these targets.

    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.

  • 24-Jul-2014 6:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    With technology advancements fueling significant changes to work processes, the office imaging industry needs to continue to work hard to keep printing relevant in the eyes of the knowledge worker. The shift to MPS has helped sustain the office printing business by focusing on issues such as reduced printing costs, device consolidation, elimination of redundancies, and improved service and uptime.

    Unfortunately, many of these same variables have served to minimize the value of printing -- not only in the form of reduced hardware and page volumes, but even in a much narrower view of printing as a valuable business function. Once positioned as a differentiator, MPS is now viewed as necessary for any vendor or provider participating in the office imaging market. Actually, MPS is one of the few growth areas remaining in the office printing space.

    Machines in the field (MIF) or pages under contract continue to be key metrics for measuring success. In order to drive profits through MPS and push CPP rates lower than those of competitors, providers consistently look for ways to take cost out of the system. In many ways, MPS is evolving into a commodity business differentiated primarily on price.

    We are already feeling the effects of commoditization with entry-level MPS engagements that typically involve only basic fleet management services. Within this ultra-competitive environment, there are numerous providers competing on the same premise: optimize the print environment to reduce the customers’ overall printing costs. The result is a challenging market with competitors using similar tools for assessments, auditing, and service delivery while positioning reduced cost as the primary value of MPS.

    Why color looms large

    Market longevity is predicated on the value associated with the products or services offered, which is why vendors and channel players alike need to shift the MPS conversation from printing costs to service value. The declining need for printed output is forcing vendors and providers to look beyond print and focus on areas such as managed IT services, business process, workflow, and other document-based services. These are certainly important business segments, but our industry could also benefit from a renewed focus on the value of printing itself.

    One area where MPS has actually stunted market growth is in the transition to office color. In many MPS engagements today, color is viewed as an opportunity for cost savings -- achieved either by reducing color pages or restricting and/or eliminating access to color devices. Color is certainly an added expense, and there remains a strong concern over the abuse or misuse of color in office environments. Even so, we need to be careful that opportunities for color are not lost in the desire to drive costs lower.

    The value of color printing becomes even more demonstrable when you consider the recent advancements in display technologies. Color is exploding all over the corporate environment today through mobile devices, HD screens, laptops, and digital signage. As an industry, we should strive to make sure business users can produce affordable color prints that match the color quality of their digital displays. In other words, color needs to be much more affordable and accessible, even when managed within the structure of an MPS solution.

    Advancements in technology are helping to drive down the costs for color printing. Tiered color pricing, page subscription services, and emerging page-wide ink-based technologies could radically alter the cost structure for color in the office. It is important that the industry does not devalue color to the point where improvements in price and performance no longer matter.

    Creating a sustainable MPS business

    Given the threats that face our industry, it is wise to question the long-term relevancy of print. The transition to mobile devices is certainly impacting how business is conducted, and there is no question that there are fewer reasons to print today than there were just a few years ago.

    Historically, printing has been viewed as a necessary but unmeasured business expense. Printing has always been a critical business function but not necessarily an integral business process. The shift to MPS has helped change those perceptions by raising awareness about the costs associated with printing. Still, our industry should work harder to ensure that customers understand the value of printing as a service and the importance that print plays many business functions.

    Selling on price is always a difficult proposition. With little market differentiation, the playing field is leveled, and we become vulnerable to competitors willing to push prices even lower and compete away the profits. To create a sustainable business model with repeatable business and solid customer retention, it is best to establish value. Expanding into adjacent markets or services is one way for MPS providers to establish that value, but as a supplier of printing services we must continue to stress the intrinsic value of print itself.


    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. 

  • 23-Jun-2014 9:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    The Photizo Transform Global conference, held June 2-4 at the Galt House in Louisville, KY, was an interesting mix of the old and the new. As its name implies, Transform is positioned as a venue to showcase the transformative nature of the imaging and printing industry. With its roots firmly planted in managed print services (MPS), the Transform event has evolved to address a much broader array of issues facing our industry, including the ongoing transition from hardware to managed services, document workflow, 3D printing, and other market dynamics.

    The event kicked off with a rousing keynote delivered by Jim Lawless, a well-known motivational speaker and CEO of The Velocity Corporation. Among his many feats, Lawless has advised companies globally on creating organizational cultural change. If you have never heard Lawless speak before I highly recommend it. He leverages tips from his bestselling book, Taming Tigers, along with personal experiences to explain how individuals can overcome life’s obstacles to achieve goals and transform their lives -- either from a personal or business perspective.

    Lawless has accepted numerous challenges over the course of his own life to help prove his point. In August 2010, he used his techniques to become Britain’s deepest free diver, the first in Britain to dive below the 100-meter barrier on a single breath of air. In 2003, he accepted a challenge to become a televised racehorse jockey in just 12 months. At the time, he was notably heavy by traditional jockey standards and had never once even ridden a horse.

    Accomplishing that goal was a foundation of the keynote speech at Transform. Lawless spoke with great fervor about the discipline and determination required to lose the necessary weight and gain the appropriate training required. By the end of the session, he even had the entire audience standing up and mimicking the ride of a jockey to help visualize the experience -- a sight that many of us never expected to see. Considering that this year’s Transform was held in Louisville, the whole scene seemed entirely appropriate.

    Recurring Themes

    As is the case with many industry conferences, there were a couple of recurring themes running throughout the course of this year’s Transform event. The first was the future of printing -- a topic that continues to foster significant debate regardless of the forum. Some interesting discussion in this area came on day two during Photizo CEO Ed Crowley’s keynote session: Print is Dead…Or Is It?

    Crowley focused his comments on the traditional market metrics, suggesting that Photizo is forecasting only slight decline in overall page volumes for the next five years. Nevertheless, that statement was followed closely with a chart showing more troubling news: the rate of growth for laser and inkjet cut-sheet paper shipments in the office has steadily declined over the past few years. Clearly, this is an indication that the market for office pages is shrinking.

    Crowley says that Photizo is forecasting slight declines for media and hardware through 2017, but the firm is projecting growth for MPS and advanced document services over the same period. Like most other research firms following the imaging market, Photizo remains bullish on the opportunities for document-based services, particularly for what Crowley describes ad “outcome-based” services -- those that provide high value add focused on solving customer needs as opposed to delivering products or solutions.

    According to Crowley, as the overall market continues to shrink it will lead to an increasingly competitive environment. It could be argued that entry-level MPS is already commoditized, with basic fleet management services providing little differentiation and low customer value. Of course, there are pockets of opportunity for growth but the trick is developing expertise combined with the proper solution set to target those markets. That is why most vendors and channel partners alike remain focused on vertical solutions and a more vertical approach to solutions selling.

    MPSA at Transform

    The other recurring theme at this year’s Transform event was the consistent visibility of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) and its members. Of course, the MPSA has always been an integral part of the Photizo conference, but this year the relationship seemed even more significant.

    To begin with, MPSA members were highly represented among the speakers for the various conference and breakout sessions. By our count, 20 of the 25 Transform sessions were led by current individual or corporate members of the MPSA. This is an amazing statistic that speaks volumes as to the depth of knowledge within the MPSA membership, as well as the influence that the organization has within the managed services marketplace.

    Indeed, the MPSA itself was afforded its own time slot with a prime spot in the overall agenda: a general session immediately following the opening keynote. In a session titled “MPSA Managed Print Services Framework – ITIL in Motion,” six different MPSA members took the stage as a panel to discuss one of the most important initiatives to come from the MPSA Standards and Best Practices committee.

    The intent of the Managed Print Services Framework is to outline most of the elements that businesses need to consider when developing a Managed Print Services (MPS) program, as well as an accompanying framework to identify best practices and solutions for MPS implementation. The MPSA Framework is based on a proven method and format using the ITIL Framework Service methodology as a guide. The session produced a lively discussion regarding the need for standards in the MPS space, not only in terms of definition and implementation of MPS, but more importantly in the addressing the emerging overlap between managed print services and other ongoing IT strategies.

    It should also be pointed out that the MPSA held its fourth annual awards ceremony during the Transform Global 2014 conference. (Read more on the awards here).

    The Great Debate

    Another session that sparked significant interest was “The Great Assessment Debate: To Have or Not to Have.” This session pitted two MPSA members, Kevin DeYoung and James Duckenfield, in an open debate regarding the need for MPS assessments. DeYoung, who took the “devils advocate” position to argue against the need for assessments, quickly pointed out at the beginning of the session that he is indeed pro-assessments but for the purposes of the debate came fully prepared to build his case -- and indeed he did.

    DeYoung did a masterful job, arguing that assessments are designed primarily to benefit the dealer and not the customer. In other words, the assessment is performed for the purposes of allowing the dealer to sell something to the customer. At the same time, he planted the notion that MPS assessments typically only provide a snapshot in time, while also leaving customers with the thought that the added time to perform the assessment will lead to additional cost in the overall program. Meanwhile, Duckenfield played his role quite nicely by vigorously promoting the obvious benefits and need for MPS assessments.

    By the debate’s conclusion, both sides were well represented and no clear winner was declared. Nevertheless, the session prompted heartfelt discussion among audience members about the importance of understanding customer needs. DeYoung, in particular, noted that the entire process caused him to think much differently about how he and his organization will approach assessments in the future. A fitting end to what by all accounts could be considered a very successful Transform Global conference -- both for Photizo and the MPSA.


    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.

  • 12-Mar-2012 3:05 PM | Anonymous

    In this exclusive MPSA interview extract, MWAi Information Architect & Vice President Mark McCuen talks with the MPSA about what’s ahead for the managed print industry and why membership in MPSA is especially important at this stage of the industry.

    Mark has over 25 years experience in the digital printing and publishing industry. During that time, Mark has served in key roles that led to the creation and execution of game changing technologies and solutions that drove the introduction of desktop publishing, wide format color printing and the establishment of the digital multifunctional printer as the core solution for office work group automation. For most of the last decade, Mark pioneered and implemented office solutions strategies at EFI (Electronics For Imaging) focused on print, capture, MPS and mobile printing.


    Mark McCuen of MWAi

    MPSA: Why is the Managed Print Services Association important to the MPS industry?

    Mark McCuen: MPSA counts MPS leaders among its members, along with people just starting out. Communication and sharing ideas and best practices within this common ground is the only way to success and innovation. Even if you think you have it all figured out, you can’t do it by yourself. Any organization that brings best practices together is important to the members of that group.

    MPSA: What attracts MWAi to the MPSA? 

    McCuen: We are very impressed with what the MPSA is doing. Communication is key to managing the change we are all going through, and it’s productive to gather and connect like minds. We want to help MPS providers as they are putting their services together.

    We are also attracted because the picture is bigger than MPS, and as an industry, we need people with the right expertise, and then we can grow from a core MPS practice to true Managed Services. We are thrilled to be part of this industry, but hold onto your seats because if MPS providers do this right, we have the chance to become major service players in the enterprise. Don’t limit yourself. We want to help grow the pie, and this means not being limited to printing. Take edocuments; customers still need services to set up document workflow. 

    MPSA: What other thoughts about MPS and the MPSA do you have?  

    MPS as an app

    McCuen: As MPS players, we as an industry need to restructure our approach. Customer environments are fixed now, but becoming less so, and in the near future, service technicians and account support personnel will access more data from apps for cost-effective, instant updates.

    End user organizations are getting more open to working with cloud-based solutions as well. MPS needs to embrace the cloud structure along with new applications (apps) and bring this awareness into their environment, because it is the future of technology. As this model takes hold in enterprises, services-based on apps will affect our industry. This machine-to-machine communication is about accuracy, speed and getting people out of the way. 

    Don’t limit yourself to the print side

    McCuen: Some things will always be printed, such as brochures and flyers, but some estimates say 40 to 45 percent of enterprise printing is wasted or unnecessary. Expert printing is where the industry will evolve, with the printing and finishing of critical documents and customer-facing documents.

    Our industry needs to understand where print is going. The focus is more about how customers digest information. While a lot of printing is going away, many services can still be applied to your customer’s business-critical information and how it is distributed and consumed. What this means for MPS is don’t hang your hat on print; look for other services that you can manage in the enterprise.  If you’re successful in MPS, you already have the core competencies; you just need to expand your reach.

    The need for new knowledge and strategic collaboration

    McCuen: Every distribution channel evolves. In 2012, that process will be active and opportunistic. There’s a learning curve to all of it. One area where the MPSA can assist the industry is to collaborate with development companies such as MWAi and others who can share important information regarding security, mobility, connectivity, device expansion and voice development.

    A lot of MPS providers are confused about whom to partner with. MPSA can create best of breed collaboration and networking to get them down that road.
    MWA Intelligence
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