MPSA Commentary

MPSA Member & MPS Industry Commentary
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  • 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.

  • 30-Sep-2014 8:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Robert Palmer

    I have concentrated my most recent blogs on the need to identify and correctly position key components of an effective MPS solution. Thus far, I have focused primarily on the value of print and the overriding principals for change management. With this entry, I would like to step back and talk about the importance of sustainability -- an area that for many MPS providers is often understated, misrepresented, or simply completely overlooked.

    Businesses today place a growing importance on environmental friendliness, sustainability efforts, and the need to become better corporate citizens. At the same time, MPS by its very nature is a program that is inherently eco-friendly. For these two reasons, an effective sustainability component is imperative to driving long-term value from any MPS solution. For many providers, identifying measurable sustainability milestones can breathe new life into the MPS business model.

    There are many aspects of MPS that can have a positive impact on the environment. Consolidating print devices alone can result in dramatic reductions to energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions. For many organizations, simply moving to long-life supplies can significantly reduce materials waste. And of course, reducing paper consumption can have a positive impact on the environment, while also serving as one of the most effective means for lowering print costs.

    Nevertheless, an effective sustainability program should expand far beyond reducing print volumes. Printing fewer pages is an outcome that results from a change in process, but it is important to complement that with a broader set of tools and procedures to help customers clearly identify the sustainability components of your MPS solution -- along with the benefits provided.

    Sustainability assessments

    The first step should be to assess the environmental impact of transitioning to a managed print solution. Many providers shy away from this approach because they lack a homegrown solution for conducting a sustainability assessment. Yet there are numerous third-party software solutions available that can be easily deployed to assess factors such as energy consumption by device, overall carbon footprint, paper usage, and waste generated.

    These tools add value to the MPS solution, while helping customers evaluate their existing environment to understand how optimizing the print infrastructure could improve sustainability across all metrics. Of course, providers should also encourage recycling practices as part of the overall environmental messaging.

    The areas that I have identified thus far are very well recognized and for the most part easily understood. But when it comes to driving real environmental change, workflow and business process are two critical areas that should be addressed. Interestingly, these are areas that most MPS providers tend to ignore. Simplifying and automating workflow not only reduces operational costs but also translates to significant environmental benefits by reducing time, workload, resources, and assets associated with existing business processes.

    Sustainability as a differentiator

    The benefits of MPS are well documented, especially when it comes to optimizing the fleet and reducing print costs. But a good sustainability program can drive additional value into your MPS solution, leading to increased revenue and improved customer retention. Customers are willing to pay more for services that offer higher value, especially if that value is tied to measurable outcomes in the SLAs.

    A strong environmental agenda backed by a complete set of tools, policies, and practices increases the inherent value of the MPS program. Let’s face it; organizations are waging a constant battle between the need to reduce environmental impact with the need to work more effectively and efficiently. A well-structured MPS solution can help customers meet all objectives: improved efficiency, greater productivity, reduced environmental impact, and lower overall print costs.

    Sustainability should be positioned up front as one of the most compelling benefits of managed print. Not only could it help you land new business but it will also separate you from the competition. Unfortunately, many providers are so focused on CPP and pages that they fail to see the real value of sustainability, and opportunities are lost. 

    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.
  • 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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