Navigating the Resurgence of Managed Print Services: Insights from the Front Line

by Greg Walters

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to interview, converse, and share ideas with everyone from in-the-trenches sales reps to dealer owners, OEM C-level decision makers, and all points in between. No matter the year, the niche, or the size of the organization, for the past few decades the conversation levels out about technology and the changes in the business world because of technological advances.

Often, the discourse tumbles into one version of Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” story. It is the way of things.

This week, I’ve had the honor of sharing time with three stellar inhabitants of our little technology niche and members of your Managed Print Services Association. The collective theme is a positive one—managed print services is back, is different, and offers just as many opportunities as promised.

Russell “Rusty” Kromminga is a seasoned innovator and a strategic thinker in the realm of business technologies. As the Director of IT Services at Century Business Technologies, Inc., he has been instrumental in pioneering managed print services that align with digital workflows and environmental sustainability.

Ron Alphin serves as the Supply Chain and IT Manager at ABM Federal. With a keen eye on the intersection of technology and government services, Alphin brings a wealth of knowledge on how managed print services can be tailored to meet the stringent demands of federal operations, ensuring security and efficiency.

Paul Martin is a visionary in the field of business process optimization, advocating for the integration of managed print services into the broader context of organizational efficiency. His forward-thinking approach positions MPS as a cornerstone in the future structure of corporate operations.

We talked about the managed print services past, present, and future. In a phrase, managed print services is everything you’d expect and everything you wouldn’t.

Let’s dive in.

To say MPS is experiencing a resurrection insinuates that the practice died. Despite many promoting ”the death of MPS” (me included), historically good ideas don’t die; they just go unnoticed for a bit and then come back.  Today, dealers report MPS contract levels at or above pre-Covid.  This seems counterintuitive, considering a reported yearly 5% decrease in output[i]. One would think that a decrease in printed output would mean a reduction in managed print services agreements, if not a reduction in devices sold.

Like everything else nowadays, the influence of print trends on business is not linear. I contend it never was, and with all things office technology related, multiple components converge to impact revenue generation, internal costs and profit.

Working from home, reduced IT staff tasked with supporting more complicated, remote-driven IT environments forced companies to look at all opportunities to increase efficiencies while reducing costs:  two primary arguments for managed print services.

From Kromminga’s perspective, the non-linear forces on business, especially in the context of MPS, are evident in the way companies have had to pivot during the pandemic. He has seen firsthand how the shift to remote work has changed the nature of the IT challenges businesses face.

His three-pronged approach—managing output devices, embracing document management and digital workflow, and integrating into the wider IT network management—reflects a vision of MPS as an all-inclusive service.

Our ability to analyze multiple business workflows and recommend document management systems that solve business problems sets the industry at a level above others. With IT departments downsized or tasked with more complex responsibilities, the role of MPS has expanded.

By offering services that address the need for increased efficiency and reduced costs—core reasons for adopting managed services—MPS is positioned as a valuable ally in the transformation of business operations.

Alphin of ABM Federal brings a different perspective, one shaped by the unique challenges and opportunities of providing MPS to the United States federal government. Alphin’s narrative is one of a sector playing catch-up, yet ripe with potential. The federal landscape, with its $65 billion IT[ii] budget, is gradually opening to the efficiencies offered by MPS, especially in the wake of a pandemic that has forced a reevaluation of operational costs and processes.

For instance, the federal government presents unique operational hurdles such as the inability to install standard software due to security protocols, leading to a manual and labor-intensive process. Despite these challenges, the shift toward efficiency and cost reduction aligns well with the value proposition of basic MPS offerings.

Paul Martin’s viewpoint encapsulates the broader trends affecting MPS globally. Martin’s dialogue with industry players like SOS Systems Ltd. reveals a future where MPS is not just about managing printers but about managing processes. The emergence of roles like the Chief Process Officer[iii] signifies a future where MPS is deeply integrated into the business strategy, driving efficiency and innovation.

Martin notes the trend of larger companies acquiring niche players in the MPS market is driven by customer preferences for comprehensive “as-a-service” offerings that include the cost of equipment within service agreements, which smaller companies struggle to provide due to financial constraints.

Also, technology sales professionals take note: Martin’s emphasis on the importance of adapting to a more educated customer base and the need for salespeople to elevate their business acumen resonates with a market that is increasingly discerning and value-driven.

The common thread in these narratives is the undeniable march toward more integration, increased sustainability, and continued advanced technology. The integration of MPS with Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology is not just a possibility but an inevitability, as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance become the norm for every device. Sustainability initiatives, especially in the European Union, are central to MPS, reflecting a broader societal shift toward environmental awareness. Advanced security measures, too, are becoming a staple in MPS offerings as data protection becomes paramount in a world rife with cyberthreats.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning represent perhaps the most significant leap forward for MPS. These technologies are poised to revolutionize the way MPS providers anticipate needs and optimize services. The potential for AI to predict service needs and maintenance schedules, as noted by Kromminga, is redefining the efficiency benchmarks for MPS providers.

The future of MPS is one of convergence—of technology, business processes, and environmental stewardship. The insights from MPSA members Kromminga, Alphin, and Martin not only underscore the resilience and adaptability of MPS but also its critical role in the digital transformation of businesses.

What can you do to accelerate your MPS sales and thrive during turbulent times in the dynamic world of technology? The following action points draw from the deep well of our three colleagues’ combined insights, guiding you to not only meet but exceed the demands of an ever-evolving market.

  1. Adopt a solutions-driven sales method: Emulate Ron Alphin’s method by training in a consultative sales approach that resolves client challenges.
  2. Become a trusted advisor: Follow Paul Martin’s lead by creating educational content for your clients, establishing your role as an informed advisor.
  3. Enhance technological knowledge: Stay ahead by acquiring certifications in emerging technologies pertinent to modern MPS solutions.
  4. Champion cybersecurity: Stress the importance of secure MPS solutions by understanding and explaining the protective features against cyber threats.
  5. Engage with your community: Network like Russell Kromminga through industry events and associations to keep a pulse on trends and customer needs.

Talking with these three has revealed a narrative far removed from the cries of Chicken Little. Instead, the common story that emerges is one of resilience, transformation, and untapped potential.

Perfect for our industry.

[i] In the dynamic landscape of the US printing industry, a discernible contraction has been observed, reflecting a broader shift in organizational practices and technological integration. From 2016 to 2023, the industry experienced an annual market size reduction of approximately 4.5%. This trend underscores a gradual but consistent move away from traditional printing towards digital alternatives, as businesses continually adapt to the evolving digital economy. The implications of this shift are far-reaching, suggesting significant changes in how companies approach office workflows, manage documents, and align with environmental sustainability goals. The details of this industry trend are documented and can be explored further at the following URL:​​.

[ii] According to Fedscoop, President Biden’s budget proposal for 2023 called for an 11% overall increase in federal IT spending, proposing a total of $65.8 billion for civilian IT spending, with nearly $11 billion aimed at bolstering federal cybersecurity​​.

[iii] A Chief Process Officer (CPO) plays a crucial role in driving organizational performance through the design and execution of business processes. Organizations that adopt a formal business process management (BPM) approach often assign BPM accountability to senior executives. The CPO, specifically, is a position that possesses a unique skill set designed to serve as change agents within the company. CPOs are noted to be generalists, in contrast to the more specialized skills of COOs, CIOs, and CTOs, and they facilitate process-oriented strategy and execution. They act as integrators and influencers across managerial ranks and corporate functions, driving cultural change throughout the organization​​. Source.

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