By John Taylor, Chief Executive of M2

Today’s businesses are coming to terms with the fact that hard copy costs represent the last bastion of uncontrolled spending within their organisations. And with print consuming around 3% of business revenues, many organisations are looking to managed print services (MPS) to achieve the cost controls they need.

With print output increasing by an average of 20% a year, despite the advent of the so called ‘paperless office’, engaging with an MPS provider makes sound commercial sense. With 91% of finance directors still lacking real transparency on the total print costs in their business, MPS offers a clear resolution to achieving a predictable cost management strategy.

The ‘how’s and why’s of MPS

At its core, MPS sets out to maximise utilisation of the printer, fax, scanner and photocopier fleet within an organisation, eliminating wastage and service failure through the unified and proactive management of the entire equipment fleet.

A key aspect of MPS is the delivery of accurate management reporting and consolidated billing. This not only provides visibility of total print costs but also helps identify usage peaks and troughs across the organisation to support improved fleet utilisation. Professional account managers from a MPS provider ensure that this information is analysed, clearly communicated to key stakeholders and importantly, that it is acted upon quickly and appropriately.

There are also key operational and technical characteristics that underpin MPS. These include automated consumable and service diagnostic software, remote network management tools and a range of options for users to integrate their print and IT networks. There should also be a variety of customer systems and helpdesk processes to support the solution as well as in-house consultants capable of aligning the MPS solution to customer environments.

Finally, through the continual optimisation of the entire print infrastructure, strategy and end user policy definition, an MPS provider sets out to enable organisations to exploit their office print investment to the max.

Examining the gains

A professional MPS provider will generate significant benefits for an organisation, least of which is cutting print costs by up to 40%. And the material reduction of paper consumption means ‘green’ environmental targets become an achievable reality.

But that’s not all. Streamlining the print fleet environment delivers the workflow speed and increased availability that boosts employee productivity, while improving document controls to significantly bolster information security across the enterprise. By increasing transparency and employee print accountability, organisations achieve a ‘user aware’ culture that cuts unnecessary wastage in its tracks.

Finally, a good MPS provider reduces the burden on IT departments. Because by dramatically reducing call volumes to IT help desks — 60% of all calls to IT help desks are printer related — IT teams are freed to focus on more core strategic responsibilities.

The MPS conundrum

Finding a provider that can deliver on the promise of MPS can be a real challenge. True MPS is a complex discipline that includes a mixture of hardware, services, software and integration expertise. So, while many copier businesses are increasingly jumping on the MPS bandwagon, typically they are unable to deliver the comprehensive assessment, business case, and measurable ROI that marks out the professional execution of MPS.

Similarly, the recent trend for IT service providers to converge print services with their network control offering also fails to deliver on the MPS promise. IT providers quite simply lack the specialist capabilities to balance the deployment of assets and minimise the estate required to support demand, or to specify the right mix of multifunctional devices to boost employee productivity, or provide guidance on how to reduce carbon usage on printer consumables.

And relying on the so called MPS services of the major copier or print manufacturers simply locks an organisation into a single platform that may not, in the short or longer term, offer the best deal when it comes to functionality or cost.

Finding the right MPS partner

A true MPS partner should be completely vendor agnostic — enabling the delivery of a mixture of technologies that are appropriate to the operational challenge in hand - and offer the geographic spread to provide the agile and responsive national coverage small, medium and enterprise scale organisations need.

So, if your MPS provider is unable to provide a dedicated consultancy team or its own in-house resources to undertake MPS audits, solution design and needs assessment, not least the post sale expert resources in IT, account management, professional services, then it’s unlikely you’ll benefit from the expertise you need to achieve ROI or future proof your business. And then you’ll wonder why your MPS solution didn’t achieve any of the savings promised.