Maybe we should rename Managed Print Services, "Managed Innovative Services"?

The term "MPS" has appeared in mainstream business media and is recently gaining the attention of Wall Street investors as they gauge the potential performance of the various hardcopy equipment manufacturers. But, the meaning behind the term...

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The term "MPS" has appeared in mainstream business media and is recently gaining the attention of Wall Street investors as they gauge the potential performance of the various hardcopy equipment manufacturers. But, the meaning behind the term "MPS" keeps on morphing. So, what exactly is Managed Print Services? And how does one effectively evaluate an MPS provider?

Having just completed the exercise of reading through dozens of MPS, RFPs and SOWs, one could come to the conclusion that MPS is all about third party management of a fleet of printers and MFPs under a bundled, cost-per-page contract that includes both supplies (ink and toner) and break/fix services. 

Countless pages are devoted to lists of devices, their desired capabilities listed in painful detail. Some RFPs mention management of the organisation's central copy/print centre  And while it is true that fleet and print management forms the foundation of any MPS engagement, MPS can be so much more (and offer so much more to an organisation.)

To start with, an MPS engagement should include a detailed up-front assessment of an organisation's actual print/copy/scan usage, including both the device perspective and the human factor. Who prints what, where and for what purpose? Not only is this assessment used to design an output strategy for optimisation, but it also provides baseline metrics for an SLA with pre-defined goals.

Then, the vendor must provide continuing analysis, reporting and recommendations for ongoing optimisation. Recent IDC research shows that the number one reason that end-users are satisfied with their MPS vendor is that the vendor provides the cost savings promised. Numbers two and three are that the vendor keeps them informed on a regular basis and provides suggestions for increased savings and efficiencies (see attached chart.)

Of course the vendor must proactively manage the day-to-day operation of the fleet, maximising up-time and minimising service events.

And what about that human factor? MPS vendors should offer a formal change management program with internal marketing, education, reporting tools and incentives to get employees and their managers to contribute to and sustain contract goals.

But wait, there's more…

Several managed print services (or perhaps, more correctly, managed document services) vendors are offering professional services and managed services that align with an organisation's business goals, optimising and speeding up  business-process document workflows to drive revenue growth in addition to increasing cost savings. 

Often, optimisation focuses on transitioning paper-based workflows to electronic workflows, and leveraging technology such as mobile, intelligent capture, content management and business process management to automate and streamline processes, freeing up knowledge workers for higher-value tasks.

Organisations considering an MPS engagement, or those in the process of renewing a contract, should expand their MPS definition beyond commodity fleet and print management.  

They should ask vendors to not only evaluate what their machines are doing, but also what their people are doing, and make suggestions to make those people more productive, reduce errors and transaction costs, shorten cycle time, increase customer satisfaction, improve security and compliance and drive top line results.

36 percent of respondents in our survey cited "clearly demonstrated innovation" as the reason they are satisfied with their MPS vendor. We expect to see this value grow. 

A number of MPS vendors have been introducing innovative solutions that can be deployed in managed services engagements. Examples include "workflow optimised" MFPs from HP, an integrated packing and shipping system from Lexmark and a banking kiosk and educational assessment tools from Xerox. 

IT managers and line of business managers should leverage the document domain expertise of their MPS providers and seek innovative solutions to business process pain points.

Posted by Holly Muscolino, Research Director, IDC
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