Friday, February 23, 2018

The Genesis, Evolution and De-evolution of #ManagedPrintServices

I remember the first time somebody said to me, "We've been doing managed print services for 20 years..." that was ITEX, 2008.  Which of course meant this person had been optimizing, assessing, rightsizing, and billing service and supplies on a cost per image basis - back in 1988.

"What? Did you bill for re-inked ribbons?"  He was not amused.

Back then, there was a bunch of talk about how MPS was nothing new; the facilities folks had been assessing fleets and selling bodies for years.  The Electronic Document Management guys had been selling scan-to-file for at least a decade and the toner re-manufacturers were old-hats at dumpster diving for cores.


The copier-heads saw MpS as a scam; nothing more than a marketing ploy effectively duplicating what they had been doing since 1970.  They laid claim to managed print services.

The move into managed print services took a few years, as OEM after OEM assembled and rolled out their unique program.  Back then, most programs supported a homogenous fleet meaning the "best" MpS solution was one that included the brand "I SELL" versus the brands customers currently utilized - "Rip And Replace" took on a significant meaning.

Months passed. Iterations of software like PrintAudi, FM-Audit and PrintFleet.  WebJet Admin was HP's software - the most expensive free software you could ever want.  Still, monitoring software was in its' infancy.

The MpS world struggled to move away from faxed and manually collected meter reads.  Billing was half the challenge, managing toner shipments incorrectly morphed profitable contracts into nightmare losses.

Shipping costs, undefined commission structures, premature exchanges of toner and blown motherboards killed many MpS endeavors.  The smart guys, looked at meter reads and toner usage data as a possible predictor.  Algorithms were developed and applied creating predictive models of toner usage down to the device.

Golden Age of MpS.

As MpS matured, the advanced players moved from 'hardware agnostic' to 'hardware neutral' covering multiple vendors' devices.

Toner fillers and re-manufacturers got into the game as well, assembling and providing managed print services programs complete with data collection agents, mapping software bundled with sales training and marketing deliverables.

Everybody, even traditional IT VARs, jumped into the MpS ocean.  MpS was full of possibilities, a departure from copiers toward IT and beyond.  ITEX stacked the floor with MpS providers and training sessions - we even had a Managed Print Services Conference.

But a funny thing happened on the way to MpS nirvana. By 2015 MpS had come full circle - the pioneers of the MPS rarely appear, MPS consulting firms fade away leaving MpS training to the "drill and fills".  Manufacturers release dozens of A4 devices like it was always their idea.  In an interesting twist of irony, the biggest critics of managed print services find themselves leading MpS organizations.

Everyone ignored the Signs.  Small OED's slipped into history or glommed on to bigger dealers - circling the wagons and selling out.  Dawn of The Planet of the Mega Dealer

The Late, Great MpS

Today, 2018 dealers, full of hubris and dripping with chunk-watches, brag about 30% cost reductions, all the while installing A3 for end users who've forgotten what tabloid paper looks like. Prospects implement print policies on their own, realizing the folly of letting companies that derive revenue from prints, help them reduce print.

Founding members of the industry transform: Lexmark, once an American darling, sells out to an arch enemy.  Xerox, a one-time American, corporate icon, begs her neighbor for shelter.  HP, Lady Blue, suffers through Edgeline, TouchPad and Leo, breaks in two and emerges stronger.

This has happened before, industries rise and fall.  Weaving machines displace textile workers. Horse power replaces manpower.  Automobiles supplant horses.   One day soon, managed print services will be the buggy-whip of the once prevalent, Copier Industry.

And that's okay - it is the Way of Things.

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