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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Second Most Important Tool in Managed Print Services

MPS is all I talk about...I have been performing MPS assessments pretty heavily over the past few weeks and I find that although we have many tools, I am still making things up as I go along. After reading Ken’s post I knew I had to complete my current article. Ken’s post resonated with me regarding the Tools of MPS.----

Current MPS tools consist of spreadsheets, interview forms,
data collection sheets, automated data collection devices/software, supplies cost matrixes, etc. All geared around collecting the Technical data, i.e. volumes, lease end dates, lease payments, overages, 11x17, first copy out speed, duplex...blah blah blah...this data is mundane and acquiring it is fatiguing but necessary.

The collected data is one-dimensional and any “monkey” can collect it. Unfortunately to some providers and many customers, this is the extent of the information used in the analysis.

The Second Most Important MPS Tool: The Interview -

When interviewing, many issues are exposed, some that may not at first seem to be MPS-related.

The idea here is simple - the End User interview, the Director interview, and the C-Level interview are all treasure-laden conversations. Corporate directives, cultural issues, political hurdles, and decision-making processes all become apparent as progression is made through the organization.

As an example, I am currently working on 3 separate assessments for 3 clients - one is what I call a "Mini-Assessment"; which means we are only looking at 25 devices out of a fleet of 220. The idea is to analyze these units for fiscal '08, get the refresh approved, and continue the study into year's end for fiscal '09 upgrades. The goal of this study is to form a Standard Requirements List for all future hardware/copier acquisitions.

In this particular case, the overall organizational goals are:

  1. Reduce operational costs by 5% without “Reductions In Field”
  2. Increase employee job satisfaction
  3. Improve Customer Service
Now, the above three goals are not revealed when you plug in your "nonobtrusive" Print Audit tool into a USB port, are they? Nor do these three goals fall out of the bottom of a spreadsheet after entering all the machine types, volume levels, and power consumption, do they? No, no, no.

Ask questions.

Talk to everyone, make it your process - if your contact doesn't allow you access - fire them.

Covering All the Bases – Strategic Approach

When interviewing the questions asked are important but the people you ask are much more important. This is my personal application of a strategic approach. I see four types of interviewees:

  1. Your Coach
  2. The Technicals
  3. The End-User
  4. Project’s Economic Influencer
  • Your Coach
    • This person is convinced that MPS is the way to go. And he wants to see the project (and you) succeed. And your success is tied to his perception within the organization. You must make him look great, if you fail, he loses credibility.
  • The Technicals
    • These folks hold “go/no go” over the final recommendations. Their perspective is on the functional issues of the program. They are focused on issues like network compatibility, end-user support functions, invoicing and billing procedures, and maybe all the way down to duplex capabilities of the hardware.
  • The End-User
    • The End User must be satisfied. When interviewing and speaking with the End User you must have a clear idea of what direction the organization wants to move. For instance, if one of the basic goals is to reduce all the locally connected, desktop inkjet printers, check with IT to insure how they want to approach the subject.
    • The End User has a wealth of “everyday issues” that cause workflow bottlenecks. Their visibility into the organization is restricted but at the local level the information obtained can be very illuminating.
  • Economic Influencer(s)
    • This entity releases the funds necessary to move forward with the project. Interested in cost reduction and R.O.I.
    • These interviews are most likely C-Level players. I do not recommend asking the CEO if “duplexing is important…”
Every successful project includes covering ALL these bases with relevant (from their perspective) questions.

Imagine – when you contact ALL the above types - your picture of the organization’s output fleet would be detailed to the nth degree. You would be aware of the business culture and how it will react to change. And hopefully, this insight will allow making a solid, agreeable recommendation proven to positively impact the organization’s overall goals.

This brings me to the most important tool in the MPS shed - to be found in a later post.


  1. Greg, great read... I am smirking as I write this reply as you have perhaps encountered the 'most' important tool - the interview...

    In my mind, I had not categorized the interview as a tool, per se. After reading your post and thinking through our processes, I agree you are on target.

    Many reps used to get confused that a software tool would replace the interview and save them the trouble - but they often forgot the sale comes from relationship and a connection.

    Thank you for addendum... and I look forward to the next.

  2. Hi Greg,

    Thank you for a great post!

    I really think that it is important for those that are getting into Managed Print Services to remember that selling is a people business.

    The best way to win customer's hearts and minds is to show them what they have printed. Tell them about themselves, and their co workers.

    The most successful sales people have discussions with their customers about how to change user behaviors over time. They back those discussions up with information that they have gathered from tools and interviews.

    John MacInnes
    Print Audit

  3. After doing a number of assessments over the years I completely agree that an assessment without interviews is like strawberries without the cream! you are only doing half the job and missing a great opportunity

    Interviews will help you gather key information on the user’s habits, loves, hates and needs concerning their printing. This is gold dust as it will help construct the selling part of the next phase. By identifying hates that can be eliminated, loves that can be enhanced, needs that will be met and habits that either will not change or will need “special” programs to ease them into the change, you will hit all the hot buttons to get the user community on your side when building your MPS proposal (and a happy user community is a powerful sales aid). It can also help you identify some of the key influencers that will help in the implementation phase.

    But beware; doing interviews warns the user community of what changes are being planned and if they feel threatened (“your not taking my printer!”, “no one cares about me!”) they can start a revolt in the company that can stall or even scrap the MPS plan. The interview can not just be a list of one sided questions. You need to be able to show the users that their future will be better than today not worse. During the interviews you have sell them the benefits of what is being proposed and that the interview is part of making sure their needs are considered and incorporated. If done well they will go back and be an evangelist for your project, if done badly they will go back and be a saboteur.
    Plus, as I have found on more than one occasion, if you get the user community behind you they will pressure the IT/Facilities and their management to keep the project on track and deliver the new system quickly.


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