Thursday, March 12, 2009

The IT Guys Are Stealing Managed Print Services- MPS Gets Redefined, Again

"Gartner estimates that printer problems account for between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of helpdesk calls—a significant cost to any company."

In a great article by Louella Fernandes, Principal Analyst, Quocirca
written all the way back in January, 2009, here, she goes on:

"...Meanwhile the downtime of any printer device generally leads to reduced user productivity—and the problem can be exacerbated by users who may be slow to report printer faults such as paper jams or toner running low.

Robust print management tools that claim to mitigate these issues are available. For example HP's WebJet Admin offers features such as services and supplies alerts to enable proactive device management.

However, many organisations often find their IT staff simply do not have the time or experience necessary to utilise advanced tool capabilities to their greatest advantage..."

I find the statement above pretty illuminating, and slightly dated. As with most issues in MPS, everything is in flux; including the tools available. If all this "change" is effecting us inside the industry, how is it effecting our clients and prospects?

One big change I am seeing is IT departments trying to "get a hold" on all these "new" costs.

New as in, "the costs that have been growing for the last two decades right under you nose" kind of new? Yes, that kind of "new".

Back in the olden days, the days of Novell Networks, Micro Channel Architecture, and Expanded Memory, IT departments grew in power because they understood computers and regular people did not. They were the Wizards; socially unapproachable. Their decisions were absolute, like the Oracle at Delphi.

Fast forward a couple decades, mix in some economic uncertainty, and spice this up with a "new", unchecked yet extremely manageable mountain of cost - and today you we have the best opportunity for IT departments around the country to justify their existence or at least one or two IT staff by tackling this new menace - Un-Managed Print Services.

Think I am off base? Just this month, in some of the larger organizations I work with, I am beginning to hear more and more about internal "Density Studies" being performed by the IT staff.

"Density Studies" meaning calculating the number of printers relative to the number of users - a good start, but how will this all end? Well, first off, instead of the IT department supporting network and technology issues with end users, they are performing internal Density Studies. As open help desk tickets grow in number, IT staff is combing through hundreds of toner, supplies and overage invoices.

Worst, IT departments are notorious for "over complicating" and reporting to end users in an Orwellian manner. This being one of the reasons end-users don't like IT people; the IT folks talk down to the end users. I do not think most IT departments really want to wrestle away all those "expensive desktops" - I wish them luck.

Here is my primary concern, as IT attempts to understand MPS internally and interpret MPS for the organization, will they re-shape the true issues associated with real MPS? Will the definition of MPS be changed once again, this time by the "propeller-heads"? And will this new definition neutralize any "value add" that the MPS players can provide?

We are witnessing MPS gain acceptance and increases in popularity, this new rush to boil down and commoditize our expertise will begin - it already has.

As with all complex ideas and issues, the best way to understand and explain, is to break the idea down into component parts. As we are talking about IT, "breaking down" means extracting all the "hard" costs and allowing those to be the comparative criteria.

When this happens, unfortunately, the focus is shift away from "the big" picture and the project may drown in minutia of invoices, meter reads, assessments and lease payment reductions.

We can't and shouldn't fight this.

So what do we do? We present a single dimension, cost savings, R.O.I. based on agreed numbers. This is simpler. This is easier for people to understand, and easier to sell. A great man once said, "Sell them first, educate them second..."

The good news is if we approach the partnership with high intent, initially selling on hard cost ROI is not that bad and establishes a good foundation for a long term business relationship.

This can only be negative if the analysis and implementation begins and ends with hard cost savings.


  1. That is really an insightful post, Greg. The times are a-changin' in our relationship to IT guys.

    I don't see IT as a different breed. Our MPS approach has routinely been to knock on the IT/MIS manager's door first. Sometimes we discover a "propeller-head" but as often as not we find just another over-stressed manager.

    Strangely enough, either of those can blow us off.

    The propeller-head often operates in another world where TCO, ROI and P & L statements never impact thinking. And the "normal" fellow may kick us out because -- just like the rest of us -- he's territorial.

    We come in telling him we're going to take something off their plate. We're going to "ease his pain" in dealing with dumb end-users who pass inkjet labels through their laser printers, etc. etc. But, rather than see them genuflecting and asking "Where do I sign?", their defenses go up.

    Replacing feed rollers and yanking printer jams in this day and age is nothing less than "job security" for some of their guys. The CFO may not think that's appropriate work for some of the highest paid employees in the building, but the IT guy -- just like the rest of us -- knows that "looking busy" in a corporate environment is almost the same as "being busy."

    So perhaps the best thing we can do is to refocus our aim onto a different target. The first door to knock on now is the one who sees the big picture and fully understands the connection between smoke-screens and soft costs.

    It's time to talk to the CFO.

  2. Bob - Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting.

    There is a flavor of "deja vu", again.

    Seems I went through this back when selling and presenting computerized accounting systems(late 80's early 90's) when the "IT Director" was the owners nephew.

    You nailed it when you say "job security" - if the fleet demands 2-3 maintenance kits a week, send the IT guys, stock the parts, and keep taking the help desk calls at 3am. As long as the IT kingdom doesn't lose populace.

    But yes, in the classic Professional Selling Model, always go high - not as easy to do as it is to type the words ...

    Thanks again!

    BTW - I enjoyed your site -

  3. From the POV of the commercial printer, I've seen this story before. What I think I've learned is that becoming a "solutions provider" to talk to the CFO or the CMO is much easier said then done.

    CFO's and CMO's see printers as printers no matter what they call themselves. It's not pretty but there it is.

    The mistake that commercial printers made and make is their reluctance to partner with real experts and do a joint sell. They are mostly worried about "owning the customer."

    I want to put on your piece of the industry, take a very close look at Google. They recently sold the city of Washington DC on using Google Apps for $50/year/a seat.

    They have a reseller program in place for Google Apps. I think if I were in your position, I would consider selling Google Apps or another Cloud computing ECM, to outflank the internal IT department.

  4. Just found an interesting discussion about Google Apps in the's the link: