Saturday, March 28, 2009

10 Questions to Ask Yourself and your Managed Print Services Provider: From HP



Here are ten questions that Gary Tierney, country manager, Imaging and Printing Group, Hewlett-Packard, suggests.

These are not the only questions, but they are pretty darn good ones.

I cut and pasted them here from an article the Business and Leadership site, here.

I find the last question, number 10, very interesting and question #6 illustrates a more European interest.

What do you think?

As the potential benefits of an MPS strategy grow, so too do the stakes when selecting a partner. Here is a selection of questions that enterprises should ask themselves and their MPS suppliers before signing on the dotted line:

1. Why are you considering an MPS strategy? What is your definition of success and how will you measure it?

Consider if your MPS strategy is a ‘defensive’ cost-based approach, or is it driven by wider considerations such as reducing environmental impact, generating measurable performance increases, consolidating non-core operations around a number of key suppliers, integrating operations from a recently merged business, moving to a flexible working model from a branch-based network, or perhaps preparing for future expansion?

The business rationales underpinning your MPS strategy will determine these objectives and accompanying metrics. How open is your vendor to performance-based metrics? Is it prepared to be assessed against your business priorities, whether they are based on performance, environmental impact or cost reduction, or a weighted combination of these?

2. Do your service level agreements (SLAs) and payment models make business sense – for your business, not theirs?

SLAs can provide transparency and ensure wider business objectives are being met, but only if they make sense for your business. Same-day service in the event of a printer failure may make sense in an environment where print is time-critical and where backup devices are not available. However, it would make no sense to pay for such a premium service if redundancy could be built into the system in the event of a breakdown.

The majority of MPS contracts are based on a ‘cost-per-page’ model. In this instance, it is incumbent on the user to anticipate usage volumes and patterns, and negotiate accordingly. Alternative models are possible, such as ‘cost-per-seat’ with potential charges for maintenance and support. How open is your vendor to tailoring the billing model for your business? Is the vendor prepared to impose a ‘reconciliation-based’ model involving, for example, a fixed monthly fee throughout the first year, with a revised fee based on actual usage for the following year?

3. What is your business?

Just as no two businesses are the same, neither are those organisations’ printing and digital-imaging requirements. An enterprise’s specific requirements are defined by the nature of its business. Here are a selection of considerations that will impact your enterprise print profile and, therefore, the challenge facing your eventual MPS partner:

• What volume of documents are pre-printed, printed on demand?

• What volume of documents are internal, customer-facing?

• With what frequency and regularity are documents printed; is there likely to be any pattern?

• What proportion of documents will be confidential or restricted in nature?

• Is your organisation subject to certain compliance or data-protection procedures with respect to printed material?

• Is your organisation branch-based, do your staff work flexibly (from other branch offices, from home, on client or partner premises, from hotels?)

• Where is your headquarters situated?

In reality, most organisations would struggle to even estimate the volumes and type of print required by their staff beyond the overall costs for supplies, print hardware and maintenance.

Does the MPS vendor offer a comprehensive audit procedure to enable you to evaluate and assess your requirements, or does it simply apply a generic print/cost formula to all clients?

4. What is your print profile – 3pc or 103pc?

Ink and toner represents an essential component of any cost analysis, so it is essential to understand the type of documents being printed by your staff. The difference in terms of supplies provisioning and cost can be revealing: ink/toner required for a typical letter or memo printed in black and white would cover between 3–5pc of the overall page, but that percentage could rise to 100pc for a PowerPoint and even higher if printed in colour. In addition, the make and model of the printer can also significantly impact cost-per-page figures.

Ensure that you assess your print profile before committing to a price-per-page model, for instance. Why pay for a 100pc print ratio, based on one type of printer, when the majority of print jobs will be letters or memos based on an entirely different print platform?

5. How scalable and flexible is the contract?

Will the SLAs and conditions negotiated last year still make sense in the future? What contingencies are incorporated to accommodate evolutions to your business model, mergers, acquisitions, overseas expansion, new services and flexible working models? For an MPS strategy to be genuinely beneficial, your business context must be taken into consideration.

Reputable vendors should demonstrate a knowledge and experience of your sector, and be capable of accommodating its trends and future developments within the context of your contract.

6. Is the vendor genuinely international?

The genuine benefits of MPS become evident with scale, as new markets and geographies are added to the scope. What are your potential MPS partner’s international credentials? Can it provide a list of verifiable reference customers for these areas? Can it deliver and support all aspects of the MPS contract, from leasing to onsite support, to these geographies direct or through a partner? In the case of the latter, would these partners still be subject to the same terms and conditions and measurable against the same SLAs?

Using the above criteria as a benchmark, recent reports from both Gartner and Quocirca cite just eight MPS vendors that are genuinely global, so it is certainly advisable to pose this question to your vendor before committing.

7. What about integration – it’s not always as simple as it looks. What are your MPS vendor’s technology credentials?

One of Hewlett-Packard’s current MPS clients requires us to support over 4,000 different applications based on five operating systems across its disparate office locations. Each of these requires specific driver applications to ensure full print and digital-imaging compatibility. This complexity is multiplied when we consider that the client in question operates in the banking sector, where levels of control, security and compliance remain a priority.

This context is far from unusual within the enterprise sector. Your MPS vendor must be capable of implementing and administering all aspects of the print and digital-imaging process, from application integration to individual user access. Ensure that your MPS vendor can demonstrate practical experience of these environments before signing up.

8. What about web-based applications?

Software as a service (SaaS), application service provision and ‘apps on tap’ have become mainstream for enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, human resources and finance. There cannot be many enterprises that have not either considered or implemented such a strategy. What are the implications of web-based applications from a printing and digital-imaging perspective, and what should you expect from your MPS vendor?

One of the advantages of web-based provisioning is flexibility and scalability – any device, at any given moment, in any location. Such benefits would be undermined if they did not extend to the print environment. A reputable MPS vendor should ensure that printing and imaging services are similarly provisioned ‘on demand’, without compromising the integrity of the documents, the security of the enterprise or agreed compliance procedures.

Will this level of service be maintained for all web-based data sources, whether they are databases, presentations, written archives, graphics, images or other applications?

9. What about environmental considerations?

MPS is not just about reducing costs. By optimising the infrastructure and ensuring the most efficient use of resources – both energy and supplies such as paper and ink/toner cartridges – MPS can also make a significant contribution to reducing organisations’ environmental impact and introduce more sustainable business practices. As firms face increasing pressure from customers, shareholders and Government to reduce their carbon footprint, this will become an even more crucial component of the MPS approach.

As part of their wider MPS offering, vendors should be able to offer an assessment that analyses customers’ printing environments to understand current energy, paper and supplies use. MPS vendors should use this information to optimise fleets, better manage output and leverage change-management expertise to help you achieve the most environmentally sustainable document solutions strategy.

10. What about mobile?

What vision and practical support can your MPS vendor offer in terms of future trends and their implications for the print environment? The most pressing of these is the increasing use of mobile devices in the decision-making process.

This trend represents a particular challenge for printing and digital imaging in terms of drivers, image format (to ensure that the end result is legible and usable) and, of course, security (particularly with the advent of wireless printing).

Make sure your MPS vendor has a clear vision regarding mobility and other technology trends to ensure it is fully supported, and not actually constrained – by the print process.


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