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Monday, May 31, 2010

Managed Print Services IS Business Process Optimization

The theme of the 2010 North American MPS Conference was "Change".

Change is pretty certain and if you've been in the MPS arena for the last three years, you have sure seen a lot of it.

For me it looks like we have settled into a good understanding of the first 2 stages of MPS Adaption: Control and Optimize.

There is a huge amount of business and profit nestled into both stages, but I wonder if we are forgetting this is only the beginning.

It is really no surprise that Stage 3 is turning out to be a bit tricky for some to get their minds around.

Indeed, the easiest application of this stage, Enhance the Business process, is traditional EDM packages. If you know the difference between and performed both a document-flow and work-flow analysis, you are waist-deep into EDM/The Third Stage.

In my humble opinion, if all we do is provide supplies and equipment management services, we are not reaching the full, MPS potential.

This is one reason I reject the typical "assessment" - it is mostly, usually, simply an inventory of equipment and a recording of static data around the fleet.

The simple stuff.

What really frosts my fritters is the fact that almost every assessment is, or should be, a business process survey - but most don't see it that way.

The assessment is the cornerstone of every MPS engagement. All too often the engagement starts and STOPS with the assessment.

Don't be afraid of Business Process Optimization, you are probably already walking right by it, during every site assessment you perform.

Allow me to illustrate.

I know a company, we'll call it "ABC" company.

ABC company has just under 1,000 devices - well, actually, just over 1,300 devices, but at first there were only 1,000 - sound familiar? We wanted to get Control and then Optimize the fleet.

Because this wasn't my first rodeo, I proposed a smaller assessment instead of going after all the devices in one swoop. Furthermore, I suggested we survey the accounting departments, Purchasing and one additional department my client felt would be important. He chose H/R.

So off to the accounting department, specifically A/P and P/R we went, my clipboard in hand, questions memorized, client project leader in tow.

Yes, we looked at the Sharp copier, the three, older HP's and the three really old MICR printers. Yes, I collected data like volumes, end-user preferences, and requirements. And we found 5 fax machines.

Most would have stopped here.

I mean, look at the obvious "refresh" opportunity - five output devices and five fax machines- if I moved for a 1:1 this could be twelve machines plus the clicks. A good equipment sale. And if you consider putting the single function printers on a CPI agreement, not a bad MPS Engagement either.

But you know better, don't you?

On one side of the room, there are three cubes. Each inhabited by a single Accounts Payable clerk. I know these people are just starving for attention so I wander over and ask, "what do you folks do over here?"

My goal was NOT to get a gander at all the competitors' invoices, but to find out how they cut checks, what steps to the go through to get Xerox, Sharp, etc. paid.

I got an ear full.

I heard how the invoices come directly to this department and are paid.

I learned that it is routine to "rotate" vendors by dividing the alphabet into three sections. One clerk gets the first 8 letters and so on. It was relayed to me, by a somewhat frazzled looking gentleman that, "nobody wants "X", I have "X" and I hate it".


"Why so glum, chum?", I query.

"Xerox begins with X, and nobody wants to work on Xerox invoices..." he says.

I am not making this up and at this point, I am about to jump all over this guy - but I restrain myself, I don't want to scare him away.

"I'm not with Xerox", I assure, "but why doesn't anybody want Xerox? You have about 250 of their devices? How bad can it be?"

"That's 500 invoices a month to process. 250 for equipment and 250 overage invoices. It's a nightmare. They bill us individually for each machine. They say they can't give us one bill because of all the different lease dates. And if one of our departments ever gets an estimated usage invoice, we usually don't discover any incorrect bills until the end of the year, when the department managers are working on budgets. You should go to Purchasing - they have it worse than us."

"Wait, are you telling me that you cut 500 checks to Xerox a month?", I am flabbergasted, "holy crap! How long does it take you to do that?"

He simply shakes his head.

"Ok, let's start from the beginning," I request, flipping over to a fresh page,"...tell me again why you hate Xerox."

Forty-five minutes later, I have 6 pages of notes, three spaghetti diagrams, and a clear understanding of how they cut checks, the approval or lack of approval process, the bottlenecks in work-flow, and how long it takes in man-hours to cut checks to Xerox.

I also have about a dozen end-user quotes that will find there way into the margins of my proposal.

Once done, off to Purchasing.

That's business process analysis.

By the way, two years after the analysis, and one year after launching our MPS engagement the impact in the accounting department has been huge.

Reduction in processing time has reached 15%. The clerks don't hate their job as much and the MPS Project is considered a success.

One more thing, although about 45% of the Xerox fleet has been replaced, and our ratio is around 4:1, four machines leave for every unit we install, I have not placed any equipment in the A/P Department yet.

Sure, replacement of the Sharp is scheduled, as is the older MICR and other devices. But I have been able to positively affect some 20 end-users experience and make a great name for MPS by simply listening and drawing out ideas "on the back of a napkin".

I hate to almost re-write the definition of MPS.

But when you look at it universally, Managed Print Services IS BUSINESS PROCESS OPTIMIZATION.

Oh, and before I get all the, "you hate Xerox" comments, I don't.

My point is not to bash but to illustrate. Anyone of the many players could have been in the X.

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Greg Walters, Incorporated