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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How To Buy Managed Print Services: All the Pretty Packages

June, 2010.

Turning from within, looking out - We on the inside of Managed Print Services:

It isn't All About Us.

One interesting subject that bubbled up during some off-line conversations at the 2010 MPS-Con was, "We need more end user, client, customer involvement and input."

Indeed, during the first face-to-face meeting of the MPSA Board, reaching out to end users was topic we explored.

So it is in this vein, that I present a narrow view of MPS - from the prospects' perspective.

A few points to consider when looking to buy Managed Print Services:

What, exactly, should MPS prospects look for in a provider/partner?

It isn't all that simple.

As difficult as it has been for us to define MPS, discover best practices, establish process and stay profitable it is more challenging for our prospects to understand where they fit into the MPS EcoSystem.

So, if you are looking for a MPS partner, how should you go about it?


1. Determine what you know, and what you don't know.

- Have a rough idea of how many devices you currently use
- Have a rough idea of how you currently support your "fleet". Get use to calling your printers and copiers a "fleet".
- Try and get a feeling for how things are working within your organization, today. How many people are involved in managing your printers, your supplies, your copiers.

2. Get an idea of where you want to go; reduce cost, reduce overhead, make your life easier, etc.

- For example, if ordering toner cartridges for all 135 of your printers is the pain you are looking to relieve, define it.
- Are you looking for cost reduction? Then define what a reasonable savings would be for you.
- Recognize the difference between "hard" and "soft" cost and the impact of each.

3. Consolidate the Decision Process into One Entity

- This one is a bit more difficult, but will cut down on the time it will take for a decision to be made. Either give ALL the decision power to IT or establish an evaluation team of purchasing and IT. This may seem trivial, and will not degrade your process if you do not go in this direction, but for your company to take advantage of a complete MPS Engagement, consolidating the decision entity, is paramount.

What to do and ask, during your meeting with a possible MPS Provider:

1. "What is your Process?"

- This is a good question. Have him answer verbally, without marketing slicks, to start. And then reflect; How comfortable is his presentation? Do his ideas make sense?

2. "Tell me about your assessments."

- As with the "Process" question, what you are looking for here is a clear understanding of how and to what depth this candidate performs assessments. The static data is easy to collect - be prepared to have software loaded onto your network. I would be looking to hear something about "business process" or determining "why certain documents are printed" as well as volumes, paper usage, supply closets, etc.

- If you want to trip him up a bit, ask him why he doesn't charge for his assessments. Is the resulting recommendation worth the price of the assessment?

3. "How do you handle copiers, printers and MFP's in your MPS arrangements?"

- There is no wrong answer. What you are looking for here is honesty, composure and his scope. MPS providers, good ones, understand that they cannot be all things to all people; there are limits. You want to find his.

I feel the basic idea is to look for a partnership, not a vendor. MPS is a very dynamic and wide ecosystem, there are a great many opportunities for cost reduction.

But as the dynamics of business change, most vendors will not keep up.

A partnership is a two-way relationship that is more flexible.

This is what you want in a MPS provider; a partner with vision.

MPS today will not be the same MPS 10 or even 3 years from now. If your MPS partnership can evolve with the changing business and technology environment, that is great.

If your partner is most like not going to evolve into more than simple hardware and supply management - that is fine as well - it is just best you know this, going in.

Again, MPS isn't really brain surgery, it's more like Rocket Science.

Click to email me.


  1. 4. Are you prepared and qualified for change?

    MPS does change the way how the availability of the infrastructure and belonging services is organised between internal departments (purchasing, operations and IT) and the vendor.

    Often, the MPS components are spread over different budgets. Is your buying team qualified to rearrange budgets?

    Often, the execution of MPS related services are spread over different departments too. Is your buying team qualified to manage change in employee responsibility and tasks?

    5. Get to know the differences between buying products vs managed services

    With products you write a feature based RFP, you select the supplier, sign a contract and you move it over to the principal department.

    With services you need to think about the services, the level of the services you need, key performance indicators, how to get a vendor you trust, a RFP, contract, SLA, NDA and not the least, ongoing supplier management and yearly SLA review...

    If purchasing, facility management or it management is not represented in your team, you may get in trouble.

  2. 6. One of the area’s most people forget (until very late) is that if you outsource print alone how do you handle the common areas. Printers need drivers and these sit on desktops and servers. Who will own these after the MPS starts? Who will take overall responsibility of operating software choice (printservers), updates, security testing, patches, rollouts, settings, backups etc.

    7. Help desk, does the print part of the help desk remain with the client? If no how do they make sure they don’t drop faults between the clients IT helpdesk and the MPS provider and how do you define what is a print fault and a system fault? (Calling a MPS engineer for a system fault will cost extra).

    8 Device consolidation. We all know the big savings for both the customer and the MPS supplier are to have as much of their print going through as few (big) printers as possible, but what of the user cost. How much time will now be spent walking to collect print? Will the centralized printer now becoming the copier/coffee machine conversation point for the department, losing even more time. It is easy to rip out printers if you have no idea why they were there in the first place, but beware that you don’t lose more than your print savings in lost user/business process efficiency

    Before starting the MPS journey few companies really understand what their own print infrastructure and usage patterns are. Few, if any, companies do their own in depth print visualizations or assessment prior to contacting the MPS providers. Most of their data is based on inaccurate, limited and quite often out of date internal information.
    If you want to successfully plan your MPS journey you have to know accurately where you are starting from and where you want to get to.

  3. Wow -

    It is like we share a brain...because I was simply starting with my 3 and going to add as we go - but, I can not improve upon both of your individual additions...good form!

    Thank you Johan and Colin for you xlint comments!


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