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Five steps to effective MPS assessments in large enterprises

Published April 24, 2014 - Alan Joch 

A comprehensive assessment closely tied to business goals helps ensure success in managed print services.

There’s a lot for executives to like about managed print services (MPS). Done right, it can reduce costs throughout the print environ­ment and support optimized business processes.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any guarantees that every enterprise will fully reap the rewards of this important strategy. A number of factors ultimately contribute to success, but one of the most impor­tant comes at the very start of an MPS engagement — the upfront assessment of an enterprise’s business requirements and current print resources. Gloss over this step and organizations risk encoun­tering disappointing results and halfhearted buy-in by end users.

Five essential steps can help enterprise managers tailor an MPS solution to their needs, define key performance indicators to keep the strategy on track, and create a framework for continuous improvement that guarantees MPS will remain a valuable resource for years to come.

Step 1: Define Business Goals

MPS shouldn’t be a rigid one-size-fits-all solution, as long as enterprises shape it to their unique business requirements. Some leaders may place a high priority on addressing undermanaged areas of the print environment, such as redundant personal print­ers or ad hoc toner purchases that undermine volume discount opportunities. Others look to MPS to meet spending-reduction goals in the operations budgets and leverage cost savings for new equipment purchases. Other managers see MPS within a larger vision for reducing reliance on paper documents and optimizing business processes. MPS can achieve each of these goals but only if organizations and service providers design the solution with the proper endpoints in mind. 

Step 2: Understand the Current Print Environment

The foundation for effective MPS starts with aggregating data from four main sources. First, your provider should help you gather readily available statistics about your print environment, such as the number and models of printers, fax machines and scanners. Output volumes and maintenance costs for each device, if available, as well as financial data about leasing contracts, will also contribute to an accurate picture of current operations.

Second, a data-gathering tool should be used to scour the network for attached output devices. In many cases, these tools will discover additional hardware not accounted for in standard inventory lists. An accurate count will be key to identifying unman­aged costs and redundant equipment. The audit tools can also work over time — a week or a month or more, depending on an enterprise’s requirements — to track output volumes and show hardware that may be either underutilized or strained to capacity.

Third, assessment professionals should conduct a physical review of the environment. Depending on the depth of information required, the walk-throughs may focus on representative depart­ments or cover the entire enterprise. In addition to discovering devices not plugged into the network, the consultants will map the physical locations of each piece of hardware and monitor the effectiveness of business processes under real-world conditions.

Finally, with a picture of the current print environment clearly in focus, assessors should compare the enterprise’s maintenance and support costs to industry data compiled by independent research firms. The information helps planners determine an actual total cost of ownership (TCO) for each hardware compo­nent in the output infrastructure.

Step 3: Identify Opportunities for Improvement

By aligning business goals with a TCO profile, enterprise leaders and assessment partners can create a tailored MPS plan.

Customization is key. For example, MPS strategies should identify the best ratio of networked printers to end users. If there are too few devices, productivity drops while people wait for their print jobs to finish. If there are too many printers, organiza­tions incur excessive costs for equipment and maintenance. But if you simply impose generic ratios, you risk disappointing results.

The right ratios will vary by job function as well as by industry. For example, sales associates in retail showrooms may require more printers to maintain high levels of customer service than machine operators on factory floors who output work orders at the start of a shift. Assessment partners with access to industry bench­marks can help organizations determine the right ratios, based on company size, industry, business process and other factors.

The MPS recommendation will also determine which types of devices will deliver the highest returns, such as a multifunction printer with faxing, copying and scanning to support an admin­istrative workgroup.

Once stakeholders agree on the new environment, the best MPS consultants will produce a detailed report outlining the exact equipment and quantities required for each work area and the best placement of devices for balancing cost and productiv­ity. With this information, the enterprise can easily move the MPS solution from recommendation to implementation.

Step 4: Manage Change

A comprehensive MPS strategy may fundamentally change how people work and the tools they use to do their jobs. Discomfort with change can derail even the best optimization plans. Suc­cessful change management starts with communicating the goals outlined in Step 1 to everyone in the organization, so that senior managers and junior staff members understand the goals of the MPS plan and the benefits it represents. Assessment partners that have experienced change management experts can support clients during the entire process and win over change-averse employees before they undermine the project. 

Step 5: Prepare for Continuous Improvement

Optimizing an enterprise with MPS is an ongoing project. The best solutions put tools and practices in place for continuous improve­ments as the enterprise grows and changes over time.

Long-term efforts may identify equipment that doesn't comply with print policies. Examples include devices that don’t default to duplex printing or don’t hold print jobs until the authorized user arrives at the device to release the order. Addressing policy excep­tions like these can reduce page counts and associated costs. For instance, holding print jobs may reduce abandoned output by 10 to 20 percent, according to industry experts.

Ongoing analyses can also improve productivity. By identifying areas in the organization that produce unexpectedly large jobs, administrators may consider changes to business processes or see where equipment upgrades are needed.

Success from the Start

It’s no secret that a smart MPS strategy can help accelerate busi­ness processes and reduce costs. An expert assessment will increase the odds of success and ensure that the enterprise adopts a solution customized for its particular business needs. 

Alan Joch

Alan Joch 
Business and Technology Writer, Independent

Alan Joch has been an independent business and technology writer for more than a decade. His expertise includes server and desktop virtualization, cloud computing, emerging mobile applications, cybersecurity and green IT. Follow him on Twitter @alanallegro 

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