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Do I Stay or Do I Go? Equitrac’s Quest for Excellence

About a month ago, I ran a post on print management software that had some interesting reactions. Perhaps most surprising of all was being contacted by Noel O’Dwyer, VP, Marketing and Strategic Alliances of Equitrac.

To say that I have not had great experiences with Equitrac’s products and solutions would be a mild understatement. One of the projects I managed involved 5300 devices across 90 sites and represented about $10 million in service and equipment revenue. As with any massive project, failures of a subcomponent are amplified simply because of the size, and this project was no different. What salvaged the contract was the relationship between us and our client.

But Noel’s call started a little differently – and in fact was rather refreshing. Noel went on to say that he, as Director of Software Alliances at eCopy, oversaw the relationship with Equitrac and could directly empathize with how painful some of the experiences may have been up to five years ago.  However, his decision to join the company a little over two years ago was based on significant improvement and commitment he had seen in areas of customer support and channel commitment. His role as VP of Marketing and Strategic Alliances was to retool Equitrac’s marketing programs and initiatives to better support their channel.

Noel went on to ask if it would be possible to fly in an meet in person to discuss. While many might have chalked this up as another half-baked attempt at getting just one more sale, Noel’s story was specifically compelling.

Why?

Because I used to be a client of a little company called Kearns Business Solutions, and while I enjoyed the services provide the integration process was painful at best. Literally, I was 4 hours away from closing it down because of failure to start. What salvaged the initiative was the relationship between I and my partner.

So I could empathize with the position Noel was in, the opportunity he had, and mountain he had to climb with former customers like me. I know as a customer service focused professional, I would enjoy the same courtesy.

After flying in to spend the afternoon with me, I was impressed with a few things worth mentioning:

  • Training had clearly been well thought out, and a lot of horsepower put behind the Equitrac training program.
  • Integration with manufacturer bonus programs and rewards programs was well conceived and would engender sales reps support.
  • Marketing collateral was well put together, specifically laser-focusing on quick stand-up of a sales and support program.

But you know what impressed me the most? The candid and open stance throughout all the conversations which simply represented the tone, “It’s up to you to make the decision. All we can do ask for another chance, but it’s up to you to give it.”

Much like a failing marriage, the partners have a decision to make. The easier decision is to walk away, but the difficult decision is to stay and work through the pain.

As the business unit leader for my company’s professional services group, an avid business and technology blogger, and highly-passionate service-oriented person it is an interesting dialog to reopen.

What do you think? Do I stay or do I go?


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


Accelerate Your Outcome by Increasing Relevancy

Are you relevant to your customers? Do you think you are or do you KNOW you are?

We have mountains of data coming at us today – and now we don’t need real time data anymore; we need to know what questions to ask, what is relevant to the very next event in which we are participating and what people are saying about our offerings – in real time.

So how do we open the channels of relevant information to us and how do we gauge whether we are relevant to our customers?

In an November 2009 InformationWeek Analytics article, IT Vs. Organizational Paranoia, Michael Healey cites,

… of 552 business technology professionals [surveyed], not even one in four organizations uses any type of enterprise search system today. … Of the 24% who’ve deployed enterprise search, [unifying disparate silos of information such as shares, databases, desktops, etc.], less than 8% provide hooks into multiple silos. That’s not quite 2% of the total.

If the technology to enable your teams to find relevant information has existed for over 15 years, why are so few companies empowering their teams to be more productive? Because, it’s not technology that prevents access – it’s “politics, privacy and perception” preventing us from realizing a simple truth:

The only purpose for a business is the customer. Taking care of your customer is about understanding how to apply information in support of creating a consistent process which defines your relevancy to their explicit need.

Don’t Point the Finger, Pull the Thumb:

Over the years, it has become easy to blame IT or technology for what we cannot do and underwrite stringing together disparate technologies in a brittle and fragile patchwork we label as a solution. IT hasn’t done itself many favors in this arena either. Have you ever heard?

  • “That’s going to take me weeks to figure that out.”
  • “That just won’t work.”
  • “We can’t do that.”
  • “It’s very complex; you wouldn’t understand.”

We need results, not solutions.

Too long have we allowed the mysteries, misunderstandings and misgivings about technology’s application to skew our perception of what is actually achievable. Technology is a bridge, an enabler and a catalyst to do what you want – NOT the answer to what you want. In order to remain relevant to your customers, you must know what your customers want, when they want it, how they want it delivered and most importantly – why.

Do you think you know the answer – or do you KNOW the answer?


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the new Managed Print Services Association, an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son. He is always interested in connecting with you.


Is 2013 the End of Our Industry?

The recent movie 2012 predicted the end of the world. After reading some of last weeks headlining stories, provided by Joe over at Document Solutions Daily, perhaps 2013 spells the end of our industry as we know it.

Two articles in particular caught my eye:

  1. The Wake-Up Call (Tom Callinan, Strategy Development)
  2. Cloud Computing Contributes to Mass IT Exodus (Andrew R. Hickey, ChannelWeb)

To anticipate the future is very difficult. It’s not an exact science, to be sure. I often find that I must compile multiple sources of data to predict major trends which influence a given industry. That’s why I gravitate towards information technologies – IT is in the center of it all – driving change through innovation and obsolescence.

A friend and business colleague once offered me some advice,

“Success is dictated by your ability to look past what people think they want today and give them what they need tomorrow.”

Take a look at some of these data points provided in the two articles:

  1. Past 2 years, MFP unit placements are down 30%, and down 40% in the past 6 or 7 years in the United States.
  2. By 2013, page volumes are predicted to decrease by approximately 140%, from 140 billion to 59 billion.
  3. Pages on A4 MFP units are projected to decrease from 400 billion to roughly 311 billion pages per year.
  4. Most pages are not under management.
  5. By 2012, Gartner predicts 20% of companies will have NO IT assets.
  6. According to Gartner, the cloud computing market will compound at an annual rate of 28 percent from $47 billion in 2008 to $150 billion in 2013.

Perhaps you are struggling to connect the dots between these seemingly separate technology trends. More importantly, you might not be able to connect how dramatically the office technology realm will change given points 5 and 6.

Interestingly, the debate we all seem to be mired in about what managed “print” services should or should not be still rages on – surrounded by anxiety and angst. If you find yourself still trying to ring out page volumes from your customer base and squeak out lease approvals, perhaps your focus might be in the wrong place:

“The need for computing hardware, either in a data center or on an employee’s desk, will not go away,” Gartner said in a statement. “However, if the ownership of hardware shifts to third parties, then there will be major shifts throughout every facet of the IT hardware industry. For example, enterprise IT budgets will either be shrunk or reallocated to more-strategic projects; enterprise IT staff will either be reduced or reskilled to meet new requirements, and/or hardware distribution will have to change radically to meet the requirements of the new IT hardware buying points.”

Don’t mistake this to mean on-premise computing is dead inside the brick and mortar business. Indeed, many organizations will leverage virtualization and web technologies to increase convenience while enforcing control. What these points all illustrate are the continuing vectors of encroachment we will continue to experience in this information driven world.

Think I’m on the edge – too far out there? Look at some of these trends:

  • Continued decline in hardware placements and pages.
  • Trends towards sustainability and “Green IT” continue and strengthen.
  • Cloud-based offerings continue to grow.
  • Retirement of the Baby-boomer generation and entry by Gen-Y’ers into the workforce.
  • Continuation of thirst for more actionable information as evidenced by increases in business analytics industry and social media trends.

I’m not going to tell you to get off the fence anymore; that’s up to you. What I am going to tell you is that companies are offering your customers what they need tomorrow – today. Get past Managed Print Services and start thinking about breaking the prevailing paradigm. If you continue to try and fight the inevitable, 2013 might bring the end the world as you have come to know it.

Image courtesy of Lara604.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


3 Takeaways from IBM on MPS

deathspiral_graphZDNet special author, Leslie L. Gordon IBM, starts her article, Nine ways IT can help organizations ‘go green’ and reduce paper consumption (follow the link to the full article), with how expensive liquid ink is and outlines 9 ways in which organizations should consider reducing costs and offering some help in environmental stewardship.

While I don’t wish to stand on some pulpit and denounce paper-based processes, we all know where the trend lines are going for output and related costs. We all know this translates into less gross profit for the service-side of our industry if they continue to adhere to old ways of doing business in what is quickly shaping up to be a new economy for our industry.

My Take-aways:

  1. Read into this that every single point presents an opportunity for those willing to engage and approach the old problem from a new vantage.
  2. While this direction will not immediately result in the obsolescence of paper (as history has proven) the technology is finally reaching a point for “best practices” to be digested by the corporate culture (technology + generation + need = adoption).
  3. Just recommendation 1, alone, indicates the importance of leveraging and operationalizating software tools to manage by variance AND that we should sell our value instead of our margins.
    • Integrate software that automates manual reporting and analysis, and electronically distributes reports over the Web or on mobile devices. One mid-size company estimates that it saved enough paper to cover 5,519 football fields on a yearly basis simply by moving manual-based financial and operational reporting processes to a business intelligence system.

The takeaways are only the tip of an iceberg drifting towards the ship of our industry. This economic downturn has accelerated the typical cost-conscious message delivered as the first objective of any managed services engagement. While the upturn will present some alleviation from the sense of urgency for cost-cutting felt by potential customers, pay attention to the turning tide.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the new Managed Print Services Association, an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son. He is always interested in connecting with you.


Are You In The Trenches With Your Customer?

teaching-a-fish-to-breatheIn years past, Management Information Systems (MIS) became the new silicon cowboys, attempting to bring order and enhanced productivity to you and I. Soon enough, that moniker fell out of season and IT became the moniker for all of us pocket-protector-wearing propeller-heads. This subsequently lead to the the dot-com era where IT = SEXY (later to have the “E” dropped in Web 2.0 – read SXY, like Flickr).

Needless to say, the profession of sales was once a highly esteemed art of relationships and understanding – giving way to microwaved-popcorn motives and spandex solutions, in pace with today’s see-it, need-it, have-it society.

Somewhere in there, people fighting for you – the customer!

Dave Courbanou (MSPMentor) asked an interesting question, “… where is managed print heading next?”

I sat and talked with a sales rep today who decided to enlighten me that all manufacturer programs were simply there to, “… keep the lines moving.”

GET THIS

Whether that is true or not is actually irrelevant – isn’t it?

That’s like telling a fish to quit breathing through water (Wait, do I have to pay royalties to Greg to use the word “fish” now?). I don’t hold anything against McDonald’s for serving me a Big Mac and I don’t hold anything against Stephen King for writing The Shining; that’s what they do and they are good at it!

But where does the responsibility of success rest for the success of a managed services engagement?

Hmmm, the word ‘partnership’ comes to mind… but I have observed that so many customers want drive-thru-servicee so they can wash their hands of the whole, dirty mess.

Let me think, if I could save you 30% off of your current output platform – or I could create opportunities for you to accelerate your time to cash and retain customers… I wonder which one you might choose? How much might that be worth? What if I could provide both?

If you want to get in the trenches – then get IN the trenches – WITH your customer. Otherwise, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “You might be practicing medicine without a license – and that’s malpractice.”

Image courtesy of úlfhams víkingur.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


Is The Problem Sales Versus Support?

962315433_1cdbb31cbe Why is it that sales and support seem to have this stereotypical rift?

I’ve typically been categorized as an IT guy. I’m OK with that label, because I know people believe labels and categories offer some sense of increased optimization in knowledge management, decision making, and even maintaining relationships. I’ve figured that much out in my short time here on this earth.

However, I also know that I am anything but typical, and always work to understand all sides to situation – both intellectually and emotionally. In so doing, I’ve found it helps me bring quantitative and qualitative data in balance and offer a fair solution to the problem at hand.

Solving Problems:

The word problem often has a negative connotation. Interestingly enough, the etymology of problem has its roots in the Latin word proballein, which literally means to throw forward. So, one could literally see a problem as a chance to move ahead – an opportunity to advance.

What is so wonderful about perceiving a problem as an opportunity is that it creates opportunity for so many and helps each of us stay employed, educate ourselves, and ultimately strengthen relationships through the process or derived wisdom in either successfully solving or failing to solve the problem.

So how is it that the typical rift between those who seek to create new opportunities and those who seek to maintain the fabric of our daily lives continues? How is it that sales and support organizations have been so stereotypically divided?

The Start of the Communication Breakdown:

I can remember several instances over my career where one sales person or another either directly or indirectly pointed out that if it were not for them I or [insert job title] would not even have a job if it weren’t for them!

Let me ask this, for those of you who are married, do you remember the last time either you mentioned you made the money, or had your spouse point out they made the money? I know the last time I had that conversation, years ago, I found a resume on the table the next day listing job responsibilities and a new salary requirement. My wife wasn’t happy when I told her our management team had to go another way, and we would have to terminate her contract due to cost reduction initiatives and were looking to H-B1 immigrants because labor rates were cheaper.

I can also recall several other instances where service technicians, IT specialists, and helpdesk specialists alike would make a grandiose proclamation that “sales” should quit doing this or that.

The Solution?

It’s not really as mystical as you might think. You really don’t even need to hire any fancy consultants either (but I am available to deliver this presentation in person for a very fair price plus travel expenses). All kidding aside, it begins by bridging the understanding between the divided parties.

You see, sales must understand they don’t sell a product or service. Your customer buys a perception – that yours is better, they need it, whatever. Your support organization helps to deliver this and reinforce the decision at every touch. While you may want to debate semantics of how you define sales, service, administrative, support, engineering, education, or whatever – you are cheapening the concept.

Sales seeks to create new opportunities by realizing a gap in a customer’s want or need existence.

Support does everything else to maintain and fulfill what was sold – essentially reselling what the customer purchased with every single touch, word, and whim.

Problem Solved:

Both sales and support coexist in a wonderful, symbiotic relationship. Those who recognize this simple relationship will not only survive, but thrive, while those who do not will simply slip into relegated ignorance.

Image courtesy of Hamed Saber


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


The Heart Of A Technologist

The heart of a technologist is in serving – service without need of reciprocation.

Do you subscribe to this belief? After all, that is a tough, thankless life to live. I see so many who seem to be on a quest for self-glory or the latest discovery, much like Ponce de Leon’s search for the infamous Fountain of Youth.

Some may serve through discovery or creation, while some offer their service in the form of repair or maintenance. When at our best, we operate behind the scenes, unnoticed and under cover of dark, weaving our magic webs of security and five-nine’s availability.

All too often, the insecure turn to scoff at those less intellectual or computer-savvy as themselves lording their minutia of power in order to over-compensate for a failed childhood social life  like Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Or perhaps it is something less sinister; perhaps we have forgotten how it feels not to be the domain admin or root level admin?

Do we seek to minimize another’s anguish over loosing that spreadsheet they worked all weekend on? Do we so quickly seek to belittle someone’s lack of understanding at just why they cannot login to the corporate VPN?

Micah (Learn to Duck), offers this advice:

Every day, I try to do something where I give something (time, money, expertise, humor, whatever) with no expectation of something in return. The reactions are interesting. Some people don’t believe it. Others don’t trust it. Most people appreciate what I have to give. But, for me, its somewhat of a selfish act. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel good.

Did we check this at the door somewhere along our career path, or did Corporate America’s bylaws drill this fanciful notion out of our brain like some Chinese water torture?

In either case, we stand in the shadows on this one, folks. Empathy is at the heart of success and maintaining a heart of service is the call to which we should rally.

Image credit to Vincent van Wylick

What You Missed: Sales Advice from the “IT Guy”.

What You Miissed: Sales Advice from an IT Guy Maybe you are in sales, and you are reading this blog. Most people would generically classify me in IT. I might argue we are all in sales, but I’m not going to insult your intelligence.

Instead, I’m going to tell you what you are missing. I’m going to tell you what I see almost every single sales person walk by in every single ‘assessment‘, and what they always fail to counsel their clients in every single interview. It is low hanging fruit. It amazes me.

We let our clients browbeat us with price, or features, or some misperceived value they have stuck in their head which is often only slightly true.

Can I get an ‘amen‘ here?

So are you in sales, or are you in education? Let me ask this another way: Are you a baby-sitter, or are you the most educated person on how documents move in and through your client’s organization?

How can you know your client’s business better than they do?

This is a fair question. After all, you aren’t looking at their P & L, and most likely they aren’t going to show it to you – even if you are a “consultant” to their business.

What’s your next best alternative?

Ask questions – lots of questions. You job is to uncover truth… and you have to be passionate about:

  1. Helping your client’s business like it is your own.
  2. Seeking truth.
  3. Showing your client what truth is in their business.
  4. Being willing to walk if they can’t or won’t commit.

Armed with truth (answers) clients have to be prepared about what they are going to hear. Some, many, will be in flat denial. So you have to ask why they called you in.

And here’s where the turn comes that you are missing.

Very few clients are really solving security problems relating to documents. Oh, everyone talks about security – and sure you can sell them the latest whiz-bang data-overwrite kit for their do-everything-but-make-coffee paperweight in the “copy room”.

But did you SOLVE their security issue?

You have to understand that security is not a 1-stop shop. It is like that thing you try to  present to your clients called a “document strategy” right? Well, this is part of that.

The client has to take ownership of this overall strategy for it to be effective (see point on flat denial) and commit to doing something about it. That is the hard part.

Here’s a softball… sure your clients have firewalls at the gate, anti-virus loaded across their swath of computers, data-security kits, and they might even have “remote monitoring services” (this is where you say, “ooohhh – aaahhhh!”).

But what are they doing to secure that piece of paper coming out of that printer, copier or fax?

Folks, paper is a preferred method of information conveyance for a reason – it’s PORTABLE…

That nice, little 3-page document can be neatly folded and put right inside your pocket and there is not a thing they can do about it – or is there? This could be sales leads, or lease documents, HR records, or that oh-so valuable P & L they didn’t want you to see (but your Accounting Manager just took it with him to their competitor).

“No, that would never happen in my company,” the client exclaims! (see point on flat denial – again).

So is it that easy? Maybe I am over-simplifying, but are you walking past security risks in your clients’ companies every day? With print auditing software, document management systems, and processes these risks can be greatly reduced (and help your client sleep a little easier at night).

Think about giving control back to your clients, about protecting their informational property. There’s what you missed – take it from the IT guy.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


IT, Your Out!

IT as a bridge“Where’s there’s mystery, there’s magic” as the saying goes.

IT has held a position of sway in many organizations since mainstream business began integrating technology with their lines of business. In today’s economy, it is unthinkable to detach technology from your business. I think most would agree, while the headcount can be hotly debated, there is a lot of job security for the technologist’s position within a company.

However, IT has been known to be a little myopic in their approach in support of the overall business and its needs. In other words, IT has a bad rap for being tactical in offering solutions, often retreats to methods of control rather than seeking understanding, and would rather play with toys that dig into sticky cultural issues.

The Throne:

Many small-to-medium businesses (SMB’s) across the U.S. have created the position of IT Supervisor or IT Manager. This designation often times indicates a position that is integral in “supervising” or “managing” the various technology systems and programs in place within the business, in support of day-to-day operations. This position is often thought of as a tactical support position, executing strategies set by the “business-side” of the business.

Well, what about businesses who have CIO’s?  This is supposedly a position of influence, directly able to impact top line growth, bottom line savings, or both. Studies indicate that more CIO’s are now reporting down the “food-chain” to COO’s and CFO’s.

Position or Philosophy:

Why would the position of the key technology player in a business even matter? There are 2 key reasons:

  1. The position can indicate a company’s perspective on how technology impacts the business.
  2. Reporting directly to the CEO offers some level of political clout, and allows more autonomy in setting holistic and strategic agendas for the business.

However, position alone is not truly important. Technologists within a company can be successful in many different reporting structures. The key to understanding whether IT is valued within an organization is understanding that IT must value the organization, and bring value to the organization.

Too often, IT spends its time toddling around with the proverbial blinders on, does not seek to understand the business, and keeps the culture at arms length – to be dealt with, not embraced.

This study indicates that CIO’s know they need to change:

Gatekeeper or Bridge:

In a previous article, Is IT a Gatekeeper or Bridge, I detailed 4 skills every technology leader should embrace:

  1. Align yourself with business units
  2. Listen and don’t be defensive
  3. Innovate
  4. Offer customers choices not obstacles

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you know what your business is in the business of?
  2. Do you find ways to help increase sales?
  3. Do you find ways to help spend less? – and I’m not talking about ordering 4GB of RAM instead of 8GB with your new laptop.
  4. Do you welcome people into your office or quickly pick up the phone and pretend to be in a deep discussion?
  5. Do you understand the goals and challenges of each of your business’s leaders?
  6. Are you looking to help your business leaders achieve their goals and overcome their obstacles?
  7. Would you rather be at your desk deciding whether DameWare or VNC works better, or out talking with your customers to see what you can improve in their work lives?
  8. When your customers see you coming, do they smile and waive, or do they look down and sigh?
  9. Do you wear shirts with slogans like, “I read your emails” or “I H8 U”?
  10. Do you point fingers or pull the thumb? In other words, so always look to blame someone else, or seek to carry the burden on your shoulders and solve the problem at hand?

Consultant to the Culture:

My point here is not to disparage the technology advocates and enthusiasts within the organization, nor to undermine their vital role in supporting the day-to-day operations. No, this diatribe is pointed squarely at those claiming to be in leadership positions who slough off their responsibilities of stewardship.

IT Supervisors, IT Managers, and CIO’s, once they understand the business, must understand they should be a chief consultant to the business – seeking to blend technologies and cultures; they are both the cheerleader and critic, painting a portrait of how things could be sprinkled with some seasoning of reality.

Wake up! IT has to get out of the business of being in IT, and into the business of running the business.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


Managed Print Services: the Theory, the Tools, and the Targets (Part 1 of 3)

Today we start our three part series on Managed Print Services: the Theory, the Tools, and the Targets.

Managed Print Services, or MPS as it is referred to, is as much art as it is science. As of yet, customers do not fully understand it, and the scary thing is that there are very few solutions providers that do either.

According to pundits and neophytes alike, MPS has garnered a special place among those in the output industry. Everyone hails it as the next ‘big thing’ that will yield buckets full of money in an industry marked with year over year declines in margins.

Indeed, properly managed right-sizing initiatives can be very profitable and save a customer a good deal of money over alternatives. How can someone deliver on revenue for one while showing savings for another?

Let us examine some of the theory behind why a company would venture into review of MPS in the first place.

  1. The traditional copier fleet has found its way on to the wire and the space for document output has become crowded in a “me-too” frenzy of ‘speeds and feeds’ (and industry term used to describe a cost-minus sales approach).
  2. There is a huge collision between the space of the traditional copier/mfp manufacturers of the world (Xerox, Canon, Sharp, Ricoh, Konica, Kyocera, etc.) and the printer manufacturers of the world (HP, Lexmark, etc.).

Given these dynamics and the complexity of these devices’ feature sets, more and more often IT is being asked to manage the device fleet. And what does IT do better than almost any other organization within the business – identify and implement processes through standardization.

…stud[ies] shows that decision making for MPS agreements is driven by the IT organization over 60% of the time. In many cases, the traditional copier decision makers (purchasing, facilities management, and operations) are losing out in the internal struggle to control the hard copy device fleet (the collective group of copiers, printers, and MFP’s which reside in most organizations). – Ed Crowley, CEO of The Photizo Group

Savvy “copier dealers” and “printing VARs” alike are rushing headlong into their version of MPS – trying to put their spin, trying to evangelize customers, trying to win the land grab!

What makes a sound partner yesterday still makes a sound partner today:

Managing printers is not a new thing. IT has been doing it for decades now – and HP has been helping customers do it some fashion or another. The trend now is to right-size your fleet of output devices and lower operating costs across the board.

Many statistics point to the majority of document costs being in the related costs area – not in the fleet acquisition or actual realization of the document on the output device. One big area network administrators can speak to is the rampant number of calls they receive on printing related issues, for instance. I know I can.

With trends in outsourcing over the last decade, CFO’s and CIO’s alike are looking for ways to help their balance sheet. Does offloading an unattractive portion of the P&L to a strategic partner make sense? Couple this with the ability to refresh the technology, control your costs, and  throw in an economic downturn, now you have a boiling pot of water ready for the chef. It’s what they call a classic ‘win-win’.

Strategy not tragedy:

However, many customers remain uneducated on what they are spending and what a properly equipped partner can bring to the table.

As with any opportunity there are many “fly-by-night” operations, and it behooves the client to educate themselves on options, and just what their prospective partner’s definition of MPS actually is. As they say, “The Devil is in the details.”

Customers can avoid many unpleasant situations by simply reading the contract and asking pointed questions. Crowley also points out that many organizations go through phases of learning what they want, so there appears to be some education in the negotiations as well:

Another finding from the study relates to how the components of MPS contracts tend to change as decision makers gain more experience. This is driven by changing expectations as decision makers gain experience with MPS and begin to raise their expectations beyond simply gaining control of the fleet to actually optimizing the fleet, and eventually, enhancing the firm’s business processes by adding new fleet and document management / workflow capabilities.

With all of that said, a blossoming opportunity remains on the forefront of both vendor and customer alike.

Up Next: we discuss the various software tools used in helping companies manage their fleets. Read part 2 of 3 here.