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Choosing the Plan and Software – MPS Floodgates: part 1 of 4

Decisions, decisions.  What kind of MPS program will your dealership provide?  Can collection software be matched to that program?  And can software adapt to changes over time?

Properly presented, print management presented by strong dealerships adds value to the services they already offer.  Most businesses readily accept an installation of an MPS software product on their network when benefits can be explained.

After all, MPS requires only minimal commitment from end-users, yet when put into practice it offers significant value.  This is most evident in improved machine up-time through ‘just-in-time’ replacement of supplies and service, increased efficiency, reduction in the imaging fleet and ultimately the overall cost reduction in printing.  Great MPS programs lead to proper device management in the work environment.

The MPS Floodgates blog series presents questions that address common concerns many dealers have when deciding on the MPS program they will offer.  It is written to provoke thought … with many of these question left unanswered.  Each dealership and MPS business should answer the questions for themselves.

Ask questions; seek answers

A solid MPS foundation is built on the right collection software.  But before one is chosen or put to work, the dealership needs to address some important concerns:

Does implementing a print management program increase efficiencies?

Will MPS provide cost savings?

Will a print management solution fulfill its promise?

Purchasing print management software does nothing until the software is installed.  But installing software doesn’t mean the dealership is a print management provider.Many dealerships begin with simple installations at the best customer locations .  These businesses tend to be more forgiving as the already like who they are working with and are willing participants.Once installed, the software gathers meters and sends them to designated recipients.  Some dealerships stop there, saying “good enough” as they no longer are calling, emailing or going to customer locations to get meters.  But gathering meters is not MPS.

What about putting meters into an ERP billing platform?

Is this MPS and does meter integration help increase company effectiveness?

Integrating gathered meters into an ERP is not MPS, but it can increase the dealership’s efficiency level.  As the business improves process efficiency, they get time in return.  When time becomes measurable, its effect can be shared with customers.By conveying what meter collection does for the dealership, the MPS “rubber” can begin to meet the road. MPS consulting suggested that dealerships look at their own printing processes.  When stories can be told using real experiences that lead to time savings, people will listen as “Time is Money”.

But what is print management?

The kind of print management program the dealership intends to offer needs to be determined and solidified.  Once this critical step is accomplished, the implementation charge can begin.

To help, the MPSA < > has defined print management as:

“Managed print services is the active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes.”

The organization is quick to point out that this is an evolving definition, one that can and has changed over time.  The MPSA further defines four specific MPS business models:

  1. Supply Fulfillment only
  2. Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service
  3. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix PLUS Equipment Management
  4. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix, Equipment, PLUS …

Dealerships that identify the management service they are going to offer can identify the direction they will take to implement the program before evaluating and choosing the software that is right for their business.  Using this approach, the dealership knows what they are buying will fit their needs.

Consider what is needed before investing in a managed print service solution

How long will it take to see a difference after the software purchase is made?

Dealership principles asking this question trying to shortcut to the bottom line and are putting the cart before the horse.  Before choosing collection software, an inventory of assets should be assembled.Assets are the people and business infrastructure already in place.  Does the dealership have a strong leader that will advocate for MPS?  Will one need to be hired?  Can service techs be trained to deploy the software?  What about the current sales team?  How will their rolls change?Answers to these questions help with successful program implementation and define timetables.

What about training … How much time will it take to train the sales team?

Will they be able to convey its necessity to their clients?

How much IT training time will need to be budgeted to the solution?

Time is an asset when it is controlled.  Investment in software eats time as options are evaluated and training people to use the software should also be considered.  Software solutions should be simple enough so that people do not become frustrated when learning how it is used.While equipment sales and profits can surely be realized with the used of MPS software, people must know how to use it before anything happens.  Check out the blog MPS Spring Training for great tips on setting up a training plan.

How can it be known which collection software offers the best value for the chosen MPS program?

Start a ‘bullet’ list.  Write down the benefits that can be realized with a sound MPS program.  Note the likes and dislikes of known solutions.  Record training needs, the various deployment methods available and ease of use.  Share the list with MPS software providers being considered.  Partnering makes the provider part of the MPS solution.By breaking down print management to its fundamentals, a record what is important will begin to emerge.  Consider the following so that a firm solution based foundation can be built:

MPS deployment options .   Most products can be downloaded from the web, run or even installed from a USB key.  Difficult installation options that require help during deployment are of little value.

  • How is the software deployed?  What are the deployment options?
  • Is the software simple enough to deploy for customers to do it themselves?
  • Is deployment via a USB key available and is there an added cost?
  • Must the installation be done by a service tech, or can salespeople deploy as well?  
  • Will a dedicated MPS specialists need to be hired?  Can current staff transition to these rolls?
  • What kind of installation support will the MPS software vendor provide?
  • Is deployment and support training available?
  • Will the software stay installed and provide continuous reporting?
  • What happens when the software stops reporting?  What can be done?

What about security?   MPS solutions gather a lot of information about a client’s device usage.  Some clients may not allow anything to be installed on their networks for fear of loss of information.  Yet many of an imaging dealership’s best clients are often high security institutions like hospitals, schools, law firms and government entities. 

  • How much information are my clients willing to share?
  • How invasive is the solution?
  • How secure is the solution?
  • Will deployment interfere with my client’s network or daily operations?
  • How much customer network bandwidth will the MPS product require? 
  • Does deployment require on-site IT staff involvement?
  • How secure is the reported information?  Where does the information go? 
  • Is a server required to host the data?  
  • If a provider’s server is used, is it safe and secure?
  • Who maintains the server and who has data access?  Is data shared or “mined”?
  • Does the dealership need to host the data?

Once installed, what will be discovered?  

  • What networked devices can be discovered?  What information is gathered?
  • But what about devices on segments several “hops” away? 
  • Can devices several buildings away or even half-way across the country be monitored? 
  • Can USB or parallel connected devices be discovered – and can their data be gathered?  
  • Will the solution report on devices with fiery print servers?

… In Summary

Choosing the MPS program that will be offered is the first building block in a solid MPS foundation.  Following closely behind is deciding which data collection and gathering information software will be used.  By asking questions and defining the answers, dealerships, VARs and IT businesses can lay the first bricks atop the MPS foundation by using the software solution that allows them to fulfill their stated MPS goals.While managing the gathered information is an essential part of the MPS process, deploying the software is a high priority task.  If that software requires lots of tweaking and hassles to achieve installation or if the software drops devices or stops reporting, more legwork is required to keep it working.Obtain additional guidance in choosing the program your dealership is best suited to present by downloading a FREE “MPS Program and Solution Adoption Checklist” clicking here .  Use the checklist to help determine the best software available for the of print management program your dealership will put forward.