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MPS and Data Integration

Print management software can gather a lot of data from the imaging machines being monitored.  What if dealers could import that information into other software applications already owned?  What are some of the more popular tools dealers use on a daily basis?

Many dealers venturing into print management are just interested in a more efficient meter capture process to cut down on the legwork of getting meter readings for monthly billing.  As discussed in previous postings, meter capture is not managed print services (MPS).

The MPSA <> defines MPS as “…the ACTIVE management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes…” The MPSA goes on to define the four most common MPS Business Components:

  1. Supply Fulfillment only
  2. Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service
  3. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix Service PLUS Equipment
  4. Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix Service, Equipment, PLUS other solutions

The necessity to integrate varies depending on each dealership’s MPS engagement and offering.  It is when an MPS solution provider looks to automate the “related business processes” that they begin adding real efficiency to their print management offering.

For Supply Fulfillment, only minimal integration may be needed at first.  Then, as the dealer expands their MPS program to add Break/Fix and other elements, the creation of supply quotes, computerizing supplier notification for toner drop shipping and supply fulfillment, and automating the service call generation process may form the building blocks of an ultimate program.

Dealers that require equipment management often wish to incorporate collected meter detail with their CRM capability to help determine disposition of devices “not fit for use or MPS”.  As you review the following, be sure to jot down ideas of what your eventual program will look like.

Integration with Supply Fulfillment

Collection software products are designed to gather imaging device information.  MPS providers, dealers, IT shops, and VARs should look for solutions that fit within their business model.  Ease of collection and then management of the data being compiled will be factors in the determination of which tools can be used.

Some software solutions offer on-board management tools such as Service Information Viewers within their Administrative software.  Software providers may also make recent meters and device status information accessible on internet enabled handheld devices like tablets and smartphones.

Basic accessibility of collected information on commonly used devices adds an element of control.  When supply managers receive notification of supply need, they can confirm alerts and even enter actions taken to resolve the condition.  Entering the activity taken into viewable logs ensures order duplication is minimized as anyone performing fulfillment can verify that the alert has been managed.

Exporting alert activity to worksheets allows dispatchers to ready the supply team.  Integrating collected toner notification and activity logging with “Toner Order and Pick Ticket Generation” is a natural next step, one that Supply Fulfillment MPS providers should be considering.  Armed with this kind of information, supply managers can ensure they have the right supplies on hand for shipping and can ensure service cars are properly stocked for scheduled calls and site visits.

Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service Integration

Imagine if “techs on the street” could be notified when a device needed service and then verify the need while standing at the service car before entering the building.  Alert warnings and viewable device status detail sent to handheld devices makes this possible.  Dealers with on-site support staff find this an invaluable service as technicians are notified when status changes occur allowing for immediate action.  Some providers even add alerting for device jams or paper needed so on-site staff can quickly remedy the situation.

Supply Fulfillment with Break/Fix Service can also be managed using administrative Service Information Viewers.  By using alert notification spreadsheets, help desk dispatchers and service managers can schedule service cars and ensure they are properly outfitted with the correct parts and supplies needed for the day’s on-site calls.  Managing the service fleet in this manner helps to cut down on the “emergency call” as device status and actions taken to resolve challenges can be logged upon receipt for all parties to review, eliminating duplicate services.

Integrating the collection software’s ability for report generation allows better control of the fleet by service management staff.  Keeping tabs on service calls, (including those both company and customer initiated) provides dealers with the ability to track activity and help to reduce un-contracted costs.  By receiving weekly incoming alert summaries, service and supply managers can monitor low supply and maintenance part notifications and prepare ‘Supply History Review’ analysis for every MPS account.

Integrating Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix Service PLUS Equipment

Adding equipment and ultimately the sale of new machines is quite possibly the ultimate goal of many dealers when they decide to bring their MPS offering to market.  But it must be noted … realizing new equipment opportunities takes time, and often this time is in terms of many months or even years rather than weeks or a few months.  Many MPS providers leverage their sales opportunities by using the information gathered along the way.

Imaging machine dealerships providing MPS services to their customers first must realize the importance of data collection.  This is more than page output and device status gathered over time.

  • MPS consultants gather device inventories of both network and locally connected devices and determine if they are fit for use or how they might be managed.  Knowledge of the fleet helps with device disposition when the time comes.  Inventorying devices may also include location mapping.
  • MPS advisors first consult to determine how paper flows through the business.
  • MPS specialists get on-hand inventories of toner supplies, learn where they are sourced and discover acquisitions costs.
  • MPS experts allow time to gather imaging data, analyze the information, and offer support solutions.

In short, MPS champions identify the goals that can be achieved up-front with a complete fleet analysis.

While gathering information during the assessment , the MPS champion should be working with the customer to help them understand their printing process.  Preparing the customer through discovery compels them to be receptive to recommendations and readies them to make equipment decisions based on facts.  Decisions may include the removal of unsupportable printers, realignment of the device fleet, and the outright replacement of machines in an effort to promote efficiency and cost reduction.

Some MPS software products include reporting ability to help with Volume Analysis and include charts depicting both under and over utilization.  When coupled with TCO and CPP analysis, dealers can begin to paint the picture of the printed output environment for the prospect, helping them to become receptive to recommendations.

As the gathered information is assembled, many dealers import machine output data into widely used industry CRM tools such as Compass Sales Solutions’ Sherpa, Digital Quote Manager, DocuAudit, Encompass, Ricoh TCO FullView and Xerox Assessment to name a few. These tools can all help dealers build effective proposals as they use the customer’s own output information in final proposals.

Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix Service, Equipment, and other Integration

As more and more gathered meters are coming in, dealers naturally improve on this efficiency by having the collected data put into their ERP platforms. As noted earlier, this may have been the driving force to investigate print management in the first place.

Most print management software offers meter integration to the popular ERP billing platforms of e-automate, OMD, LaCrosse / NextGen, SAP Business One, Nexent’s Miracle Service, and/or Microsoft Dynamics.  Meter integration helps dealers save time over manual meter entry, improve billing accuracy, and improve efficiency of the overall invoicing process completed each month or billing cycle. As this process varies by dealer, VARs, IT shops and dealerships should look for providers with the ability to customize their interfacing program to match the dealers’ needs.

Having meter data automatically put into billing databases also helps the sales department.  As equipment ages, flags can notify dealers when replacement is warranted giving them first opportunity to make equipment recommendations.

Some software providers add to their integration ability to automatically update ERPs with gathered alerts. These providers integrate their device status data and ERP processes to assist with Sales Quote Generation for Supply Fulfillment. They can also help dealers with supply automation allowing the supplier to receive alerts and fulfill supply requests based on approved quotes. Automated Service Call Generation is another area where incorporating service alerts with the ERPs capability helps dealers automate manual tasks.

… In Summary

With full integration, the wise MPS dealer leverages their MPS software investment incorporating it into all of their business practices from supply and service fulfillment to equipment sales and efficient billing practices.

The nice thing about print management is that it can offer both small and large MPS providers the ability to grow into bigger engagements as their abilities allow.  Anyone can start small.

The management of printed output allows the dealers’ customers themselves become more receptive to other managed services such as document access, control and storage, off-site printing services and more.

As MPS businesses mature, they take on more of a partnership roll with their customers rather than a seller/buyer relationship.  Dealers offering sound managed services seldom loose customers to competitors because they know the customers need better than the customer themselves; they have become a trusted business partner. In the end, managed print services is nothing more than “enhanced customer service for the imaging professional”.