Data collection software (DCS) is designed to efficiently gather and directed device information to specified recipients. In most instances the software does what it is designed to do and operates without intervention.
But sometimes things don’t always go as planned:
- A deployment is initiated but not allowed to complete … No devices are found / no report is sent.
- The end-user’s virus protection quarantines the software as malicious and the software does not install.
- The software is installed and reports fine … until the workstation is turned off. The software cannot send information when the workstation where the software is installed is not running.
- The software is installed, but the customer insists on using the browser or other security measures to send information. If a credentialed person is not logged in, the software will not sent reports.
- The software is deployed; the customer uninstalls the software after the technician leaves.
At best, delayed fleet reporting is frustrating … and at worst, delayed or missed reporting leads to incorrect billing and device status changes being missed. When a device goes into an alert condition and the software is not running, notification of need is not sent and the dealer, VAR or IT staff will not know what supplies, service or type of support is needed, and will be unaware there is a problem.
When scheduled reports are not received, dealers must send techs, salespeople or other runners into the field to manually gather meters … putting a strain on already strapped resources. In many cases, runners may have to reinstall the software only to see the problem repeat itself over and over again.
Compounding the challenge, missed status change notices require “emergency” services to be provided, again causing time management problems for the dealer. Dropping one task to send out a missing toner or to perform a service causes another customer to receive delayed services. So what is a VAR to do?
Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more …
The best way to insure DCS provides continuous reporting is to let the customer know what software can do for them. Once the benefits are clearly understood, an explanation of what happens if the flow of information stops or becomes blocked is in order. The customer must understand it is in their best interests to let the software perform.
Several years ago a client suggested a simple, one-page flyer they could pass on during deployments. Together we came up with a shareable document that lets customers know what software is and does:
“… a non-invasive solution for gathering meter reads from copiers and printers. Meter data is passed securely through firewalls using the HTTPS protocol, similar to how a web browser communicates with a banking website.”
The flyer notes the software …
… is proxy-compatible and does not create security vulnerabilities;
… has a very small impact on network performance;
… runs as a service that is usually asleep; waking up during the day to perform required tasks;
… saves time, money, and hassles as it automatically gathers and sends meters.
The introduction also points out the DCS “pulls the device description, IP address, serial number, location, page counts, and toner levels. It can be setup to send toner and service alerts as well.”
Collection Software Installation Tips
In addition to the above, the hand-out gives tips for what is needed to install and keep the DCS operational:
- Install on a workstation that remains ‘on’ most of the time, such as an administration computer.
The DCS can be installed on a server if desired.
- Avoid moving imaging devices.
If a printer is removed from the network and installed via USB line, it will not report.
- Install the DCS on each workstation with a local printer to monitor USB connected devices.
The document concludes with:
“The DCS is easy for anyone to use; it requires very little effort to set up, and it “does its own thing without you having to watch over it.” It runs as a service in the background, and when properly installed, will continue to report indefinitely.
Keeping the Software Operational
Still there are conditions that come up that cause a stoppage in information flow. Some DCS management consoles show highlighted cells when installations have missed a report or have stopped checking in as scheduled. Better solutions have automated reporting to let administrator know when challenges arise.
Most are situations are easy* to avoid and/or rectify where the software is installed:
- Tell the customer what the DCS is and does.
- Approve all prompts as they appear during the install process and don’t stop until a report is sent.
- If virus protection becomes a challenge, contact the DCS provider and have them assist to add software components to the anti-virus product’s white list.
- DCS reports when the computer, workstation or server where it is installed is operational. When power to the computer is restored a missed report will often be sent.
- Avoid turning “OFF” the software. Most DCS have “gears” or other indicators to let users know the software is working. When the gears are clear, the software is working.
- Install DCS on workstations and/or servers that remain “ON” most of the time and do not require special administrative privileges or log-in requirements.
- Be sure to communicate “What’s-in-it-for-the-customer”. If the customer understands and accepts the benefits of monitoring, they will be less likely to uninstall the software.
At times the software may be uninstalled, or the customer may change out workstations, get new computers or servers or even update operating systems on machines where the software was previously installed. When this happens a new deployment is required as the old installation is no longer present. The DCS provider often has simple ways to identify challenges of this nature and the help dealers re-establish reporting, often without a site visit*.
* NOTE – Contact your software provider for tips and processes on how to get their product up and running again.
What’s in it for the Customer …
Monitoring helps administrators manage the fleet. Meter data is efficiently gathered and sent to accounting administrators. Device status detail can be directed to helpdesk and supply fulfillment staff so dealer commitments may be kept. Equipment volumes are easily monitored to establish proper device placement.
Knowledge gained from vigilant monitoring also helps to reduce unnecessary prints, ensures the right equipment is in use, saves money and assists administrators with:
- Supply management – Reduces need for large supply inventories
- Service management – IT staff can be alerted when device service is required
- Fleet management – Knowing device usage helps administrators create efficient print centers
- Total Cost of Ownership Analysis – Device volumes, consumable data and service information can be used to control imaging costs
… In Summary
Monitoring software that doesn’t provide reliable reporting can become the bane of every dealership’s, VAR’s and IT provider’s existence, but it is a relatively easy predicament to prevent. Simple communication BEFORE the challenge occurs is the best way to get ahead of potential problems.
Champion salespeople inherently know this to be true and routinely employ tactics to overcome common objections …If the same objection is raised about the same time in every selling encounter, they prepare … and point out the potential pitfall ahead of it being raised … then offer AND GET AGREEMENT on a solution and the objection goes away.
Non-reporting installations are no different. Lead simple “What’s-in-it-for-the-customer” exchanges as software deployment is being discussed. When customers know of the “bad” that can happen when software doesn’t report, most become willing assistants and will do what they can to keep the DCS operational.
Monitoring software is good for the dealership and better for the customer. It saves time for the dealership while it helps to improve operational efficiencies. It helps businesses keep their imaging machines operational, defines printing habits and will help them save money on their printing costs.
Software management solutions can offer visual cues and send automated statements when installations miss scheduled reporting events or stop checking in with servers. Be sure to ask your software provider how to activate advanced notifications and then learn how to “read” what is being reported to head off problems.
The dealer’s software provider should be your business partner. Be sure you can rely on yours.