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Wrap up and Conclusion – MPS Floodgates: part 4 of 4

The previous three installments of this series were meant to provoke thought … The MPSA ’s definition of MPS:

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

… and four basic MPS business engagement opportunities were identified:

  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 …

In part one of the floodgates series, Choosing the Plan and Software, it was suggested that questions should be asked to help dealers choose the software that will fit with the MPS model they would be offering.

Product knowledge and usage training was another topic of consideration as were network security and various deployment and machine discovery options.

In part two, Meters, Supplies and Service Monitoring , gathering and managing meter data was a major focal point.  Commentary included imaging device supply and service status reporting.

An end-user example was dissected in part three, Putting MPS Software to Work , to show how supply and service fulfillment could add revenue to the bottom line.  The posting concluded with a short discussion on billing practices to further cut operating costs.

Each part of the series offered a FREE “ MPS Program and Solution Adoption Checklist ”.  Dealers are encouraged to use the checklist to consolidated concerns as they enter the MPS marketplace.  While no one solution is a “magic bullet”, the checklist is comprehensive enough to cover most applications.

This final installment of the series will call attention to some of the other aspects of print management. Let’s continue to see what else MPS software can do …

Gathering Imaging Fleet Information

It has been said, “MPS is all about gathering data … Lots of data.”  Deploying software is an ideal way for dealers to gather information about the imaging fleet they intend to manage.  Once installed, MPS software will be able to determine:

  • Device inventory and baseline reporting
  • Device connectivity
  • Potential device reporting challenges

In our Information Management posting we noted that data gathered by MPS software is available in a variety of formats … device location maps, charts, graphs, “dashboards”, tables, spreadsheets and other documentation are common.  Making sense of the information requires diligence and attention to detail.

NOTE – The MPS provider may need someone on staff to be a “number cruncher” to make sense of the detail retrieved.

By installing MPS software , dealers can review the detail returned in effort to add “missing” devices, find equipment that may be off-line, research SNMP challenges , and if desired, add locally connected devices to the monitored machine list.  With reliable reporting , account managers can know:

  • Imaging device inventory
  • Device placement challenges
  • Machine usage and efficiency opportunities
  • Where unnecessary equipment might be located
  • Monthly averages for page output

Continuous information flow affords the dealer the ability to identify non-manageable machines in the fleet.  Non-manageable devices may be those that are older, report no detail, report intermittently or not at all, may report in low precision for supply fulfillment, may not report toner or service detail or because of connectivity, report no status detail but only a tally of pages run through the print spooler. When devices with reporting challenges are discovered, the service provider can put together a disposition plan for the challenging or non-manageable machines.

Pre-sales Assessments and Data Integration

Existing, new and prospective customers can benefit from discovered information by way of fleet assessment .  Business machine dealers can leverage their MPS software investment and discovered print volumes to calculate imaging fleet operating costs and total cost of ownership .

Some software products offer granular data available down to the device level.  Dealers should be following the examples above and be looking for reporting capability that will fit the MPS program they intend to offer.  The MPS solution fit for the sales team is the one that reports the information the team uses.  Incorporating this detail into sales, supply or maintenance contracts simply sets the business apart from its competition.

So what does the metering gathered data look like?

Page output typically is made available in spreadsheets.  Information gathered over time will show detail for specifc meters, volume between meter dates and may calculate average monthly output as well.

MPS software can often format gathered information for import into CRM or proposal software.  Integration options may also include the ability to input page counts into paper recycling/tree replanting programs. Common proposal tools include offerings from Compass Sales Solutions and MPS Toolbox, Digital Quote Manager, DocuAudit, and OEM offerings like Ricoh TCO FullView, Toshiba Encompass, Xerox Assessment, etc.  With these options, gathered data can be imported into tools the dealer may already be using.  Many software solutions offer built-in Total Cost of Ownership tools.  If the dealer does not already have a solution mentioned above, they should look for software with this nice-to-have option.

While total cost of ownership is being determined, anlysis of the reported data can often spotlight problematic device utilization.  Devices with utilization challenges may be candidates for reassignment.  Some devices may have multiple challenges requiring special attention, or as noted above, may be classified as non-manageable.

MPS Software Vendor Pricing

As software solutions are evaluated, providers should dig deep to determine why one product is priced at one amount and another at something different.  Be sure to find out if the solution being considered requires the purchase of ‘optional’ hardware such as servers to provide optimal performance.  Servers and their support add cost.Bigger still is the determination of value for monthly monitoring rates.  While one solution may be offered at $250 for 2500 devices, is $250 a month a good value if only 500 or 1000 are to be monitored?  Are alerts included in the monthly rate amount and what about the accuracy of the gathered information?  Be sure to find out what kind of support and training charges are included, as these may be ‘hidden’ charges as well. “You get what you pay for” is never truer than when dealerships consider MPS options.  Use this last set of questions to come up with the right solution:

  • What is the upfront amount and what does it cover?
  • How reliable is reporting and the information returned?
  • Is a larger upfront investment option really more cost effective in the long run?
  • Does the business model require that data be hosted and stored by the dealer?  If so, at what cost?
  • Does the software provider have the ability and expertise to provide customizations?  Are customizations required to fit the dealer’s business practices?
  • 50, 65 or even 75¢ a device isn’t much, but what is the annual cost of an MPS solution?
  • Can FREE prospect assessments be offered with the software version being considered?
  • Will the dealer pay for all meters and data returned, or just for devices under management? 
  • Is meter integration into the dealer’ ERP and/or CRM available and if so, at what cost?
  • What type of product support and training is available and are there any associated costs?
  • Can software user referrals be obtained?

… In Summary

Managed Print Services should raise cost awareness, provide opportunity for a proper device mix, allow proposals for machines based on actual output volume and help make the provider a better business partner.Making decisions to secure the right MPS solution is an exercise in answering questions.  In numerous MPS forums and Print Management blogs, one will read that today’s business machine dealership should secure an MPS solution.  Dealers, VARs, and IT providers must proceed with prudence and caution before choosing one.

As dealers evaluate solutions to decide what may work in their environment, they should be considering the questions posed in this and previous postings of the ‘Question Floodgates” series.  By taking into account all aspects of the MPS program that will be offered, one can jump head first into the MPS pool with confidence.