As a nearly 20-year managed print services (MPS) professional, I’ve learned that long-term success requires understanding and responding to new market trends. There are plenty of industry articles projecting the future of MPS over the next five years and beyond, including concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), cloud services, and ongoing digital convergence. Fascinating trends to follow, for sure.
Though many of us MPS geeks enjoy the research, technology evolution, and developing business strategies to leverage these technologies, the reality is most MPS customers and providers have immediate needs. It could be a dealer or service provider seeking to learn and adopt best practices to expand their MPS business, or a customer looking to make the best purchasing decision possible.
What happens in five or 10 years, while interesting, should not delay MPS implementations because significant improvements can be made today that don’t require any of these future trends. MPS success today and tomorrow comes down to three key areas, with technology itself only being one of them. Elite MPS providers understand it’s all about the products, process and people.
There is no one silver bullet in MPS technology. It requires many partnerships for true success. Whether you are a hardware manufacturer, toner OEM, reseller, IT VAR, or customer, key partnerships are essential. Here’s why:
- The current print technology landscape for customers is extremely diverse. It is often comprised of A3 and A4 multifunction printers (MFPs) and production-level devices, fax machines, scanning devices, thermal barcode printers, check printers, line printers and more.
- Today, we cannot manage all this hardware on a single platform. While most OEMs feature tools or cloud access support for their devices, OEMs continue to implement proprietary systems for use on their equipment with limited, if any, support for other OEM products. MPS customers require support for their entire fleet, though.
- As a result, customers need to select an MPS provider with not only a breadth of product understanding, but they need one with multiple OEM partnerships to have the visibility required to make fleet-wide optimizations.
MPS assessments may be easy, but the real challenge comes with the implementation and ongoing management of this complex, varied and non-static environment. In other words, MPS success is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing measurement of achievement in an ever-changing environment.
Technology in this area helps, but having a well-understood process is vital to maintain a smooth implementation and evolution. MPS success is all about having pre-defined processes and procedures to meet customer expectations while maintaining profitability. Here are a few areas where process understanding is key:
- MPS complexity occurs during implementation and ongoing device management. The optimizations, adds, moves, changes, and ongoing management and support is what challenges most MPS providers. Clearly articulating processes is paramount.
- Delivering on service level agreements (SLAs) and meeting customer satisfaction requirements depends on the MPS providers’ ability to manage every implementation nuance. The provider may have separate technicians for different products, or even use other partners to service specialty devices. But, this needs to be seamless to the customer.
- The approach should be similar for supplies and parts. Is a provider managing all supplies and parts? Or will distribution partners drop ship to customers? Will the provider automate supply replenishment? The customer may not care where the supplies come from, but they will care if needed supplies don’t arrive on time.
- Does the MPS provider have a process in place to ensure a technician is dispatched and the device will be where the customer expects it? Any glitch in these fundamental processes may trigger a significant impact on both customer satisfaction and MPS management costs. True MPS success requires end-to-end process knowledge across the entire lifecycle of the fleet.
AI is still a future concept within the document management space, but today’s data collection software, calculators, mapping utilities, and management tools are all vital.
However, it takes MPS experts merging that data with the real-world visual cues they see onsite related to the users, workflows, and processes of that business that is critical to successfully getting employees to implement and embrace best MPS practices.
Data, while powerful for analysis, is not yet advanced enough to understand your business strategy, goals, industry pressures, day-to-day processes and so on. This is where MPS shifts from analysis to art.
- It’s the powerful combination of people listening to customers and uncovering pain points to better streamline complex processes, enabled by the vast selection of underlying products. This convergence is where art happens. Making product, software, and workflow solution recommendations tailored for each customer is where peoples’ expertise merge art and science to help companies make real business decisions and drive more revenue.
More advanced technology is always on its way. With the complexity and unique nature of each customer, finding a partner with access to the best products, processes, and people is the foundation for a successful engagement for both the customer and the MPS provider.