Managed Print Services for the Rest of Us
Managed print services (MPS) has matured and should no longer be considered an “initiative”. By now, most business machine dealers have at least checked into MPS and many value added resellers (VARs) have adopted some type of automated meter capture process.
Yet, there are dealers, VARs and IT professionals that have not engaged or worse, had their MPS program stall because promises made were unable to be kept. What to do?
MPS is much more than meter capture as anyone who has embarked on the journey can validate … Think customer service on steroids! In fact, a true managed print program is NOT meter capture at all.
To help business owners, the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA < http://yourmpsa.org >) has drafted the following:
“Managed print services is the active management and optimization of business processes related to documents and information including input and output devices.”
The organization also calls attention to fact the definition is ever evolving and has changed over time. Not so long ago MPS was defined as "...the ACTIVE management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes". For even more clarity, the MPSA identifies four specific MPS business models:
Supply Fulfillment only
Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service
Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix PLUS Equipment Management
Supply Fulfillment, Break/Fix, Equipment, PLUS …
We agree. The Print Tracker ‘Managed Print Basics – Becoming an MPS Champion …’ blog is written to help dealers build successful print management programs. Some of our foundation articles include:
This article is presented to help dealerships get on the “decision” road. It is hoped the ideas offered below will assist companies when adopting the MPS model that best fits their business culture and help them to become better MPS providers.
What Does the Dealership do Best?
Take time to complete a “skills” inventory. Does the business have great help desk and dispatch staff? … Do they take care of the customer when supplies, parts or service are needed? How about the service team … Are technicians highly skilled and do they hold industry certifications? Can they get things done?
What about the sales team? Is there someone on staff who can make recommendations based on gathered information? Data analysis of print output is often complex, and therefore usually requires a higher degree of skill. Do salespeople have strong developmental as well as transactional selling skills?
Once business competencies are assembled, review the skills inventory. Break entries into key elements as they will help identify the MPS offering the dealership can best provide. Most VARs find that they have at least one or two core values and several things they do really well.
Think Big but Start Small
Because MPS takes on many forms, dealerships should launch a program with the services they do best. While the sales team may be the business’ strongest asset, a sound foundation must be established.
Suppose the business imparts GREAT customer service; the staff cares about what they are doing. Consider building the MPS foundation on Supply Fulfillment. But don’t stop there. Prepare for the next engagement – “Supply Fulfillment with Break/Fix Service”. Supply and service fulfillment provides a sound MPS foundation because managing equipment requires a genuine understanding of both.
Fit each MPS component with the other … supply fulfillment … break/fix … then equipment management. Make certain people are reviewing results. Encourage analysts to share volume details and cost of ownership calculations with the sales department to help drive sales opportunities.
As the MPS program materializes and grows, be sure to monitor progress carefully. Seek feedback. Be prepared to make mid-course corrections and program tweaks as necessary.
Supply Fulfillment Components
Often VARs find supply fulfillment is the best starting platform. To retrieve and route supply alerts, collection software, often referred to as the “DCA” (data collection agent) or “DCS” (data collection software) will be installed. Not all DCS provide the same capture ability or offer the same level detail accuracy.
NOTE – Dealers should research to determine which of the many software offerings provide the reporting capability and capture accuracy needed for the devices the dealership promotes and services. Be sure to check on software follow up maintenance requirements as well. The software must stay installed for it to provide reliable reporting.
Once software is chosen, deciding how to deploy is the next logical step. Just like data retrieval, software offerings differ in the way they are or can be installed. VARs should choose software that offers the easiest and widest array of installation options and methods.
In addition, software needs to be configured to gather information. Most DCS can be set to trigger a need for toner at specified thresholds. Be sure values are set to provide ample warning for most devices found at the customers’ locations. Certain software may offer device specific settings for improved alerting accuracy.
Finally, a dependable supply chain is a must. Most suppliers are well versed in ways gathered data can be incorporated into a fulfillment process and many are ready and willing to offer ideas.
Work with the provider to decide how supplies will get to the customer. Will cartridges, toner and parts be …
Direct shipped from the supplier?
Inventoried and shipped/delivered from the dealership?
Stored as safety stock at the customers’ locations?
Or, be a blended offering, encompassing one or more of the options above?
Each situation will have its own set of challenges and all aspects should be sorted before the program begins.
Implementing the Supply Fulfillment MPS Program
MPS software providers offer many data management modules. Be sure to look for utilities the company will use. Select software that has easy and simple-to-use components. Service Info and Meter Viewers with the ability to generate reports and the capacity to drill down on device specifics are often essential.
We advocate the preparation of a Supply Fulfillment SOP for each program component. The depth and scope of an SOP will be dependent on the staffing skill sets, dealer’s offering and management capability. Written procedures ensure all aspects of the supply fulfillment program are taken into account.
A fulfillment SOP can serve as the guide for implementing each of the procedural steps. Common alert processing considerations to include:
Monitoring installation status for notification of need
Receiving the alert notification (often delivered via email)
Reviewing ‘Service Info Viewer’ or similar components to process received alerts
Entry of remedial actions taken to process the alert and set supply distribution in motion
Report review and analysis
Implementing a Supply Fulfillment PLUS Break/Fix Service MPS Program
What if the business’ service team has GREAT technical expertise and they hold many certifications? Business management should partner with the service manager and dispatch staff to determine how service fulfillment can be included so the team’s proficiencies are leveraged.
Break/fix service is typically built on a platform similar to that of supply fulfillment. The primary retrieval component is the same; monitoring software will be used to gather device status. When devices trigger need for transfer kits, fusers, drums or other maintenance parts, or when machines alert for any type of service need, notifications can be forwarded to the help desk team member who can take action.
In addition, technicians can leverage the information the software returns to ensure their service cars are properly stocked for the day’s service calls. Parts inventories, both at the dealership and customer locations are easier to control because the need to carry a large amount of safety stock is diminished.
As with supply fulfillment, service practices should be outlined in Service Fulfillment SOPs. When service alerts arrive, help and dispatch staff can process the notification using preset protocols.
… In Summary
There is no reason to delay implementation of a sound managed print services program. While MPS may be complex, the bottom line is this: businesses that print need insight into their print processes. Once information is available, control of printing can begin. Cost savings typically follow when controls are added. MPS can provide insight, discover opportunities and help manage the controls once they are in place.
To get the MPS ball rolling, dealerships must first decide what type of offering they are best suited to provide. Writing down the strengths of the business is a GREAT way to begin. Definition of personnel skill sets, supply fulfillment capability, service ability, dispatch strengths and device management are paramount.
MPS programs should be built on solid foundations. Knowing machine reporting capability helps dealers decide which collection software can best provide the detail needed to service the customer. Putting installation and configuration practices in place based on that knowledge helps get the right data flowing.
Many businesses begin with supply fulfillment as this aspect requires definable checks and balances. When ready and able, it is much easier to expand with a break/fix service offering. Better programs include documented procedural contingencies in supply and service fulfillment SOPs. Evolving MPS programs grow to include data equipment and management.
Finally, dealers should work together with software providers, parts suppliers and OEM partners to build sound MPS programs. One can be pleasantly surprised in how much information partners have to share.
Posted by Brian Dawson, Sales and Marketing Director, Print Tracker, LLC
Brian is a productivity specialist, sales coach, mentor; offering managed print solutions world-wide with Print Tracker software.