Managed Print Services Shift Toward Digital Management

The focus of managed print services is no longer on hardware, but on transitioning from paper to digital workflows and automating management.

Managed print services (MPS) have traditionally included maintaining and managing the multifunction printers (MFPs), copiers, scanners and fax machines a business needs to run their operations — so in-house staff doesn’t have to bear that responsibility. The very devices that were developed to help offices run more efficiently can bring production to a halt when ink or toner runs out or machines malfunction and there aren’t skilled technicians on site.

Customers want more to managed print than keeping machines running, however. IDC anticipates that 50 percent of contracts for MFPs will focus on software and services first, and customers will “consider the hardware feature set as a given.”

Chris Hamilton, Director, Services Strategy of Ricoh USA, Inc., comments, “There has been a shift from MPS being primarily managed through what I would call a ‘physical management’ strategy, centered on labor around the physical device, to a ‘digital management’ strategy, moving paper into connected digital workflows and automating management for the entire environment.”

As businesses and organizations advance their digital transformations, a key is digitizing data, records and documents that had been commonly paper-based. “Transitioning physical print to digital workflows that connect with broader back-end infrastructure continues to be crucial to modern businesses,” says Hamilton.

The Impact on VAR and MSP Businesses

These changes require value-added resellers (VARs) and managed services providers (MSPs) to re-evaluate their offerings. Hamilton says, “In terms of how this impacts VAR or MSP businesses, well, the customers have spoken. They want a fully managed output ecosystem, a truly managed service.”

He points out that what comprehensive managed print services encompass for your clients can vary based on several factors, but to begin by considering the organization’s size. “While digital transformation strategies vary by industry, the key difference is between enterprises and SMBs, which will dictate requirements for workflows, print infrastructure, mobile print and more. The scale of the project can tell you a lot,” he says.

Once you’ve determined the services and solutions customers in your market require, Hamilton says you’ll benefit from structuring your offerings on the people, process, and technology model. Your customers aren’t looking for only printer or copier hardware that you maintain and repair and a program that automatically replenishes supplies. Hamilton says your customers will expect you “to utilize enhanced technological capabilities to monitor, report, configure and triage devices remotely.”

They will also expect a service that addresses their specific workflows, security and compliance requirements. Meeting this demand will begin with an assessment of the clients’ printing infrastructure, as well as the efficiency of current operations and how managed print services can improve them.

He adds that optimal managed print services will align with a roadmap that addresses your clients’ goals for technology upgrades, cost reduction or control, and environmental impact and includes a strategy that can evolve organically over time.

“Ultimately, most will look for a scalable, subscription-based model that can ensure elasticity,” Hamilton says.

The Next Step

If you have been providing managed print services that focus on MFP, copier, or fax hardware, expanding your offerings to include software that manages documents and information and additional services is part of a logical progression. Hamilton comments, “Implementing managed print services is an evolution, not a revolution.”

As your clients in virtually all vertical markets advance their digital transformations, the processes they use to create and manage documents will change. Do your offerings reflect changes in what your clients need and want from managed print services?

The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of XaaS Journal and DevPro Journal.