What’s on the Managed Print Horizon?

More solutions will leverage IoT and AI, more businesses will opt for Print as a Service, and more companies will build managed print into their sustainability programs.

Managed print services (MPS) providers are facing new challenges, including technology disruptions, changing business models, and a greater customer focus on sustainability.

Phil Carter, Director, Lexmark Managed Print Services Portfolio, and Janet Johnson, Senior Marketing Director, Peak-Ryzex share their insights to help managed services providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) make smart choices about the solutions and services they offer in the coming months and years.

Carter acknowledges that MSPs and VARs face a perennial problem: “The best way to help relieve the burden on businesses’ internal IT departments is to provide seamless, scalable, always-on services — which is impossible with on-premises, labor-intensive solutions.”

With managed print, providers often lack visibility into clients’ hardware, systems, and processes, as well as the level of efficiency and user experiences those solutions deliver.

Emerging Technologies Can Be Game Changers

Carter says, “Leveraging emerging tech such as IoT, cloud, machine learning and digital twins will separate best-in-class providers from the rest of the pack.”

For example, Lexmark’s Predictive Service analytics engine continually monitors hundreds of sensor data points to predict failures before they occur. Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) can identify usage patterns to deliver ink or toner cartridges exactly when the customer needs them, and cloud services can enable automatic updates for print software and firmware.

Additionally, digital twin technology, which allows you to create a virtual representation of your client’s systems through the use of IoT sensors or other data collection methods, can you the data you need to visualize how solutions perform in real-time in their real-world environments. It can also provide you with greater monitoring capabilities and a way to troubleshoot solutions that helps you reduce the time it takes to resolve an issue.

Managed Thermal Printing Debuts

Johnson wants VARs and MSPs to know that although managed print programs have traditionally focused on multifunction printers and copiers, “In 2020, thermal printing will join this category leading to new ways customers can automate consumables replenishment and printer service as well as upgrading existing equipment.”

Managed print services, adds Johnson, can reduce costs through automation and provide full visibility into the customer’s current print fleet.

“Active monitoring of customers’ printing environments leads to increased uptime for the printer as well as eliminating downtime due to not having supplies on hand to print,” she says.

The Trend Away from Ownership

Carter points out that in addition to MPS technology advancements driving changes in this space, businesses’ preferences are also changing.

One of the most notable trends we see is the desire to completely offload the print infrastructure — well beyond buying on lease and signing on for contractual support services,” says Carter. “Organizations are looking to get rid of the entire infrastructure, including servers and server management, and get assets off their books. We see this across all industry segments and in most geographies.”

Programs such as Cloud Print Infrastructure as a Service free businesses from having to make capital expenditures to purchase printers. Instead, they can subscribe based on print capacity while eliminating the burdens of equipment ownership.

“Historically, that has been difficult for the print industry to accommodate. But with the emergence of cloud-native pull printing and IoT as a Service acquisition models, we deliver that level of flexibility today,” Carter says.

Other Trends to Watch

Managed print services providers also need to align their offerings with additional trends.

“We certainly see the digitization trend continuing. Thus, there is a need to be able to support customers with solutions that snap into their existing systems,” says Carter.

Businesses are also looking for partners who can help them achieve their sustainability goals. “Sustainability is becoming more and more of a must-have versus a nice-to-have for customers,” says Carter. MPS providers can benefit through working with a partner that has developed a multilayered approach to sustainability with cloud leverage, workflow solutions, low energy fusing, cartridge recycling, and even a reforestation subscription service for remaining carbon impacts.”

In light of these trends, you need to evaluate the solutions and services your MSP or VAR business offers — as well as your marketing content and sales strategies — ensure they align with the direction the industry is moving.