South African printer and copier resellers need to embrace managed print services (MPS) as part of their business models if they wish to remain relevant in an office automation market that is shifting from a product focus to a solutions focus.
That’s according to Kevin Johnstone, business development officer at Itec. He says that end-user organisations around the world have embraced MPS as a way to drive down costs and improve performance in their printer and copier environments, yet South African resellers and distributors have not caught up to the global trend.
MPS is an approach to printing and copying where organisations give a chosen supplier full responsibility for the entire print, copy and scan infrastructure, including all services, support, and supplies. They pay for these services on a monthly basis, often paying per printed page. Rather than getting hardware with a service level agreement, they get a business solution shaped around their needs.
MPS represents a natural evolution for a market that has moved away from a focus on printer and copier hardware to a focus on the services and software that surrounds devices, says Johnstone. End-user organisations can achieve savings of up to 30% of running costs and reduce hardcopy fleet carbon emissions by 60% in their office automation environments by adopting MPS.
Johnstone says that adoption of MPS in South Africa has fallen behind Europe and other major markets for a range of structural reasons, including the fragmentation of the printer and copier market as well as the reluctance of vendors and distributors to work with their competitors. These obstacles are starting to fall by the wayside, says Johnstone.
Market consolidation and alliances between IT and office automation players are changing the landscape of the printer and copier market, he adds. Now, the market is starting to settle around a handful of key players, who are building massive national infrastructures to serve large customers with MPS wherever they have branches.
These large players are buying up shares in small independent dealers to consolidate their channels, Johnstone says. This enables them to drive higher volumes and offer better prices to their end-users. It also means that they are positioned to invest in the sophisticated back-office systems and technical skills needed to offer true MPS.
At a technology level, the convergence between printer and copier engines is forcing the copier and printing industries closer together, Johnstone says. This trend is also helping to spur MPS since end-users are increasingly looking for one vendor to take total responsibility for all their printing, copying and scanning needs.
The second major obstacle – supplier territorialism – may take longer to address. The challenge here is that most print and copier distributors supply only one or two brands of print and copy hardware and insist that their resellers sell only their equipment. What’s more, they refuse to sell spares, parts and devices to dealers aligned with their traditional competitors, says Johnstone.
This is a major barrier to MPS since most companies have devices from multiple vendors in their environments.
“Genuine MPS means that a company should be able to outsource an entire fleet of equipment from multiple vendors to a single service provider,” says Johnstone. “When your competitor refuses to let you access parts for a multifunction product, you can’t offer a customer with its products a MPS solution.”
Johnstone says that end-user pressure will eventually change this picture. In a tight economy, end-users are using their buying power to push service providers to offer them real solutions and to work together when necessary to meet their business needs.
“End-users want to be able to hand off responsibility for their print infrastructures to a single provider, just as they might in the desktop environment,” he says. “Print and copy brands that want to succeed and thrive must accept and embrace this reality.”