Over the past few years, there has been significant discussion about consolidating and optimising IT infrastructure to reduce cost and complexity, writes Shane Tyrrell, enterprise business unit head: Imaging & Printing Group at HP SA.

Many companies have evaluated and implemented ways to streamline their IT infrastructure, improve its efficiency, and reduce costs. Companies have improved their network efficiency and bottom line by standardising their infrastructure through consolidation, new management solutions and changes in buying options with managed service offerings or utility pricing.
Companies spend much time studying, optimising and managing many elements of their IT infrastructure – network bandwidth, applications, storage, servers – but pay little attention to their imaging, printing and document distribution environment. With the new technology and the need to cut costs, more and more organisations are taking the time to look at their printing and copying environment and ask how they can identify opportunities to save money and improve productivity.
The solution isn’t just about buying the best equipment. Optimising a copying and printing network for maximum efficiency, manageability and cost effectiveness requires a balanced mix of copying and printing equipment along with an integrated print infrastructure and efficient network control.  Businesses that strategically optimise and actively manage their printing infrastructures stand to reduce their overall cost of printing significantly.
Printing and copying needs have changed dramatically over the years. As printing has become less expensive the ratio of printed to copied pages has increased substantially.
Businesses are now looking at their printing, copying and document distribution environment as an opportunity for optimisation.  86 percent of enterprises are looking to decrease print and copying cost; 82 percent seek to improve user productivity; while 45 percent look to consolidate products and services from one vendor.
A regular assessment of business infrastructure lets allows identification of problem areas such as outdated, overburdened, underutilised and maintenance-intensive devices that monopolise IT resources. It enables the establishment of benchmarks and setting reasonable expectations for estimated savings.
An assessment of a current output environment should be accompanied by an analysis of how much is spent – directly and indirectly on copying and printing. Total cost of ownership (TCO) represents a comprehensive way to analyse and track costs and also allows an understanding of the savings potential of an optimised fleet.
Other cost elements are less visible, but represent a significant portion of the total cost.  These include network management and administration, helpdesk calls from end-users, purchasing, storage and logistics as well as energy consumption.
The more visible cost elements are referred to as Cost per page (CPP). Adding hidden cost elements enables a holistic view on the TCO, which should be a key part of any enterprise purchasing decision. Optimising a print and copy infrastructure through a balanced deployment of strategically placed printing and copying devices can deliver more than TCO savings.
The number, location and type of devices deployed are important factors in the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a hardcopy environment as well as productivity.
Achieving the optimal combination of cost and performance rests on balancing the deployment of a copying and printing fleet according to need and cost. By employing multifunction devices and single function devices appropriately, this approach can improve printing performance and costs. It boils down to the right product at the right place.