From retail giants to financial services and healthcare providers, businesses are starting to realise the bottom-line benefit to getting their output under control, writes Rob Abraham, MD of Bytes Document Solutions.

They are doing this through managed print services (MPS) – a defined and mature strategy designed to help manage the volume of documents flowing through the organisation and minimise the costs associated with printing, sharing and updating them.
Often overlooked, print is an infrastructure just as important as facilities, telecommunications and IT networks, and the long-term results of a successful MPS partnership include enhanced productivity, increased compliance and improved environmental sustainability, to name a few.
How do you know if your business should explore an MPS relationship? Ask yourself the following questions:
* Will this effort truly deliver a defined and hard rand return on investment? Gartner says yes. According to its research, enterprises can save up to 30% on printing services by selecting the right partner. Local experience confirms this: Edcon saved 30% in costs in the very first year of implementing a managed print solution. This was contributed to by reducing the number of small desktop printers from 700 devices to 60 odd. In addition to the cost saving, the efficiency and productivity of the document
environment was vastly improved: end-users had the benefit of the latest technology in multifunction devices placed in coherent workgroup environments. Multiple case studies exist in financial services, manufacturing, aerospace, retail/consumer goods, healthcare, insurance and government entities with very similar results.
* Are you benefiting from your current investments? Consider what went into the decision-making process for your company's current output environment – including the current fleet of multi-vendor copiers, printers and other hardware. Is it still delivering what you need? Could it do more – like scanning and imaging for easy access to documents? A qualified MPS partner will assess the environment and also help transform key document-driven business processes.
* Can your technology keep up? As a business changes and evolves, so must its output solution. If the current technology is unable to keep up with the demand from additional employees and increased usage, it is merely a drain on your financial and human resources. Or, if your current strategy does not provide flexibility as the total employee population fluctuates up or down, you have an opportunity for improvement. What's more, while the economic environment may mean you need to hold onto your technology assets for a longer period of time, MPS will still reduce costs by combining the right technology with software, services, and proven best practices so your business can streamline workflow, eliminate time consuming manual tasks, speed up access to critical information and reduce operational costs.
* Does your print infrastructure support other company objectives? Implementing MPS not only tackles cost and productivity goals, but it can be a sustainable business practice too. By decreasing the number of output devices, KeyCorp's MPS strategy also addresses a corporate commitment to reduce paper consumption, decrease power usage and eliminate several tons of landfill waste. How? By strategically rationalising the ratio of output devices to your headcount, you will reduce energy usage – leading to reduced carbon production and greenhouse gases. Eliminating unnecessary output helps save a significant amount of fresh water and trees via the reduction in the paper and pulp manufacturing process.
* Does downtime cost you? One of the fundamental challenges when assessing printing expenses is determining what is being spent and where. When your IT department is constantly fixing hardware while employees are unable to effectively print, scan and handle documents, all departments suffer. What's more, printing costs are often buried in various department budgets and each employee likely has a personalised work process that may not be optimal to reducing overall printing costs. One of the top four banks in South Africa saved more than 30 % by implementing a managed document solution in its high-volume production area. A combination of factors including utilisation of the latest technology and close monitoring of actual documents printed led to this saving.
* Do you have more important things to focus on than print? Most businesses do not have the print management knowledge internally to handle local, national and even global print solutions without outside help. An MPS partner brings the expertise to manage, upgrade and improve a myriad devices, while empowering the workforce to embrace productivity and operational changes through effective change management programs. By assessing digital and paper document volume, related work processes and the technology that supports it, an MPS partner will develop a plan that achieves the right formula for existing employee work habits, daily volume and organisational readiness for implementing new strategies.
While MPS is not a new solution, it is one that can maximise short-term cost savings, while adding value that will prime your business for growth in the future. The first step is to see your print infrastructure as a means of leveraging new sources of value.