As with managing your server, networking and desktop computing environments, the complexities and costs of supporting and managing your imaging and printing environment can have a substantial impact on your bottom-line results, writes Nathan Nayagar, country manager for laser enterprise solutions at IPG HP South Africa.

Don’t miss the opportunity of including imaging and printing as a crucial component of your overall IT infrastructure strategy. It may be one of the fastest ways of reducing costs in tough economic times.
Most organisations don’t really know what they spend on imaging and printing. While many understand the “hard costs” of hardware acquisition and supplies replenishment, the soft costs associated with governance and ongoing management, end-user efficiencies, lifecycle management and workflow improvements are not generally understood. And most organisations don’t have a strategy that integrates how imaging and printing can contribute to overall IT improvement goals – so that imaging and printing is a part of an overall infrastructure improvement plan.
When managed well, your imaging and printing environment should:
* Significantly reduce costs and increase productivity;
* Transform data into actionable information;
* Mitigate risks associated with legal and regulatory requirements;
* Drive faster, more effective decision-making;
* Win the trust and satisfaction of key stakeholders; and
* Help differentiate your organisation.
When calculating the cost of print in the enterprise, you have to consider the time both IT and users spend on maintenance and troubleshooting, as well as the business costs and consequences of the downtime. The costs associated with print management are a surprisingly critical component of enterprise revenue. But the bulk of these costs aren’t even associated with hardware or consumables.
For the average enterprise, every one dollar spent on actual printing, involves another nine dollars1a spent managing print and supporting document workflows.
Imaging and printing spend can equal a staggering 1% to 15% of an enterprise’s annual revenue – in part, because the imaging and printing infrastructure is not being managed in a systematic way. This lack of management results in a proliferation of devices, wasted resources and enormous hidden costs.
Consider the following common problem areas:
* Multiple imaging and printing architectures – Localised IT decision-making often results in multiple imaging and printing architectures.
* Lack of standardisation and proliferation of devices – Inefficient, outdated devices seem to proliferate in large enterprises. Too many different models of devices and a lack of standardisation make it difficult to manage the fleet and drive down costs.
*  Low user-to-device ratios – Unmanaged processes between and within departments for purchasing new print hardware result in “printer sprawl” and all of its negative impacts: wasted floor and storage space, redundant hardware and supplies costs, extra networking and support needs.
* Failure to prepare for the unpredictable – Unbudgeted repairs may present the biggest threat of all. Without the protection and predictability of quality service arrangements, challenges such as communications disruptions, application problems, unexpected peaks in user traffic and even outright failures can result in damaging blows to the budget.
* Lack of executive sponsorship and ongoing governance – As HP has learned with its own print transformation programme, key success factors included executive sponsorship, clear “management of change” oversight and ongoing governance.
For the past two decades, organisations have focused on making IT costs and IT infrastructures transparent and controllable through the consolidation of server, networking and computing environments. Now, you should evaluate the management of your print environment to gain control of print spend and protect the performance of your larger IT environment.
For long-term success in this area, imaging and printing must be viewed as a vital component of your IT environment – a critical resource to be optimised, managed and streamlined for peak performance.