The economic climate raised the profile for print and document output as the “last unmanaged frontier” when it comes to optimising IT infrastructure. Now, more than ever, companies are calling on managed print services (MPS) to save money and spur growth, writes Keith Knott, director: software and solutions in the Xerox division at Bytes Document Solutions.

MPS is a service offering that helps companies of all sizes better manage the way documents are printed, shared and updated throughout their business. It brings multiple print budgets and output devices – like printers, copiers and fax machines – under the management of a single vendor.  The fact is that MPS takes many forms – and the most important is the one that matters to the client decision-maker, making a well executed MPS strategy one that drives value in several clearly defined and measurable areas.
MPS is certainly creating a tremendous market opportunity for vendors, but it’s important for clients to understand that success in MPS comes from effective execution, not up-front promises.
How do you know if your business should explore an MPS relationship? Ask yourself the following questions:
* Will this effort truly deliver a defined financial return on investment? Gartner says yes. According to its research, enterprises can save up to 30% on printing services by selecting the right partner. KeyCorp saved more than $6-million on operating costs; and Dow Chemical reduced print-related spend by more than $20-million in five years. Multiple case studies exist in financial services, manufacturing, aerospace, retail/consumer goods, and healthcare, insurance and government entities with similar results.
* Are you benefiting from your current investment? 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.  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 offer sustainability benefits as well. For example, by decreasing the number of output devices from 10 000 to 3 500, KeyCorp addressed 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 its employee population, the company reduced energy usage – leading to reduced carbon production and greenhouse gases. Eliminating unnecessary output also helps save a significant amount of fresh water and trees via the reduction in the paper and pulp manufacturing process.
* Does downtime cost you money? 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. Printing costs are often buried in various departmental budgets, and each employee likely has a personalised work process that may not be optimal to reducing overall printing costs. Providers utilising Lean Six Sigma or other proven methodologies unlock the potential to save on document costs by identifying ways to eliminate errors and unnecessary steps.  By leveraging intelligent network-based tools to monitor all devices, you can implement proactive management strategies to help avoid unnecessary downtime.
* 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 millions of devices, while empowering the workforce to embrace productivity and operational changes through effective change management programmes. 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 so workers can focus on revenue-generating tasks – not print-related issues.
Huntington Bank, based in the state of Ohio, saw the benefits of embracing an MPS strategy. “We signed on for MPS for the cost savings opportunity and to help the environment, but it’s also a smart business strategy for us,” says Zahid Afzal, executive VP and CIO, Huntington Bank. “By improving the way we work, [our partner] helps us stay competitive.” Huntington will also meet its sustainability goals by decreasing the number of printers and educating employees on responsible printing. The bank has already seen a 35% drop in toner usage, as well as reduced paper and power consumption.
While MPS is not a new solution it continues to be an overlooked opportunity for companies to save money. And for those who have discovered the benefits – there’s more to uncover. Businesses are eager to innovate and give their employees new ways to work efficiently – to win new business, to get products to market, to get invoices processed, and to communicate more effectively with customers. A properly implemented MPS strategy does that and more by creating a digital platform that integrates with their overall IT strategy