If you’ve read some of my previous writings, you know that I’m a big fan of anything that can improve the overall efficiency of the IT department. I’m a strong believer that IT resources need to be as carefully allocated as financial ones, as there is tremendous potential in an organization that is able to perfectly direct IT. When an activity can be undertaken — or a service acquired — that carries with it the dual benefits of increasing IT productivity while reducing ongoing operational costs, well, I get positively giddy. Further, when there exists the potential for direct benefit outside IT in addition benefiting IT itselgf, it’s time to pull out the signing pen, because someone is getting a contract!
Some challengesAt HP Discover 2012, Wikibon’s David Vellante and SilconANGLE.tv’s John Furrier interviewed Bruce Dahlgren, Senior Vice President of Managed Services Printing and Personal Systems at HP. During that interview, Dahlgren outlined HP’s direction with regard to the company’s managed printing service. I’m a huge fan is managed printing services, whether they’re provided by HP or by another party.
Before I get into what HP itself brings to the table, let’s take a look at a typical midmarket enterprise that self-manages printers. These companies probably have a few dozen to a few hundred printers scattered about the environment. IT is probably responsible for these units and this responsibility includes:
- Buying toner: As users run out of toner, new cartridges are shipped to the users. Or, IT has to visit each printer to change toner.
- Hardware costs: The organization has to make an initial investment to buy each printer.
- Maintenance costs: The company has to pay to have the printers repaired and for regular maintenance kits.
In some companies, different units are responsible for the printers and copiers. Where I used to work, for example, IT handled all printing while finance area handled copiers. We were in the process of combining these functions to enable further economies of scale, for instance in paper purchases, when I left the organization.
When one looks at these two functions, while they both result in items being printed onto sheets of paper, the traditional implementation has differed in significant ways. Copiers have often carried high initial acquisition costs but low ongoing print costs. Printers, on the other hand, have been relatively inexpensive to acquire, but ongoing supplies are expensive.
Obviously, today, it’s becoming more common to acquire devices that provide multiple functions, including printing, copying, faxing and scanning. The two services are certainly converging, providing new opportunities for organizations to enjoy economies of scale and ease procurement chores.
Simply converging the services into a single umbrella can be an efficiency gain for a business, but there’s so much more than can be had. By simply making the entire printing and copying environment someone else’s problem, a company can save money and help IT stay focused on those tasks that are of real value to the business. HP’s Dahlgren indicates that his unit’s managed print service can reduce costs up to 30%. In my own experience with non-HP managed print service providers, I’ve seen similar savings.
When you stop and think about it, the enormity of the saving potential really makes sense. If a single company can enjoy economies of scale by combining print and copy services into a single service, imagine the economies of scale that the MPS vendor enjoys from dozens or hundreds of customers. As the scale grows, unit costs decrease and the savings are enjoyed by everyone. And HP’s scale is certainly impressive! The MPS unit claims 3,100 customers, $9 billion in contract value and 25 billion pages printed! As one looks at that kind of volume, it’s easy to see where savings can be achieved.
The MPS bottom line
Printing is a bear to support; it’s expensive and is a service that, for IT, has absolutely zero value add. It’s an operational, non-strategic service. Obviously, to the business, printing has great value. For this kind of disconnect, it makes much more sense for someone else to manage the printing and copying environment.
But wait, there’s more!
Even if you don’t want to use HP’s MPS, I highly recommend that all IT shops should at least look at local providers to see if there is an opportunity to save some money and reduce some IT headache.
Dahlgren described some ways by which HP is helping organizations achieve their mobility and BYOD goals through the creative use of the cloud coupled with the MPS contract. Customers want to tie their newly outsourced imaging environment into mobility strategies. With the service, far flung employees using smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices can select a document to print from their device, send it to HP’s secure private cloud, and then select a public print location — a FedEx Kinkos store, or a hotel business center, for example — at which the document is then printed for the user to pick up. If that’s too public, the service can allow users to print to a branch office.
HP indicates that its goal is to help customers “print smart” and reduce printing's impact on the environment.
Now that HP has its hands this far into the imaging process, it’s a short jump to having HP assist with information governance and workflows as a result by using the multifunction device as an entry point to the network and to workflows. When it comes to the possibilities for HP’s resellers and for business consuming the service, the sky is the limit.
Action Item: CIOs that aren’t yet subscribed to a managed print service provider should consider the option as a part of their efforts to streamline IT operations, reduce costs and help IT focus on the business. Further, consider ways that such services can be leveraged to advance other business initiatives, such as improving the capabilities of the mobile workforce or enabling easier ways for users to use personal mobile devices.