If cloud is the overall buzz word for 2010 in the IT industry, managed print services has been a printing industry-specific buzz word for the last two years that has had a similar impact within its niche.
Vendors, resellers and customers have jumped onto it like some kind of Holy Grail, and it’s difficult to find a case of a printer vendor, distributor or reseller that is not trying to find some way to latch on and make some business through it.
But is it really all that? And, for that matter, what is the value proposition?
Is it all rosy?
One vendor that has been less than pleased with the reseller uptake of managed print solutions is Kyocera Mita.
“Everyone talks about managed print services, and everyone says they want managed print services, but when you offer the channel true managed print services the take up is very small – it’s a bit of a paradox,” Kyocera Mita managing director, David Finn, said.
The vendor began offering a comprehensive managed print solution, in which the reseller can leverage off Kyocera’s field tech service force. It costs a nominal fee, but once a partner has registered a product acquired through distribution, it can offer that printer to the end user with full assurance that Kyocera’s tech service force will look after it.
“It’s only around $90,” Finn said. “Most resellers can’t afford to have dedicated service tech people to fix printers and copiers, so we said to them ‘you can go forward, sell your managed print service with everything else, and we as a vendor will use our own tech force to take care of it from a service point of view – everything except toner.’”
The vendor also offers the typical Web-based calculators and the like so the reseller can work out how much to charge per click to maintain adequate profit margins.
However, the program has had very limited success since its launch in March. Just 15 resellers, according to Finn.
“It’s like a buzz word,” he said. “Everyone talks about managed print services, and there’s a couple of big players that do it. Some of our competitors at vendor level offer managed print, but the resellers, they want it, but they don’t know what to do with it.”
Despite this, Finn expects the managed print business to pick up over time, and the vendor has released a new series of printers that are friendly towards managed print applications.
“If the resellers don’t start getting into this now, than they’ll never get into it,” he said.
Other organisations – both channel and vendor - are more optimistic about the uptake on managed print.
For instance, late in July, Fuji Xerox announced that it would acquire managed print services specialists, Upstream Print Solutions, for an undisclosed sum.
As a business unit of Fuji Xerox, Upstream would act independently in the market, and report to Japan, but with existing partnerships with both Lexmark and HP the service provider is at the forefront of the managed print industry, with customers including Ansell, Sony, Raine & Horne and Repco.
Upstream executive general manager of marketing, Peter Burr, said there had been strong traction in verticals including manufacturing, transport and logistics, warehouse and wholesale distribution, but admitted there was plenty of room to grow further.
“There are plenty of businesses out there that haven’t currently employed managed print services and would benefit from it,” Burr said.
Upstream recently brought its UTrack application to market – a software solution that delivers benefits around cost recovery and being able to provide detailed analysis on who within an organisation is printing what. Burr claims as part of an overall managed print solution, UTrack is capable of reducing a fifth of a businesses’ printing costs, but despite some success in the market, there were lingering adoption challenges.
“Part of the battle is to get people to understand exactly how much they are spending on printing,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have it on their radar, but they should because there’s plenty of studies out there that print can account for three per cent of business revenue.
“Given that it is such a substantial amount, when you get people to understand the amount they’re spending on their business, the option to have an audit from a managed print provider like Upstream reveals to them a) the magnitude of what they’re spending, and then b) the benefits of moving forward with this approach.”
If the key in getting customers to realise the benefits of managed print solutions is in the data tools, then, Upstream is on the ball in looking to additional value-adds to offer customers to add greater data density.
“We’re launching a new device called the Upstream Calculator which will broaden people’s visibility, not only across the cost savings, but around reductions to CO2, paper and power, because power prices are on the increase,” Barr said.
Clearing the fog
Visibility is a key component for a vendor’s managed print offerings, too. It’s the key part of Lexmark’s managed print value proposition to its customers, and the main driver behind the strong growth that channel and SMB manager, Stephen Bell, claims the vendor has been enjoying.
“From the channel and SMB space through to our enterprise and government business, managed print services is by far the fastest growing part of our business,” Bell said.
“For the customer, the environment might be completely unmanaged, so our ability is to come in and work with dealers to give them visibility to what’s going on in their business, and to implement something that makes more sense in terms of numbers of devices and device types and simplified processes around ordering and installing toner, improving service levels, and then giving them visibility ongoing so that there’s continuous optimisation.”