Printer Managed Service – Have You Exhausted the In-House Options First?

31 January 2011
8 minute read
Best practice

Printer Managed Service – Have You Exhausted the In-House Options First?

31 January 2011
8 minute read
Changing Print Behaviour

Changing Print Behaviour

This is the first article from ITAM Review Analyst Martin Chalkley.

When it comes to cost management there are some areas where it is believed that savings will be made by transitioning to a managed service as all the internal options have been reviewed.  Usually they have not been fully understood yet rarely admitted to.  One common area is the trend to move to a managed print service.

  • How often do you walk up to your local printer and discover literally reams of printed documents lying uncollected for days?
  • When was the last time you actively chose to print in black and white rather than colour?
  • Can you be certain that you have the right printers in the right locations within your enterprise?
  • Do you know how much it is to print a page in your current estate?

These and more are some of the reasons why the managed service providers would like to take away your issue and deliver it for you.  They know that you probably don’t know the answers, and if that is the case how can you realistically evaluate their proposition?  Hence they can be fairly certain of making a profit out of your business, but they will probably also deliver some savings to ensure that you don’t delve too deeply into your cost structure.

But could you achieve as much saving, if not more, yourself with what may actually be just a little effort?  More importantly what second and third tier benefits might you uncover, that a managed service won’t, by defining your issue in the first place, as quite commonly the answers we unearth don’t answer the questions we initially ask.

What can you do?

Quite simply you need to define your objective, but respect the fact that the actual outcomes you achieve will without doubt be of greater business benefit than solving the initial question.  It’s a leap of faith in a climate where we must always work to the objective that we set, but with printing you will certainly uncover issues that weren’t in your initial plan.  But more of that later.

Firstly define your starting position and probably the easiest one to consider is “I need to reduce my consumable spend by X%”.  Secondly define your stakeholders; you will need many as you will be covering the entire organisation.  Those you select should be those with the greatest influence in the culture of the organisation, the executive board, local budget holders and team secretaries are probably the best groups to get on board initially.

Then we get into data collection and analysis, there aren’t many asset managers who won’t be excited at that sort of challenge!

Data, Data, Data

What sort of data do you need?  Ideally you want to end at a position whereby you can pinpoint every individual’s printing habits, so you will probably be looking at the following as a minimum;

  • Print server data – who printed how much to which printers
  • Consumable costs per page per printer
  • Organisational data – so you can aggregate by department, cost centre
  • Active directory – so you can define by location and contact individuals

Now this is where your true asset management skills kick in, a good old fashioned data mash, taking multiple data sources and combining into a suite of usable reports – who prints how much, at what cost and colour to mono ratio will certainly be a starting point.  Subsequently disseminating these reports to your stakeholders will begin to drive the change you need.  Repeating the process and aggregating into a set of management reports will allow you to define your progress.

The one area that you should not forget, but will be the most time consuming is to personalise the message to a selected group of individuals in your report.  They should be the highest spenders, those with the highest colour to mono ration and those who simply print a lot, even if it is all to a mono printer.  Mail merge is perfect for this task, but the personal appeal, ensuring it is not considered accusatory, from you and not a generic mailbox, will sustain a good number of responses.  Most of these responses will give you clues as to the direction you can give to your stakeholders.  Do also ensure you reply to every response you get, the personal touch is always appreciated, and let them also know their own progress.

Compelling reasons to get your stakeholders behind you

This is where you start to transition the thinking from achieving the objective to defining the outcome.  Essentially you will be challenging the corporate culture, hence the need for a good set of stakeholders, a communication plan and a positive suite of reasons behind what you are looking for.

Some people will undoubtedly be interested in the associated cost, but actually you will go much deeper than that.  Don’t forget that your objective, saving money, is your objective and yours alone.  You will however discover that you can now feed into other employees own drivers;

  • Process change – You will uncover poor process, eg. This automated report provides six pages but we always throw the first three away as unnecessary, we don’t have a mono printer here, I need to print this in colour (always challenge this response with “Why”).
  • Corporate sustainability – As you now know the number of pages printed this can be converted into trees and acres required to support the company’s printing habits and may therefore feed sustainability plans if not appeal to people’s environmental credentials.  Besides how much does it cost to store or dispose of the paper that is printed?
  • Competition – Your stakeholders might want to create printing league tables to challenge people’s usage
  • Education – Quite often a simple response you will receive is “I didn’t know, thank you for telling me, I will see what I can do”
  • Charity – Can you help us dispose all the spent cartridges charitably
  • Cultural Change – You will find that you have changed corporate culture through your actions.  Your methodology could then be adapted for other cultural change drivers.

But this all sounds so time consuming!

Initially yes!  Understanding your data, defining your stakeholders and finding people to solve the local process issues is not going to be simple, but it will be a worthwhile task.  However as with all process, once bedded into a repetitive routine it is a surprisingly minimal amount of effort each month,  maybe two or three days at most.

So back to the managed service question.  A managed service is essentially a stick, rather than a carrot, with which to try and beat down cost.  What it won’t achieve is local process improvement, cultural shift, personal education or the direct interactions that you can have through the methodology above.  So should you jump straight to a managed service, or should you see what you can achieve first through your own ingenuity?

If you can show that the effort expended has not only achieved your own objective, but has created outcomes that will benefit the business in many other ways, then it is worth attempting and shouldn’t require a funded project to achieve it.  You can always do the managed service later.


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