To find exactly the right MPS solution provider for your business, there are eight crucial questions you need to ask, says Allison Zimmer, Channel and SMB Marketing Specialist, Commercial Excellence at Xerox.
When you started your business, you knew there would be a lot of responsibilities to juggle, says Allison Zimmer, Channel and SMB Marketing Specialist, Commercial Excellence at Xerox. You probably had visions of managing product inventory and marketing budgets; of choosing the right office equipment and the right team members. One thing that probably wasn’t top of mind was how you would manage your office printing. That is, until you actually started running your business and realised how much time, money and energy those tasks require.
The demands of today’s small and medium-sized businesses have evolved, and print management has evolved with them, going well beyond device repairs and supplies to become a strategic consideration for businesses of all sizes. Having a strong print management strategy helps you operate more efficiently. It can reduce your costs, streamline the way you work, and even make for happier employees and customers.
That’s why so many business owners just like you are approaching their print management the same way they do their marketing, the hiring of their employees, and other crucial tasks – they’re outsourcing it to the professionals.
Today’s print management providers are upping their game, and offerings are evolving just as quickly as the marketplace, which means greater savings and opportunities for the customers they serve – customers just like you.
But choosing the right MPS solution providers requires careful consideration. In order to find exactly the right one for your business, here are 8 crucial questions you need to ask.
1. How secure is their solution?
According to Quocirca, 63% of organisations said they’d had a print-related data breach. That’s a pretty sobering statistic, and one we all need to be concerned about.
Printing breaches could be anything from confidential information lying around in printer trays waiting to be collected, to unauthorised access of documents stored on your network or in the cloud. Not to mention the security challenges posed by the unstoppable rise of bring your own device (BYOD).
Robust security is absolutely non-negotiable when it comes to a print management solution. Be sure to ask your prospective provider:
* How they secure data as it moves from computers to printers.
* How they release that information securely.
* Whether or not they can set you up with access controls for different users.
Just as important, make sure their print management security works seamlessly with your existing security setup.
2. Does it offer the flexibility and integration you need?
One size definitely doesn’t fit all when you’re looking at print management solutions. Every organisation’s setup is different, so you should find out whether your MPS solution provider has the flexibility to adapt to your environment.
From single-server and single-site to complex multi-server, multi-location, and even multinational infrastructures, the solution should scale with ease and handle any level of complexity.
It should support print servers, direct IP printing or a combination of both, and help you optimise your infrastructure for cost, ease of management and user experience.
Integration with your existing IT setup is vitally important, so there’s minimal disruption during rollout (or after). Most organisations have a complex IT ecosystem, so an MPS solution should coexist seamlessly with existing vendors, technologies, and processes.
3. How useful are the reporting capabilities?
Print management solutions shouldn’t take a set-and-forget approach. Your print environment is constantly evolving, so extracting insight from data is crucial to continuous improvement.
You should look for reporting capabilities that are dynamic: analysing and monitoring usage in real time to help you improve security, accountability, and efficiency. Ideally, you should be able to drill down to get to the detail behind the headline numbers and customise reports so they’re directly relevant to your goals and KPIs.
Look into report generation and schedules, as well as delivery mechanisms (e.g. e-mail or dashboard). Also, find out if the print management company has the in-house expertise to turn raw data into business intelligence so they can add value to your bottom line.
4. Is it a one-size-fits-all solution or a tailored one?
It’s important when you’re evaluating an MPS solution that you’re getting true ROI – that you’re paying for what you’re using, but no more.
A modular approach with flexibility is a must if you’re to fully benefit from the cost savings the solution can deliver. You can add modules as your organisation grows and your needs change. And just as importantly, you can remove modules if you have to scale back.
This flexible, pay-as-you-go approach optimises your return on investment and ensures predictable, budget-able costs.
Make sure you aren’t being tied down by a rigid contract.
5. How easy is it for end users and your IT department?
Your print management solution needs to balance the sometimes opposing needs of users and your IT department.
Users want easy, friction-free printing anywhere, at any time, on any device. They should be able to access, route, scan and share documents easily and efficiently whether they’re on-site, on the move or working from home.
But that freedom and flexibility shouldn’t come at the price of an increased burden on your IT department. They want a solution that’s easy to configure and administer, as they add printers and users, and adapt to the changing demands of a busy print environment.
6. Will it scale as your organisation grows?
This is a key question to ask your MPS solution provider. No print environment stands still as a company grows and expands. New users, departments and offices, both at home and abroad, make for a complex setup.
Add in new technologies and working practices and a flexible, scalable approach is a must.
So it’s crucial to ask if there are limits on the number of MFPs a solution can handle, and how it will manage multi-site or multi-national infrastructures.
7. Will it identify opportunities for cost savings?
Make sure you ask your MPS solution provider whether their offering gives detailed insight into print usage and costs, identifying areas for savings and efficiencies. You should be able to get a detailed breakdown of usage patterns that you can slice and dice any way you want – by user, device, department, print server or office.
You can see whether you’re getting maximum return on infrastructure investment (analysing under- or over-utilised printers), operating as efficiently as possible (with printer locations optimised for workgroups) and achieving economies of scale (ordering supplies centrally and proactively).
8. Is it best-of-breed and future-proof?
Many print management solutions are developed in-house. On the face of it, that’s great. The downside is that they’re often not full-service offerings. So they’re not as robust as a partner solution that’s backed by industry expertise and extensive, hands-on experience across thousands of customers over many years.
Custom-built solutions are often overtaken by the rapid pace of change and are unable to adapt to new technologies or scale with speed and ease. A partner solution is built on industry best practices, and constantly evolves to handle the latest technological advances and working practices.
With so much choice among print management companies, asking the right questions is absolutely essential. Getting the answers to these eight key questions will help you make the right choice – for your users, IT department, customers, and business.
To find out more, check out Xerox’s Managed Print Services page.