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Keeping Your Managed Print Services on Track - What You Need to Know

2 Aug, 2013 By: Khanh Q Pham, Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc.

As is the case with about every new product or service entry, the evolution of managed print services, or what is commonly referred to as MPS, has been a work in progress.  Each MPS provider may have its own methodologies, interpretations and approaches to MPS.   However, they all share the common interest of meeting customer requirements.

A successful MPS provider must be able to provide value added solutions and processes to meet key customer objectives.  In its most simplistic form, customers mainly have three needs: supplies, service and a streamlined, easy-to-understand billing. 

Although few would place MPS on the technology pantheon with mobile computing, smart phones, digital music or even digital duplicators, better known these days as copiers or multifunction printers (MFPs).  In the business document management world, MPS is as equally important as the aforementioned since it has measurably facilitated business printing.  MPS provides customers with a major benefit - a single vendor, or the proverbial “one throat to choke.”

The advantage of purchasing goods or integrated services from a single vendor is often times a game changer for customers.  Rather than managing the inefficiencies that are inherent with having multiple vendors, an MPS customer can enjoy the benefits of having a document management ecosystem - one source for supplies; break/fix service along with single invoice and vendor point of contact. 

Depending on the customer business model, having a single vendor could also mean no longer having to outlay capital expenses for MFPs, scanners or fax machines.  To further simplify expenses and costs, customers also have the option to pay one flat cost-per-page fee, inclusive of equipment, supplies and service. 

The ability to assess, implement and execute is vital to a successful MPS engagement.  Providing an ecosystem for a customer begins with defining their requirements, which starts at the assessment process.  The key to a successful assessment is gathering and defining the customer requirements as much as possible to better create a more thorough assessment playbook.  The playbook contains such info as customer workflows, print policy, surveys and questionnaires.  The playbook should also contain a vendor’s printing strategy while providing guidance to the assessment analyst as he or she begins the process.

The success of an assessment relies on effective recommendations and presentations.  Assessment data can be overwhelming and unmanageable without proper the tools and processes including floor plans, asset tagging, device move or removal, data jacks and model-naming consistency.  The ability to gather the data and present in a simple, concise and easy-to-understand format to the customer is essential.

As one of the first MPS providers, Toshiba has created tools and processes in pursuit of more effective assessments and clear, easily understood customer presentations.  With the award-winning Encompass assessment application, Toshiba analysts and dealers are able to store and manage the data in one database and present effective professional proposals.

Winning an account can be an exhilarating feeling.  The culmination of hard work, persistence, resource and time investment have paid off.  Now comes the difficult part, delivering on the promises made to the customer. 

Whether implementing a mid-size or enterprise-level account, an MPS provider needs to have strong implementation processes and support infrastructures to be successful.  As mentioned earlier, customers mainly care about fulfilling three needs – supplies, service and easy-to-understand billing.  A successful provider creates programs and processes that enhance the customer experience in these three important areas.  The deliverables should be documented and agreed upon by both parties before the actual implementation, normally in the form of a Statement of Work (SOW).  The SOW needs to clearly define each party’s roles and responsibilities, setting proper goals and expectations.

A fleet monitoring tool is paramount in establishing the rules of engagement.  The tool allows the vendor to create an entitlement list, inspect devices, collect meters for billing, set up service alerts and depending on the vendor’s capabilities, provides auto toner replenishment.  An MPS engagement, especially cost-per-page, starts with the entitlement list.  The list defines the devices covered under the agreement.  Success may hinge on the ability of a vendor to effectively monitor and manage the list.  Knowing when to add, remove and make changes to a device can impact both customer satisfaction and vendor profitability.

Part of making a customer value proposition is recognizing what one is capable of offering.  Provide customers with options, however, keep the options simple and executable.  When it comes to supplies management, many customers believe the process is uncontrollable from both an administrative and cost standpoint.  The value that an MPS provider brings to a customer is simplicity.  Offer the customer a portal to order consumable supplies for all of their print devices. 

At Toshiba, we’ve taken the supplies fulfillment process to the next level through our auto toner replenishment program.  The auto toner process provides efficiencies to the customers by delivering on-time toner without end user involvement.  Equally as important, auto toner allows the vendor to exercise greater control over the fulfillment process, which is an important cost control driver for cost-per-page accounts.

One of key areas to Toshiba’s success in MPS is our device agnostic approach.  Aside from selling Toshiba and non-Toshiba branded devices, we provide break/fix services to a wide range of devices as well.  Similar to supplies management, customers look for vendors capable of providing break/fix service for all of their devices.  In addition to diversity, enterprise customers require vendors capable of providing national service coverage along with a national dispatch call center.  Most MPS vendors do not have the capability of providing service for all devices or national coverage; therefore, finding the right partner is the key to success.

Billing encapsulates all the services provided to an account.  It is a functional area that is often undervalued.  It has greater significance when revenue or profitability is not at or below expectations.  Since MPS is such a fluid engagement, there is an inherent risk for a vendor to not understand their true profitability.  Cost control and billing are two sides of the same coin.  Cost control drivers such as an entitlement list, auto toner replenishment and advance inspection help control cost.  Billing needs to capture all cost related revenues – meters, billable supplies, time & material costs and install, move, add and change (commonly known as IMAC) expenses.  To maintain and understand true profitability, it is important for the vendor to establish a reconciliation process or system to consistently monitor billing accuracy.

Seven years ago, MPS was a relatively new business practice introduced to the business document management world.  Today, it is not just a norm, it is a business requirement for a vendor to be MPS capable.  The differentiation between a capable and expert MPS provider is the provider’s breadth of value-added services.

Khanh Pham is responsible for overseeing all activities related to national accounts pricing and programs at Toshiba America Business Solutions.  Pham also manages the company’s post-sales implementation and operational management for national accounts.  Since joining Toshiba in 1997, Khanh has been instrumental in designing and implementing key operational processes, programs and solutions, including Toshiba's eCommerce system, global services portal and MPS.

About the Author: Khanh Q Pham

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