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Dig Deep for the Gold in Doc Assessments

9 Jul, 2007 By: Kevin Pickhardt imageSource

Dig Deep for the Gold in Doc Assessments

In the past few years, document assessments have become a de facto standard
service for anyone looking to successfully optimize a fleet of printers and
copiers. The document assessment purports to silently scope your network,
finding lost printers and copiers, studying their usage, and providing you the
data you need to right-size and "right-locate" your fleet. It isn’t clear
whether these assessments are driven more by customers looking for information
or from vendors looking for an edge in a competitive market. Analysts suggest
that companies can save 30-40% of their output costs from the successful
optimization of their output fleet. Assessments are performed at thousands of
firms each year – the search for the hidden gold in the hallway.

But, most companies come up short when looking to cash their checks. Some I
have talked with have performed three-five separate assessments and are still
looking for the elusive savings. Despite an increasing number of providers
entering this space and companies offering these assessments in the thousands,
most still end in failure. There are two possible reasons for this: 1) Failure
is acceptable or even desirable for companies seeking assessments; or 2) Trying
to optimize yields the inverse results. In either case, it seems to be an
interesting exercise to focus on the ways in which many companies fail –
certainly if this is the goal, then to do it faster and more easily could add
value. Alternatively, if trying to optimize yields inverse results, perhaps
trying to fail will yield inverse results as well. Therefore this article
additionally lays out ways to fail a document assessment – use it as you will –
to learn from the lessons of others.


The goal of any organization’s successful printer and copier fleet
optimization is not only to achieve a detailed and comprehensive understanding
of its costs, but also to understand how, where, and why the problems occurred
in the first place, and to prevent them from occurring again in the future. To
achieve this optimization, document assessments provide the current state of
printer and copier infrastructure expenses, services and supply costs, document
volumes, device utilization, and business processes. However, to use document
assessments as the only optimization tool is to engage in an activity at which
the company will always fail. Here’s why.

Many companies begin the optimization process using faulty logic:  because
other businesses have used assessments to attempt optimization of their fleets,
so should they. In fact, to reduce the risk of going in their own direction,
many follow the herd regardless of whether they’re headed toward  a cliff. What
they neglect to realize is that most companies that have used assessments in
this way have failed to achieve any measurable and long-standing results.
Followers seldom achieve more than what leaders experience, especially when
those leaders are not achieving to begin with.

Quick assessments by their very nature provide a snapshot of an
organization’s printer and copier fleet, and are completed quickly and often
with few problems. This approach naturally appeals to many companies. Yet,
"getting it done" should not take precedence over "getting it done correctly."
There are more steps needed to achieve long-lasting optimization than what a
quick assessment provides. Some companies view  assessments as a "check-the-box"
step in acquiring newer or more devices. Vendors may choose to take this
approach for a quick hit in selling new boxes, claiming this is now a scientific
approach to sales. Vendors operate under the idea that "I have customer data;
never mind that the data is incomplete or inaccurate, it represents more than
the customer has today."

Most methods for optimization are doomed to fail before they start. These
optimizations are guilty of making the assumption that the organization somehow
ended up over- invested in output capacity by accident – like the child who has
lost the path in the woods. If, as people theorize, we simply put the
organization back on the path, it will continue on its merry way! Unfortunately,
this approach ignores the root problems that put the organization in the woods
to begin with – the lack of ongoing tools to navigate the path. Output
optimization is not a point to reach, but a journey to take.

So, an essential component of a thorough printer and copier fleet
optimization lies in understanding the root of the problem, and what caused it
in the first place, because only then can you prevent the issue from
reoccurring. Yet too many companies seem unconcerned with this important step in
the optimization process. Instead, businesses are focused only on having their
fleets optimized immediately without the core knowledge of why their business
ended up in trouble. As Vernon Law, retired Pittsburgh Pirates baseball pitcher
once said, "Experience is a hard teacher because she first gives the test; the
lesson is afterwards."


The famed business consultant, Lee Thayer, once noted that "if you want to
fail, it isn’t performance that counts, it’s feelings." It appears that this
observation is apt for many looking at document assessments. Once completed, an
assessment almost always delivers a positive feeling to the customer. After all,
they have applied scientific data to a known problem. However, if businesses are
fooled into believing that by simply running an assessment, they’ve successfully
optimized their fleets, then the true performance of their systems,
infrastructure and the like are secondary. It’s only through thoroughly
analyzing the results of an assessment and then taking the next steps toward
optimization that performance can trump "feelings" to deliver optimum results.
Measure, perform, measure again, perform  again, and so on.  But if you’re a
risk taker, measure once and take your best shot, yet  look over your shoulder
as failure will likely be lurking.

And finally, in the pursuit of optimization, many customers  ignore the
reality of the situation in which their business exists. The results are assumed
already known. "I need a new fleet of devices just like the last one.” So
focused are they on the assessment as the cure-all for their problems that they
miss the assessment as the learning tool it is, and they fail to look beyond the
results toward the next steps in the process. These steps will not only help
firms  understand why they undertook the assessment in the first place, but will
help them track, measure and control their document output expenditures  for the

From my outlook, you might suppose that I think assessments unnecessary – but
in fact, I believe them to be a critical part of optimizing a fleet. It’s just
that somewhere along the path we have forgotten just where we are headed with
these new tools. Customers want to be responsible in their acquisition and use
of printers and copiers. They want to use their devices productively and often.
This is also what the devices were designed to do, and do profitably.

The better our customers use our products the more profitable they become.
Profit begets growth and growth begets investment. Optimization isn’t just what
our customers want - it is what the imaging industry should be striving for.


To successfully implement a printer and copier fleet optimization,
organizations need to employ an Enterprise Print Asset Management solution. This
solution will not only help organizations optimize their fleets, but will help
them to understand why the problems occurred in the first place, and help to
prevent them from occurring again in the future.

By providing an accurate, complete, and real-time picture of enterprise print
and copy spending, an Enterprise Print Asset Management solution guides
businesses along a path toward sustained optimization with the goal of providing
efficiency, productivity, and profitability along the way.

Following an assessment, an Enterprise Print Asset Management solution moves
on to the optimization phase, with the goal of reducing expenses, and
maintaining productivity. Here is where you help companies analyze the
assessment reports to consolidate, redistribute, and remove equipment, so that
fleet composition aligns with businesses’ actual document output requirements.


Next, in the accountability phase of the process, enterprises take charge of
their environments by charging back print and copy costs to the department
level. This ensures costs are shared equitably based on actual usage, and also
encourages more responsible employee printing and copying behavior.

Finally, in the sustainability phase, help organizations  to monitor,
measure, and manage their environments long-term, in order to maximize cost

In fact, according to a recent Gartner article, "Key Issues for Print
Management" by Ken Weilerstein, organizations that take the right steps to
actively manage their office printing and copying can save from 10-30 % of their
current spending. 

Optimization necessitates a continually evolving process – but one that
doesn’t begin and end by running a simple document assessment.

Kevin Pickhardt is the CEO of Pharos Systems International, a leader in
providing enterprise print asset management and cost-recovery solutions to
corporate office and higher education environments in 23 countries, and a former
VP/GM of Xerox’s Education Industry Solutions.

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