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Practicality is Magic

5 Dec, 2007 By: Bill McLaughlin imageSource

Practicality is Magic

Tactical is practical. It’s possible to think “big picture” for tomorrow
while taking small, actionable steps today toward your goal. In business where
the investments to grow are never-ending, it’s refreshing to find a service
provider who understands the need to work within a real-world budget while
planning for a brighter future. Frankly, a big-picture approach that also
promotes getting the most and best use out of what you have, is just good
old-fashioned common sense.

The same holds true for a company’s document imaging fleet. When it comes to
managed print solutions, some service providers recommend that customers replace
their entire fleet simultaneously because “standardization is key.” This is an
expedient solution and it may get the job done, but it comes with a huge price
tag that’s tough to swallow all at once. The reality is, most companies cannot
afford to do so.

Also, premature fleet replacement may preclude a company from getting optimum
value from its existing fleet. For companies mindful of good stewardship, shrewd
cost control and intelligent cash flow management, a more prudent managed print
solutions recommendation is required.

Instead of total, all-at-once fleet replacement, Parts Now!  recommends that
service providers use strategic print management to optimize what a customer
currently has, while planning for the future.

Big Thinking and Small Steps Deliver Effective Managed Print Solutions

Combining a strategic view of the company’s document activities and
equipment with the right expertise in managed print solutions enables a company
to act practically – pinpointing the process of replacing or reconfiguring
equipment to optimize the current fleet. Insights gained during fleet analysis
can aid planning for a strategic migration, over time, to new printing services
and systems. This strategic and practical approach delivers powerful benefits:

Discipline: A company gains the discipline to examine how its existing
fleet is currently used, including key metrics.

Insight: A company gains understanding to know how it could better
utilize its document imaging fleet and create the ideal fleet for the future.
(For instance, a LaserJet 9000 series MFP should not be in a department that
prints 500 pages per month and likewise, a LaserJet 1000 series should not be in
a department that prints 30,000 pages per month.)

Efficiencies: With the right analysis, effective print solutions
management and the right consultative expertise, a service provider can optimize
the customer’s fleet now and for the future, resulting in cost control and cost
reduction for their document output infrastructure.

Practicality: These more proactive and preventative measures will
better serve your customers in the long run until they can migrate to their
ideal fleet.

The most effective way to accomplish these goals is through fleet
standardization and ensuring that the devices deployed are appropriate for the

Document Diagnostics: Five Telltale Signs That a Company Needs Managed
Print Solutions

If managed print solutions deliver such clear benefits, why doesn’t every
company have an optimized document imaging fleet? The reality is a majority of
end-users’ document output infrastructure is extremely disparate and lacks
standardization. Here are the top five things standing between a company and its
ideal fleet:

Lack of Continuity: When there’s lack of continuity, multiple
manufacturers’ products are chosen without regard to how they’ll work together,
which creates inefficiencies and operating issues. When all the printers are
networked, they can communicate a great amount of information that would
otherwise be lost. Add the right software to centrally monitor and manage
devices, and you're actually enabling standardization of the fleet.
Standardization helps in two areas: it creates economies of scale & purchasing
power; it makes it possible to standardize the purchase of supplies. For
instance, the end user will know better than to buy toner for devices it has
migrated out of the fleet. From a service standpoint, the service company will
know to train techs on the machines the end user has, so there's less downtime.
And the company can stock needed parts, so it’s easier to track and manage

Maverick Spend: Impulsive or maverick spending on procurement of print
devices leads to over-spending and sub-par equipment selection.

Missing Metrics: Minimal or no tracking of device metrics means a
company may not know where inefficiencies lie or how to fix them. Bottom line?
You cannot control what you cannot see, such as page counts, visibility of over
and under utilized devices, page coverage, service reports, alerts and more.
With access to the right metrics, a company can leverage its purchasing power
for smart, centralized fleet purchases, instead of uninformed, individual
purchases from various locations. One real-life example of how one end-user
benefited from proper metrics was that it found that 20-30% of help desk calls
could be fixed with level-one support (rather than have a service provider make
a visit). Another company found that a paper tray was open and causing user
errors, which prevented the unnecessary allocation of a help-desk person’s time
to fix this issue. Multiply findings like these by the number of calls a company
typically experiences, and it can add up to big savings. According to the
Gartner Group, U.S. corporations spend 1 to 3% of their total annual revenue on
printing. And 40% of IT help desk calls are printer or copier related. Some
companies may not even know the total number of printers, copiers and MFPs they
have. Other examples of “missing metrics” include how much valuable IT time is
consumed supporting print devices (vs. working on core initiatives). How often
are printers out of toner? Without proper metrics (and managing them), the
answers to these questions elude & frustrate a company instead of leading to
problem resolution.

Lack of Procurement Processes: Especially where metrics are missing,
the company lacks the data needed to apply to fleet purchasing decisions, so no
rational, strategic process exists. With proper software-enabled standardization
and proper metrics, the company can put in place strategic processes that lead
to an optimized fleet.

Incorrect Amortization or Expense Structure: Another reason that a
company may fall short of having an optimized document imaging fleet is that
devices have already been expensed or procured through a capital expenditure.
They fly below the radar of understanding, so no one knows what they’re truly
costing the organization. A client company may have a standard financial
operating procedure that depreciates print devices over time as taxable
write-offs. But this may not be the most effective solution. The difficult truth
may be that capital budgets are being stretched with erratic purchases of output
technology, reactive supply orders and emergency service calls. Furthermore, the
company may be unaware of hidden costs that are hurting its bottom line. There
may be devices which require parts and supplies that actually outweigh the cost
of those devices. A device that’s been around for only three years and is
weather-beaten may be ready to go, while a device that’s been there for six
years is performing well, and does not need to be replaced. Fleet optimization
should first include an actual check-up on each device. This is not unlike a
doctor prescribing treatment for a heart patient. That doctor wouldn’t prescribe
heart medicine over the phone simply based on a patient’s age, without examining
and diagnosing the patient first. This exam would enable the doctor to collect
actual “performance” data, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Similarly,
proper fleet optimization requires much more than “one size fits all”

The Elephant in the Room: The Cost of Saving Money

In addition to the five barriers above standing between a company and an
optimized fleet, there’s another big issue that’s an obvious hindrance to making
changes. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? Cost, in the form
of both time and money. In order to achieve the ideal fleet where all devices
are networked, monitored, right-sized and properly placed all at once is a
tremendous cost to an organization.  Especially when you consider direct and
indirect costs across the following areas:

New devices: purchasing, installing, training and operating

 -Replacement of retired devices: downtime, installation and

 -Physical labor, time and energy to make an informed change: analysis,
changeover, training and upkeep

 -Down-time during device refresh: productivity, operational inefficiencies

It’s Possible to Think Strategically and Act Practically. Here’s How:

If the old adage is true that you have to “spend money to save money”, then
the onus is on managed print solutions providers to prove that the investment in
optimizing the fleet is worth the cost. Consultants who provide print management
services must create a strategic roadmap geared toward the ideal fleet
infrastructure based on the needs of the organization and their current fleet.
But before conducting assessment and analysis and mapping the path to the
optimized print fleet, a few pre-work steps must take place.

The first step involves defining overall scope of work so the company can
roughly assess and assign the internal resources that will be required. The next
step typically involves an assessment, which will enable the provider to invest
manpower in understanding the company’s metrics and then as a result, draw up an
accurate proposal. Also, a managed print solutions provider will typically
require an NDA or Memo of Understanding up front so that they can perform the
necessary assessment and gather proprietary fleet data for the proposal. This
data is collected by software for fleets that are networked, with some manual,
face-to-face due diligence to gain an understanding of order and workflow
process and service requests and internal business decisions. For fleets that
are only 75% networked, this requires even greater manual work. You can’t
shorten the audit to save money, you need to invest upfront and do the analysis.
This assessment is typically done without charging the potential end-user.

Once pre-work is complete, the real work starts. Based on our experience we
recommend a simple approach that starts with three initial steps:

Assessment: The managed print solutions provider should conduct a 30-160
day company assessment to determine current document imaging fleet situation and
opportunities for improvement. Actual assessment duration is dependent upon
fluctuations in fleet use, business and document seasonality, and size/scope of
the fleet.

Analysis: Managed print solutions providers should provide the client
company with a thorough analysis of key print metrics, obtaining critical device
metrics such as:

a. Utilization

b. Page counts

c. Supply levels

d. Model-application matching

e. Service and maintenance records

f. Physical assessments

After the continuous gathering of data during the assessment and analysis 
phases, the right managed print solutions provider will use a consultative
approach to steer the organization along the roadmap, optimizing use of current
fleet assets while guiding transition to the ideal fleet for the future.  The
service provider should focus on:

Pinpointing Problems: Identify over/under utilized devices based on
needs vs. performance backed by a thorough understanding (gained by proper
assessment and analysis) of how the company’s document situations could be

Redeployment: Restructuring or replacing sub-optimal devices with
right-sized devices within the current fleet or with new devices:

-i.e., switch 9000 series MFP with 1000 series LaserJet

Re-deployment Strategic Planning & Communication: Work with all levels
of the organization in establishing standard devices through device tiers to
deploy on a priority basis. (i.e., needs delivering the greatest return receive
priority attention)

Phased Plan Communication: Work with all levels of the organization in
establishing a phase-out plan for devices that do not fit into the
standardization plan or future strategies, including communication and training

Cost-Benefit Analysis and Recommendations: Identify devices  where
service, parts & maintenance are more costly than simply replacing the device,
versus those that could be retained & optimized with proper service regimens.

Process Improvement Strategies: Create more efficient processes for
procurement of supplies, including installation of device rationalization
procedures and protocols.

Process & Maintenance Optimization: Create more efficient processes
and protocols for level 1 supports and deployment of service calls, as well as
insights about migration to the ideal fleet.

Fleet Supplies Cost Management: Create partnership strategies that
deliver efficiencies for the company through relationship pricing and parts
ordering economies. The right solutions provider will recognize the mutual
benefit of rewarding the company’s long-term loyalty.

The end result is a major cost savings to the company that can deliver
returns right to the company’s bottom line, or be used to finance the cost of
migration to the ideal fleet for even greater efficiencies long-term. This
consultative, solutions-based managed print solutions approach can result in the
optimum case study in thinking strategically while acting practically. The
combination of big-picture thinking with good, old-fashioned grassroots common
sense will help the company prevent costly re-capitalization while
simultaneously steering clear of the age-old pitfalls of the
“run-it-until-it-breaks” approach. Overall, it’s a true partnership solution
that’s mindful of the pocketbook, while “minding the store” and the future.

Bill McLaughlin is Director of Managed Print Solutions at Parts Now!, the
nation’s largest laser printer parts distributor. He has extensive experience in
the industry having served in a number of senior positions including Corporate
Vice President of the Print Management and Data Center Solutions at Allied
Office Products. Bill can be reached at

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