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Insight begins with I & ends in T Forging IT Partnerships

7 Jan, 2008 By: Bill McLaughlin & John Manley imageSource

Insight begins with I & ends in T Forging IT Partnerships

For dealers considering the benefits of remote managed print solutions, the
choices are more diverse than ever before. The clear winner will be the solution
that makes life easier for the entire company, including IT. Now that print
devices are high-tech and networked, managed print services are of prime
interest to, if not driven by, IT stakeholders looking for streamlined
efficiency and ease of operation across all technology solutions, including the
print fleet of output devices.

Knowing what’s required from IT’s perspective starts with walking a mile or
two in their shoes. It starts with Insight, and being prepared to address IT

Be a partner, not a problem. IT tension arises when they don’t receive
adequate information to ease their mind. Investing in someone on your staff who
is technically proficient will be one of your greatest assets. Bring someone to
the table that speaks IT, and can deliver a high degree of comfort with the
solutions vendor, and your implementation and support teams.

Helping IT rest easy starts with understanding what keeps them awake at
night. The following questions are the top concerns running through the IT
leader’s mind as they learn more about managed print solutions options.

How does the solution work?

Insight:  Most managed print service solutions use SNMP and ICMP to do their
scanning. SNMP is short for Simple Network Management Protocol, a set of
protocols for managing complex networks. SNMP works by sending messages, called
protocol data units (PDUs), to different parts of a network. SNMP-compliant
devices, called agents, store data about themselves in Management Information
Bases (MIBs) and return this data to the SNMP requesters. ICMP is short for
Internet Control Message Protocol, an extension to the Internet Protocol (IP).
ICMP supports packets containing error control and informational messages.

If the company does not enable these protocols, then many remote management
solutions will be ineffective. Some solutions require that agents be used to
collect data. It’s important to understand how the agent analyzes the MIBs on
the device. This is a question of compatibility and, if not addressed, can be a
show-stopper for a prospective MPS solution.

What resources are needed? 

Insight: Some remote management solutions require additional hardware, which
would lead to incremental expense for the company. Others are not full
enterprise solutions and cannot handle a Wide Area Network (WAN) without
multiple pieces of software and hardware installed at branch locations,
requiring additional IT investment and involvement. These solutions may also
require that the company’s IT staff do much of the heavy lifting when it comes
to implementation, data management and support. More heavy-lifting required will
be a red flag to IT departments with already-stretched resources and a longer
list of projects to do than will ever get done. IT peace of mind comes from
knowing that the managed print services solution is simple, secure and
transparent. If it requires little or no hardware investment and if downloading
and installing software is simple, fast and painless, all lights are green. And
if the solutions provider can demonstrate its ability to provide technical
support to minimize demands on the company’s IT staff, even better. 

Is the solution scalable?

Insight: Some solutions that are not geared toward an enterprise environment
simply can’t handle a growing and changing environment, which would mean IT
would need to change paths when the solution is outgrown. Not good. Moving from
IT tension to IT tranquility requires demonstrating that the solution will grow
as the fleet grows and offering a solution that will automatically adjust as the
number of devices adjusts. The right solutions provider can not only optimize
the company’s current fleet, but also help devise a fleet strategy for sourcing
the most efficient devices when it makes sense to add and refresh.

How easy is it to use? 

Insight: Some solutions not only require that client and host software be
installed, but also have modules that need to be consistently monitored. And
accessing and interpreting the data can be a cumbersome task that falls to IT.
This in itself can require part-time administration, which is something most
strained IT budgets are unable or unwilling to do. A solution that “works” in
IT’s mind is one that proves that their workload will be reduced from
efficiencies gained from the solution, without increased workload to monitor or
manage the solution.

What are the security factors?

Insight: Does the solution have options for data access and transmission,
versus “one size fits all” security settings? Will the solution store personal
or private information that is not related to the network itself such as
usernames, passwords or user ID’s? If so, this info could potentially violate
industry privacy standards. Does the solution require that the agent do
broadcast scanning, as this can be construed as a virus attack and potentially
shutdown the network or the host machine? IT peace of mind comes from knowing
that the solution won’t breach security standards. The ideal solution uses
one-way communication exclusively, and store only device data such as page
counts and status, not personal user data.

What reporting capabilities does the solution have?

Insight: Some solutions do not or cannot provide proper metrics, since they
are stand-alone tools and not fully scalable enterprise solutions. IT
stakeholders will want to understand specifically what the company can and can’t
gather from the solution. IT peace of mind comes from knowing that the solution
will provide better metrics than what’s available today, in a clear and
easy-to-understand manner.

How will it impact the IT dept. vs. the organization?

Insight: Some solutions that are available only tackle specific problem
areas, or only allow certain features  such  as  automated meter  reads or asset
reports. Business-savvy IT managers want to ensure that the software saves, not
increases workload or resource needs for the organization as  a whole. IT rests 
easy if the solution provides a wide range of services that can not only improve
life in IT by helping to automate processes, but can also provide excellent
metrics to justify the purchasing of new equipment, which helps business
management and finance stakeholders. A great solution can even provide the
necessary tools and data to shift an organization’s standards & practices to
help it become more efficient and easier to manage.

Resources provided are?

Insight: Software is software, and the IT mantra is “what happens after the
install?” The only other reason to choose a specific vendor besides the
software’s capability is the vendor’s ability to support the program after it’s
installed and operational. Demonstrate an ability to come alongside the
company’s IT staff with technical support resources from the solutions provider.
Deliver peace of mind by offering IT stakeholders copies of support agreements,
as well as references of clients who currently use the software.

What options and pricing do I have?

Insight: The IT leader that asks or implies this question is mindful of
whether or not the solution can grow as their company and resources grow. Some
managed print solutions provide companies with the ability to pay as they grow.
Others don’t. This allows the company to only pay for what it has, and not what
the vendor expects you to have.  Then you can add components or features as you
need them. Savvy IT leaders look for vendors that want to enter into a win-win
situation so that when the company has successfully streamlined its fleet, both
the company and the vendor win.

Solution is compatible with?

Insight: IT will want to ensure that the solution does not require the
company to choose one specific manufacturer, or the choice of consumables that
the company wants and needs. They’ll avoid solutions that require the company to
choose a single source for procurement of these items, although having that as
an option may be appealing if it means efficiencies gained. IT peace of mind
comes from knowing that the solution is compatible and flexible with existing
devices and a range of brands that may be part of a future fleet.

As with any technology solution, IT wants to be sure that the company’s
forming a partnership, and that the product is delivering unique, proprietary
value that will go the distance as the company grows. The solution should  be
tailored to the organization and its needs. With proper insight on IT concerns,
you can forge a productive and proactive partnership with IT stakeholders who
will ultimately own and benefit from the managed print service solution.

Bill McLaughlin is the Director and John Manley is the Manager of Managed
Print Solutions at Parts Now!, the nation’s largest laser printer parts
distributor www.partsnow.com.

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