Make Print an IT Priority to Unlock Productivity and Cost Savings
by Michael Herman
When was the last time you thought about printing? In the world of digital transformation, the cloud, the rise of mobility, IoT, and security for corporate IT, printers, and supplies are often on the lowest rung of the planning and support ladder. Maintaining a position of low priority means that printing, on the whole, is often an afterthought—left unmanaged and unsecured. If you ask me, this is a major mistake. This is evidenced by a recent poll showing that the marketplace clearly sees the connection of imaging and printing devices and capabilities (especially MPS) to the digital transformation trend. With 70% of customers already understanding its importance today and 90% seeing its growing importance over the next two years, this is an area of any business that should not be ignored.
The most obvious issue with an unmanaged printer fleet is cost. To be honest, companies that don’t have dedicated print management teams are working in the dark. They often don’t know what their print hardware inventory looks like—how old it is, where it’s located, who’s printing what, and how much. They also don’t have a handle on what they’re spending on printing, especially in terms of consumables, like paper and toner cartridges.
Rogue spending is a common concern. You’ll often find employees going to their favorite retailer to buy printers, toner cartridges, ink, and paper on the company credit card. They would never purchase a commercial-grade computer in such a way because these items are considered IT expenses, whereas printers and consumables are frequently classified as office supplies. They don’t think it’s a big deal. You can imagine how quickly behavior like this leads to cost overruns and security gaps, especially in larger organizations.
But there are other huge concerns here, aside from just the bottom line. For one, many printers are networked devices. Attached to a network, printers are endpoints just like laptops, desktops, and servers. And endpoints, regardless of the flavor, are vulnerable to outside attacks unless they are properly secured.
Printers are endpoints on your network. Secure them.
Secondly, there are employee access control concerns. It’s not just a matter of preventing people from printing up cat memes in color; you don’t want everyone to have access to confidential documents that are in your server’s print queue or sitting in a paper tray next to the office of your VP of HR or Marketing.
A Go-To Partner
The best way for companies to get a handle on print is to hire an external managed print service provider like Agilant. Let’s be honest, printers are complex mechanical devices that require a lot more physical maintenance than other IT equipment. Today’s desktops and laptops have few if any moving parts. For example, SSDs and USB flash drives are far less prone to breakdowns than mechanical storage.
Thanks to cloud storage and virtual machines, you don’t need to install new desktops and hard drives when you run out of power or capacity. But, unfortunately, the same isn’t true of toner and paper. You can’t press a button and spin up virtual printer cartridges or virtual trays of letter-sized stationery. When a printer breaks down, you can’t restore it from an image file. All of these contingencies require physical intervention. You can automate a lot of the print management process, but a good chunk of it still requires you to show up in person.
Resolving printer issues can often only be done in person. That’s why a managed print service provider might be the best option for your business.
That’s where Agilant comes in. Agilant’s Managed Print Services (MPS) optimize your company’s printer fleet for peak performance. We take care of everything from installing printer drivers to restocking toner cartridges. We also maintain your equipment, and repair or replace it when it breaks down anywhere in the United States and globally throughout strategic partnerships. Our team can monitor printer usage as well, and even help manage your network security.
Our one-stop approach makes even more sense when you consider that printer technicians require specialized training and tools beyond the scope that is normally given to help desk personnel. It is far more cost-effective to have a printer technician on call as part of an MPS agreement than to have one on staff full time.
Assessing Existing Print Management
I like to think of these diverse elements as the four pillars of Agilant’s managed print services. We take care of hardware, supplies, service, and solutions (like security). Ours may be a turnkey solution, but it is also bespoke. We don’t just waltz in and take over your printing operations. Instead, we help you design, transition, and manage your multivendor printer fleet, ensuring that you have the right technology that is optimized, secure, and efficient.
Every MPS contract starts with a print management assessment. This covers the four pillars, but its biggest impact is on the hardware as well as the network and security solutions pillars. Agilant starts by looking at what a customer has today, what’s working and what isn’t, what workflows look like, and which devices are being over or underutilized. Typically, we’ll spend 30–90 days gathering information with our data collection agent (DCA), and we’ll create a snapshot of average monthly print volumes.
We also acquire floor plans for each location and map out current devices. This gives us a visual representation of the number and type of devices, their footprint, and where they are in relation to users.
We then combine these floor plans with usage data from the DCA and use all of this information to plan an optimized future state. Our goal is to find the most efficient and cost-effective way to handle current print volumes with new and improved equipment. We strive to do more with less. This is why we often consolidate multiple printers, copiers, and scanners into a single multi-function device (MFD) that can meet current and anticipated needs.
After we map out the proposed devices, we run TCO and ROI analyses and present our findings to the customer. The process is very interactive. We go back and forth with the customer and adjust our models based on their feedback and business needs. We use an industry database to compare the specs and performance benchmarks of current and potential equipment, thus arriving at the optimum ratio of price, performance, and efficiency.
Validating the Needed Changes
At the conclusion of this exhaustive process, we sit down for a validation meeting with the customer. We review all our findings, discuss any needed changes, and set out a timeline for implementation and deployment. With smaller customers, we tend to roll things out all at once, but we often stagger larger deployments to make time for change management. There’s often greater inertia in bigger organizations, and we have to account for that.
As one of the country’s largest authorized service providers, we can offer increased expertise and economies of scale to our customers for multivendor devices. This allows us to achieve our goal of doing more with less.
Monitoring and Automating Supply Replenishment
The third pillar of our managed print services is supplies. We use the same DCA that collects usage information to monitor supply levels, and to automate their replenishment. This generates significant savings because the customer no longer has to purchase and store supplies in advance.
Instead of ordering dozens of toner cartridges months ahead of time, and spending money on items, they won’t use right away, our customers get supplies shipped to them as needed.
We typically know they’re running low before they do. The DCA triggers an alert after a certain number of pages are printed, and this, in turn, generates a just-in-time toner shipment to the appropriate department and person. This delivery service includes instructions and packaging so that empty cartridges can be returned to us for recycling or disposal.
Managing Network and Security Issues
The final pillar of Agilant’s MPS practice is solutions. Here, I’m talking specifically about network and security solutions such as the HP JetAdvantage Security Manager. It continuously scans a customer’s network for vulnerabilities in the print environment. These include weak passwords, outdated drivers, open ports, and unsecured printers, as well as incursions from outside the network. When JetAdvantage detects an issue, it will try to plug it. If it’s something that can’t be fixed automatically, it generates an alarm, and we get a phone call.
Security is a huge concern for all our customers, but it’s especially challenging for our healthcare clients. Hospitals use proprietary electronic medical records software that has to comply with HIPAA and other regulatory standards. They have printers in operating rooms now, and if they fail, you can imagine the chaos that may follow.
There is also a need for controlled access to locked printer trays. Some states allow doctors to print out prescriptions from their computers instead of using prescription pads. This requires special paper, which is very costly to replace if stolen. Even worse is the possibility of somebody using this paper to print fake prescriptions. Again, the consequences can be catastrophic.
A Focus on Print
Agilant’s MPS offering can have a tremendous impact on our customers’ operations. From a hardware perspective, multi-function printers run the gamut. They reduce costs, enhance productivity, improve workflows, and streamline communications by providing digital document capture, storage, search, retrieval, sharing, and sending services within a single device.
Outsourcing print management can increase productivity, lower costs, and speed up decision-making. It’s time to think about print.
Our deployment strategies enhance ROI by putting the right technology in the right locations to ensure maximum user productivity and optimal device utilization as well as providing a pay-per-use pricing structure. We eliminate the need for storage space of consumables by providing just-in-time delivery of supplies. These efficiencies also result in energy savings that further reduce costs. We also reduce soft costs by improving workflow, reducing space requirements, and enabling the end-users to focus on their primary business objectives by eliminating the burden of managing print devices from their daily routines.
By placing a high priority on something that is often overlooked, Agilant is helping our customers increase productivity, lower costs, and speed up decision-making. Not bad for a part of your business you probably weren’t thinking about before you read this.