Printing remains an important staple of the business environment and will continue to occupy an essential role for some time to come. Although there is an increasing move towards the ‘paperless office’ and growing use of tablets and cloud technology enabling staff to utilise ‘digital prints’, there is still a requirement for printed, hard copies of documents such as contracts and technical drawings or plans.

Despite the importance of printing however, shrinking budgets mean that IT departments are increasingly being forced to do more with less and as with any other resource, printing costs can add up unless you have a clear strategy. With this in mind, businesses must manage the printing process to make sure resources are controlled.

The Benefits Of MPS

At present, many businesses attempt to control resources and bring costs down by opting for non-original toners, which can prove a false economy; they can actually end up being more expensive as a result of lower yields and higher failure rates. Rather than trying to cut costs by scrimping on supplies, businesses can benefit more by utilising Managed Print Services (MPS). MPS enables businesses to optimise their printing processes and infrastructure to ensure that printing is as economic and sustainable as possible.

The MPS market is still young but continues to expand at an impressive rate with Research and Markets predicting that it will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.75% over the period 2012-2016. Quocirca estimates that almost 50% of large enterprises are now using some form of MPS and a further 20% are planning to use MPS within the next year. Such healthy growth figures demonstrate the market’s increasing maturity and services are evolving to fit business needs.

Although these services are mostly employed by large organisations, there is a growing variety of options tailored to SMBs as well. By using MPS, businesses can enjoy a number of benefits; primarily the ability to reduce and control the cost of printing and to increase business efficiency. It can be used to alleviate the burden of managing the printing process – i.e. ordering supplies and printer maintenance, so that in-house IT teams can free up time to focus on other issues.

With MPS, businesses can ensure that they always have the right amount of consumables such as printing ink and paper. As well as gaining greater insight into how and where their money is being spent to allow them to plan ahead, this will help organisations to comply with green initiatives by rightsizing their fleet, deploying tools to ensure products are powered down, as well as determining printing policy such as duplexing, draft mode and controlling colour usage.

Although other online tools or software solutions are also available to help organisations control their printing costs, order supplies and manage their printer fleet, in-house, MPS can still have significant benefits. The advantage of using MPS is that businesses can forecast costs in advance, and the pressure of managing the process in house will be alleviated.

The Importance Of Self Evaluation

Cost control is of paramount importance for SMBs when it comes to print management; according to Quocirca, SMBs spend on average 15% of their IT budget on printing, with almost a third expecting this to rise. Despite added costs due to the popularity of colour printing, 70% of SMBs do not have the tools to track their printing processes. With most SMBs utilising only one or two dedicated members of IT staff, MPS has great potential to alleviate the burden associated with maintaining the printing process to allow staff to remain focused on other areas.

Before entering into an agreement, organisations should evaluate their printing processes to understand what they require from a Managed Print Service provider. It is also important that businesses have a clear document strategy which enables them to introduce new technologies and printing policies as efficiently as possible. Organisations should consider the type of service the business needs and therefore what level of MPS engagement would be required.

Choosing The Service That’s Right For You

Smaller organisations might not need a full MPS and a Basic Print Service (BPS) may suffice. BPS offers a combination of hardware, software and services to enable organisations to pay for printing on a pay-per-print basis, charged either monthly or quarterly. Such partial services might include a print page service, which allows businesses to pay per print, or a toner monitoring services. Even if businesses choose to start with a BPS or limited service, they can easily upgrade if they find it necessary to do so. Likewise, a printing supplies contract might be adequate, giving businesses the ability to repeat order printing supplies that they need, such as paper and toner.

Whichever service businesses choose, they should make sure that service levels (e.g. quality of print, problem resolution times, hours of service etc.) match up to their business requirements before any formal agreement is entered into. Organisations should look for a provider that allows flexibility so they can incorporate extra capabilities if needed, and that provides consistent monitoring as standard to ensure that MPS can be altered to fit the business’ changing needs.

The MPS market is continuing to expand and with it, the range of services on offer is set to grow to fit every printing need. SMBs, which are typically stretched in terms of resources, can profit just as much as large enterprises, but should consider their business requirements carefully before leaping into any contract. This may mean employing a partial MPS instead of a full service; either way, by employing MPS, businesses of all sizes can benefit not only in terms of cost, but also through business and process optimisation.