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What should you consider when choosing a managed print service provider?

Best advice when choosing a managed print service provider.

Managed print services are increasingly popular, with some estimates suggesting MPS will reach a market value of nearly $60 billion by 2025. This growth is spurred by new technology, increasingly efficient services, and the increasing ability of managed print service providers to offer solutions above and beyond what organisations can provide for themselves.

If you're looking for an MPS provider in this rapidly growing market, you likely have a lot of options. Managed print services range from the basic to the full-service and everything in between, with providers ranging in size, style, and quality. Choosing one can be difficult. However, your managed print services provider will be a business partner, and you can use that to drive decisions.

So, your business is finally ready to partner with an expert managed print service provider or MPS. Great decision! You've just made the first step in optimising your office print environment, saving money, and boosting efficiencies.

Next comes the tricky part—finding the right print management service for you and your organisation's needs.

We're not going to lie. This can be a challenging process, especially when every provider claims to be the best. And just like all companies differ, so do all MPS providers. There's simply no one-size-fits-all solution.

That's why it's critical for your team to do your research and due diligence before signing any MPS contract. Spend time analysing your current workplace print environment and deciding where your priorities lie.

Choosing a Managed Print Services Provider for Value and Service

While the potential cost savings are enough to get you interested in managed print services, choosing a provider requires looking at more than just your print budget. Place priority on local providers that can quickly and professionally respond to service calls and that offer the following elements:

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In-Depth Print Analysis

When it comes to choosing a Managed Print Services provider, it all starts with the free print analysis. A comprehensive, in-depth analysis provides the data your vendor needs to develop a customised solution that generates value for your business.

Ask your vendor what type of data they gather during this process and how they plan on using it to develop a plan for increasing business office equipment efficiency. It takes comprehensive data gathering to create a complete plan for managing your print fleet.

A Proven Track Record

Ask about previous customers. Can they provide you with reliable testimonials from other businesses? Find out what people say about your potential Managed Print Services vendor before you sign a contract – reputation is key in the managed print industry.

You may find that while a particular vendor talks the talk, it consistently fails to generate real value for its customers. It may be more interested in ripping and replacing your print fleet with its own devices and less engaged in helping you use those devices to your maximum benefit.

Demonstrated Success Improving Document Workflow

A secondary part of the track record question is how the vendor plans on improving document workflows in your company.

Remember that Managed Print Services encompass more than just your print fleet. This can and should be a comprehensive solution to controlling document costs. This approach can take any number of forms.

For instance, you may have a key interest in choosing a provider that can transition key processes to paperless workflows. If you can save by printing less, your Managed Print Services provider should say so and help you achieve that goal.

Align Strategy and Vision

Any managed print services provider will be working to enable your organisation's print needs. They will have a business impact, and they will have an impact on individual productivity and morale. It's important to align strategy and vision, so you know how, when, and why your print services provider will be there.

For example, do they take an active role in training employees, onboarding new people, and guiding individuals using their software and hardware? Do they proactively maintain and service printers or do they wait until there is a problem?

You should choose a managed print services provider that can step in and work at a level that meets your organisational needs and goals. If you have an active print department, you might want something fairly light. If you want a full-service solution, your print service provider should be able to step in and proactively offer solutions, improvements, and services that will help you succeed.

Ask for Case Studies and References

While it isn't always wrong to start with a new provider, it's likely a good idea to look for some form of proof-of-service. The easiest way to do this is to request case studies and references, so you can verify other customers are happy with the services provided, look at customer satisfaction in regard to fees, customer service, and quality, and review the efficacy of the organisation.

This is especially true if you're looking for solutions like print optimisation, document workflow improvements, or print server optimisation.

If you can see case studies of how your managed print services provide reduced costs or improved workflow in another organisation, you can better trust that they can do the same for you.

Similarly, suppose you can talk to existing customers, ask about what they like or do not like about service, and get a good third-party perspective of who the organisation is and what they offer. In that case, you can move into the relationship with much more confidence.

Look for Technology that Meets Your Needs

Not every managed print services provider will offer the same technology or services. It's important to review both and choose solutions that meet your needs.

For example, does your organisation want to access printers remotely? Do you want cloud networking? Do you need high-security solutions like VPN and localised networks? It's important to review what your managed print service provider can do before making a selection, simply because some won't offer more than basic solutions. If you need those basic solutions, you can likely save money by choosing a more limited provider.

This also extends to hardware. Most managed print services providers offer hardware solutions from a series of printer manufacturers, which may or may not meet your needs. Share your users, expected print-volume, and expected security needs upfront to ensure the provider can meet those needs.

Consider Communication

Any print service provider will have to communicate with your organisation continuously. Their ability to do so in a timely and efficient manner will greatly impact service quality.

How quickly does your print service provider respond to emails? Are they always available for calls? What do online reviews say about availability?

If you can't trust that your partner will be available for communication, you can't reasonably partner with them.

Look for Optimisation

Managed print services are leaning away from primarily offering hardware and software as a service, and towards offering optimisation. This means the MPS functions to improve your print solutions, improve print software, reduce print costs, and improve employee training and awareness.

In most cases, the goal is a multi-fold one, typically to reduce total costs, improve the efficacy of your print fleet, reduce carbon footprint, and reduce waste printing.

While not every organisation needs print optimisation, it will pay off for nearly everyone. If your MPS provider offers it as part of their service, it will likely be a significantly better investment than one offering hardware/software only.

Choose a Partner

Your MPS provider is a partner providing a solution to your organisation. In any case where you outsource a service, whether print, network architecture, or graphic design, you are creating a partnership. You rely on this organisation to meet your needs, anticipate changing needs and continue to do so well into the future.

This typically means choosing an organisation that is roughly the same size as yours. If your partner is too big, they may not value you as a client and won't go out of their way to meet your needs. If they are too small, they might not be able to scale with you and continue meeting needs.

Of course, choosing a very large MPS provider can be advantageous in that you have access to newer technology more quickly. Still, you might prioritise better communication, more personalised solutions, and better contacts.

It also means choosing an organisation that aligns with you in terms of growth and strategy. If your organisation needs something from print, you want to know that your provider will continue to support it.

For example, if you need offline print servers for security reasons, you'd be unable to work with a print partner if they moved all their solutions to the cloud. This means aligning on growth and business direction.

What methods and tools does the MPS provider use to assess your current system?

MPS solutions can be entirely different for each business, so you need to understand what is working and what isn't within your current print workflow before you can improve it. Your MPS provider should use virtual device management tools to analyse your current print output equipment to determine how it's used, how supplies are stocked, how much life is left, pain points and areas for improvement. Once your MPS provider understands your current infrastructure, they can evaluate your purchasing process and develop a detailed roadmap to put your business on the right track. 

What types of service and maintenance is included in your contract?

Your relationship with your MPS provider shouldn't end after they've installed your new equipment and software. They should be monitoring your systems and sending out qualified technicians as needed, before issues arise, to reduce downtime and help your business run as efficiently as possible. For example, many companies will swap out toner cartridges when it reaches a 25% level, when in fact it may not need to be changed until a 5% level. Minimising and managing waste allows more use out of your equipment and can save you time and money.

Thoroughly read the contract and ask your potential MPS provider detailed questions about exactly what you're getting, like: How many technicians are in my area and what is the typical response time? Is helpdesk support offered with little to no hold times? Is remote system access available to resolve issues? What other services are included that would benefit my business?

How effectively can the MPS provider integrate with your existing IT infrastructure?

Managed print is all about integrating the right combination of hardware and software to help you save time, money and resources. You already have an existing IT infrastructure in place, and making sure the proposed solution integrates easily is key. Your MPS provider should offer software and implement rules and processes to help reduce the total number of devices you have and the amount of energy and paper you use, as well as provide training to your staff on any unfamiliar software and equipment.

What is output management software included?

MPS is more than just the equipment. Knowing what software is included and how it can help your business can be a deciding factor when choosing a provider. Does the provider offer cloud printing, printing from mobile phones, authentication and auditing, and cost recovery software? These output management tools can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Knowing who is printing what and to where throughout the entire printing process is one of the first steps in minimising waste and maximising productivity, while keeping your documents and information safe and secure.

Will your MPS grow with your business and offer continuous improvements?

An MPS provider may be able to meet your current needs, but as your business grows, so should your MPS. Make sure you choose a provider that can scale its services as you grow. Ask if they have the capacity to grow with your long-term business goals strategically. Once your MPS provider has a solution in place for the short term, request a comprehensive roadmap for the future and make sure they are able to implement it.

How will I know my information and documents are safe and secure?

Security is more important now than ever before, and ensuring your sensitive documents don't fall into the wrong hands should be a top priority. With MPS, you'll be able to see who printed which documents and to which printer so the information won't leave your environment unless authorised. Should authorisation not be obtained prior to removing documents from the premises, security measures such as audit trails and alerts for administrative personal can help locate the paperwork and its holder.

Every business is different, so don't limit yourself to asking just these questions. Think about how MPS will benefit your business and tailor questions to make sure your provider fits your needs. Finding the right provider can improve your print workflow efficiencies, reduce waste for a greener office and save up to 50% on printing costs.

The responsibilities that come with looking after an organisation's print, scanning and copying processes have fundamentally changed, especially in large organisations.

The traditional 'MPS' contract is becoming something new: Managed Document Services (MDS). Your MPS providers should now be able to provide digital solutions to transition you to a digitally-led environment.

It can be a lot to handle, and that's exactly why print and IT departments turn to Managed Print Service providers to keep the ball rolling.

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When it comes around to choosing a new Managed Print Service, and potentially supplier with it, there is a lot to think about. It's good to have some IT involvement in the RFP process as ultimately, and it'll probably be the IT or print manager who has to deal with the MPS provider on a daily basis.

The first thing to consider is the services that you need, and remember, don't just think about the present, consider what you might need in the future. With an average MPS contract lasting between 3-5 years, a lot can change in that time and future-proofing your print services can pay dividends moving forward.

Remember to take into account how the workplace is changing with an increased emphasis on mobility, cloud services, big data, analytics and social media and how staff and employees expect a new and different way of getting things done.

When shopping around to see who and what services are out there, draw from experience on the pains and gains you've had in your last MPS contract and consider how this can help you draw up the RFP for the new service.

Before actually issuing the request for proposal, it's worth meeting the suppliers that you intend to send it to. A first meeting will ensure that they are people you would like to interact and do business with.

Assuming that you're happy with what you're looking for from an MPS contract and that you've found the companies that you wouldn't mind working with, the next step is to be armed with the right questions for finding Managed Print Services that are right for your business.

MPS becoming MDS is a gamechanger, and you need to know how to choose a company that can both manage print and transition to digital, should you need it.

Choosing an MPS provider with the equipment, knowledge, and experience needed to generate value can be an important step towards eliminating printer waste and inefficiency in your office. Ask the hard questions about how it plans on helping you achieve your goals and select the one best-prepared to meet your needs.

Managed print service providers can offer a great deal in terms of value, return on investment and improvements for print efficiency and cost. However, it's important to review your options, choose an option that meets your needs, and ensure your new partner can be that partner. Good luck finding an MPS provider.

 

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