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How to build out your managed print service business

Channel partners adapt to the changing managed print service market by pushing into software and creating services to meet the needs of vertical and niche industries.

The managed print service market is in a constant state of evolution, and providers are keeping up by layering apps on top of print offerings as well as developing services for vertical or niche industries.

As organizations look to drive down print costs and improve business efficiency, the market is holding steady, with 51% of organizations using or planning to use a managed print service (MPS) in 2015, according to the report, Managed Print Services Landscape, 2015, by market research firm Quocirca. Seventy-two percent of respondent organizations are using some paper-free processes and are planning more.

Developing print service apps

When determining what type of managed print and IT services he can provide as a value-add, Joshua Justice, president of Southern Solutions LLC, said he looks at how to make his company different, retain customers and gain new ones. Southern Solutions is an authorized Xerox sales agency that provides office equipment, managed network services, IT support and print management products. "We've focused our app building on improving print services," he said.

Southern Solutions has developed two apps. Contact Us is an app that simplifies the process for requesting services and supplies. The app allows customers to use their Xerox devices to send service and supply requests to the Xerox reseller partner that supports the client. Whereas it typically takes three or four steps to order supplies, Contact Us makes it is a two-step process in real time because Southern Solutions and Xerox partners can get all the data they need from the device, Justice said.

Southern Solutions also developed the Firmware Connect App, which automatically updates firmware issued by equipment manufacturers to add new functionality or for security updates. The app updates the firmware during off hours, which Justice said has led to a reduction in service calls and an increase in customer satisfaction.

"With managed print services, it's all about creating efficiencies for the customer and improving their processes, and that's the exact same goal of our apps," he said.

The Contact Us App costs $200 per month and the Firmware Connect App costs $150 per month. Both can be installed on limited printer devices, he said.

Southern Solutions is also working on additional apps that will allow customers to request service and supplies for other types of office devices. The company also has five scanning-related apps in development per the requests of other Xerox partners and is testing out a mobile version of Contact Us.

Targeting niche managed print service markets

Some providers have chosen to focus on niche markets with equipment-agnostic services.

Arc Document Solutions has geared its services to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. The company takes into account "every aspect of the cost it takes to put black marks on a white piece of paper" to provide between 10% and 30% savings to clients when managing their print environment, said Kelly Mitchell, Arc's national director of managed print services.

Arc purchases a range of equipment -- everything from laser printers and high-end multifunction devices to toner and paper -- and gives clients a single image rate regardless of where an image is produced. It developed an app called Abacus, which provides visibility into the print environment. "We can educate the client on where those documents are moving … and push them to the right machine at the right time," he said. "We call it our 'click killer.'"

With managed print services, it's all about creating efficiencies for the customer and improving their processes, and that's the exact same goal of our apps.
Joshua Justicepresident, Southern Solutions

In the AEC space, there is a need for small-format, wide-format and off-site printing due to standard business documents and the large format drawings common in this industry, Mitchell said. Abacus works in tandem with Arc's managed print service product to deliver all three of these print needs into a single offering that is easy to understand and manage, he said.

"Our customers using Abacus now have complete control of all of their printing in house but can also leverage Abacus to direct prints outside their offices" to Arc reprography centers nationwide to do the larger jobs for them. This allows customers to focus on revenue-generating activity, not printing documents, he said.

And the role of Abacus is more than managing prints. It is designed to actively reduce prints while maintaining the service levels expected in the AEC vertical, Mitchell said. When a full managed print service offering is used, there are generally cost savings for their customers since Abacus manages all print work. The tool also provides a project management component so costs are allocated to the right project.

While the company has a few partners that sell Abacus, Mitchel said the product is Arc's "secret sauce," and it is not actively looking at broadening its channel. "I'm not saying we're not open to it, but we haven't found the right partners to do it," he said.

MPS in the healthcare vertical

Managing print services is not just a challenge for customers but for providers, as well, because customers tend not to appreciate what managed print services are, said Simon Vermooten, executive vice president of managed print solutions at Auxilio Inc.

Auxilio offers services to the healthcare industry and has developed a "full financial risk model" to handle all devices in a healthcare setting. Devices include a lot of clinical label-type printers, he said. Auxilio acquires the devices, installs them, and performs all moves, adds and changes. The company also replaces toner and pays all invoices on the client's behalf on equipment leases.

Vermooten said Auxilio has observed a reduction in the paper volumes created in clinical settings because many healthcare providers are implementing electronic health records. As paper volume declines, the client saves 100% of the reduction in the print cost under Auxilio, which charges per page as opposed to renting equipment on a monthly basis.

The fixed cost enables Auxilio to manage and control the entire fleet of devices and "prevent a copier vendor or local printer supplier from coming in and overselling a client," Vermooten said. The company works with partners that provide products such as electronic faxing, electronic signatures and document management.

The focus of a managed print service business should be on reducing print volume, he said. Otherwise, it is not providing pure managed print services and is more of a break/fix services business or one that is merely trying to sell products.

"It's about management and control of all print services, which, if implemented properly, leads to continuous reduction in print because you're making your client more efficient," he said. "So, to facilitate that reduction in print volume, you have to turn around, embrace and work with these partners who can bring technological solutions to your business to drive out that volume."

Next Steps

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