Managed preprint services catch on

Tough economy and fine-tuned software drive the adoption of managed print services.

Managed print services have been around for a few years, but the category is getting a boost from savings-minded customers and improvements in device- management software.

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Why managed print services

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Businesses traditionally haven't focused much on printers as an IT asset worthy of management. Managed print aims to corral those untended devices.

Resellers and managed print services providers can take over the care and feeding of an organization's printers. In such engagements, the service provider offers a range of services that may include monitoring printer usage, keeping customers stocked with supplies and offering break/fix services. Providers collect an annual fee for watching over the printer fleet or charge customers on a per-page basis.

Photizo Group LLC, a market research firm that focuses on managed print services, projects North American market revenue at $16 billion in 2010. That figure includes both direct and channel sales of managed print and incorporates the management of copiers and faxes as well as printers. The company anticipates a 26% compound annual growth rate through 2013.

Challenging economic times contribute to the growth of managed print because organizations are taking a harder look at printing costs, seeking to save money wherever they can.

Troy Group Inc., a Costa Mesa, Calif., company that specializes in secure printing solutions, views customer interest in managed print services as a recent development. The company's financial services customers haven't been big adopters in the past, but the situation is changing.

"Some of the bigger banks are beginning to adopt managed print services," said John Hodgson, director of marketing at Troy Group. "Everyone is looking at print -- where they haven't looked in the past -- as an unaddressed component of the overall cost structure and see an opportunity to reduce cost."

A quarter of the respondents to a recent Lyra Research Inc. survey said they considered or implemented a managed print solution in light of the challenging economy.

"Companies are looking to save money," noted Cortney Kasuba, senior analyst at Lyra Research.

"With managed print services, we can give [customers] suggestions on how they can cut their costs or reduce their expenditures on print," said Kathy Cauldren, chief executive officer of KT's Office Services LLC, a nationwide solutions provider based in Toms River, N.J. The company offers managed print fleet services in addition to IT products and hardware and software supplies and accessories.

Cauldren said companies that adopt managed print can cut their printing costs by at least 10%.

Better software drives managed print services adoption

Monitoring software is one reason resellers can make those kinds of financial assessments. Printer manufactures offer tools that their channel partners can use to determine the page volumes for printers under management. In addition, independent software vendors such as FMAudit and PrintFleet also provide print management software.

Cauldren said her company participates in Oki Data's managed print services channel program, using that vendor's Total Managed Print tool. The tool lets KT's Office Services collect data on OKI printers as well as printers from other manufacturers. The OKI tool produces a report that the solution provider can share with a customer's chief information officer or IT director, Cauldren said.

Troy Group, a HP Solutions Partner, provides support for HP's WebJet Admin software so that HP's customers can manage their entire printer fleets, Hodgson said. Among other functions, the software allows remote verification of device status, configuration and updating of TROY-modified HP LaserJet printers.

Overall, the industry is moving toward template-driven software tools that will let solutions providers plug in the cost of supplies and service calls to generate cost-per-page figures for different manufacturer's printers, according to Cauldren.

"The software is just getting better and better," she said.

While service providers ride the current growth of managed print, manufacturers have begun to explore the next stage.

Kasuba suggested that managed print may evolve into managing and optimizing document workflow. Indeed, Ricoh's website describes its Managed Document Services as reaching "beyond the realm of print" into such areas as workflow improvement.

"They are all giving you that hint that ... managed print isn't the end," Cauldren said.

John Moore is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based freelance writer, reachable at [email protected].

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