Print Money

Its pays to offer print managed services

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Large enterprises and small businesses alike are turning to a variety of IT-related managed services, to leverage the expertise of service providers in areas such as security, communications and storage. One of the emerging service markets is printing and imaging, and VARs who sell printers—or even those who don't—have an opportunity to expand their business by offering print managed services.

Through print managed services, a solution provider manages a customer's entire print infrastructure. That can include evaluating existing printer assets, recommending new products as needed, providing ink, paper and other supplies, improving printer security and other services.

Managed service providers can add significant value by helping organizations assess their print and imaging needs, and evaluate the current printer inventory. For example, an assessment might disclose that printers have sprung up throughout an organization without any centralized control. An enterprise might also have multiple printers per employee in some departments, leading to unnecessary costs.

Solution providers "can go in as a trusted advisor and do an assessment of the print environment, which can [help a customer] increase productivity and reduce costs," said Gary Gillam, vice president of channel operations, Xerox North American, Stamford, Conn.

To deliver an effective and successful print managed service, it's important to have the right infrastructure in place, said Kevin Kern, vice president of product planning and marketing at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Windsor, Conn. For example, Kern said, you need to have an adequate billing infrastructure set up to effectively invoice for consulting, assessment and other work.

"Be very honest with yourself as a VAR," Kern said. "You need to have the back-office functionality and capabilities to do this." Some solution providers might need to work with a business partner that has expertise and systems in place for functions such as billing, he added.

Other printer vendors are helping providers take advantage of opportunities in print managed services. Hewlett-Packard is offering solution providers education programs to sell printers as systems or as printing services.

"The copier and printer markets are converging and the growth of color devices and multifunction printers is also exploding. It's no longer just about selling a printer, it's about providing a printing solution—one that can help customers manage their printing and imaging environment and improve their workflow to reduce costs and increase overall operational effectiveness," said Scott Anderson, vice president, imaging and printing channels, United States, at Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif.

The company is offering VARs the ability to resell services such as HP Smart Printing Services.

Another vendor, Oki Data Americas, offers a Managed Services Channel Program, a suite of services that provide an entry point into the print managed services market. The program can be custom tailored, said Jackie Paralis, senior marketing manager, channel development, at Oki Data Americas, Mount Laurel, N.J.

Oki Data Americas' managed print services program assesses an organization's print environment and provides an analysis of device utilization (network and local), print volumes, costs per page, ergonomics and workspace design. In addition to the initial assessment, Oki Data Americas offers a managed print leasing program that bundles all of a customer's print costs into one monthly fixed payment.

VARs "have an outstanding opportunity to secure long-term customer relationships by getting into the print managed services business," Paralis said. "By helping customers control these costs, solution providers solidify their customer relationship and secure aftermarket sales."

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