Managed Services Increasingly Important For Modern Office Printing

‘Over the last 25 years, how many times have the analysts come and said print is dead. Print is declining. It's shifting. It's not going away. I don't believe in our lifetime we're going to see it disappear completely. And as a dealer, you just have to be ready to adapt to whatever changes. And that goes with managed print as well,’ says Danielle Wolowitz, executive vice president and owner of Shore Business Solutions.

The growing shift in business adoption of managed services over purchasing inkjet and laser printers is slated to continue over the next few years even as the number of pages printed by employees, whether at the office or remotely from home, continues to decline.

The market is continuing to evolve and shift towards managed print services, said Danielle Wolowitz, executive vice president and owner of Shore Business Solutions, a Wall, N.J.-based office automation solution provider.

“Over the last 25 years, how many times have the analysts come and said print is dead,” Wolowitz (pictured) told CRN. “Print is declining. It’s shifting. It’s not going away. I don't believe in our lifetime we're going to see it disappear completely. And as a dealer, you just have to be ready to adapt to whatever changes. And that goes with managed print as well.”

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Managed print services as a business is expected to reach a total worldwide revenue of $58.6 billion by 2025 after growing at a cumulative annual growth rate of 10.2 percent between 2020 to 2024, according to IndustryARC, a Hyderabad, India-based market research and consulting organization.

At the same time, however, U.S. printer and multi-function printer page volume is expected to decline through 2026, according to analysis firm IDC. IDC said that printed page volumes decreased modestly during the work from home period following the COVID pandemic, but that the decrease will be steeper going forward, despite the fact that over 900 billion pages will be printed annually through 2026.

A lot of the print industry has moved to managed devices, said Chris White, senior director of Lexmark’s global product strategy and portfolio management organization.

“When you think of it, most enterprises have matured to the place where they moved under a level of managed services, White told CRN. “Many small businesses, even the ones who buy from dealers, are paying a monthly fee that includes everything, and the transactional part of this business continues to decline outside of SOHO and consumer. If you're really focused on B2B, it is all mostly transitioning to somebody in the partner chain managing that environment in some form or fashion.”

“Managed” used to be selling hardware, knowing when the customer needs supplies, and then ship supplies, White said.

“Today it is much more about predictive capabilities, security management, all of the much more advanced capabilities of managing devices in an environment,” he said. “At the end of the day, the reason managed exists is, nobody wants to think about printers. Most people want IT departments to work when the people need it, but they don't want think about it.”

This means deploying managed services around predicting future downtime, predicting future failures, how to solve issues remotely, when to send somebody out, and how to preventatively fix things that might happen in the future, White said.

“The point is keeping uptime and capability out there and ensuring that that whole fleet sitting out there is in a secure environment,” he said. “When people talk to us about managed, those are the topics that you spend more of your time on now.”

Managed services also help contribute to businesses increasing responsibility to meet corporate goals and initiatives,” White said.

“With managed services, we provide full dashboards and visibility of carbon footprints of customers’ printer fleets and what that contributes to their overall CSR (corporate social responsibility) goals around sustainability and carbon neutrality,” he said. “We can provide real data to enterprises to be able to report out as part of their overall reporting.”

For vendors, managed services are important, but providing those services via a third party to dealers and solution providers is the way to go, said Dino Pagliarello, vice president of product management and production at Sharp.

Sharp partners with Melbourne, Australia-based PaperCut, which provides tracking, charging, and billing services on printing, copying, and scanning, Pagliarello told CRN

“PaperCut is the go-to software for our dealer community,” he said. “We’ve ensured that all of our products are compatible with PaperCut so dealers can manage their fleets efficiently with the software. And we've made it absolutely mandatory that all our devices are compatible with it, which makes it a lot easier for our dealers to be able to provide managed print services.”

Working with a third party like PaperCut is important in a managed print services environment where there is no single vendor’s technology employed, Pagliarello said.

“Printers have been around forever,” he said. “And believe it or not, I still see some HP LaserJet 5 printers that have been out there since the ‘90s that have been printing for a long time. As an old printer comes out, a new printer goes in, in our case a Sharp product. PaperCut allows you to manage not just our technology, but all technologies in the fleet.”

Managed print services is a big part of Canon’s printer business, both via its Canon Solutions America direct sales organization and via its channel business, said Kevin Price, director of marketing for the company.

“A lot of our partners, but not all, offer managed print, and we work with them,” Price told CRN. Distribution plays a huge role in this as well. So managed print from a B2B standpoint is certainly a substantial part of the industry, and when you get into more contractual business, a lot of it is under managed print.”

There is no simple way to say what type of businesses want managed print services and what type prefer to purchase their printers outright, Price said.

“A lot depends on what the customer's interest is,” he said. “Where the customer is either aware of, or upon an assessment becomes concerned with, the amount of unknown spend on print, that's where I think they become the right candidate for managed print services. The end user really has to have a champion for it in order for it to be adopted from an organizational standpoint.”

Enterprise customers are increasingly seeing a need for management solutions, particularly solutions that are security-driven, Pagliarello said.

“With our laser product line, in recent years we’ve leveled up the technology to make it more enterprise-ready to where it could be used in a common managed environment alongside A3 products,” he said. “Canon has software called uniFLOW to provide and facilitate that management. Originally, it was an on-premises solution, but is now more cloud-based.”

Predictive analytics is a big part of the managed print services offered by Brother and its channel partners as a way to optimize print environments and anticipate maintenance needs, said Shelly Radler, senior product marketing manager of the company.

Brother has a subscription-based pricing model that provides an inclusive service with a predictable flat fee, Radler told CRN.

“Our vision is to enable our partners with support and tools depending on how they like to go to market,” she said. “Some of our partners have their own managed print services programs. Some of our partners do not, and they need help. And this is where we provide the tools and the systems and the programs to help them find that best approach to support their customers.”

Wolowitz said the printing world has flipped over the years from a move to consolidate all devices into centralized larger units and get rid of the desktops to now provide more individual multi-function A4 devices combined with a larger workgroup device in a centralized location for convenient use for specific needs.

“We see more A4 multi-function devices in a managed print services world than we do single-function printers these days,” she said. “The single-function printers are usually legacy devices that now require some level of management.”

Shore Business Solutions takes a consultative approach to managed print services, Wolowitz said.

“A majority of our management clients are coming to us with existing fleets,” she said. “So we’ll take over an existing fleet of devices that were either unmanaged in the past and our consultants feel need management, or in some cases, we’re taking it over from other vendors. We will take over an existing fleet, and not require customers do a complete refresh. Part of our contract allows them the opportunity to upgrade when the time is right.”