Gartner: New Printing Technologies, Services To Cut Business Costs

Gartner analysts discussed printing and imaging technology trends and what customers should do to be prepared for the changes with an audience of IT vendors and customer executives at the annual Print & Imaging Summit, held this week in Los Angeles.

Frederico de Silva Leon, a principal analyst at Gartner, said that concerns about the cost of hardware, paper, and consumables, as well as the move to adopt green, or environmentally-friendly technologies, is combining with falling print volumes to drive customers to adopt new printing technologies.

"Companies are saying that managing print is one of the most effective ways to manage costs," de Silva Leon said.

Printing hardware costs are rapidly declining, especially on the color side where the average sales price of a printer is predicted to fall at a cumulative annual rate of 15.8 percent from 2001 to 2011, de Silva Leon said.

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Customers are also looking for ways to improve their business processes. "Up to half of a knowledge worker's time could be spent printing and looking for documents," he said. "This is a an area where we could see significant improvements."

However, while the adoption of color printing in the corporate environment grows, customers are more and more concerned about the cost of color. About 90 percent of documents in an office environment are printed in monochrome, but the 10 percent of documents which are printed in color account for 50 percent of their printing costs, de Silva Leon estimated.

To cut printing costs, de Silva Leon said Gartner has a number of recommendations.

The first is to go to a three-year refresh rate for color devices, which will allow businesses to take advantage of falling printer prices and the lower cost of consumables that come from adopting new printer technologies. Purchasing a new color printer for an office printing 5,000 pages a month could save a company $1,000 per year if the cost-per-page drops only 2 cents, de Silva Leon estimated.

He also recommended customers use fewer A3-sized printers, which print at 11 x 17 inches, and adopt more A4-sized devices, which print letter-sized documents, to cut costs.

Another technology to watch is smart multi-function printers, de Silva Leon said. Smart MFPs, unlike traditional MFPs, are programmable and customizable for customers' specific requirements, and use software applications to allow such services as charge-back, automated workflow, and the ability to scan to directly to a folder, an ERP system, to an enterprise content management system, to email, or to a fax server.

Cecile Drew, a principal research analyst at Gartner, said that customers are also looking for ways to take advantage of managed print services to cut costs.

Drew defined managed print services as a series of steps for cutting print costs, including an assessment of a company's current fleet of devices and printing requirements, technology and processes to optimize the management of that fleet, break-fix and management services, management of the hardware and consumables, and training.

Drew discussed a number of best practices that will allow a company to take advantage of managed print services.

The first is to create a strong corporate governance environment. Drew said a company needs to establish a clear, defined purpose for working with third-party service providers. They also need to specify a new organizational structure, making it clear who is responsible for what, and establish metrics to measure the effectiveness of the managed print services.

The second, Drew said, is to carefully manage the transition to managed print services. This includes designing a plan for evolving the technology, communicating the benefits of adopting such services, and implementing clear knowledge transfer plans to get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible.

The third best practice is holistic management of the service. This includes looking at how to handle differences between offices in multiple geographies; how to monitor the activities across the entire fleet of printing devices; and implementing a global IT strategy taking into account data management, process automation, product refresh strategies, and outsourcing strategies, she said.