Print Services on demand [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]
(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As print management services take hold in the Middle East, the enterprise sector in the region is offering partners the chance to offer integrated printing solutions to their end-user customers.
There has probably never been a better time to get into print management services. Across the Middle East, enterprises are investing heavily in integrated printing solutions that take the administrative and financial pain out of document production and turn it into a scaleable service fit for a truly multimedia environment.
This trend is reinforced by the acceptance of managed print services (MPS) as a significant element of the overall global managed services market, which MarketsandMarkets anticipates will grow from $143bn last year to $256bn in 2018. Which channel player would not want a foot in a market that is growing at more than 12% each year?
The benefits to the enterprise are clear. First and foremost, they can gain visibility and control of their spending, according to Simon Howells, MPS manager, global document outsourcing, at Xerox MEA.
"This helps them free up budget for innovative projects that improved efficiency and drive competitive advantage," said Howells. "By far the most popular service is focused on print. MPS in the region is growing at a rapid rate and will no doubt form the platform for individual services lines to be built upon to broaden the offering.
"Organisations in the Middle East have grown quickly, which has led to a sporadic purchasing model. This model lacked structure. Now CIOs and CFOs are turning their attention to an area which is causing them cost and management issues: print."
Howells said hotspots for a reseller to target in a customer's printing strategy include: the potential to reduce costs by up to 30%, as well as increasing efficiency; improving employee satisfaction and productivity; enhancing document security; and improving environmental sustainability. All of these elements should feature in a reseller or service provider's understanding of the enterprise's business.
"MPSs have penetrated almost every domain including government services, healthcare, education and various other enterprises in the region," said Howells. "Channel players are realising that value-add is the future and Xerox, through its market-leading position, can offer more value-add in spaces such as MPS."
At Sharp, Ravinder Kumar, general manager – business solutions division, said the uncontrolled print environment is the key driving force behind the widespread adoption of enterprise print services.
"Ever increasing print costs and untrained IT staff that handle breakdown of imaging devices will continue to drive demand for enterprise print services across the region," he said. "Services such as ours are easily customisable so they can be implemented across GCC, Africa and CIS countries. The only difference is that certain markets demand some extra features within the solutions while others focus primarily on the basic features."
Sharp suggested that the print services sector is so dynamic that it is relatively easy to set up a professional service channel. But he warned that it is not a free ride for new channel businesses.
"At the end of the day, it is a customer-based industry and if a customer finds a newly-introduced technology complex to use, there is a high chance they will take a step back and look to traditional channel and systems integrators," he said.
Xerox recently launched a print services training programme for its partners, backed by a range of e-learning initiatives that allow specific curriculums to be created and tailored for individual channel players and their staff.
The pickings are potentially rich for partners who get their strategy right – particularly on the cloud front, where Xerox has focused its efforts for enterprise customers on a suite of offerings that allow them to scale their IT – and printing – capacity according to demand.
"With 20 years of experience helping enterprises build and manage their IT infrastructures, businesses can be sure our cloud solution will be comprehensive and match their size," said Howells.
"With Xerox Cloud, you gain excellent security management and simple provisioning in an exclusive ITIL (IT Instruction Library), V3-compliant service delivery platform, so you can track your work with the same transparency as a traditional enterprise solution.
"We offer complete pay-as-you-go services, and a secure worry-free environment with backup and disaster recovery. We bring cloud services to the market through our partners, who enjoy opportunities for recurring revenue and healthy margins."
With the focus shifting away from printing technology itself to service provision, vendors are looking for channel partners who are prepared to invest in a skilled-up delivery model. For Hendrik Verbrugghe, marketing director at Canon, this means providing complete hardware and software warranties, having an engineer on board at all times, knowing how to service different hardware models, and having a strong service department and service location points. In other words, he believes an element of specialism is necessary.
"We believe EPS should be offered by an Office-Automation company or systems integrator firm that has experience and service capabilities on a regional and global scale," said Verbrugghe.
Sharp's Kumar agreed and suggested that a print services project needs a team of highly qualified professionals to successfully implement a project based on the client's specific needs.
"The project team members need to be quick learners," he said. "The technology landscape is constantly changing so resellers need to ensure they have a proper setup and technology tie-ups that will allow the print services teams to be regularly trained and updated on the latest trends. A competent print services team needs to have key skills related to sales, project management, customer service, account management and technical servicing."
Vendors are also turning to the SMB sector with managed print solutions and services that will help customers to trim persistently draining costs from the bottom line. OKI, for example, recently launched a Smart Managed Document Solutions strategy specifically to address this market with a range of managed page, print and document services that tie in to the business's workflows.
According to analyst Quocirca's Managed Print Services Landscape 2013 report, few organisations have realised the long-promised vision of a paperless work environment, and printed documents continue to support most business activities.
"We are responding to this by working with our channel partners to help SMBs make the most of their print capability, by ensuring they have the right products in the right place," said OKI Europe's senior manager, services and solutions. "At the same time, our print and document management solutions help SMBS to reduce and take control of their document-related costs."
As ever, success comes down to the reseller or systems integrator's ability to address the customer's economic or business requirement by helping them to understand the full scope of their print costs.
"This is where the quality of the assessment becomes critical to the overall business case," said Xerox's Howells. "Once a new model is proposed, managing the change from an under-utilised, cluttered environment to an optimised, cost-efficient framework needs careful planning and a specific focus on change management. Without this, end-users who were previously spoilt by a plethora of devices can have an impact on the initial success of a [enterprise print services] project."
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