Managing the print challenge [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]
(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Increasingly in today's economy, businesses — both big and small — are looking for ways to cut costs. For many the expense of office printing is high, so it's unsurprising that more and more organisations have turned to managed print services (MPS) in order to cut printing costs as well as reduce energy consumption and free up IT resources.
"Managed print services are at the front of mind of large enterprise customers as all organisations are looking for ways to reduce cost, improve efficiency and lower their carbon footprint. Therefore, the momentum of growth is many times greater for MPS than it is for the sale of standalone printers," comments Simon Howells, MPS manager, Global Document Outsourcing — Xerox MEA.
"It's about taking full control of these issues, allowing the business to get on with what it does best. This divesting control of non-core activities is becoming increasingly important, to large and small businesses alike," says Javier Lopez, senior manager, Services and Solutions at OKI Europe.
"Third-party providers have the advantage of specialist knowledge and experience of managing and rationalising a printer fleet and reducing total cost of ownership. And, by controlling all aspects of print delivery, this typically produces savings of both visible hardware and consumables costs as well as reducing hidden costs around ongoing management and wastage, for example.
"The objective of moving to a managed print services solution is therefore to maximise cost savings in all areas, while maintaining and, where possible, improving service levels."
Over the last five or so years interest in the MPS market has grown dramatically, as Lopez highlights.
"Despite the fact that the global financial crisis did not affect the region to the same degree as other parts of the world, more recently businesses have seen the benefits of rationalising cost and improved service, especially as they move swiftly into cutting-edge print solutions such as access to print via mobile and the cloud."
"The explosion in digital data is forcing organisations in the region to review their approach to enterprise information and how to manage it as part of their wider document management strategies," adds Mathias Militzer, general manager, Middle East and Africa, Lexmark.
"It is this that is driving the evolution of MPS so that it no longer simply focuses on the fundamentals of print output and fleet management. Now, it is increasingly about instilling best practice and improving business processes to integrate paper and digital workflows within an organisation leading to efficiencies and cost savings."
For the SMB sector, MPS is proving popular to help companies to account for costs from maintenance, supplies and to have visibility into how many pages they are printing.
In terms of MPS market maturity, the Middle East is catching up to its western counterparts says Maki Nagao, senior marketing manager, Kyocera Document Solutions Europe, with more comprehensive MPS with workflow optimisations being adopted.
"Having said that, we can still see many companies using locally connected (non-network) desktop printers. For those, implementing managed document services often just means a basic device consolidation as a starting point," she notes.
"It is difficult to talk about the Middle East as one region, what with each country having its own conditions and challenges," she continues. "In Palestine, for example, logistics are very complicated due to the many checkpoints. As a result, prudent supply management is vital. Without it, companies will be confronted with machine downtime caused by a lack of toner stock. No consumables stock at a company is critical, but redundant stock for many different models from many different brands is very costly. Managed document services can remedy this situation by consolidating a company's device fleet so that there will be fewer printers and multifunction printers (MFP) from fewer brands, ideally one brand."
Now that MPS are gaining ubiquity across the region, systems are having to evolve in order to keep up with customers' technological demands and one of the main areas of change has been around catering for mobile users. More and more users are looking for mobile printing solutions, mainly due to the acceleration of workplace mobility in the Middle East and the evolution of smartphone technology.
"For a mobile user, the mobile printing value proposition centres on convenience," says Zakaria Ibbini, business development manager, Alpha Data. "Users can print at any time of the day and from anywhere using their handheld devices without installing print drivers or having other specific knowledge about a printer."
"Not so long ago, the only regular remote use of print was to send documents via email to specific printers. This has now expanded significantly with embedded software within managed print services packages enabling documents stored in the cloud or in Microsoft SharePoint collaborative software to be easily accessed from mobile devices," notes Lopez.
"So, for example, if you discover at the airport you have left your boarding card at home, simply go to a print kiosk and you can upload the document to a secure cloud and have it printed out in just seconds. Costs are visible and can be strictly controlled, with options such as the equivalent of pay per page [payment option]."
MPS providers are happy to tweak services to support mobile devices and even go as far as highlighting that solutions can be developed in a just a few days.
"Workflows to optimise paper or electronic movement and management of data can be quickly designed for smart phones, tablets and also leveraging the smart touch screen interface of multifunction products. Little to no programming skills are needed and solutions can be developed for customers in a matter of days. Everyday operational tasks like insurance claims processing, retail store incident reporting or new client account opening processes can be streamlined by leveraging the latest technologies available for smart mobile and MFPs," says Militzer.
Cloud is clearly having a strong impact on the MPS arena, but in quite a positive way. It is providing a valuable resource, as Ibbini highlights.
"Cloud technology has greatly changed the way we print today. It allows us to keep the data secured in huge capacity storage, print whenever we want and from wherever we are. Besides, it has capability for faster fax and data sharing. Currently, the impact of cloud technology in the printing industry is good, as it has helped in making our life more comfortable."
Cloud paves the way for increased document sharing and ease of use and storage. For example, look at MFPs. Paper documents can be converted to digital format and stored through a document content management service, as the MFP is connected to the cloud.
"This is especially valuable for SMBs who don't want the worry or cost of complex additional IT, but can connect simply to say Dropbox or Microsoft Office in the cloud," says Lopez. "At the same time, documents can be converted back to analogue (paper), so archived documents can be accessed and printed via the MFP or a mobile device," he notes.
Security is also coming to the forefront, as mobility and smarter devices have led to more complicated security threats. A more remote working environment, and the growth in bring your own device strategies have led to evolving MPS security solutions. Currently the highest levels of encryption are applied to printed documents and secure access restricted to authorised individuals only and through the business' VPN.
Howells believes that security is increasingly a primary driver in the MPS decision making process for many organisations and that this transition has been increased due to the number of mobile devices now being used by employees to simplify the way in which they work. Xerox's response has been to provide an access card solution within each of its new MPS deployments.
"This has two major benefits," Howells says. "Firstly, the obvious security of print not being left to fall into the wrong hands on devices around the office. Secondly, the knowledge that an organisation can track the documents produced by each employee linked to their standard work ID card."
Kyocera is also making sure that its customers have the best access to the benefits of mobility and the cloud whilst keeping their data secure.
"Kyocera CloudConnect allows users to access their personal cloud space directly from any Kyocera HyPAS-enabled MFP once they have logged in to their account with their user name and password. Users can access documents or upload files directly from a HyPAS-enabled MFP once they have logged on. CloudConnect connects to users' Evernote or Google Drive account, acting as a bridge between their cloud storage space and their Kyocera MFP," says Nagao.
Looking ahead, Lopez highlights that MPS are also adapting to be compliant with tough regulations in the EU and globally regarding the secure storage of data over extended time periods.
Clearly the sector is responding quickly to technological advancements and security risks to provide end users with the best, and most secure, MPS possible. We look forward with interest to what the next 12 months will bring…
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