by Luke Goldberg
At one time, when print management was in its infancy, the most important considerations for an organization implementing it were “how do I collect the page counts,” “how do I account for cost per page” and “how much should I charge?” While these are still valid questions, they are not indicative of today’s mature managed print services (MPS) market, which has moved well beyond the initial value propositions of reduced costs and optimized printer fleets. Today’s MPS platform, in fact, transcends even the device itself, and is frequently concerned with user management.
What has changed between then and now? Well, many things, but probably the most important is the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). Gartner defines the IoT as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” In its late 2015 forecast, Gartner projected roughly 6.4 billion connected things in use worldwide in 2016, and more than 20 billion by 2020.
Some of those “things,” of course, are printers, copiers and MFPs. No longer just hard-copy output devices, today’s smart MFP is intelligent, connected and part of company networks, with all the advantages (and disadvantages) that entails — and that includes their role as incredible data collection mechanisms.
Think, for a moment, about the millions of printers and MFPs in the field right now. Then think about the massive amounts of data generated by those devices that are connected and under your monitoring program. Far more than “what,” you’re gathering the “how” and “why” of printing — who the users are, how they work, how they print, how often, when and where. Additionally, you’re (hopefully) gathering historical service and ticketing data, tech support calls, live chat and more.
You’re Gathering Data, So Why Not Use It?
What can that data do for you? Big data and predictive analytics offer the opportunity for amazing insights into your users. For instance, historical data can be used to determine patterns and create predictive analytics that can cluster service calls with replacements of consumables. Cost savings are realized on freight, inventory and downtime. Every fast and painless service call, every maintenance need anticipated, creates customer satisfaction.
You can get valuable insights into your users as well as increased efficiencies in your processes when you combine constantly changing real-time data from the field with the structured data from your office systems. Sales calls, service calls and paper processing on-site all become faster and more efficient. Entirely new business processes can be implemented straight from a mobile phone.
“Mobile” is a key word when it comes to today’s users, who are increasingly using mobile devices for many functions (yes, including printing). When mobility is used in conjunction with big data, it allows for immediate decision-making. Employees in the field who have access to data when and where they need it can make real-time decisions accordingly. Sensors in delivery trucks and service vehicles deliver location data, while machine-to machine interaction creates predictive analytics that allow devices to signal for maintenance and automatically order parts and supplies to be sent to coincide with the scheduled service.
Applying Big Data to MPS
Now, to bring this all around full circle — you’ve got an MPS program, and because of that you’ve got lots of data. Now that you’re collecting it and analyzing it, why not really put it to good use and change your entire MPS billing model? A thorough understanding of your customer environment, including users, can allow you to introduce an entirely new billing model — by-user, or seat-based billing (SBB). SBB requires a depth of understanding that goes beyond basic device metrics and delves into user behavior. But once you’ve reached that point, it is possible to implement a program that will allow for profit protection from the cost-per-page model, higher margins and access to new revenue streams. I’ve written in depth about SBB in the past so I won’t repeat myself too much, but suffice it to say there are multiple opportunities for providers who are ready to move beyond traditional managed print.
There are many naysayers putting out the word that print is dead and managed print is an outdated business model. None of it is true. The business environment is an ever-changing one, and those who learn, adapt and take full advantage of all the technology on offer today can thrive in it. So ask yourself this question: is your MPS program a relic of a bygone era or at the front and center of today’s technology?