Patricia Amesby Patricia Ames   

Just like the customers they serve, dealers and service providers rely on all kinds of software to drive their businesses. Some need tools that help them track, monitor and manage labor, assets and/or customer contracts, while others require solutions that can automate their own business processes, along with their customers’. In some cases, an organization will employ a single platform to manage nearly all the facets of their business. 

But ultimately, it’s what your business does that dictates which technology it needs. And if your company has a lot of irons in the fire, you might need to employ an array of technology to optimize your business.

But when you take a look at the spectrum of solutions aimed at dealers and service providers, you might find yourself wondering, “What is the difference between all of these products, and why do they matter to me?” I know I asked this question when the news broke at the beginning of this year about the acquisition of Printfleet by ECi, so consider this my attempt at helping you sort it all out.

Let’s talk about RMM, PSA, ERP and fleet management (and print management) and what they do, how they’re different from each other, and who might be using them.

RMM and fleet management (and print management)

Remote monitoring and management solutions (RMM) leverage local agents installed on managed assets so that systems administrators can supervise and control assets - like computers, servers, mobile devices and other devices on the network - from a centralized, remote location. More specifically, RMM systems can detect new assets, install new or update existing software and firmware on managed assets, monitor behavior, run diagnostics, automatically alert the proper personnel the moment a problem arises, and serve up reports and dashboards for analysis.

Fleet management systems - which typically include their own print management modules and are sold and bundled, rather than used by the dealer - take some of the same principles from RMM solutions and apply them specifically to monitoring and managing printers, copiers, MFPs, scanners and fax machines.

Obviously, RMM is geared towards the managed IT crowd, but they will likely need more than that to manage other facets of their business. Also, MPS providers and dealers who want to branch out into the managed IT space should take note in the next section - because fleet management and RMM aren’t always that different.

Fleet management tools are ideal for dealers and MPS providers - especially if they don’t plan on pursuing managed IT opportunities - because they don’t have to dish out a bunch of extra money just so they can monitor and manage PCs, servers and other networked devices that they don’t sell or service to begin with.   

RMM solutions might not offer the features and functionalities that a MPS provider would need to drive their business (like a print management module). For instance, some fleet management tools integrate with or feature their own cost accounting, billing and dispatch solutions, where you might not find such a capability in the RMM realm. In addition, fleet management solutions typically offer their own, or integrate with, other tools that track and predict when customers will run out of consumables, as well as automatic supplies replenishment and maintenance scheduling processes.

PSA

Professional services automation technologies enable professional services providers to manage and automate their core business processes, such as project and resource management, and labor utilization tracking and billing, under one roof. Some PSA solutions also offer customer relationship management (CRM) functionality, helpdesk and service desk tools, and the ability to build reports and dashboards. You might even find PSA solutions with RMM modules built right in.  

Most leading developers offer reporting and analytics, sales automation, project and resource management, accounting, contracts and SLA management, inventory management and so on.

But remember when I said what you do matters? What you do isn’t just what you do to generate revenue - it also encompasses the different functions that each of your own departments does. And what your company does will dictate whether you should opt for a PSA or an ERP.

PSA solutions tend to come as a complete solution, which means some businesses might be paying for some functionality they won’t use. ERP, on the other hand, is modular by design, so businesses don’t have to buy the entire airline just to get to a meeting.

ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning platforms are a collection of integrated modules that gather and organize data and dovetail core business processes from across the entire organization. It enables businesses to standardize and automate their business processes to improve operational efficiency. 

ERPs are capable of managing complicated compliance requirements ranging from SOX to GAAP and cloud, and IoT and security demands add layers of complexity that can require an ERP over some of the other tools mentioned.

With EDI, client portals and all of the other analytics and trending demands, the marriage between the ERP and “what the business does” is one of the biggest demands for the future.  

Our take

Ultimately, the right cocktail of technology will boil down to what your business does. If you’re selling and servicing copiers and MFPs and/or IT systems, then you might be fine with a fleet management or RMM solution. You might not have the need - or the resources - to employ a sophisticated system to manage all your business processes. But if you sell and service a lot of copiers, MFPs and IT systems, then you might need to pull everything together. The complexity of your environment will dictate the type of system that makes the most sense for you.

Patricia Ames is senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 10 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community. Follow her on Twitter at @OTGPublisher or contact her by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..