by Henning Volkmer   

In the office equipment dealer (OED) community, the term managed print services (MPS) is more commonly known than the term Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS). Some of the most storied names in printing fully embraced the term MPS. The definition is broad, but the end result is simple: gaining visibility and control of your printing to save you money and boost productivity. Managed print also helps you improve environmental sustainability and document security.

In this scenario, we define "printing" as the total cost of managing and optimizing your printers, their output, and the people and processes that support these devices. This includes:

  • Pages produced by office workers, mobile workers and production print operations
  • Office desktop printers, multifunction printers, copiers, scanners, fax machines and high-volume printers
  • Materials sent out for quick printing, offset printing, mailing and distribution
  • IT help desk support, technical service, maintenance, and add, move and change requests
  • Paper, ink, toner and other supplies and consumables

On the other hand, PaaS fits in with the other Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) solutions, such as Office365, Salesforce and Gmail. FaaS provides the necessary computing and algorithms for functions like email and customer management. It helps move functionality that is typically provided through on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. This simplifies deployment, management and increases cost effectiveness.

Printer hand service

“Printing” in this case refers to the background processes required to deliver a document from the user’s application to the actual printer. This typically includes:

  • Connecting a user’s workstation to the right printer
  • Processing the data delivered by the user’s application and translating it into the printer’s language
  • Securing print data at rest, in transit and holding it until a user authenticates at the printer
  • Optimizing network traffic, assigning printers based on the location of the user
  • Universal support for all printer models

What’s immediately obvious is that neither approach covers all of a customer’s needs around printing, and therein lays the OED’s opportunity.

Traditionally, OEDs are providing MPS, or at least services very close to MPS, while IT companies provide FaaS. Looking back at the traditional MPS definition, it is obvious the tremendous opportunity the OEDs have if they add PaaS to their offering.

OEDs already have the print-specific relationships, while IT companies are still trying to convince their contacts that printing is even a conversation worth having. OEDs already have the qualified, trained staff that provides print-specific on-site services for their customers while IT companies are providing remote services for software solutions.

PaaS is truly a natural and valuable add for an OED’s customer. In addition, adding this offering enables the OED to be far more entrenched at the customer. Without PaaS, the connection to the customer is primarily devices, supply delivery and maintenance with the rest of the customer’s IT systems largely independent, making it easy to be replaced.

With PaaS, the OED is now connected directly to the customer’s applications on each of the customer’s users’ computers, laptops, servers and mobile devices through a printer driver or connector to the PaaS offering. Replacing such a setup is far more difficult, time-consuming and costly than switching out a piece of hardware.

I am not saying to abuse this deeper level of entrenchment by offering subpar services, but when you’re delivering high-quality work it is fair to find a way to not be immediately replaced by a competitor just because their prices are 5 percent lower.

PaaS can be delivered to your customers as an on-premise or private cloud offering when your customers are not yet ready for full cloud solutions. In this case, you’re installing products on servers running in the customer’s environment. These servers connect to customer-provided central services like Active Directory, and the customer deploys a printer-driver-like connector to their devices and workstations. Aside from that, anything that happens once the user hits “print” in their application is managed by your team and billed to your customer.

Private cloud or hybrid cloud offerings might provide the simplest entrance to the SMB market for your organization because you’re simply partnering with the platform vendor to resell their platform. With a printer driver-like connector installed on the users’ devices, OEDs provide customers with services to manage the platform including setting up and configuring new printers, enrolling new users and adjusting user permissions.

Managed print services are a great start to ensure a stable, predictable revenue stream for your organization. Printing-as-a-Service is the next logical step to take over all print-related tasks for your customer and become much more entrenched while realizing higher revenue streams.

You probably know that most of your customers are not all that interested in printing. Next time you visit or talk to them, offer to take the topic off their hands entirely. I bet you’ll be very well received.