Our panel of experts this month discusses how MCS relates to MPS. Is it a natural adjacency or something a bit more complex and less of a natural progression? They discuss who the ideal customer might be, things to watch out for, and how a strong IT infrastructure and analytics are playing a big role.

Is MCS an evolution of MPS? Why or why not?

Dennis Amorosano: Managed print services is often a jumping off point to managing content. Although this is the case, the two services are not always related and are often not found together within a given customer environment. MCS is a logical transition from an MPS engagement primarily due to the fact that customers, following their effective management of print, tend to look for additional ways in which they can capture cost savings and efficiency in their environments. This often then evolved into discussion related to basic document capture and workflow which ultimately can lead to more comprehensive business process automation engagements. Managing customer print activity can often be the “proving ground” for providers, helping customers to recognize a providers’ service delivery capabilities and instilling the confidence to work with traditional office technology firms to move beyond basic print and scan.

Bill DeStefanis: MCS is a natural evolution from managed print services. Most MPS initiatives have a phased engagement where the provider evolves from a cost-cutting focus to the role of trusted advisor that extends the dealer deeper in the customer organization.

This evolution includes an expansion from print management for cost reductions to document on-ramp services to address content workflows and drive more efficiency. We expect this trend to continue with customers looking for a unified interface for print and capture software – a direction we are addressing in our product roadmap.

Stephanie Dismore: Yes, MCS is an evolution of MPS due to the footprint within an organization’s flow of documents and information. As an example, take a look at financial services, specifically the insurance claims process. In context of the evolution from MPS to MCS, organizations have the ability to transform how documents are captured, handled and created across the entire claims process. They’ll reduce inconsistencies by automating the flow of claims forms, correspondence and support documents, and boost customer satisfaction. As this evolution continues, it’ll become more about big data analytics and not just what the information is but how users can access and transform content.

Lance Elicker: I think it’s the other way around. Managed services have always existed. Copier companies were able to jump on the MPS model because it made sense; they had technicians, warehousing, and access to toner. It was the lowest hanging fruit in the office environment. Since that model has been successful, there has been this reach for other service-model-based applications. As we evolve, we can easily stack services on top of each other with strategies like seat-based billing. Customers like it because they can budget, and not have large capital expenditures on office technology. We love it because of the reoccurring revenue stream.

How does security play a role in managed content services?

Amorosano: A strong managed content strategy will include an integrated document security plan that considers securing access to sensitive documents, tracking editions and monitoring the use of files. An ideal content management service will securely store documents and offer complete control over document access. Permission settings should be easily configurable and highly customizable, ensuring that only authorized persons are given access to view and/or modify specific documents. For even greater security, additional features including audit trails, version control, digital signatures, and retention policy compliance can be an added benefit to any business.

DeStefanis: Document security is an important component of managed content services. No one is immune to data security threats from outside and inside the organization. It is incumbent upon dealers and resellers to help companies protect content against leakage to maintain security of sensitive and confidential information. This is especially important for customers in regulated industries.

Too often, scanning, printing and other document processes are overlooked in data security defenses. Managed content services need to include secure document capture and print processes, and authenticated workflows. If security is not part of your solution, you won’t get the sale.

Dismore: Security plays a significant role in everything around us and certainly plays a role in MCS, especially for compliance and risk management. Like MPS, where security policies and practices ensure that document, data and device is secure, including remediation, in MCS, it’s critical to have policies and practices managed by IT but also understood and adhered to by business stakeholders and users.

Elicker: Outside of functionality, in my opinion, security is the second most important part of any managed services contract. Given that your content is the lifeblood of your organization, compromising it could be crippling. Making sure that your information is secure is incredibly important, as is remembering that security is not just protection from viruses and hackers. Availability, replication, backup and recovery time objectives are areas that I would consider incredibly important and fall under the security/business continuity umbrella.

How important are workflow assessments when it comes to transitioning to or implementing managed content services?

Amorosano: A workflow assessment is essential, allowing providers to get the full picture of what is needed to help customers perform at their best, rather than applying a Band-Aid. In completing assessments, we often find that workflow can be improved by automating how information is routed throughout an organization. With automated processes in place, each employee knows what task they need to complete, the date it’s due, and who’s next in the process. Managers can monitor the progression of the workflow process and administrators can view the entire system to identify potential bottlenecks.

Dismore: Workflow assessments and strategy workshops ensure the right plans are in place to meet the unique needs of an organization. These can vary greatly by industry. For instance, the needs of a health-care organization may differ from one in manufacturing. Workflow assessments offer a platform to analyze the strengths and weaknesses within the organization and help to establish a strong foundation for success.

Elicker: There isn’t really a point to doing any kind of content management implementation without a workflow assessment. If proper discovery isn’t done, companies mirror their paper processes in an electronic format. I don’t see the value in doing that. For the partner, you do your customers and yourselves a disservice because you haven’t really provided any value, and have taken something that can be a solution, and turned it into a commodity plug and play product. That might work in a traditional software sale and implementation. In a services model, you are constantly having to provide value to your customer because they can turn you off at any point.

Where is the tipping point? When does MCS become a part of the discussion when selling to clients?

Amorosano: Generally, MCS enters the selling process following the capture of print-related business opportunities. However, this is not always the case, as we see many examples where consultative sales personnel identify customer opportunities outside of print and pursue these regardless of whether print is being actively managed. Where this is an active print management engagement with a customer, however, the next logical sales motion is to move to MCS.

DeStefanis: MCS is at the tipping point now with these solutions able to integrate into enterprise infrastructures to deliver content security and enhanced productivity. Dealers and resellers should be broadening their conversations with customers to go beyond print cost containment to also include content management services.

A well-choreographed discovery process is a key for dealers and resellers to understanding when to sell MCS to clients. Ask your prospects questions such as: What are the document processing challenges their company faces? What are their business-critical documents and are they aware of all the document security issues the organization faces? Would your prospect say the document retrieval process at their company is poor, fair, good or very good? Are they currently using an electronic document repository? If yes, how is it working? If no, why not?

A key part of any MCS program needs to be analyzing departmental and enterprise workflows to find where automation can streamline processes and enhance productivity. Document scanning provides an on-ramp for adding paper-based information directly into business applications, such as a scanned receipt automatically entering the expense report workflow. It creates searchable digital files which eliminate the labor needed when users hunt for information manually, and can even convert to standard office file formats, like PDF or Microsoft Word.

Dismore: MCS becomes part of the discussion today when a client is looking at not just what can be delivered today, but what a vendor’s long-term strategy and investments are over a three-to-five year timeframe. Today, the discussion may focus on how the prevalence of mobile devices helps users be even closer to their content. However, these clients are also interested in what companies are doing around wearables, smart machines, and IoT, where we not only increase the access points for the real-time exchange of information but are also inventing new use cases around what we call “blended reality.”

Elicker: It is always a part of my discussions. As consultants, we need to understand how organizations are managing their content. The customer has to be a forward thinking and progressive about wanting to run their organization as efficiently as possible. The size of the company is really irrelevant because all companies of all sizes have issues managing content. I find that the $5M-$30M per year companies seem to be the most underserved in this area. In companies this size, there is the possibility for incredible productivity gains and a budget to spend upwards of $100K to resolve issues.

Are there some guidelines around who to target when selling MCS, such as size of company, verticals, etc.?

Amorosano: All businesses today are potential candidates for content-related technology and services offerings given the flood of information that needs to be effectively managed. While there are certain industry sectors that tend to possess more paper-based workflows and as a result may stand to more significantly benefit from content-related services, there is no shortage of information and therefore no shortage of opportunity. Targets within customers are changing, however. What used to be the responsibility of IT is now changing so that line-of-business owners are becoming key decision makers and/or influencers in relation to content-related services.

What are some of the biggest challenges when implementing a managed content services program?

Amorosano: Aside from technology deployments and tying such deployments into existing customer enterprise systems, the other main challenges faced with content services programs are business analysis and change management. Business analysis is key. If this aspect of a content service engagement is not handled correctly, customers are unable to extract the benefits initially anticipated from such an engagement. Good business analysts understand the intricate details associated with a customer’s business operations and workflow, and through this knowledge are able to effectively design and architect technology and services to meet the customer’s stated requirements. Get this wrong and nobody will be happy. The other major challenge is change management. When driving a content services engagement, all parties going in need to recognize that content services engagements by their nature will impact workflow. This means that people will need to change the way they work. People tend to not like change so managing this change becomes critical to achieving successful results.

DeStefanis: While a typical MCS engagement starts with a focus on reducing costs, the real value comes from helping customers drive productivity through improved business processes. When a dealer helps drive productivity, they help their client increase revenue and grow. This transition helps a dealer move from supporting a tactical initiative, to being a key component of a strategic goal.

Some of the biggest MCS implementation challenges are that many customers don’t have a firm grip on their document workflows as content proliferates throughout their enterprises. Without knowing the complexities of these workflows, you can’t address them. Another challenge is that the customer’s documents are typically in many places, including multiple ECM applications, email systems, enterprise files, sync and share services, and more. MCS needs to take a multi-dimensional approach to managing content.

Elicker: It is all based on how well you did on the front end with your discovery. If proper discovery is done, and there has been a well-thought-out plan as well as a proof of concept, implementation should be pretty smooth. The issues are when promises are made without making sure they can be done, or there isn’t appropriate discovery/proof of concept. That being said, the biggest challenge is always the customer — either their environment, the end users, or just unrealistic expectations.

How important is a strong IT infrastructure to serve as the backbone of a good program?

Elicker: The most important. In any project, having all of the factors that are in your control locked down 100 percent is critical. IT is one of those variables we have control over. Making sure the customer has the correct infrastructure, as well as adopting and continuing to use it in the future, will be the difference between good and bad implementation.

How does data analytics play a role in a good program?

Amorosano: Any managed content services program requires data analytics and business intelligence. Since the majority of managed content services engagements deal with re-architecting of business workflows, it is essential that old workflows are well understood and that the activities in a workflow can be identified and quantified. The same is true for new workflows implemented as part of an MCS engagement. The adage “You can’t improve what you can’t measure” is so true in these engagements and MCS engagements in many ways are all about driving workflow process improvements and doing so on a continual basis. Driving continual process improvement requires data analytics and business intelligence. These two capabilities are intrinsic to MCS.

Elicker: True control over your information comes from the ability to analyze the information. Garbage in is garbage out, as they say. The only way to make sure that information going into the system and the information in the system are accurate is by using analytics to do things like data validation and other key metrics for successful use of whatever product you decide to buy/sell.

ECM and MCS – how do they work together? Do you need a separate ECM?

Amorosano: ECM and MCS are often linked together, however, this does not always need to be the case. Since MCS engagements are typically driven in connection with workflow and information management related processes, they tend to involve both paper and electronic information. Paper and electronic information management are typically at the heart of any ECM technology deployment so it is very common to see ECM and MCS tightly linked. Is there a need for a separate ECM?  In many instances, the answer to this question depends on an individual customer.

Elicker: Oh boy, the addition of acronyms. This is an incredibly loaded question. It depends on the use case. There are cases that can be made for both. I look at MCS as a subset of ECM, ECM being a subset of Information Governance. I don’t know that a company needs a separate ECM, as your MCS, depending on the business, can also provide you with ECM-like capabilities. ECM is a broad stroke.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.