Published on September 15th, 2015 | by Louella Fernandes0
Managed Print Services: Why SMBs need a trusted advisor
By Louella Fernandes • on September 15th, 2015 • in Articles • 2,754 views • No Comments
MPS is proving a hard nut to crack in the SMB market. Not only do most vendors have an array of offerings targeted at this diverse market, Quocirca research shows that SMBs are yet to embrace a contractual approach to purchasing print. However, the opportunity to transition SMBs to an MPS model is stronger than ever before, because SMBs are now embracing subscription to cloud services as a way of procuring IT infrastructure and applications. So how can vendors encourage SMBs to change their mind set about printing and purchase it in the same way?
From transactional to contractual purchasing
Printers are traditionally purchased on a transactional basis, with consumables typically purchased separately on an ad-hoc basis. For SMBs who are already time constrained with limited resources, this is costly and inefficient. In Quocirca’s research, cost is consistently the top challenge when it comes to managing print – particularly on-going consumables costs. As in-house colour printing becomes more commonplace with SMBs, these costs will continue to escalate without controls.
So can a contractual model for printing help address these challenges? And are vendors positioning the benefits of MPS correctly for SMBs? Quocirca’s research shows a significant gap in how well SMBs that have already committed to MPS believe it is delivering cost savings– but there is a correlation with the type of MPS used. Those further along their MPS journey are most likely to be achieving on cost savings expectations. Nevertheless, SMBs remain confused about the relative benefits of the growing array of offerings on the market.
Certainly basic print services which encompass hardware, supplies and servicing are a step in the right direction. By transitioning away from ad-hoc purchasing of consumables to automated consumables management, SMBs can better budget and also eliminate the time that staff spend on print administration tasks.
While basic MPS offerings can certainly improve productivity and efficiency, longer-term cost savings only really come into play through a full MPS, when a thorough audit of print usage and the printer fleet is conducted. By understanding what is being printed, by whom and on what device, recommendations can be made for new hardware and software. For instance, are the right printers deployed for the right job – is colour printing done on the most cost-efficient devices? Is black and white printing done on expensive colour printers? Is duplex (double-sided) printing used? Is secure printing implemented to ensure print jobs are only released to authenticated users?
Changes needed in the channel
This is where channel partners play a key role in the success of MPS in the SMB market. By offering MPS, a partner can reposition itself as a trusted advisor and nurture a longer term relationship – an opportunity in a market where hardware margins are razor thin.
However for some channel partners this may be a new departure, they may be resistant to change and the transition from a reactive transactional sale to a consultative contractual service engagement is not easy. Vendors must provide partners with the education/tools, products and services to ease the transition. Currently, the leading light in the channel-led MPS landscape is Xerox with a range of offerings, scalable to partner maturity. Close competitors include HP which is also actively enhancing its channel-led MPS offerings, having already developed a contractual offering for the consumer market with HP Instant Ink.
Quocirca recommends that partners that are looking to capitalise on the MPS opportunity and deepen their customer relationships take the following actions:
- Educate the market
Partners should establish their MPS credentials and reinforce their role as trusted advisors. MPS is a broad and often misunderstood term, so each customer is likely to have different attitudes and expectations. In order to establish trust, a reseller should offer a proactive approach that demonstrates that it can address some of the prime inhibitors to MPS such as cost, lack of clarity on benefits and flexibility.
- Extend business knowledge
SMBs need services tailored to address their specific business needs and value partner recommendations. Many traditional channel partners come from a hardware background and so far have not needed extensive knowledge of the business or processes that impact the use of print. Without this knowledge, they will lose ground to channel partners that do. Indeed, SMBs that are turning to such partners for cloud services in general will have higher expectations on the expertise an MPS partner should offer.
- Establish key partnerships
It is essential to establish relationships with vendors to build a comprehensive and commercially viable portfolio of products and services. For instance, partners that lack the skills or expertise to develop their own MPS platform may partner with existing MPS vendors. This can minimise investment costs for instance through access to a vendor’s cloud MPS infrastructure platform. Some vendors also offer the flexibility to manage third party brands enabling the capture of revenues (such as consumables) for competitor devices.
- Establish clear structure and accountability
Changing from being a hardware partner to an MPS partner takes time, however, to make an effective transition to an MPS model, a business must have clear accountabilities for delivery in place. Measuring performance through SLAs and KPIs, with an aligned system of incentives and rewards for sales staff, can help partners implement their commercial MPS strategy successfully.
The channel plays a crucial role in the success of MPS in the SMB market. Ultimately, vendors need to drive a cultural change in their partner base and develop and enable partners to achieve trusted advisor status. Those partners that serve as trusted advisors can play an enhanced role throughout the MPS process – helping SMBs transition from basic print services to broader workflow software and services which improve business efficiency.