Your Game Plan for Managed Print: Think Offense

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It doesn’t matter what your game is, there’s a truism that pervades all sports: Defense may win you some games, but you’ll never really score without a solid offense.

That’s an issue in managed print services, where the game to this point has been largely about guarding the goal. Most channel partners we talk to say MPS is a way to satisfy customers’ operating requirements and keep potential competitors out of existing accounts – a solid defensive strategy if there ever was one. It’s an approach that has worked since MPS first popped up on the scene in the mid-2000s.

The reasons are clear in the basic, if unimaginative, math of early MPS adopters. The average business, which spends between $300 and $800 a year on printing-related activities such as device acquisition, consumable replacement and maintenance, is typically ripe for a services option that can curb these costs. Managed print provides a fixed-cost solution to conventional printing technologies and devices.

That’s fine, but the real business value of the service isn’t apparent in that model, and that shortcoming has made both service providers and end users slow to embrace managed print. Defense is necessary, but it isn’t very sexy. It’s the run-and-gun offense that sells season tickets.

The Managed Print Turnaround

Thankfully the tide is starting to turn, according to industry insiders from Xerox and other vendors with skin in the managed print services game. Xerox officials say managed print is one of the fastest growing segments in its product portfolio, gaining something like 35 percent year over year. Other vendors report similar growth curves. And the expanding demand for managed print has attracted non-printer companies to the market, as many remote monitoring and management vendors make strides in supporting printer management.

The change in game plan could be good news for partners as the managed services market opportunity is potentially lucrative. Gartner estimates more than 70 percent of large businesses now contract managed print services. Conversely, only about a quarter percent of SMB companies use managed print and only another 17 percent plan to adopt them this year, according to CompTIA. The difference in MPS adoption between the two market segments explains why Xerox sees opportunity, and so should its partners.

Adjusting the MPS Playbook

Here’s what needs to change to get on the other side of the ball. While many SMB solution providers have adopted managed print to ensure they have all the options to complete a customer request, MPS won’t truly become a strategic growth engine if it remains a replacement revenue scheme and ignores the propensity among end users to avoid adding print capacity through the application of managed services.

Solution providers learned long ago the value of managed services to generate recurring revenue and sustained profitability. In the beginning, managed services was a replacement for conventional break/fix services for servers, network devices and printers. It evolved into services that expanded into storage, backup and endpoint support. Today, managed services are a gateway to cloud computing and professional services.

The same migration path needs to happen with managed print, as it will open the door for solution providers to deliver more workflow optimization and management, document retention and compliance solutions. The end goal is converting managed print into an offensive weapon that grows solution provider businesses For too long, the channel has viewed managed print as an opportunistic sale rather than a catalyst for strategic growth. Too often, solution providers and copier dealers will default to their comfort zones and sell legacy solutions than push for the service offerings that provide real benefit to their businesses and their customers.

It’s time for the channel to shift its point of view – and there’s evidence this may finally be under way. CompTIA, for instance, is seeing surging interest in its Managed Print community as more solution providers look for guidance on how to adopt and take the service to market. Like Xerox, other vendors and distributors see healthy increases in demand.

Real growth in managed print will only come when solution providers commit to the practice and stop playing it safe, treating managed print services as a real opportunity to move the ball and score.

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