So, we are reaching the end of our four-article journey into whether an MPS really does meet all your printing requirements. We discussed why the origin of your print is important. We also explained the rationale for having a consistent view of print audit and accounting across all devices (managed and non-managed), applications and platforms.
Now let’s take that all-encompassing concept for your MPS and apply that to “Pull” or “Follow Me” printing (for simplicity, I will refer to it generically as “Pull Printing”). If you had asked me some months ago about this technology, I would have probably listed print and waste reduction as the major benefits. Today, while I agree there is a reduction in print and waste through use of this technology, anecdotal client feedback indicates this reduction is often lower than anticipated. The savings are typically measured in terms of the total number of pages deleted overnight from the spool as a percentage against those actually printed. But the reality is, this does not drive the impressive print reductions often claimed.
Recently, my manager shared a customer story where, from the outset, the client’s only goal was to deliver increased confidentiality and document security. When the customer was asked about the additional benefits of print / waste reduction and even an “improved user experience,” the gentleman smiled and suggested that might be the case for others but not in his business! Quite the contrary, in fact. If anything, he was anticipating negative feedback due to users having to authenticate at a device before they could receive output. Yet that wasn’t important to this IT professional; what mattered was the integrity of the organization’s data, in whatever form. As one of their requirements from the start had been to get all of their output (not just the Windows output) into the Pull Printing solution, it was a logical stance.
The organization’s rationale was that their business-critical (and highly secure) information did not reside on Windows but on zSeries, UNIX and other platforms. Why would they want to protect access to Windows desktop print and not their business data? A valid point! As highlighted in my earlier article, it is possible, highly desirable, and beneficial to get all output from all platforms into your Pull Printing solution so you may consider including that requirement in your MPS RFP.
Let’s take a step back and look at the documents that are deleted every night from the Pull Printing spool because they were not collected by the users who printed them. This is the primary metric from which Pull Printing savings are calculated. But are any of these documents really needed? Again, feedback from the field indicates they often are and that each is typically resubmitted for print — often more than once — which brings into question the true print/waste reduction value derived from Pull Printing. Personally, I think Gartner’s estimate of 10% savings is more realistic.
So once more we look beyond the typical MPS proposition and ask: is there a better way of delivering the document (or a subset of the document) to reduce print and waste?
Firstly, what are the alternatives to physical hardcopy? For years, people have been converting documents to PDF form and moving them around their businesses electronically. But changing critical legacy business applications at the source to deliver documents in electronic versus hardcopy form can present challenges and business risks. Skillsets for such projects are in short supply, and typically needed to address more business critical changes. As a result, the risk to business continuity tips the scales in favor of the “Do Nothing” option.
Let’s take an example of a businessperson printing off 100 copies of a 1,000-page daily Sales Out report. Each printed copy is then shipped to 100 different branch managers. Each branch manager needs to see the Sales Out report for his or her own branch, but not the other branches. So the sales manager’s first action upon receipt is to find their own 10-page report and throw away the other 990 pages. This gets repeated in 99 other branches.
The problem is obvious, as is the solution. But who has the appetite to re-code legacy applications to generate individual PDFs containing branch-specific Sales Out reports? “Not me!” cry the stakeholders, as the effort and risk outweigh the advantages. But what if you could produce individual branch reports in PDF form and make them available via a secure online viewing platform, with all changes remaining external to the application?
This represents both a quick win and an opportunity to deliver huge reductions in print while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the business process. Each Sales Manager could receive an email link to the online Sales Out report milliseconds after the application process completes. No more waiting on print, and a real win-win for the business. There are two routes for obtaining sponsorship – either via the CSR group or the Business Improvement group. With nearly a 99% reduction in printing, such a project should generate significant stakeholder interest!
As mentioned in my first post, this series of articles was never meant as an attack on the Managed Print Service proposition, business, or vendors. An MPS is a solid investment, but we could, and should, be asking for more. Include business application output in every element of your RFP. Look beyond duplex and monochrome printing as “green initiatives” in your MPS, and search for real printing reductions that can improve your business functions. Demand better visibility into what is being printed so that you can make informed decisions regarding output delivery.
A final thought and an opportunity that is missed nearly every time: when writing an RFP, ask which print infrastructure reductions can be delivered to facilitate your IT Simplification initiative. I suspect you will be offered a reduction in the number of printers. But what about removing redundant infrastructure such as print servers? I won’t start on the subject now, as it’s been covered in depth by one of my colleagues here. But if you are looking at a new MPS, be sure to turn over every rock with regard to cost savings. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you uncover.