The holistic approach to establishing a simpler IT infrastructure
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
by James Masters
Imagine an office filled with happy employees, where all systems function seamlessly with no errors and no confusion. Work is processed quickly, and goods and services are delivered on time or ahead of schedule. To many people, this probably sounds like a fairytale. In reality, every organization faces obstacles from time to time… possibly even daily or hourly. Systems malfunction or crash, and IT groups struggle to get things up and running.
Printing systems are no exception. On average, print-related helpdesk calls account for between 20 and 60 percent of all service requests. So, it is vital to have a solid IT infrastructure that can quickly resolve these printing problems.
The question is why so many organizations struggle with print management and, more importantly, what can be done to improve it? One problem is that most organizations take a fragmented approach that deals with each individual issue as it comes up rather than taking the entire organization into account. This is especially problematic in large enterprises, where a rock-solid IT infrastructure is the key to productivity.
The larger the organization, the more important it is to holistically evaluate the business requirements related to print. Instead of quickly reacting to each issue that pops up, you can (and should) take time to think about the big picture. This may seem obvious, but very few enterprises actually follow this advice. In fact, the organizations that would benefit the most from this holistic approach to printing – global, multinational companies with many remote locations – often struggle to capitalize on it.
Untangling the spaghetti
We’ve been helping organizations deal with their printing challenges for nearly forty years. During that time, we’ve nearly seen it all. We have witnessed situations where organizations had deployed different print solutions in each different office. We still see situations where companies run different software for front-end (office) and back-end (application) printing. Their way to address growing print problems is usually to simply add more servers. This is understandable; given their lack of a scalable solution, it would be nearly impossible to solve issues once they occurred. So they add servers, which increases complexity. It also results in various stakeholders spending a lot of time on solving print-related issues.
Imagine a network diagram with lines connecting all the print servers located in the countless remote offices of a large organization. Running from each of these print servers on the diagram are lines showing the connections to dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of network printers.
Here at LRS, we jokingly refer to such a picture as a “spaghetti diagram.” Like an overflowing bowl of pasta, the many tangles make it hard to determine where one strand ends and the other starts. We see hundreds of these diagrams a year, and no two are alike. But as we watch customers struggling to depict their current printing systems, it is apparent that this is the first time some of them have ever thought about printing from an overall corporate view.
Consider a company with a complicated network printing landscape such as this. Now imagine the process of problem solving when an employee hits the Print button and nothing happens. Where did it go wrong? Was it the application itself? Was it the server? Was the printer unavailable? Was the printer unable to process the job? Was there a network outage? Each of these potential errors likely requires a different department to diagnose and solve the problem. In the meantime, business processes grind to a halt… the last thing any enterprise wants.
Simpler software, superior solution
There is a better way, however. Imagine a solution that replaces all (Windows) print servers, disparate printing solutions, and specialized hardware. A single solution that manages the printing process from print submission until a document is physically pushed into the output tray. All with an interface that can monitor and track all print jobs and can determine at any given time where the data resides. Problems are identified and/or solved quickly, without losing valuable time. Such a solution supports any application, any platform and any printer.
Perhaps you have seen these words before. It is our slogan at LRS. We offer a unique solution that can be deployed in all offices around the globe, without the need for Windows print servers and with a single point of control for the IT department.
Take for example a global company with employees that print from SAP, Citrix, and ‘normal’ Windows applications. Like most companies, they have a separate print management solution for each of those types of printing. The IT department is split up into groups that each have a responsibility for one of these systems. The SAP team is responsible for solving print related issues from SAP. There is a mix of servers at each location, all maintained by the Windows team. In the event of an issue, they first need to determine the document origin (as explained earlier), then decide who needs to solve the problem. The employee might need to speak with different groups, meaning it may take a long time to determine the cause and fix the problem. In the meantime, the hours spent on this quickly add up and critical deadlines are missed.
By contrast, imagine another large company has employees that print from SAP, Citrix and ‘normal’ Windows. In this scenario, let’s add the requirement for Unicode and barcode printing. This time, the company has adopted a holistic approach to output management. They have implemented VPSX Enterprise Output Management software that manages all printing processes, including those Unicode and barcode print jobs, without needing specialized hardware. A printing error still occurs. The employee calls the helpdesk. The support person who responds logs in to the administrative interface and finds the print jobs submitted by this employee. He/she quickly finds the source of the problem and either reroutes the job to another printer or fixes the issue. It takes no more than a few minutes before it is business as usual.
It may seem that the above scenario is too good to be true, but it’s meant to show how printing can be managed without the ‘bowl of spaghetti’. The first step toward implementing a holistic solution is to list the requirements of all those involved. It can be a challenge bringing it all together, but once accomplished, it will result in many years where printing doesn’t have to be a challenge. That benefits all those stakeholders and the employees who print important documents on a daily basis.
Ready to learn more? Contact our team of professionals and let us help you gain control over your printing environment.