Welcome Back! Over the past weeks, I’ve discussed how to ensure all your bases are covered in a Managed Print Services (MPS) agreement. We looked at the origins of the output and how that may impact the value you get from your MPS investment. This week, we’ll look at the “Who, What, Where and When” of printing – more specifically, the topic of “Accounting and Auditing.”

I assume you already have an MPS contract, or are at least considering one. A question is whether all of your devices are actually covered under the agreement(s)? Experience shows that customers often have a mix of one or more MPS agreements, plus devices that are outside of these contracts. 

As an example, in the manufacturing / warehousing / logistics fields, thermal label printers are critical to business operations. Yet, being specialized devices, these are usually outside the remit of any MPS. One banking customer I worked with had two separate MPS agreements. The first was for devices at the head office campus (larger MFDs with a very high user-to-device ratio but delivering very little critical or time-sensitive print). There was also a separate MPS with a second company for the branch office network with much more aggressive break / fix targets. The customer’s goal was to provide best of breed service for each unique set of requirements. In addition, there were other devices outside the scope of either agreement. 

Question: how can you consistently understand the “Who, What, Where and When” position when you have the potential for differing formats of accounting information from different MPS providers and no data about the devices outside these agreements? Can you even see the “Who” from the MPS reports? Typically not, or (as seen in an earlier post), only for a Windows user account, with output from critical business applications such as SAP falling into the “Other” accounting category. 

MPS reporting is primarily used as a mechanism for billing — billing to you from the MPS provider — and not as a method for you to understand user printing behaviors or to pass costs to your end users. As a result, MPS reporting is based on usage at the device level, typically showing the number of pages, color or mono, possibly simplex or duplex. We touched on document security and confidentiality in a previous blog focused on origins of output. However, if we only see print activity for the subset of devices that are part of the contract, we have no way to validate that a document has been successfully delivered (as an example, an end of year tax certificate). We also cannot determine who may have printed a confidential document and where it was sent.

To manage the cost of printing across your business, you must establish a consistent view of printing — regardless of device type or MPS provider — right down to the device / document / user level. This will also enable comprehensive audit reporting. Over time, analyzing this data becomes an ongoing discipline and not just a tactical response to a confidentiality breach or a baselining exercise prior to issuing an RFP for an MPS. 

One of my favorite customer stories relates to a company with some 60,000 users that did nothing more than publish user-level printing statistics and the associated costs of printing on an in-house portal. Within a week, and with no further actions, printing had dropped by around 10%. Nothing to do with printing policies or the benefits of Pull Printing – purely as a result of behavioral change. That’s cost effective! 

That same company used this reporting to determine who was responsible when a highly confidential document was printed, left on the back of a printer and then picked up by an external company. Pull Printing functionality may have prevented this breach, but since the report came from an SAP process, this would only work if they had been delivering all SAP output via Pull Printing – something few companies think to do.

So, do you have a full 360° view of your printing today? Both from an audit/compliance position and from a usage position? Without understanding the “As-Is” position, how can you determine the “To-Be” position for an MPS? Too often, companies have a curious way of determining the baseline print usage prior to issuing an RFP for an MPS agreement. The most common answer is: “We ask the MPS bidders to tell us!” (I’ll state again that this isn’t an anti-MPS article, but where else do we let that happen? The phrase “letting the foxes run the hen-house” comes to mind!) 

If you look at print accounting and auditing in a consistent manner across all managed and unmanaged devices, you put yourself in the driver’s seat with regard to print cost control as well as document security. Regarding print usage, assuming you understand what it looks like today, before an MPS, you may be able to drive some of the device reductions on your own. 

In short, you should demand to know at a user and document level: What is being printed, Where, When and by Whom. All of this information should be delivered to you consistently and instantly.

My final subject as we look to squeeze more value from our MPS investment is print reduction and probably the most significant value add to the MPS. See you in a week or so.

Steve