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Opportunities in MPS

James Goulding hears why now might be a good time for IT resellers to expand into managed print services

In April, after many years working for printer vendors and channel partners in the UK and Europe, John Gifford set up Fiducia Strategic Consultancy to fill a gap in the market for truly independent advice on managed print services (MPS) and document workflow.

Fiducia provides small and medium sized businesses, enterprises and public sector clients with consultancy and guidance on all aspects of MPS, from assessing requirements and designing a vendor-agnostic solution to verifying a proposal that is already on the table or resolving a problem with an existing contract.

While Fiducia’s primary focus is end users, it also supports MFP vendors, distributors and resellers with everything from training and the development of sales and marketing strategies to project management.

One constituency that could benefit greatly from its service are IT resellers that might be new to print, but recognise how developments in MPS, including digitisation of document workflows and core strengths.

“IT VARs still regard print as a source of hassle and are generally reluctant to get involved,” explained Gifford. “We try to remove some of their objections, for example by encouraging them to look at alternative pricing models. The cost per page model used in the MPS world is a no-no as far as IT VARs are concerned; they just don’t like to bill in that way and prefer the seat-based billing common in managed IT services. Rather than trying to shoehorn a traditional MPS into an IT VAR, we talk to them about how they can integrate seat-based billing into a managed contract that includes print.”

Once objections such as these are overcome, IT resellers might find themselves on more familiar ground, especially with third or fourth generation MPS implementations, aspects of which they are arguably better placed to deliver than providers from a print background.

“There’s a tendency to talk about security, but then, when the customer asks what they can do about it, a lot of MPS providers go quiet. They are not sure how to conduct a security audit or even how to provide basic security guidelines. From a reseller’s perspective, there’s a danger of saying that an MPS includes security and monitoring when they might not have the skills in-house to do it. On the flip side, IT VARs are very experienced in these areas. They know exactly what they are doing and have support desks and support centres, often in-house.”

Another area where Gifford says traditional MPS providers can struggle is in the delivery of business process and workflow automation.

“I have found that only a minority of technology resellers understand and properly deliver document workflow. A lot say they provide document workflow solutions when they actually mean pull printing. Pull print solutions are pretty much a commodity these days and are not true document workflow solutions,” he said.

“Today, clients require a document journey from A-Z rather than just A-L. They want a managed print solution that doesn’t just provide cost savings but also delivers efficiency gains by optimising document workflow and business processes. End users are slowly becoming more demanding, rightly so, and they need suppliers to see them through the whole journey.”

Gifford points out that these suppliers could easily be IT resellers. They might have been reluctant to get involved with print in the past, but he believes things are starting to change.

“There are signs IT resellers are starting to take more notice of print. What PrintAudit is doing – investing in seat-based billing and the software and mechanisms that go behind that – is very positive and we have had discussions with one or two partners that are receptive to that. Equally, there are huge partners that show you can do managed print as an IT VAR – the SCCs and Computacenters of this world have been doing it for many years.”

MPS providers are branching out into IT services, isn’t it time more IT service providers expanded into MPS.

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