by Laura Kittner

When it comes to sourcing managed print software options, there is no shortage of vendors ready to help. Each present distinct value points and compelling product and service components to shore up any MPS requirements you do not have in house today. That’s the good news… and at times, the bad news. With so many options—distinct options—how do you ever really know what features, functions and supporting services are best suited for your business?

With our industry settling into not only the concept of managed print but also the execution of the business model, The Imaging Channel felt it was time to bring all of the leading channel-focused vendors together and ask a series of probing questions to the panel. Our vendors responded with their unique views and opinions: some with reinforcing points, others with a glimpse of what is to come in terms of their business direction, investment and development horizon.

By comparing the different responses from vendors in “Asking the Right Questions,” one can quickly see that attitudes and strategies are far from similar, despite the fact that we are all following the same bright, shiny objects that are MPS. Maybe this article will cause you to re–evaluate one of your current vendors, or maybe it will reinforce an already strong partnership. Whatever the case, we trust that you will gain a rare glimpse into the strategic objectives of some of the industry’s leading MPS software vendors and their plans for growth within the channel.

Interview Candidates

Tim Brien, Director of Managed Print Services

OKI Data Americas is the only manufacturer that offers a full line of print technologies and a comprehensive managed print services program—combining hardware and software to augment processes, reduce and control costs, and maximize revenue. OKI’s Total Managed Print program was designed specifically to address the needs of the channel, providing resellers with a complete infrastructure, and equipping them with a set of tools and MPS Ready products to manage customer print environments.

Herbert Koeck, Vice President and General Manager, LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions

Hewlett-Packard Company is a technology solutions provider to consumers, businesses and institutions globally. The company’s offerings span IT infrastructure, global services, business and home computing, and imaging and printing. For the four fiscal quarters ended Oct. 31, 2010, HP revenue totaled $126 billion.

Darrell Leven, Vice President Sales and Marketing

FMAudit has a proven track record of managed print software innovation. Since 1998, the principle partners in FMAudit have pioneered leading edge print assessment solutions that helped define the managed print services industry. Today, the company develops and supports an industry-leading portfolio of managed print services software tools and solutions. FMAudit clients include copy and print dealers, OEMs, suppliers and licensed software partners.

Pravat Mazumdar, Vice President, Business Development

Preo Software Inc. is the market leader in providing end-user print behavior management solutions. Printelligence MPS is a SaaS-based system licensed to OEMs and managed print providers. It provides a comprehensive change-management service offering that promotes accountability, awareness and positive behavior change to gain control of printing at the end-user level, and reduce the cost of print without negatively affecting end-user productivity.

Chris McFarlane, President and COO

PrintFleet Inc. provides print management and assessment software along with a host of training, business development, and support programs for dealers and distributors in the imaging and managed print services industries. Available in five languages, PrintFleet’s software solution empowers clients in over 20 countries to entrench their customer relationships and effectively transform their businesses from selling a commodity to providing a total business solution for their clients.

John MacInnes, President and CEO

Established in 1999 and headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Print Audit is the fastest growing print management company in the world. By providing businesses with innovative and practical print management software solutions, the company has helped customers recapture over $150 million in printing and photocopying expenses while saving an estimated 190,000 trees a year. Print Audit has offices located in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States.

Gregory J. Schloemer, President

DocuWare is an integrated document management solution that can automate business processes by managing any type of document, regardless of format or source, in a central document pool—for example, paper records, letters, faxes, drawings, PC and other electronic files including e-mail. DocuWare supports all forms of electronic signatures. Integrated records management ensures that all access is secure, controlled, and logged. Using the Internet, the central document pool is available around the clock to any authorized user, no matter where they are located in the world.

Scott Steele, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development

Based in Glassboro, N.J., NER Data Corporation is celebrating 40 years of excellence. We are an innovative leader in the demanding managed print and data center infrastructure solutions business. Our unique value-add solutions, including Print4 MPS, allow our channel partners to develop and maintain strong relationships with their end-users.

TIC: Customer retention or new customer acquisition: where is your company investing in 2011?

Preo: Our focus is on implementing a selective partnering strategy as the path to new customer acquisition. Printelligence, our end-user behavior management solution, becomes a critical part of an efficient, scalable MPS infrastructure that goes beyond managing devices… to managing printing. Our strategy is to seek a limited number of high-impact partnerships with major OEMs, large-scale distribution partners, or significant channel entities, especially in the MPS space.

NER: There has to be a balance of both. We are expanding our relationships with new channel partners that show a commitment and willingness to succeed in MPS, while working with current partners to improve their success rate. For new customer acquisition, we will be focused on channel partners with existing MPS activities or targeted vertical markets.

PrintFleet: We will continue to invest in both new customer acquisition and customer retention. We have been fortunate to grow every year. This past quarter was the biggest in the company’s history, and we expect to be up above 50 percent or so year over year. Since our inception we have recognized the importance of investing in customer retention and supporting our partner’s MPS program growth through our MPS advisor program, in-house technical support, on-site technical and sales training and our custom branding packages.

FMAudit: We continue to invest time and resources in 2011 to increase the functionality and value of our products to our current clients and the industry. Our commitment to listening to our clients and our innovative approach to development has enabled our record growth and new customer acquisition over the last two years.

DocuWare: DocuWare is investing in both. As we sell only through resellers, our focus is on recruiting new partners (we call our resellers partners), and at the same time continually updating and upgrading our suite of document management software to ensure our customers have the latest and greatest that technology can offer.

HP: HP must do both. New products that we introduce this year continue to build on HP as a leader in print and image innovation. It is what our current customers expect of us as well. For example, our eco solutions innovations help customers reduce costs by reducing energy, carbon and paper. Our infrastructure innovations like OXP help customers purchase new technology today knowing it will be backwards compatible tomorrow. Our focus on innovation equals a smart buy for customers, current and future.

OKI: OKI Data Americas is extensively growing our MPS infrastructure. In effort to support this expansion we are investing in a combination of both customer growth and new customer acquisitions. We have evolved our MPS thinking in regards to the economy and competitive landscape and that helps us maintain our MPS customer base. In partnership with our resellers, we have an opportunity to expand these relationships with the latest developments of Total Managed Print. Additionally, we see an opportunity to capitalize on new customers as more companies look for more affordable ways to do business without sacrificing quality. With our focus on our MPS program, we offer fundamental support to partners who are looking for ways to take MPS to market efficiently and effectively without having to spend a lot of money, time or resource.

Print Audit: Both are equally important to us. We are implementing new processes to help us to continue to “wow” our existing customers and are creating a variety of new tools and partnerships that will enable us to target new markets.

TIC: What do you feel is the most damaging piece of advice that could be given to a dealer executive about running their business based on managed services?

DocuWare: That managed print services is the only focus a dealer should have when it comes to solutions. Our company sees managed services as a multistep process. The first step is where the dealer starts to manage the existing environment of a customer (manage services). In the second step the dealer focuses on managing and optimizing the hardware infrastructure. The final step in the evolving customer relationship is introducing a document management solution to streamline the workflow of the input and output that they are managing.

Print Audit: The most damaging advice dealers can receive is that they don’t need to manage the users—only the printers. Printers don’t print… people print. This is why we have created a full suite of products that not only help dealers manage “printers” but can also control “user” behavior with rules-based printing. In order to maximize their MPS profits, dealers have to drive more volumes to their machines in field with printing rules.

HP: The worst piece of advice a dealer could get when it comes to managed print services is that using compatible or remanufactured toner and/or ink is more cost effective than Original HP cartridges. Working with QualityLogic Inc. to test toner, we found that more than 40 percent of the non-HP toner cartridges exhibited issues when it came to reliability and print quality. Overall, our findings show that non-HP toner can cost up to 10 percent more than HP toner over time, a significant amount when considering the supplies component of a managed print service.

OKI: To transition your business and sales force from box sales to managed services instantaneously. A quick transition will take the focus on current business operations away and the business will not sustain. This will result in an immediate reduction in run rate business and increases the risk of potential employee loss.

Preo: I would say it’s the “magic bullet” advice, which goes something like… “If you only did this (fill in the blank) thing right, you’ve got managed services knocked.” It’s not that easy; you have to understand the entire business and operational model, and then have the skills, resources and commitment to execute. That takes knowledge and experience. What we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that there are relatively few people in the industry who have this depth… and we’re honored to have some of them as partners.

FMAudit: Not to get involved with a managed services strategy could be potentially the most damaging advice a dealer could follow today. Good or bad, the once more distanced copier/print, managed IT services, document management and supplies businesses have been more closely aligned by the emergence of managed services. Dealers who can offer a more complete managed services solution set to their clients will be able to maximize their per-client revenue opportunities, while those unable to expand their offerings will always be under competitive pressure. The utilization of device monitoring software should not only be considered for new managed print business opportunities, but also as a key component of automating meter billing and retaining current customers. Dealers that follow the advice not to “get involved” with managed services will need to find a niche to enable them to grow and remain profitable in the years to come.

NER: One is that MPS increases margin percent at the reseller. While this is possible by properly positioning the solution, the real margin benefit comes from extended customer contracts for all of their requirements (hardware, supplies, service, and software). Additionally, going to market with a message only around hard-dollar savings (e.g., save 30 percent) is commoditizing and places unnecessary price pressures into the market. Resellers need to incorporate soft-dollar cost savings to avoid needing lower-cost products and services. Lower-cost solutions make is difficult for the reseller to provide real value to the customer, and creates challenges in customer retention.

PrintFleet: That software is a silver bullet solution. In reality, software is a tool and is only part of the solution. A managed service program should be well thought out and include input from all functional areas that it will touch including; service, supplies, admin, sales, marketing, customer service and dispatch. PrintFleet built its reputation not only on providing best in class software but also providing the necessary sales, marketing and technical support that help to make managed service programs successful. Taking a holistic approach to helping our partners has allowed PrintFleet’s OEM, distribution and dealer partners to be the most successful programs in the industry.

TIC: How has technology planning and development evolved within your organization over the past two years?

FMAudit: Industry needs have placed more focus on the development of sophisticated and integrated supply and service alert filtering and workflows. The need for increased process automation and integration between assessment, supply and service fulfillment functions has continued to increase our opportunities for vendor collaboration and partnerships. Also as MPS demand increases worldwide and our global footprint expands, we have added German, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish to our language deployment.

NER: Our technology planning and development continually evolves, and we increased our speed to market through the realization of technology advancements and investments. Our strategy provides a single pane of glass to our resellers and end-users for real-time insight into all aspects of their managed print programs. Key areas include transactional automation, invoicing automation, improved real-time decision based analytics, and fleet management integration with end-user systems (MAC, Helpdesk and Workflow system integration).

DocuWare: Over the last several years, we have evolved strict internal procedures and policies to ensure a high quality product, from software requirements, straight through to quality control. As a result, we hold many certifications and have been certified as an ISO 9001 company for 2010 and again for 2011. Our internal procedures and products are continually checked and audited; as an example, routine validation audits to enable FDA compliance.

PrintFleet: As industry and client needs have grown and matured, we’ve spent time over this past year making sure that we have the right talent and financial resources dedicated to the core technology and to meeting our clients’ needs through an increase in scale and functionality, and ensuring that we continue to lead in terms of collecting (and reporting) accurate, reliable data necessary for critical decision making. We continue to place focus on developing our global OEM relationships. It is through these alliances that we can continue to be at the forefront of providing our users with a tool that is truly agnostic.

OKI: Technology and product planning was at one point a long-term exercise. However, as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace and industry demands become more specific, we had to evolve our thinking around development and planning with regards to trends, current market demands, economic challenges and the competitive landscape. Over the last two years, we have been successfully transforming our technology planning and development to meet the needs of the markets technology requests.

HP: While HP continues to deliver a broad catalog of imaging and printing products that lead the market, our goal over the past two years has been to deliver parallel solutions and services that work with our hardware to provide customers a range of choices that meet their unique office printing and imaging needs. In 2011, HP and its channel partners will offer integrated products and solutions that will significantly enhance productivity, improve business processes and simplify print and document management for our customers.

Preo: Preo has moved from a focus on delivering the core product (Printelligence) to better understanding and delivering to the needs of particular market segments and partners. The senior management team at Preo spends a considerable amount of time on identifying business problems we can solve, developing a product roadmap for the next 12-18 months, and deciding where we should invest our scarce R&D resources.

Print Audit: We have put a number of new processes into place over the past year. Scum, Agile and Lean techniques have taken over our entire development process, enabling us to develop new products as well as respond to customer requests more quickly than ever before.

TIC: How do you see your technology evolving in the next five years?

HP: The current services and solutions offerings that are integrated with hardware will evolve into high functioning print ecosystems with streamlined business workflows. We and our channel partners will offer customers complete content management solutions that provide innovative capabilities to maintain fleets, optimize productivity, and manage data and document workflows.

DocuWare: Clearly, the concept of information being accessible from everywhere and at any time is rapidly becoming reality. Mobile and hand-held devices coupled with Software as a Service (SaaS) will drive this even faster. We offer our suite of modular document management software for use on-premise or as SaaS. Mobile technology currently is incorporated in our product line. Our worldwide network of Authorized Partners ideally positions us to enable and implement this technology while maximizing this opportunity.

Print Audit: Our products are created by constantly gathering input from our customers and office equipment dealers through surveys and interviews. We have no idea where they will want us to go from day to day. We only know that we have to be able to respond quickly.

PrintFleet: We will continue to support our clients’ global growth through improved database techniques that enhance performance and scalability. We will release numerous refreshments to our reporting and alerting capabilities and are excited about the upcoming launch of our next software version: PFE Impact. The uses for our technology will grow and we will evolve to meet functionality needs such as greater analytics, data mining, and document solutions. We will stay in tune with these needs through our advisory board, whose feedback will shape product development.

FMAudit: The next five years will see increased collaboration and integration with business process software to further franchise the MPS model. We will also place more focus on the development of end-user software. In addition, the current refinement of device MIB data availability will allow for many new advances in device management and efficiencies. Finally, there will be further consolidation of MPS and MSP software deployment.

NER: The technology fabric that we operate in is continually changing. I see fully integrated and automated systems for the support and management of devices at the end-user as a key component. The complete integration of people-based workflow systems, network capability, machine integration, end-user system integration, and the feed-and-care requirement of the equipment is where our technology is evolving. Transparent customer (end-user) systems are a requirement five years out, and since technology doubles every 18 months, barriers today will be capable five years out.

OKI: The market is ever-evolving. We are seeing how trends arise that includes the integration of the channels, integration of hardware and software and the ever increasing interest in managed print services. As a leading printing vendor we have the manufacturing freedoms that support innovation and give us the capability and the flexibility to customize solutions to meet the current demands of the markets we serve. Over the course of the next five years, I see our technology progressively and simultaneously developing and growing with the demands and trends evolving within the printing and imaging industry.

Preo: Preo will continue to expand and leverage its core technologies. The SaaS architecture is our single biggest differentiator, and we will continue to expand our unique position of being aware of, and measuring and interacting with end-users in ways that add efficiency to various phases of the managed services model. We also plan to invest in our unique capability around page-level coverage measurement, which has major ramifications for profitability of MPS contracts, better predictive capability for consumables, and alternative pricing models.

TIC: In five words or less, what makes your software technology (and supporting program, if applicable) different from the rest?

FMAudit: Functionality. Architecture. Scalability. Integration. ROI.

PrintFleet: Reliable, accurate and actionable technology and support.

HP: HP brand drives profitable business.

DocuWare: Our go-to-market strategy.

OKI: Advanced R&D, key partnership and ease of use.

Preo: Managing printing… not just managing printers.

NER: NER controls all software aspects.

Print Audit: Print Audit manages devices and users (technically that’s six words…).