Convergence: Insights into IT and Print Services

by Dave Sobel | 8/27/14

Business constantly evolves. This is a cliché, of course, but a true one. Technology has driven industries forward and creates new ones. The print business transitioned from “mere” print to imaging, bringing a wealth of new opportunities. Imaging requires network enablement, and devices continue to get smarter and smarter. A printer is no longer a device without processing – now, it is a computer in itself, a device on the network to be managed, monitored, and serviced in much the same way as a traditional desktop or laptop. 

This brings the world of print management together even more closely with the world of IT management. The convergence of industries is always a challenging experience. When two seemingly different industries come together, each looks at the other with skepticism and concern. With this, however, comes all the opportunity of an expanding market.

IT service providers and imaging providers have much in common. Both are focused on the idea of delivering services to support devices, and ideally, make those recurring revenue services. In IT, this is often presented as the concept of managed services ­— delivering a defined set of IT services on a monthly, recurring basis. This is often done most efficiently by the use of a toolset to remotely monitor and manage devices on the network, providing proactive information and ability to respond using technology. In IT nomenclature, this is a remote management module (RMM) tool.

IT solution providers generally use a RMM tool to be alerted and respond, either with automation or with human intervention, to resolve the issue in a timely fashion (and ideally before the user is ever impacted). Rather than charge for labor hours, IT solution providers focus on charging by the user or by the device, and additionally focus on business outcomes like uptime rather than simple transactions of time.

Imaging and print devices are an obvious part of that ecosystem, as they become additional devices to manage. This is why a growing number of IT solution providers are looking to move into the print space. Many IT focused organizations have been embracing managed print solutions for exactly this reason.

Imaging and print providers, however, can also embrace this same opportunity.  By looking beyond print devices to the rest of the network, there are opportunities to explore new service offerings. There are several clear strategies for those looking to respond to this new computing opportunity.

  1. Imaging providers can invest in tools to expand their reach into traditional computing technology, building their own capacity to deliver these services.
  2. Providers can partner across industries, delivering a solution together.
  3. The opportunity can be ignored, risking losing market space to providers that are positioning as a one-stop shop for services.

Build or buy is the key theme, as an imaging provider can make a selection based on their own business strategy. The third is included for completeness. Staying focused on a current offering is not an unviable option. As a business strategy, it is best to have chosen not to do something rather than to be unaware and surprised by it.

This is an interesting time for both the IT and the imaging channel. IT spend continues to increase each year, and opportunity abounds to embrace that. Exploring the idea of managed services for an imaging and print business is a logical first step.

 

Dave Sobel is responsible for fostering the growth and success of GFI MAX Partners. As director of partner community, he helps promote collaboration, education and innovation among GFI MAX Partners and among the industry as a whole, ensures they have access to business, technology and market resources, and are utilizing the MAX Platform to achieve positive growth, enhance their offerings and become best-in-class solution providers.