Event Recap: The Imaging Channel’s Managed Print Summit

The Imaging Channel’s Managed Print Summit took place July 19 in Las Vegas. Leaders in the technology and managed print field shared their expertise with a crowd of nearly 300 dealers; IT VARs; software, hardware and supplies providers; those interested in building their MPS offering and those looking to enter the arena.

The morning session, “Innovations in Technology — A Catalyst for Change in MPS,” was kicked off by MWA Intelligence’s Mike Stramaglio, who set the stage for the morning speakers with his presentation, “Innovation and Tools for the MPS Marketplace.” Stramaglio categorized the needs, wants and behaviors of the different generations that exist today, saying that offerings are going to have to evolve to cater to this younger, mobile crowd. “Today, MPS is just another application, like the ones on your iPhone,” Stramaglio said. “MPS has already been invented; how will you be innovative in the space? Printing is declining, and now more than ever, there are more people fighting for the page. Now is the time to figure out what your value-add is.”

Jim D’Emidio of Muratec looked back at the roots of MPS, saying, “To understand where you are and where you are going, you must understand where you came from.” In his presentation, “Profitability in Managed Network Services & Entry to the Cloud,” D’Emidio traced MPS back as far as the late 1970s, when copier companies started offering cost-per-page contracts in order to lock up their customers for three or four years.

In the presentation “IT Security for Devices and Networks,” Gordon Jones of Green Hills Software addressed a prevalent concern surrounding managed print providers today: security. “Security is a real problem in our market today,” Jones said, and he advised building security in from the ground up instead of adhering to the current status quo for security, which is fail, detect and then patch. Jones introduced virtual managed print services (VMPS), which is the concept of putting MPS and some security intelligence inside the printer — adding an internal security level and creating a proactive approach to security threats. Unfortunately, security is a major threat, and as MPS providers, your customers are relying on you to protect their network. Even though this is a real concern and one that must be addressed, Jones assured the audience that there are ways that MPS providers can protect their clients.

How to generate revenue off of mobile printing and the cloud is another question MPS providers are asking themselves today. Charles Lissenburg of EFI broke down some of the trends and revenue streams in his presentation, “Innovation in Mobile Printing, Embedding and Connecting to the MPS Enterprise.” With 1 billion smart phones in the world, a huge opportunity to capture mobile printing and cloud services is up for grabs, especially since the number one feature users of smart phones and tablets are asking for is print. Lissenburg says that capturing some of those pages is really just a numbers game, and if you can make it simple enough for people to print, people will.

The Future of MPS panel, moderated by Mike Stramaglio, brought together some of the top industry leaders to discuss the future of MPS. Panelists Brendan Peters of Intel, Robert Newry of NewField IT, Tim Grimes of Research In Motion, Ed McLaughlin of Sharp, Mark Mathews of Toshiba and Gordon Jones of Green Hills Software spoke candidly about their own companies, what trends they see growing, where they see opportunity and how to be successful in the MPS space. “The more universally you look at the business from the customer side out,” McLaughlin said, “the more successful you will be.”

Rounding out the morning session was Jim Lyons of Lyra Research. Lyons presented “The MPS Transformation: The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be,” which combined Lyra forecasts and Lyons’ history in the industry. In the end, he warned, “We don’t want the market to get so confused and crowded that nobody wants to go there anymore.”

The afternoon of The Imaging Channel’s Managed Print Summit provided several building blocks required to begin an MPS offering. In “Moving Beyond the Basics: Building a Profitable MPS Business,” Ed Crowley of Photizo Group detailed what every company should know about MPS from the get-go: It is difficult to begin an MPS program, and it typically takes not only a significant financial investment, but two years to realize success in a company’s bottom line — and only half who venture into the arena survive that long. While this information was humbling, Crowley also encouraged the audience, suggesting creating a business plan, hiring an MPS champion, leveraging existing solutions, partnering, and recognizing that providing and selling MPS requires a “lifestyle change” within an entire organization to help those just starting out — or planning to — get a feel for the foundation.

Greg VanDeWalker of GreatAmerica Leasing’s review of strategic partnerships provided what might prove to be a less intimidating means by which to enter the MPS marketplace than starting up a brand-new program. He explained the benefits of partnering with those companies who’ve already experienced and overcome the obstacles associated with MPS during his session, “Building Your MPS Program Infrastructure: Don’t Recreate the Wheel.” Aside from being able to both bring an offering to market more quickly and harness the lessons previously learned by colleagues, deals, footprints and economies of scale all tend to be larger as a result of partnerships — and at fixed margins, requiring little investment on the part of the reseller.

Still, for those ready to take on the challenge of starting up their own unique offerings, Doug Nash of United Stationers provided the steps to do just that in “The Recipe for MPS Success.” First off, the owner or principal of the business must believe in and be dedicated to MPS. A business plan is critical too. Partners to help build the MPS structure as well as a dedicated, knowledgeable MPS sales specialist that can work within a company’s current sales team can help get the program off the ground. Developing a compensation plan that will allow MPS to thrive inside the organization and engaging MPS within one’s own company walls can help staff learn “the art of MPS” and provide insights that can help a company improve its offering both internally and externally. Taking an MPS offering to existing customers in the form of a “sampling program” can build business more swiftly, so long as the message and solution is appropriate to a client. Lastly, Nash emphasized the virtue of patience when starting an MPS venture.

The panel on software integration moderated by Charles Brewer of Actionable Intelligence highlighted innovations industry leaders such as ECi (represented by Laryssa Alexander), Digital Gateway (represented by Jim Phillips), PrintFleet (represented by Sherry Lachine) and FMAudit (represented by Darrell Levin) have brought to the table this year as the world becomes more and more technology-driven.

Gordon Hawkins of Business Communications Group, LLC, honed in on one of the initial steps in gaining a contract — sizing up client environments — in his session, “Objective-Driven Document Assessments.” When he asked attendees who charged clients for assessments, few raised their hands; Hawkins believes this is a profit opportunity missed, especially considering how much time is invested in conducting a thorough and accurate assessment. Detailing project planning; data collection, consolidation and analysis; and the creation of deliverables, Hawkins provided a method for conducting assessments that will lead to increased profits and win over more clients.

And the last panel of the day, “MPS in Practice,” hosted by David Cameron of Cameron Consulting Group, provided a great deal of perspective from small-business principals already in the MPS trenches. Various keys to success and lessons learned along the way were provided by the panelists.

Regardless of approach or where you stand in the industry — just starting or growing your existing program — the Summit provided the fundamental elements required to launch a solid and successful MPS program as well as insights on trends, challenges and opportunities to grow your program in today’s highly competitive and ever-evolving marketplace.