Managed print services, when you think about it, is becoming less and less about print management and more about service. Customers are looking to extract additional value out of their existing fleet investment with improved workflows. The channel is looking to offer value-added solutions alongside hardware as a way to expand their businesses. It sounds like a match made in heaven; however selling software and services requires a different approach.
Consideration should be given to the services part of MPS where software and services are a long-term commitment — much like a marriage. You might want to run for the hills at this point or continue reading to learn how to avoid common mistakes when selling a software services solution.
The IT industry in general has a reputational black eye due to project delays, cost overruns and unmeasurable or outright failure to meet savings or performance goals. In fact, research shows that 68 percent of IT projects are unlikely to be successful due to the business approach to the project. Half of the projects were discovered to have run over 180 percent in time estimations, consumed in excess of 160 percent budget estimations and delivered less than 70 percent of promised functionality.
The research pointed out the reasons these projects were at risk for success: a lack of proper business analysis, improper requirements assessments and an unclear path to on-time and on-budget delivery. I would argue that a failure to do proper post-deployment analysis against goals should be added and considered in the success of the overall project analysis.
Solution selling is services selling
Conventional thinking would say a business that sells printers should expand into selling software solutions. It sounds like the right thing to do to grow your business and to add value for your customers. And it is. But it also requires an investment in new skillsets or a partnership with a managed print solution provider that has experience in solution deployments. After all, when working with your customers you don’t want your MPS project to be one of those statistics.
The good news is being part of the failure statistic is avoidable. With more than 15 years of experience with MPS projects in some of the world’s largest corporations, we have developed a framework for successful outcomes. By using this framework, we’ve concluded that selling an MPS solution is really about services selling.
Because an MPS solution typically involves multiple vendors — the multifunction device (MFD) OEM, the dealer and a managed print solution provider — a transparent framework that is built upon experience and best practices serves as a guidebook to a successful implementation. With this framework, you, the customer, and the managed print solution provider have a clear understanding of the project, the expected outcomes and a documented path to get there.
A more successful outcome is likely if we approach MPS as a service call instead of a sales call.
MPS is like a marriage
I’ll shamelessly borrow an analogy related to me recently by an analyst — software is like a marriage. It’s a lifetime commitment you cannot just walk away from. To take the analogy a little further, MPS solutions require a lot of dating — getting to know the customer.
This discovery stage will serve you well throughout the relationship. In this early stage you are not selling anything. You are investing in the success of a potential solutions customer. Your customer is investing too — for example, sharing his organization’s real goals and requirements and sharing information about the print environment’s architecture.
Love me, love my cat
A common cause for delay or derailment of a project is when an unidentified stakeholder appears out of the woodwork and possesses a list of requirements that were not accounted for in the project definition. This could be a new set of document security requirements from the company’s security organization or integration with an existing workflow from accounting. Facilities, security, procurement and IT are just a few of the stakeholders involved and each may have their own requirements and expectations. In dating terms, it is analogous to “love me, love my cat” when after a few dates she introduces you to “kitty” and guess what? You are allergic to cats.
What happens when new requirements surface when the solution is in the midst of being deployed? The framework minimizes this risk, as it includes templates and documents for identifying all potential stakeholders the customers should include in the discovery stage.
Another aspect in understanding customer requirements is to understand the current business environment: Which print devices have the heaviest traffic, which departments are the heaviest users of print and/or scanning, and are they using the most cost-efficient devices for their jobs? What are the current print costs? Do they need to track the distribution of unauthorized scans? Many times the customer may not know these answers and therefore has no way to set realistic goals for cost reduction or workflow efficiency increases. Perhaps an initial service offering is a reporting function that can ascertain these answers and lead to setting the right goals.
The possibilities for delays are never 100 percent avoidable but minimizing the risk is possible and makes success so much more likely. Now that requirements are clear and understood by everyone, goals and expectations are defined and everyone is happy, it’s time to sell, right?
You’re engaged — now what?
At this point, all the stakeholders and vendors are clear about the project scope, requirements and expectations of success. Consider yourself engaged. Congratulations! Time to close the deal? Not exactly. Your service approach now shifts to designing the right solution. Every customer’s print environment is different and a one-size-fits-all approach won’t do.
A small to medium-sized business might have one location and one server, and perhaps IT is an outsourced function. However, this business may have aggressive growth plans involving additional investments in the MDF fleet. Will the MPS solution scale at a reasonable price point with flexible and easy to understand pricing?
A larger operation may have multiple locations across town or across the country. Further, an enterprise may have locations in multiple countries with some branches operating in a centralized environment and others in a decentralized environment.
No matter the scenario, today’s workers often travel to different locations and have expectations of a seamless printing, copying and scanning experience. Users don’t want to have to contact IT when away from their home offices to print an important document and IT certainly doesn’t want to see an increase in help tickets.
Designing a solution to meet various customer needs requires a solution architect. This technology-savvy person works alongside your service salesperson and with your customer to design a solution that optimizes the current environment, saves on bandwidth and shares the common goal of making the user experience seamless. It requires understanding backup and recovery methods, server configurations — generally a lot of IT-speak.
With a framework in place that accounts for these scenarios and includes a review of them with the customer, you are headed for success. Together you can test pilot the solution on a small scale, gather data and adjust as needed. The framework provides the best practices for managing the pilot, the data to gather and how to evaluate the success of the pilot. Time to tie the knot!
The big day
With a successful pilot behind you, it’s time to roll out the implementation. Your service role continues with the framework’s templates for managing the deployment, communicating change to the customer’s organization and training. Champagne all around.
Earlier, I mentioned that software was like a marriage. Once deployed/married you don’t walk away. It requires monitoring to ensure that the solution is running as expected and delivering on promised benefits.
An excellent framework includes operational health checks that ensure the solution is still meeting operational levels and that service provided is meeting agreed-upon levels of support. These health checks also include dashboard monitoring of the system to proactively anticipate potential issues and management to ensure it is running at a sustainable, optimized capacity. Finally, the framework includes tools to evaluate the deployment against the initial value proposition and return on investment.
The framework service approach I’ve described can be replicated across all of your accounts, large or small. It’s a best practices system that your customers will appreciate. Statistically speaking, your customer is no stranger to failed projects. Surprisingly, they know why IT projects fail but are ill-equipped to build the framework themselves. Your customers will recognize this approach as being compliant with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework of best practices to manage IT operations and services. More importantly, they will view your adoption of such a framework as the best level of service — and in the end that is what will lead to more sales.
If you don’t have such a framework in place, be sure to choose a managed print solutions provider that does; it is a good indication that you are partnered with a company that is invested in both your success and that of your customer.