by Greg Walters, Walters & Shutwell

Thinking about the people of managed print services poses a complex query: How can anyone pick one or a few special people as standouts within the managed print services ecosystem? Even though MPS, in its current form, is roughly four years old — closer to five — the ecosystem is loaded.

Are there leaders in the field? Sure, everybody’s got one or two models. Do the OEMs drive the concept? In a way, yes; each has some sort of MPS program in either its second or third generation. But who has been an “influencer” worthy of mention?

My quest started simply enough, with a list of player types within the MPS realm:

  • Pundits and analysts
  • OEMs
  • Toner remanufacturers
  • Parts suppliers
  • Service providers
  • RMMs
  • Managed service providers
  • Consultants
  • Copier dealers
  • IT VARs
  • Distribution
  • Office products retailers
  • Trainers
  • Associations
  • Leasing firms
  • Software producers
  • Media companies
  • Tablet, PCs and smartphone manufacturers
  • Industry magazines
  • Stock market analysts
  • Paper manufacturers
  • “Print is still relevant” proponents
  • MPS experts, owners and dealers
  • Etc., etc., etc.

It’s very crowded here in MPS-ville. Still, should I call out names? Sure.

Once there was nobody, but today there are thousands

We could start with MWAi’s Mike Stramaglio; he’s all over “MPS as a bridge to the future” and has been for years. Or maybe Ed Crowley. Photizo is one of the first consulting firms to recognize MPS as a market, industry and movement.

How about homage to the established guard? Salzer, Power, Johnson, Callinan — great trainers, strategists and mentors, each shifting with the transformation. And what about that guy who called for the “death of MPS” back in the summer of 2011 — visionary, contrarian or lunatic? Good people, all.

The dealer channel has some great MPS players as well,  many of whom are moving beyond MPS.

Still, while I pondered, weak and weary, I asked myself, is it possible to select any single entity or person within the constraints of “the people of MPS”? Everybody has claim, and yet nobody has claim.

How do we recognize one person or a collection of folks as standouts in an ever-changing, nebulous system? In my opinion, you can’t — well, at least from this side of the MPS universe: the provider side.

Back to the roots — again

You see, in the beginning, MPS really didn’t get much respect. I know, I know — MPS is nothing new. The fleet management folks have been doing for it years, the toner remanufacturers have been in MPS for decades, and the copier OEMs invented MPS back in 700 B.C. It’s all very clear to me now.

More recently, around 2008, those rascally “people of MPS” carried a banner that suggested service contracts for the bane of copiers — small (A4) printers or MFPs. These bleeding-edge folks were scoffed at for recommending the copier world reduce clicks. They were jeered and accused of spinning a new yarn on an old concept — service agreements on laser printers. MPS was a fad. Back then, the philosophical aspects of MPS befuddled customers and challenged most providers’ ability to articulate. We struggled. We all struggled.

And still, the customer was there. Snap!

Who has been an integral part of the MPS movement? Who has been there every single step of the way? From assessment to proposal to implementation to sustainability, who was there?

Who led? Who followed?

I know whom to mention, whom to thank and whom to watch. I know the one person or group who is affecting MPS every day. This team is huge, unified and focused.

Whom do I consider worthy of mentioning in the managed print services ecosystem? Your customer, who also happens to be your partner.

The people of MPS: The clients

Customers, end users and consumers of managed print services — remember them? It seems through the years we’ve chatted so much among ourselves that we’ve ended up thinking talking is as good as doing. Indeed, for some, talking is better than doing — a luxury the consumers of MPS do not enjoy.

Today, the customer drives the conversation. Today, the client has more control than ever. Just consider the “bring your own device” shift.

Simply put, if it weren’t for people wishing to manage down their spend, expand beyond the printed document, communicate faster, become more mobile and willingly transform, managed services would be dead on arrival.

For decades businesses have invested billions in our little niche, one click at a time. They’ve responded to every twist, every curveball thrown at them — from mandatory service agreements to overpriced toner cartridges. The customer has shunned our best ideas (mobile print), embraced our most ridiculous notions (mopiers) and dealt with everything in between. They’ve suffered through revolving-door CEOs (Carly, Mark and Léo), unscrupulous contracts (60-month evergreen), dubious selling techniques (more for the same monthly payment), ramshackle products (our product misfeeds, theirs has paper jams) and confusing corporate messaging (the paperless office of 1974). They’ve graciously understood countless hardware demonstration failures and spilled toner bottles, and still they’ve been in front of that “damn copier” day in and day out.

So it is with a slow-burning enthusiasm I acknowledge “The Customer,” hesitant only because I fear some on this side of the ecosystem don’t have a clue as to why.

There is, of course, one more thing.

I’ve referred to two sides of the ecosystem. This is done for illustrative purposes only, for it is my personal belief that there really isn’t a line between us (the providers) and them (the consumers). We are them; they are us.

Enjoy the ride.