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Print management opportunities out there for channel to exploit

Print management is a concept that has been around for a few years but there are continuing opportunities for the channel to get involved with

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: June 2017

Print management is becomingly increasingly important to customers and that's creating new opportunities for channel partners. A recent MPS Quocirca report, Channels to MPS in Europe, 2017, which stated: “The channel plays a critical role in how print manufacturers address the largely untapped SMB opportunity.” But it warned that channel partners faced “many challenges” in the transition to MPS. The service delivery, billing and internal processing involved would require “a step into the unknown” for many.

For MPS to work, resellers would “need to understand exactly what their customers want and position their offering to address this. Without previous experience in MPS, this can present a high risk. In many cases, these challenges can be too high an obstacle to overcome, particularly for smaller resellers that do not have the time, resources or funds to invest in an entirely new business model”.

Fortunately, the report adds, print manufacturers “are simplifying and expanding their channel propositions to make MPS accessible, regardless of the MPS maturity of the channel partner”. Vendors are developing “a broad range of support – including centralised portals, technical resources and support and marketing and financial support, generally accessible via cloud-based platforms. This helps resellers maximise their chances of succeeding by eliminating the barriers associated with transitioning to MPS”.

Chris Strammiello, VP for global alliances & strategic marketing at Nuance Communications, says partners need to get on board with MPS because demand for intelligent print management solutions is set to grow as businesses start to appreciate “unmanaged print is a considerable financial burden”. He goes further: “It could be argued that it is inexcusable that print isn’t already being accounted for, given it can be managed and controlled easily and effectively using intelligent print management solutions.”

He suggests part of the demand will be driven by the uncertain outlook for the economy and the need to rein in costs. Print management gives organisations the ability to secure and manage content through the entire document lifecycle. Partners that provide intelligent print management solutions “have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from resellers that don’t”. And they’re offering a solution that will have a noticeable effect on their customers’ print volumes and costs.

“To that end,” Strammiello continues, “print should be seen as – and promoted as - an opportunity to save money, rather than spend it; that’s a compelling message for resellers to take to their customers.”

Peter Pearce, product and applications marketing manager at Canon UK, says “it’s key” that partners understand the pressures customers face in a digital and print-based environment. They need to provide the knowledge and expertise that can “educate customers on how the technology can tackle business challenges”. The opportunity exists for partners to “position themselves as an authority and expert in the print management field”.

If partners do so, they can free customers to focus on their business, “safe in the knowledge that costs, processes, access and accountability for their print environment are met” and they will have “delivered a compelling case to be the partner of choice and a trusted advisor”.

Moya Kelleher, SI and IT channel sales manager at KYOCERA Document Solutions, argues that by providing print management, channel partners are “not only securing a future-proofed recurring revenue stream, marking a shift away from a single hardware purchase, but they’re also ultimately giving themselves multiple opportunities to boost revenue”. She says this is “especially true for resellers that also sell other services: managed print moves them into a space where their conversation with customers is ongoing, making it easier to upsell other types of IT solutions”.

Steven Hastings, IT distribution channel director for indirect sales at Ricoh, believes there is “a huge opportunity for channel partners to win and develop new business with print management”. He argues that “the key for channel partners in 2017 and beyond is to ensure that their front of house team is able to articulate, understand and sell print management effectively to best inform their customer base”.

This is where vendors can play a role in using their knowledge of the print management market to support distributors and resellers “to ensure they can effectively communicate the benefits and value of print management to customers”.

Daniel Wogan, product manager at Epson UK, says partners can exploit print management system opportunities in a number of ways. But they need to be clear what they’re offering. For example, it’s important that they offer “effective and seamless might be environmental benefits for certain print systems that could provide a way of differentiating themselves in a competitive market.

He says vendors and distributors “can help channel partners by ensuring they fully understand the cost and environmental benefits of print management systems, so they in turn can explain them to customers”. But he stresses that “it’s a two-way process; the channel needs to show awareness, but vendors must help them with appropriate educational materials”.

According to Quocirca, vendors still have some way to go. “Quocirca’s survey reveals that response times, margin retention and a centralised portal are highly rated in terms of importance for a channel programme. However, in terms of satisfaction, channel programmes are falling short across these areas, and by a significant margin.” It identified “gaps in satisfaction” around sales commission structure, the ability to collaborate with other partners and the levels and availability of marketing development funds. “There is clearly an opportunity for channel programmes to improve.” Quocirca added, although “some printer manufacturers are doing better than others”.

Strammiello agrees with Wogan that environmental considerations are important. They might not be “at the very top of the agenda at the moment, but environmental impact is still in the top three for many businesses”. Print analysis gives organisations the ability to put measures in place to reduce print volumes, energy consumption and damage to the environment.

Security is also a consideration. Print management “brings control back to the business, by tightening up on other critical considerations like security. All companies have a duty of care to protect their customers’ data and a secure print environment can help them achieve that while bringing peace of mind to the business and customers alike”.

Another benefit with print management is the ability to meet the challenges faced by customers in specific vertical sectors, such as financial services, legal, healthcare and local and national government that face the challenge of securing confidential or private information. By demonstrating they can apply print management to vertical challenges, partners could have “a more strategic and meaningful conversation around the issues their customers face”.

This would also allow them “to elevate the discussion to the CIO or other senior leaders who have more control over budgets, rather than being caught in a conversation loop with procurement. For resellers, this dynamic shift could accelerate the pace at which they move up the decision-making tree to become a strategic partner for their vertical sector clients

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