When it comes to serving up business printing solutions, partners need to remember hard copy has a soft side, too.
Software and software-driven services represent significant opportunities for solution providers looking to augment their print services practices with high-margin, high-value offerings that target clients’ specific business challenges. The expanding possibilities are made possible by the new breed of multifunction printers (MFPs).
These smart peripherals do more than just print, scan and copy. Today’s MFPs sport network connectivity, on-board processing power and embedded applications that put them at the heart of important IT initiatives like document management, collaboration, knowledge management, mobility and enterprise security.
Partners ranging from traditional BTA dealers to value-added IT resellers to Managed Service Providers (MSP) can leverage these tools to build out their printing portfolio and layer feature-rich services on existing print engagements. The secret: Develop such services with real business solutions and business outcomes in mind.
As IT buying decisions shift from traditional technology purchasers to managers in discrete business groups, solution providers are being asked to define their offerings in less technical, more business-focused terms. Leveraging print-focused software gives partners the perfect point of entry to engage in higher-value, more structured and business-relevant conversations around their services offerings.
Four ways to turn print software into deeper engagements and increased revenues
The goal of any valued managed-print relationship is the integration of hard-copy and digital workflows. The embedded software capabilities in MFPs let partners link networked peripherals and capture documents for the organization’s enterprise content management systems. This integration maximizes the intelligent print environment, but setting it up and maintaining it requires deep knowledge of the client’s systems, processes and goals. Integrating document workflows through print software is an excellent value proposition for the print services partner.
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has introduced millions of user-controlled mobile devices into the business IT environment. Employees carrying Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone-powered devices want access to printing and imaging equipment just like their wired colleagues. This challenge presents another software-enabled opportunity for partners to configure networked MFPs to work with wireless devices and cloud services to allow mobile printing. The result: a solution that improves employee satisfaction and efficiency across the client’s organization and solidifies the partner’s position as a provider of tangible business outcomes.
As we noted recently, heightened awareness of vulnerabilities and stringent regulatory compliance requirements have put IT security concerns top of mind. The intelligent, connected nature of today’s MFPs makes them powerful and vulnerable to many of the same exploits that target other infrastructure assets such as servers, storage arrays and networking hardware. Moreover, the nature of the data being passed to and from printing and imaging peripherals is among the most sensitive in the enterprise.To account for this, partners need to be well-acquainted with the print management and device-level software designed to safeguard these critical assets. Functions such as user ID and access controls, network authentication, encryption and storage management are implemented, managed and maintained through purpose-built embedded security tools. Partners need to be familiar with these applications and customize protection strategies that meet the needs and concerns of each client.
Beyond the basic on-board software capabilities in today’s business-class MFPs, manufacturers are opening up their APIs on embedded systems to allow service providers, systems integrators, resellers and ISVs to deliver high-value custom applications. These software implementations target specific business outcomes in unique client situations and represent the ultimate value-add for print services and solutions partners.Partners can work with clients to develop custom apps that integrate document management and workflow with existing customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Through custom apps, documents can optimized for enterprise search efforts and routed to a variety of cloud services such as documents to repositories, such as Microsoft’s SharePoint Online, Salesforce.com, Box, Dropbox and Google Drive.
Tackling commoditization and shrinking margins
Most channel partners are well aware transactional, hardware-only sales suffer from increased commoditization and shrinking margins. In profitable, well-rounded engagements, services value is enabled by high-touch, high-margin elements like value-added software.
In the realm of business printing and related managed print services, partners have a wealth of software capabilities baked into modern MFPs and accessible through a variety of print management platforms and developer kits. In the hands of a services provider that understands the customer’s business challenges and strategies, these software tools open opportunities for deeper engagements, increased sales and recurring revenues, higher retention and, ultimately, better business outcomes for both client and partner.
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(This article was first published on IT:Connect & Expand, a 2112 Strategy Group blog presented by Xerox for managed service providers.)