For years, large enterprise organizations have been outsourcing the ongoing management of their print and document infrastructure to third-party service providers. By contracting directly with hardcopy equipment manufacturers for managed print services (MPS), larger businesses have realized significant cost and productivity advantages.

Meanwhile, the shift to 3rd Platform technologies is causing significant disruption and innovation in the business sector. Mobile, cloud, data analytics, and social business are key enablers driving digital transformation and impacting how businesses work with information. These same technologies are also fueling transformation of document workflows. Larger organizations are turning to their print service providers to address these issues by extending MPS contracts into high-value services focused on content management, process optimization, and workflow automation.

But what does all this mean for smaller businesses—many of which are not necessarily struggling to manage broadly distributed print fleets and complex document infrastructures? Do print and document outsourcing services make sense for small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs)? The answer is yes, but the value proposition and implementation process is radically different compared with most enterprise engagements.

MPS and The Channel

To begin with, vendors must rely on their channel partners to effectively address the growing MPS opportunity in SMB. Make no mistake, smaller businesses are eager to take advantage of MPS by looking beyond basic cost savings metrics and focusing on solutions to improve productivity, drive better business performance, and reduce the burden on IT staff. Research from IDC’s Worldwide and U.S. Managed Print and Document Services and Basic Print Services Forecast projects BPS/MPDS revenues to grow from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $2.6 billion in 2020 among lower midsize companies (100–499 employees).

The indirect channel will play a vital role in the continued expansion of MPS into the SMB market. Research from IDC indicates that more than 60% of current MPS revenue in the SMB sector comes through the indirect channel. Most of that business today is managed by the office equipment channel. Office equipment dealers work closely with their OEM suppliers to offer MPS programs ranging from basic print services (BPS) contracts aimed at increasing visibility into print spend, to more advanced MPS programs designed to deliver ongoing optimization of the print and document infrastructure.

Office equipment dealers already have the infrastructure and financing models in place for selling printers, copiers, and MFPs on a contractual basis. So, it makes sense that this channel would be leading the charge for pushing MPS further down market.

Cloud-Based MPS

Nevertheless, new technologies and service delivery models are opening opportunities for MPS through alternative channels, such as IT resellers and managed service providers. The emergence of cloud-based MPS is helping to reduce barriers to entry by providing IT Resellers with a hosted platform for managing the entire MPS process; from assessment to implementation, ongoing device management, optimization, and billing.

The notion of offering print services is somewhat foreign to many IT resellers, which typically look at printers as a drain on IT resources due to ongoing service issues. Many IT resellers have simply shied away from selling managed print services because they lack the necessary resources and service and support infrastructure. With cloud-based MPS, service providers can consolidate print servers and associated print and document management solutions to a single virtual private server, hosted in the cloud. This significantly lowers the implementation costs for MPS, and lessens the up-front investment required by the reseller.

Cloud-based MPS provides a scalable architecture that can adapt quickly to IT reseller needs and changing business requirements. Resellers can leverage software portals and e-commerce sites to more easily acquire and provision document solutions software, such as MPS assessment tools, TCO calculators, and other assets used to define and measure a specific customer implementation. Once again, this helps to minimize upfront investment and mitigates the risks associated with a more expensive server-based, software deployment strategy. Improved scalability also helps resellers to layer in additional high-value services, such as content management, paper-to-digital conversion, and workflow automation. The ability to support high-value services is key to driving contract value and profitability, while creating the “stickiness” that resellers value.

A cloud-based MPS solution also helps to streamline device management and ongoing service and support. With cloud-based MPS, all print infrastructure resources can be moved to a hosted cloud environment, simplifying support processes to speed problem resolution and reduce help desk calls. Resellers can leverage cloud-based tools to automate processes around device management, service calls, and supplies fulfilment.

Action Plan

IT resellers and managed service providers interested in offering managed print services have a wealth of new options available to them. The rapid development of multitenant, cloud-based print management solutions combined with a rationalization of cloud infrastructure and new service delivery models has reduced barriers to entry. To take advantage of these trends, resellers should investigate the various cloud-based MPS programs available through hardcopy manufacturers and service providers.

There are a few key variables to consider. First, identify potential MPS partners with the ability to scale a solution and program that fits your specific needs. Investigate platform compatibility issues to ensure that the solution will integrate with your current IT infrastructure and allow you to connect seamlessly with current back-end systems for billing, auditing, and reporting. Make sure that any solution is scalable enough to evolve with your own MPS strategy and organizational needs.

Look closely at the software portfolio to ensure that the supplier offers cloud-based tools for conducting device and workflow assessments, with the ability to leverage usage-based data analytics for evaluating the current environment and producing future-state implementations. To ensure program longevity, look for suppliers with solutions and professional services expertise in document management, workflow automation, and print and document security.

SMB customers expect more from their MPS engagement than reduced printing costs. So, identify partners that can help you build an MPS program to address a broader range of business-critical issues, particularly around information management and digital transformation. By leveraging new cloud-based MPS platforms, IT resellers can expand deeper into high-value services to increase customer wallet share, improve profits, and create a dependable annuity-based revenue stream.

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