by Robert Palmer
There is increasing discussion these days regarding best practices for MPS assessments. In fact, the value of the MPS assessment seems to be coming under constant scrutiny. You may remember that this topic served as the foundation for a lively debate at last year’s Photizo Transform conference. In a session titled “The Great Assessment Debate: To Have or Not to Have,” two MPSA members, openly debated whether MPS assessments were actually needed in today’s environment.
Much of the conversation revolves around the question as to who actually benefits from the MPS assessment: the customer or the provider? In other words, is the assessment designed to help identify areas for improvement within the customer environment or rather to drive profit and margins for the MPS provider? Obviously, this is not a question that can be answered with a blanket response, but there are things to consider when we look at how assessments have evolved over the past few years.
Historically, the MPS assessment was crucial in identifying areas for improvement and optimization within the print infrastructure and other document-based processes. In the early stages of the market, the assessment helped providers identify device deployment and understand where to consolidate assets, reduce costs, improve productivity and efficiencies, and reduce waste.
Today, the role of the MPS assessment is changing. Research indicates more businesses are performing their own internal assessment prior to selecting a provider, while others will augment the provider’s assessment with their own internal program. Interestingly, these figures seem to be fairly consistent regardless of company size and vertical market, which would indicate that this is an overarching trend.
Businesses also seem to place greater value on those assessments that are performed either as part of the MPS offering or on an ongoing basis. The concept of the “free assessment” has negative connotations. Businesses seem to be adopting a viewpoint of “you get what you pay for” with the MPS assessment. MPS deals that include a provider-delivered assessment seem to be trending downward over the past few years, but among those where an assessment is performed, the percentage of “paid assessments” is growing steadily.
As MPS engagements become more complex, customers are looking for extended value beyond reducing print costs, which means there is growing need to expand beyond the capabilities of the typical device assessment. Customers are seeking out providers with the ability to perform more holistic assessments of the entire document infrastructure, and not just the allocation of print resources. At the same time, the holistic approach to the assessment is helping to foster increased interest in Intelligent Print Management software.
Assessments that go beyond device distribution, utilization rates, and print volumes help to glean a better understanding of how devices are used and could uncover document-based processes that might be ideal for optimization. A deeper dive is also necessary to discover personal and desktop printing devices that operate locally and are not connected to the network. The holistic MPS assessment is not a process that can be accomplished through a simple “current-state” evaluation. Instead, it involves the added ability to track actual user activity—not just device-level activity.
Tracking usage data requires two separate but equally important capabilities. The first involves a deeper understanding of your customer’s environment. This could mean personal interviews with office workers and managers, working sessions with IT staff to better understand how documents and other content is used, identifying what applications are deployed, and uncovering any potential bottlenecks in document workflow. Next, and perhaps most important, is the ability to track and report actual usage data through the deployment of Intelligent Print Management software.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at email@example.com.