Implementing Managed Print Services - Highlighting The Benefits Of Taking The Longer Road To Success
Steve Lee, Director, Information Systems & Communications, Rosauers Supermarkets Inc.
The world of managed print services continues to evolve and grow. While some of that growth can be complicated and challenging, the majority of the evolution is taking us in directions that will truly benefit our companies. Many have found that taking the long road for planning a managed print services solution can lead to substantial benefits over the lifetime of the partnership.
In my experience, there are two keys to the success of any manage print services program. The first is vendor selection, and the second is proper internal planning.
Selecting the right vendor is critically important because they will be the partners for the initial design, provisioning the devices, and supporting the products through their ultimate decommissioning.
The first vendor characteristic that I would look for is their ability to listen to your company’s business needs and processes. You want a managed print services partner that does their best to understand the operational needs so that the right products can be highlighted and specified for the organization.
In situations where there are special organizational needs (vinyl tag printing, envelopes, etc.), it is important to have the vendor test the products selected for that media to make sure the devices specified are capable of handling that need. You should be able to provide a good quantity of that media to the vendor, so they test it with the devices before making any final selections of make or model.
Another key vendor quality would be their ability to be flexible as challenges or issues arise.This would be important both in these initial phases of any program as well as down the road as the needs of the business change.
“Managed Print services allow for automation and centralized management that make supporting the functionality of those devices significantly easier”
Ultimately, an internal project manager and the vendor account manager should have a good relationship and be able to communicate effectively. Having that in place will help set the managed print service program up for success.
Once a vendor has been selected, and an array of printers to fit the business uses have been identified, the next steps turn to the internal team and working with the vendor towards an eventual deployment.This can be challenging for an organization because there will be a push to get the new program up and running. The internal project lead would be well served to set proper expectations out of the gate and let the management and user teams know the program may take some time and effort to do it right. Here are some considerations to think about as you’re outlining the project.
The first consideration should surround the security of the printers and programs supporting them. In today’s world, outside threats are finding ways to access peripheral devices and vendor software as a way to compromise a network. Out of the gate, most printer configurations out of the box come with most functionality turned on by default. This is great for the end-user but could expose the network to unnecessary or unexpected risks.
A way to combat this is to have the project team build “use cases” for how the new devices will be used. Some of these features may include “scan to e-mail,” secured printing, or centralized management. Have the vendor work with the IT team to lock down the devices and to support software from the start. From that closed stance, open up functionality based on those business use cases and thoughtful network security design.
In most cases, the managed print services vendor can build and deploy machines built to user specifications. As the security and needed feature set of the printers is developed, make sure that it is properly documented so that it can be replicated as the printer fleet is rolled out and supported over the life of the program.
Another piece of security where there is a greater exposure is in central reporting.
Many managed print services have a central server or cloud service that each printer communicates up to. This communication can facilitate the auto-generation of toner and supply ordering, maintenance needs, and page counts for billing.
Because this information can often flow outside the company or over a broader network, it will need to be configured and properly secured to protect it from unauthorized access. It is an important component and one that should be properly vetted with a network security team.
Beyond security, another important consideration for any managed print services deployment would be the standardization of the devices and controlled user access. Having that standardization eases the burden of support and allows new needs and scenarios to be tested before wider changes are made. The vendor should once again be a good partner in assisting with this and help to create standard deployment packages for users based on these defined standards. If they are participating in the deployment and setup, they will need to have good direction and documentation for making sure that the plan is followed through on for all users and locations.
For companies with tools that automate the deployment of configuration packages with printer access, drivers, and software supporting those functions, it may be worth your time to properly develop the configuration management and user deployment roadmap for the organization.
Once the managed print services program has been developed, the next step in a multi-location project would be tackling a pilot rollout out. This step will vet out all of the work that has been done and highlight problems or issues that need to be addressed before the entire entity is impacted.
Two to three weeks is usually a reasonable time frame to discover any major issues that might arise, but this could be longer depending on the complexity of the testing needed. Taking this step will give the project team time to correct issues that are discovered and then re-test them to make sure they have been properly addressed. With that pilot completed, the larger deployment can then be planned for and set in motion.
Managed print services have become invaluable for medium and larger companies and are now trickling down to smaller organizations as well. These services allow for automation and centralized management that make supporting the functionality of those devices significantly easier. The work and time spent up-front really sets the stage for huge time savings following the project rollout.
Find the right vendor to partner with and then consider the security and standardization efforts for the program that will set you and your company up for success in the years to come.
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