Managed Print Services – you’re not welcome anymore

Managed Print Services – you’re not welcome anymore

Managed Print Services - you're not welcome anymore. Print Audit. PAE BusinessIt was just one of those routine searches on Google: Managed Print Services.

But the results coming back weren’t quite as expected: CRN had reported Australia’s Department of Finance is about to ditch the Managed Print Services procurement panel.

Digest that:

It will be replaced by a new panel, Major Office Machines, due to an apparent lack of demand for Managed Print Services.

I don’t want to go into defining Managed Print Services here, we all know what the MPSA definition is.  We are also all aware what’s out there on the market, ranging from “customer care” to sophisticated workflow solutions including, amongst many things, the almost incidental piece of hardware.

So what’s going on down under?

My first thought was: that’s it, MPS is dead, time to retire….

In my experience, the term is now used to describe everything and anything offering a device and some sort of service contract with it, preferably on a cost per page agreement. It  covers a whole range of sales activity from selling one device into an SMB through to global solutions for international corporations.

It is possible to reach the conclusion that in the Australian Public Sector at least, MPS has had its day and they have de-mystified the sales process

MPS & UK / international tenders

Not long before I stumbled upon CRN’s article, we were invited to join one of our dealer partners in a tender process; their client  had asked to for impartial advice from a third party not related to printers and consumables – an opportunity we happily took up.

Following the usual introductions and chat I asked I “How does your current contract work?”

The answer was surprisingly short: “We have a Managed Print Services agreement with XYZ. It has now run for three years, and covers everything – wrapped up into a cost per page.”

“What does that include?” – “Everything.”

Now this was exciting. This looked like the real MPS deal: One of the leaders in Gartner’s Managed Print Services Magic Quadrant was up for review. I was sure what was about to look under the hood of an MPS deal constructed three years ago when MPs was hot, prevalent and well established.  Would it be as billed at one of Photizo’s Transform Conferences?

I attended most of them to make sure we were up to speed with the latest trends.

The moment of the truth

So had it worked, did the program deliver increased productivity, clear visibility of costs and the promised better service?

And then the bombshell:  “Except for the colour toner. We pay for that at the end of the year. Last year it was £300,000. But it varies.”

Silence. And one of those awkward moments where you’re truly grateful for having a cup of tea to hold on too.

How was this possible? A top notch provider and their equally top notch client working together for three years with an MPS contract that provided everything but clarity, transparency – how can you leave your customer with a +/- £300,000 extra bill at the end of the year?

“How can we help you?”

Almost as expected, the answer was to the point: “We want numbers. The actual cost per page based on how and what we print today so we can benchmark the pricing we are requesting.”

There I sat, in the corner office of a seasoned procurement manager who three years earlier had embraced the concept of MPS from a major player in our market and after three years he was engaging us to provide him with a cost per page.

I dismissed the doubt that maybe MPS was not delivering on its promise because this could be an isolated case.

A revised look at Managed Print Services

Looking back at it from a few weeks’ distance I start thinking; maybe MPS can’t deliver because there are too many definitions, too much marketing, and not enough deliverable services. Maybe the Australian Department of Finance is sending us a wake-up message…