One percenters - in sport they're often considered the difference between winners and also-rans. Recent research from analysts Gartner suggests that companies are spending at least 1 percent of their total revenue just on generating documents.
It's clear the dream of the paperless office is not going to be fulfilled any time soon. With the environmental cost of printing rising and the management of printers adding significant expense to the bottom line of businesses, the era of electronic document management and managed print services (MPS) is truly upon us.
"The new economy will present several opportunities in 2010 and 2011 in managed services and the MPS in particular, as organisations move to optimise infrastructure and minimise costs. Apart from the large enterprises, SMBs will also be looking for document-related solutions including MPS, if offered at the right price point," says Suchitra Narayan, research manager, Asia/Pacific document solutions and services for IDC Asia/Pacific.
That's backed up by research from Springboard which indicates the global MPS market will grow to almost $1 billion by the end of next year. IDC's research points to some quite stunning savings when an effective MPS is implemented.
The cost of operating a printer fleet drops by about 23 percent with most of the savings coming from lower spending on consumables and a significant fall in unscheduled maintenance. Even the internal help desk sees a benefit, with 40 percent fewer printer-related support calls.
Tame the printer
Not surprisingly, traditional printer vendors such as HP, Canon, Ricoh and Lexmark are all in the MPS game - after all, if they can sell you services to go with their hardware then they're going to become firmly established within your company. But if you've been buying printers as needed and not stuck with a specific brand then you can look at other companies that will take over the management of your printer fleet.
John Kara is managing director of GlobalOne. He says many SMBs fail to take a good look at the actual costs associated with printing. Using its custom developed PrintSmart software, GlobalOne has created a solution for this.
"PrintSmart monitors the printer fleet from the server. It can measure when supplies are running low and automatically order supplies as needed". This approach reduces the potential for ad hoc ordering of supplies.
"Rather than paying the premium price charged by resellers, customers can have a replacement toner delivered to their door when the current toner is down to its last 10 percent," Kara explains.
Applying intelligence to printer management also offers cost savings that go beyond ordering the best value consumables. PrintSmart can maintain a log of all error codes that can be used in supporting warranty claims.
Further, when a printer fails PrintSmart can report the error directly to GlobalOne which will dispatch a technician to the site within four hours. And, as the technician has already seen the error log, they can come with the right parts instead of having to make an inspection, order parts and then return.
The Bras N Things group relies heavily on its printer fleet. With about 170 stores across Australia and New Zealand and 1000 staff split between stores and the Milperra headquarters, Bras and Things relies on its printers for providing receipts to customers, daily sales reporting and other administrative activities.
Before deploying the PrintSmart MPS solution the head office held a stock of spare printers and consumables in Milperra. But with delivery to some locations taking up to four days, stores ended up having to buy replacement toners from local resellers, often at far higher prices than head office had negotiated.
Much of the Bras N Things printer fleet was out of warranty and was incurring significant expense just dealing with everyday break/fix items, with actual costs far exceeding the budget.
PrintSmart enabled it to make more intelligent decisions when weighing up replacement versus repair.
"[The] software can look at energy efficiency to give a full picture of cost so that intelligent decisions can be made about centralisation or even the cost effectiveness of fleet replacement," Kara says.
MPS solutions can go further than simply looking at the cost of hardware - the decision to use a printer comes down to people.
By monitoring use at a corporate, departmental and individual level companies can measure and then manage parts of the business that are overspending on print budgets.
For example, it's possible to limit individuals to personal page limits, enforce duplexing and limit access to colour printing. Security can also be enhanced by only releasing jobs at the printer when a security code is entered or a passcard is swiped. These sorts of arrangements can save money by negating the need to purchase individual printers for those dealing with confidential documents.
Larger players such as Canon, HP, Ricoh and Lexmark can take a more holistic approach. Danielle Brender, Canon Australia's manager of managed document services (MDS), says, "Canon's managed document services incorporates hardware, software and services to the entire document lifecycle."
Canon's approach is to leverage its long history in print and imaging technology to find efficiency and cost savings. Canon's research suggests printing costs companies between 1 and 3 percent of their total revenue.
The vendor predicts that up to 30 percent of those costs can be saved through its approach to print management. Canon's methodology for MDS has five phases. It starts with an audit of the customer's equipment and use.
Brender explains that "until this is done the customer often doesn't know what they actually have, how it's used or what they want from MDS."
After the audit Canon works with the customer to design a fit-for-purpose solution. This can include measures to control access to functions such as colour and duplexing in order to control the cost of supplies and consumables.
In addition, Canon's software can proactively monitor devices so that toner cartridges are delivered to the customer before old ones are empty, and technicians can be dispatched to correct faults before unscheduled outages occur - possibly before the customer is aware that there is a fault.
In the design phase Canon's goal is to "focus on the customer's need to bring the biggest benefit", Brender says. This means decisions about whether to look at larger workhorse printers or smaller personal or workgroup printers are made with the customer to ensure that the business's needs are met.
That leads to transitioning to the designed solution. Brender see this as critical as it's important to "find the best pace to move to the new solution".
From this point the methodology moves to a management phase to ensure everything is working as designed. Regular reviews ensure the solution is adapted as the customer's business changes.
Legal firm Trilby Misso Lawyers has about 130 staff and expects to realise cost savings of $5 million over five years through Canon's MDS. Its old process used a heterogeneous fleet of printers with documents manually scanned and saved as PDF. Individual PDFs were then consolidated and uploaded to a central server for different workgroups.
This process was robbing the organisation of about 50 person-hours of effort a day - a substantial number of billable hours. The solution delivered a number of networked high-speed scanners, management software and the ability to hold jobs so that only documents that are released at the printer made it onto paper.
This saved paper used on unclaimed print jobs. The other benefit was that confidential documents weren't left sitting on the printer for all to see.
Hyundai's head office, where 100 people work, has managed massive savings simply by having faster printers with better queue management. In the past staff would send a job to a printer, be frustrated by the slow processing of jobs ahead of them in the queue and then resend them to a less busy printer. This resulted in jobs being printed multiple times.
Canon's pricing model varies depending on the needs of the customer. Options include per page pricing, where the customer pays Canon a fee that includes the total cost of printer operation for each page printed, through to monthly pricing.
Another local company, Upstream Print Solutions, has shown how MPS can be used in schools to save money and teach students what hitting the print button really means.
Blue Mountains Grammar School was faced with rising print costs from its staff and 750 students. By analysing the situation, Upstream was able to help the school achieve an overall 20 percent cost saving as well as greater accountability within the student population and staff. Every pupil and school department became responsible for their own printing costs, and the student body was educated in the actual cost of printing.
Woolworths has 3000 staff in its head office and engaged Ricoh to help tame the printing beast. Amanda Hanson, business manager at the Woolworths office at Norwest Park in Sydney, says: "We employ 160,000 staff throughout Australia. The volumes of paper printed is huge - they were producing about 50 million black and white impressions per year."
Ricoh Print Services national manager Michael Thompson says the goal was to "stretch the boundaries of what's possible with best practice services". While some of the cost savings came with basic actions such as defaulting to double sided and mono printing, they were also able to reduce the response time for getting new toner and performing maintenance tasks by about 70 percent - sometimes being ready to fix problems before end-users were able to call for help.
Even being able to easily schedule large print jobs to run after hours without the need to keep staff on site has delivered about $700,000 of savings in overtime pay. The overall cost saving delivered full project payback in less than a year.
Managing the documents
Of course, managing your output is the last step in a document's life cycle. Document management, the process of controlling your paper through conception, development, collaboration, release and archiving in a secure and controlled way, remains a holy grail for many businesses.
Those who get it right swear by its value. Those who get it wrong bemoan the way it interferes with real work and end up with staff finding creative ways to bypass it.
Canon's approach, of not separating print management from document management, worked well for Trilby Misso Lawyers as it was able to control the masses of printed documents that come through its doors every day. By scanning and storing the documents in a central repository it became trivially easy to share documents across the business.
Ricoh achieved similar outcomes with gas and oil giant Santos. By converting paper documents into usable digital copies it saved on storage space and reduced distribution costs.
A full electronic document management system needs to be designed with flexibility in mind so the specific needs of the business are taken into account. That's where tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Lotus QuickPlace and others come to the fore as they provide a foundation that can build a business-specific solution.
RSM Bird Cameron is an accounting and business services firm with more than 30 offices across Australia and about 700 staff. Document management had become a significant issue. Documents were spread between different repositories. "It was hard to maintain an edge in customer service, we had trouble tracking various inputs across multiple document revisions," says executive director John Heggie.
"There was a constant risk critical information might be overlooked or simply overwritten in the updating process," he says.
It needed a solution that worked within the existing IT infrastructure. Working with IBM Lotus specialists Resource Systems & Services, RSM Bird Cameron chose a solution based on IBM Lotus QuickPlace.
Heggie says the result was a "working environment [that] has changed from a paper-based, people-intensive process to a paperless, systems-driven process". When a new client is acquired, a QuickPlace is established for that client. Different types of QuickPlaces are used for specific client types. While this leads to a little more work up front, the final result is far better access to information.
Into the clouds...
Google recently announced an expansion of its online services to allow users to store any file on its servers. The storage is cheap with the first gigabyte free and additional storage charged at just $US0.25 per GB per year.
Already, Google Docs make it easy to store, share and collaborate online. Late last year Monash University migrated almost 60,000 students from its in-house student email to GMail.
As well as boosting email storage from 40MB to 7GB per student, the ability for students and teachers to share information more readily through Google's collaboration tools allowed better interaction during the educational process.
We're seeing an increased use of online storage solutions for simple document sharing through services like Amazon's S3, DropBox and Mozy. In particular, we see Amazon's S3 as being of great interest as it's not just a straight storage facility. It is actually a backend for a development environment.
S3 is only one part of Amazon Web Services. The developer tools include file managers, authentication tools and many code samples. In other words, the building blocks for an online document management system are in place. But there remains one challenge for cloud-based document management - backup. When everything is handled in-house on local servers, it's easy to be assured backups are being done.
The final word
When it comes to print management services there are a few easy things that save some money without involving a team of consultants. Start by configuring printer settings so that duplexing is on by default and colour is off.
If you can afford to keep a spare cartridge or two on hand, do that so you buy at the best price rather than making a rushed purchase and paying a premium.
Document management can be a little trickier. We'd suggest starting with a simple solution that can grow with you rather than implementing something that's too complex. The trick will be to ensure you choose a platform that will grow with you.