Magazine Article | July 18, 2013

Why Now Is A Good Time To Take A Second Look At Managed Print Services

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By Jay McCall

Not only is selling managed print services (MPS) a good way to earn incremental and recurring revenue, it’s one of the best ways to keep competitors away from your customers.

When I ask most managed services providers (MSPs) about what kinds of IT assets they monitor for their customers, answers such as “servers, routers, switches, firewalls, PCs, laptops, and even mobile devices” are common responses. Less common responses include “printers, fax machines, MFPs [multifunctional peripherals], and copiers.” After inquiring further about these latter devices, I’ve discovered there are a number of reasons MSPs give as to why they shy away from monitoring and managing copiers and printers. What’s also interesting is that there are a lot of copier dealers and ECM (enterprise content management)/document management VARs that provide break-fix repair services, but aren’t offering flat-fee monthly managed print services. The big question for all of these channel companies is: Is this a wise move or a missed opportunity?

I reached out to Tim Brien, the director of managed print services at OKI Data Americas, to help shed light on this subject. Brien has worked with a number of office equipment VARs as well as MSPs over the years and had some good insights on why both types of resellers should be looking to sell managed print services. Brien also addressed the challenges resellers face when considering MPS, and he shared some tips for overcoming these obstacles.

How Hard Is It To Start Selling MPS?
While selling MPS is a complementary add-on for VARs as well as MSPs, both types of resellers need to make some changes to their businesses before they can be successful. First, VARs need to select MPS software that’s capable of remotely monitoring all of their clients’ copier-related devices, and then they need to figure out how this new service and business model is going to fit in with their current business model.

MSPs, on the other hand, are already familiar with the monthly recurring-revenue concept, but there are significant differences between managing copiers and servers that need to be understood. First, the RMM (remote monitoring and management) software tools MSPs use to manage IT assets most likely won’t work on networked printers and copiers, so MSPs will need to shop for MPS software just like VARs do. The second and bigger issue for MSPs is determining how services will be delivered. For example, do you really want a senior engineer who earns a six-figure paycheck delivering copier toner and clearing paper jams? Clearly not.

Brien agrees that these changes aren’t small, yet they shouldn’t dissuade either type of reseller from pursuing MPS. “The most important advice I can share with any reseller is to go into this with the right kind of expectations,” he says. “With all the hype over the last five years regarding the rapid transition from a break-fix hardware model to a recurring-revenue model, most channel partners have developed the notion that this transition will just happen overnight and that their customers will rush to be all-in with the services model. The reality is that most MSPs are still trying to convince the majority of their customers to migrate to a managed services contract.”

Brien’s insight should give both types of resellers some perspective on the issue. The fear of transitioning a majority of your customers to an MPS program in a very short period is not reality, so you will have the opportunity to figure out the finer points of this business model even while you’re starting to sell it. What’s nice, also, is the fact that since MPS software is sold by the number of licenses you actually use, you won’t have to invest tens of thousands of dollars in MPS software and hope you can grow into your investment — you’ll pay for the software licenses as your customers start seeing the need and wanting to purchase your services.

Don’t Let Misconceptions Keep You From Selling MPS
Even though selling MPS is a natural fit for copier VARs and MSPs, both types of resellers can fall into the trap of thinking that, if they sell MPS, they have to be the ones to troubleshoot every alert, including providing and installing new toner and clearing every paper jam. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Brien. “VARs and MSPs alike should be working with their MPS and/or copier vendor or distributor partners to discuss how services should be delivered, and each reseller’s situation will be different based on their in-house skillsets, customer needs, and business models. In some situations, it will make the most sense for a VAR to completely outsource the servicing of copiers and printers to their vendor/distributor partner and to save their in-house IT talent for higher-end tasks.”

Even for VARs and MSPs that outsource the servicing of their MPS programs to a business partner, there are still incremental and monthly recurring revenues to be earned as well as another benefit that either type of reseller can’t afford to ignore. “Even though the transition to services-based IT hasn’t happened as quickly as many MSPs might have originally thought, that is the way the business world is moving,” says Brien. “We’re also starting to see a trend where large copier dealers are acquiring managed services companies so they can offer more complete IT solutions and services to their end customers. By adopting MPS now, you’ll be in a better position to defend against competitors who want to take over the area of your customers’ businesses that you’re not currently addressing and using that to eventually work their way into the areas that you are.”

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