Very simply, managed print services is “the active management and optimization of business processes related to documents and information, including input and output devices.” If you work in the imaging industry, it’s a definition that you are likely familiar with in some form or another. It’s the official definition of MPS from the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) that was revised a couple of years ago to better reflect what MPS has become, but how accurately does it reflect the state of managed print services as a whole?
In a broad sense, yes, I think it summarizes what managed print is, but there is so much more to know about the MPS market beyond document and information processes, and input and output devices. In this post, we’ll look at three aspects of managed print in particular: scope (what it entails), scale (how it has evolved and future growth opportunities) and sustainability (what providers have to do to remain competitive in an industry of rapid change and multiple providers).
So what exactly is managed print? Depending on your perspective and position in the industry, it can be a service or solution, a business model, a pricing model or a value-add. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it illustrates just how diverse the role of MPS is in the imaging industry. Regardless of how you value MPS – whether it is integral to your operations or one of many products and services you offer – it’s a process with many touch points throughout the imaging supply chain.
One of the unique aspects of managed print is that it’s relevant and valuable to businesses at virtually every level of the supply chain, including OEMS, distributors, resellers, dealers and end users. From home-grown OEM platforms and programs to third-party MPS solutions, the number of solutions on the market alone demonstrates the value of MPS for providers as well as end users.
Then there’s the intersection between MPS and manufacturing to consider, namely hardware and consumables. OEMs, distributors and toner remanufacturers want to know what supplies and parts are in demand, and MPS solutions are the tools that provide them with this data. Conversely, MPS providers want to know what supplies their end users are using to provide proactive device management. Having accurate supply level data can mean the difference between an efficient supplies fulfillment program that meets contractual service level agreements (SLAs) and a poorly managed one that does not.
It all boils down to data. Successful businesses in the industry are invested in device data that provides them with actionable insights to make sound business decisions, simplify processes within the industry and automate the supply chain. Beyond the devices, supplies and parts that the software is designed to collect information on, MPS is fundamentally about data.
If the imaging industry started off as primarily transactional, focussed on printer and copier sales, then the shift to consultative and solution-based sales is certainly indicative of an industry that is expanding, or at least changing course. Managed print is one of the reasons for this shift and although it is a relatively mature market, it continues to see positive growth year-over-year. According to Transparency Market Research, the global market for MPS has a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8% between 2015 and 2024.1
How is this the case for a proven solution like MPS? There are a number of reasons for this. For some, particularly those in the legal, healthcare and government sectors, managed print is a relevant service becomes print is still a reality for them. For industries and organizations outside of these paper-intensive verticals, managed print is still relevant because it’s responsive. As businesses change, so do the solutions that organizations use to manage their operations. MPS continues to be valuable to businesses by addressing market and consumer changes.
Here are a couple examples of how the managed print market has responded to changes and turned them into growth opportunities:
- Vertical markets: Long before vertical markets were regarded as prospective MPS customers, MPS providers focussed most of their sales and marketing efforts on the traditional BTA channel. They could sell managed print to office equipment dealers who, in turn, could provide it to their customers as a value add with their printer and copier purchases. However, there is a finite number of dealers in the BTA space and MPS providers have to contend with competitors selling to the same channel. Vertical markets became an untapped resource in terms of sales opportunities and many MPS providers have differentiated their managed print offering to specifically market to these non-traditional spaces.
- SMB and SMEs: Back when the market was relatively young, managed print favoured large organizations, inadvertently overlooking smaller businesses due to the cost of enterprise solutions. Advances is technology have made MPS more accessible for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), though. Flexible and cost-effective solutions like cloud-based MPS solutions and embedded data collection agents (DCAs) make managed print more widely available to businesses that were overlooked by early MPS solutions.
One of the big discussions at this year’s CompTIA Annual Member Meeting (AMM) was the competitive landscape for solution providers, including MPS providers. As my colleague David Brown noted in his recap, the most surprising takeaway from the event was the idea that the IT channel does not consider the growing number of office equipment dealers venturing into managed services as a threat.
This observation speaks volumes about the saturation of the managed print market. Many office equipment dealers offer MPS, but they are increasingly moving into other managed services. Why is this the case? As I stated above, there are a finite number of opportunities to sell MPS in the traditional BTA space, so dealers are looking elsewhere for growth, even venturing into the managed services territory traditionally occupied by IT VARs and MSPs.
The MPS market is a competitive one with many contenders, so MPS providers looking to stay ahead of the pack need to differentiate their offerings and clearly communicate their value proposition to customers and potential customers. This may mean investing in new tools and programs like automated supplies fulfillment programs or expanding core competencies to include other managed services. Whatever the strategy, maintaining healthy MPS margins means businesses must be willing to explore new opportunities and respond to market changes.
We just touched the surface of what managed print is and where it’s heading. For a more in-depth look at the MPS market, download our updated Complete Guide to Managed Print Services!