Managing a fleet of print devices in-house can be complex and time-consuming for small companies, medium-sized businesses and enterprise organizations alike. Many companies are turning to print management outsourcing, also known as managed print services, to streamline their print operations and reduce costs. However, it is important for office managers, IT managers, and financial directors to thoroughly understand the pros and cons of this approach before making a decision on their print management strategy.
Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of print management outsourcing to provide a comprehensive understanding of what it entails and how it compares to managing print devices in-house.
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Understanding Print Management Outsourcing
Print management outsourcing, or managed print services (MPS), is the process of assigning all print-related operations to an external service provider. By doing so, businesses can alleviate the burden of managing their print fleet in-house.
Print management outsourcing, or more commonly, managed print services is a set of services offered by third-party providers to optimize or manage a company’s document output. The main components of these services include conducting a total assessment of the company’s needs, right-sizing the printer fleet accordingly, selective or total replacement of hardware, and ongoing service to keep the equipment running smoothly.
The primary goal of outsourcing this function is to improve efficiency, help control costs, increase productivity, and enhance document security. This business strategy takes a holistic approach, focusing not only on the hardware but also on the entire print environment of an organization.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Managed Print Provider
The roles and responsibilities of a managed print provider extend beyond simply providing machinery and fixing breakdowns. They begin with a thorough assessment of a company’s current print environment to identify the areas that need improvement.
From there, the provider will develop a customized print strategy that aligns with the company’s goals and needs. This strategy will involve the choice and placement of hardware, software solutions for workflow optimization, and a service plan for maintenance and repairs.
Once the proposed strategy is in place, the print management provider monitors the print environment continually to ensure smooth operation. In essence, a managed print provider acts as a company’s partner in managing, optimizing, and maintaining an organization’s print infrastructure. They are responsible for providing proactive service – anticipating and addressing issues before they turn into problems, which ensures business continuity.
Advantages of Print Management Outsourcing
When you outsource your printing needs to a third party, you can expect several advantages. Some of these include:
One of the most compelling reasons to outsource print management is cost efficiency. This approach can significantly reduce capital expenses as it eliminates the need for businesses to invest in expensive printing equipment. This is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises that may find the upfront cost of hardware prohibitive.
Moreover, print management outsourcing allows for predictable monthly expenses. Businesses pay a fixed monthly fee to their service providers, which covers the cost of maintenance, repairs, supplies, and other related services. This predictability makes budgeting easier and helps to avoid unexpected expenses, especially compared to the often unpredictable nature of handling all of this by yourself.
Outsourcing print management can also have a positive impact on productivity. When businesses hand over their print operations to a third party, it frees up internal resources and allows staff to focus on core business activities, boosting overall efficiency.
Moreover, employees can print documents more quickly and efficiently using the latest equipment and software, thereby saving time and increasing productivity.
Access to Expertise and Technology
Print management outsourcing gives businesses access to a team of experienced print management professionals. These experts have a deep understanding of the print environment and can provide valuable insight and advice.
Outsourcing also offers access to the latest printing technology and software. This ensures companies always have the best tools for their printing needs without investing heavily in hardware and software upgrades.
Outsourcing print management can also help businesses reduce their environmental footprint. Managed print service providers often work towards reducing waste through efficient use of paper and consumables.
Several print providers focus on promoting environmental sustainability by offering energy-efficient devices, recycling programs for used cartridges, and using recycled materials wherever possible. Select vendors may also offer reforestation programs to help offset the impact of the customer’s printing.
Disadvantages of Print Management Outsourcing
For all its benefits, outsourcing can also come with some downsides, such as:
Potential Loss of Control
One potential downside of print management outsourcing is the perceived loss of control over your printing processes. Understandably, some businesses may feel uncomfortable handing over a significant part of their operations to a third party.
However, many providers offer comprehensive service agreements where roles, responsibilities, and expectations are clearly defined, mitigating these concerns. Your priorities will always be the focus, even if you aren’t in the room to oversee them.
Dependence on External Provider
Outsourcing print management can lead to dependence on the service provider. If the provider experiences service interruptions, it can disrupt the business’s printing operations.
It’s, therefore, essential to have contingency plans in place and ensure that your provider has a reliable track record and adequate support mechanisms. While this is also true for those who handle their printing needs in-house, having that extra layer of separation from where the problem is happening can bring about its own issues for coordinating fixes.
Possible Hidden Costs
Businesses must also be aware of potential hidden costs. These can come in the form of additional charges for services not covered in the monthly fee, such as software upgrades or consumable replacements.
Clear and transparent agreements are crucial to avoid misunderstandings and unexpected costs. Ensuring everything necessary makes it into the contract is a part of doing business.
Lack of Specific Services
A business should evaluate its unique operational requirements and workflow when deciding if a print partner is the right choice. In some cases, a printer may not be equipped to handle the specific needs or services required by the company.
For instance, companies with complex or highly specialized printing needs might find more value in an in-house solution. This offers the flexibility to adapt and customize their print operations according to changing needs. On the other hand, businesses with straightforward, high-volume printing requirements might find outsourcing more cost-effective and efficient.
Finally, businesses should consider potential security risks. Print environments can be vulnerable to data breaches, so it’s important to choose a provider with robust security measures in place. Like with any partner or your own operations, security should be one of a reputable print management company’s main concerns.
Signs of an Effective Print Management Partner
Just as with any service provider, an effective print management partner should demonstrate certain key characteristics. Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Proactive Approach: The best print management providers are proactive, not reactive. They should be constantly monitoring the print environment and flagging potential issues before they become problems. This saves you from a loss of service and delays due to negligent equipment failure.
- Quality Customer Service: Top-tier providers will offer superior customer service, including quick response times, personalized attention, and knowledge of your unique print environment.
- Transparency: A reliable print management provider will be transparent in their pricing, contracts, and service commitments. You should always know exactly what you’re paying for and what to expect.
- Innovation: The print industry is continually evolving. A good partner will stay on top of the latest technologies, trends, and best practices, and bring innovative solutions to your business.
- Positive Reviews and Testimonials: It’s a good idea to check out what other customers are saying about a potential provider. Positive reviews and testimonials are a strong indicator of a company’s credibility and effectiveness in delivering on its promises.
Choosing an effective print management partner is not a decision to be taken lightly. The right partner can make a significant difference in the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your print operations.
Making the Right Choice: In-house vs. Outsourcing Print Management
Choosing between in-house and outsourced print management involves several factors, including cost, control, expertise, and risk tolerance. In addition to these topics that have already been covered, the company’s growth projections should also be taken into account. For businesses expecting significant growth in the near future, outsourcing print management might offer more scalability. Managed print providers usually have the resources and capacity to easily handle an increase in print volume, while expanding an in-house print operation might require significant resources and investment.
Additionally, the geographical distribution of a company’s operations can be a deciding factor. Businesses with offices spread across multiple locations might find outsourcing a more convenient and efficient solution, as managed print providers can typically deliver services across various geographies, maintaining a consistent level of service quality.
It’s crucial to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before committing to any single solution. Consider the costs associated with staffing, equipment, maintenance, and software for an in-house operation, and compare these to the costs of outsourcing.
Print Management Outsourcing in Summary
The decision to outsource print management should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the advantages and disadvantages it offers. While it can bring significant cost savings, increased productivity, and access to expert advice, businesses must also consider potential downsides, including dependence on an external provider and potential hidden costs.
Ultimately, the choice between outsourcing and in-house print management should be informed by a thorough cost-benefit analysis and align with the broader goals and capabilities of the business.
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