Do you find that poor printing infrastructure creates daily challenges for your business including substantial costs, lack of document security, potential GDPR risks and an unnecessary burden on your IT department? For one of the UK’s leading independent architectural companies the issue was no different.
Boasting a £35million turnover, over 200 employees and 10 offices across the UK, this company demanded a robust, structured system to ensure that all document management is as streamlined and efficient as possible.
Our client was looking for help to alleviate many of the difficulties it faced with its current supplier. Fundamental issues included:
The problem boiled down quite simply into the fact that our client was paying a lot of money for a very basic, inadequate service. Do any of the above sound familiar?
We began by auditing the company’s head office. The key priorities of the solution design were to:
MPP manage all our client’s printer requirements, including trouble shooting and monitoring and automatic replenishment of consumables.
We have reduced our client’s costs by 40%.
The next phase of our project is in the introduction of a rules based secure print solution to improve security and provide further efficiencies.
With the introduction of the above rules-based software, we know from experience that this will ensure ongoing reductions in our client’s print volumes.
With the above priorities in mind we created a structured, tailored solution that worked across multiple offices, and comprising of just one manufacturer.
“Having been highly recommended to us by a third party, we chose Managed Print Partners because they were independent consultants who took into account every part of our business – and didn’t just try and sell us one brand of hardware. MPP produced a cohesive, balanced deployment plan that suited our new working environment and even incorporated our tracking and billing software.
“The biggest impact the new systems have had on our business is the incredible cost reduction. Our costs have reduced by £100,000 p/a – we are now paying 40% less for 42 devices, including consumables, compared to the amount we were paying our last supplier for just 11.
What’s more, the printer-related calls to our help desk are now almost non-existent, which makes the whole system much more efficient. Managed Print Partners also provides invaluable ongoing support and advice. Knowing we can just pick up the phone and get a response straight away means we can focus on other areas of the business.”
The managed print sector did nothing to preserve its own reputation in the early days of printers, copiers and scanning devices. There was a short-term attitude which only looked as far as the next deal. The Xerox sales course was widely admired and berated in equal measure for the pressure cooker environment it created amongst sales teams and clients! They were however, extremely successful.
But as years have gone by and technology has become more widely used and therefore cheaper, the opportunity has arisen to save money and replace inefficient devices and end punitive print cost contracts. We often compare print to the mobile phone business as there are many similarities. Back then you paid for the device separately and then a huge amount per minute and text of usage. Today, you rarely pay for a phone, they have become commoditised and are rolled into the monthly contract cost and the price of calls, even international, have tumbled. Printers, document management systems and devices are much the same.
Thinking has changed and changed again where the concept of centralised print is concerned as more flexible working arrangements become commonplace and the traditional office set up almost ceases to exist.
Collectively these factors have resulted in major cost savings for clients that have failed to check their contracts or simply held on to faithful old machines for many years.
It may seem an excessive step to many, but the idea of a print and document management audit genuinely does throw up some great opportunities to not only save money but support flexible and remote working, making print more accessible. It’s a service we regularly deliver for our existing and prospective clients and by experiencing lots of different working practices and sectors, we tend to pick up lots of great ideas along the way that we can share with others. So a print audit is not just about reviewing print volumes, per copy costs etc it is also about spending time considering how the print and document management infrastructure can be adapted to help the business (and save money).
But the big question is, if we can save money, what sort of benefit can we expect to see? Over the last year, its not been unheard of for us to save clients 40%, whilst giving them new devices and reducing lease and ongoing costs for colour and mono print. On average the figure is normally 20-30% but as noted above, it does depend heavily on the elapsed time since your last major overhaul/review. Clients regularly surprise themselves when they sit and think about the last time they took a serious look at their devices and contracts. They are normally even more surprised by the number of additional machines that have snuck onto desks in the meantime!
As independent consultants with over 30 years’ experience we have witnessed huge change in the industry and have adapted to meet the needs of our varied clients. So, if your last managed print invoice lead you to draw a sharp intake of breath or your machines are starting to groan, it may be the right time to stop and look at your infrastructure and see how much you could save.
Centralised Print: To Centralise or Not to Centralise, that is the question
Of all the cyclical debates (jam or cream first on scones, chicken or egg etc.) the question of whether to centralise or decentralise your print infrastructure seems to come and go with the tides. We are regularly asked what is best and it must be said that industry thinking is that the pendulum has swung back towards decentralisation.
There are undoubtedly pros and cons for both options but the major driver, cost, is starting to pale into insignificance as the price of devices and cost per print, continues to come down.
Old school thinking said that centralised print was the only way forward. The idea being that by reducing the number of devices you save the capital cost and then the ongoing costs associated with running multiple devices. At that same time, this was an industry renowned for bad contracts with high penalties and punitive per print/copy charges and so many manufacturers did nothing to help change direction for this train of thought. Centralised print was also used by some suppliers as a clever way of creating lucrative contracts which included substantial hidden margins.
On top of the cost debate, the technology simply did not exist to connect devices easily or provide intelligent printing and so offices followed a more traditional format – everyone with their own desk, sat in departments etc. - and so there was limited demand for anything different.
Nowadays, many of these arguments have been shelved or overcome and the print industry has had to keep pace with the demand for more flexible working, hot desking, work from home and multi office environments. ‘Follow me’ print and cloud server based print technology now allows users to pick up their print from wherever they are working at that point in time, not always going back to a centralised hub.
Companies have also realised that there must be a balance because an over rationalised environment can have a serious impact on productivity of staff. Users are away from their desks for longer periods of time creating situations whereby phones ring longer, go unanswered and the response to customer demands is slower.
Costs continue to fall and, if you choose your partner carefully, managed print contracts are not as painful as those of the 80s and early 90s. Historically, cheap to buy devices typically had excessive toner and ink consumable costs, with a colour print costing as much as 20p. Recently though, similar desktop devices which are cheap to buy, or rent, have seen the full colour consumable running costs and service support contracts get as low as 2.85ppp, depending on volumes. If you are lucky you may be paying something similar to this already on a per print basis with a mid-high volume centralised device, but you will most likely be paying an expensive quarterly lease rental charge in addition for the device itself.
More importantly these low-cost devices print at speeds of 40-50-60 pages per minute and handle volumes of up to 20,000 prints per month making them great for busy offices. Latest service offerings ensure that if there are any issues with the device not functioning properly, at any point in the contract, it can be swapped out for a direct replacement at no additional cost. So, if a mid-high volume machine does fail there is limited or no impact of productivity for the business.
Like everything in life, we say exercise some moderation and aim for a happy medium, somewhere between plurality and centralised print. An audit of current structure set against a background of desired outcomes can normally find the right balance. Why not contact us today to organise an audit?
As we visit prospective education sector clients, we regularly come across various iterations of ‘old school’ print contracts. The reference to old school is a pun; what we refer to are the old fashioned, expensive, punitive print contracts that were common place in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
If there is one sector that ‘got hit’ hardest by these sales techniques it is the education sector. It is not unusual to find schools saddled with ongoing finance on devices, alongside stinging (minimum volume) pence-per-page consumable and service contracts. To put this into perspective, these contracts could be based on estimates of 50,000+ prints per quarter, a figure you have to pay whether you hit that volume or not and can include the capital cost of the equipment, if not then there is usually a separate rental contract running alongside.
The reason that schools are paying such high charges is because they may have been mis-sold into the centralised Managed Print Service (MPS) proposition for supposed cost reduction purposes. The concept of centralised print, at that point in time, was not necessarily incorrect – as smaller desktop devices were expensive to run - however this is definitely not the case today. The issue is that many of these contracts, whilst designed to save the client money, actually only helped suppliers hide copious amounts of margin in the hardware and print charges. Furthermore, no one seems to have gone back to the schools and told them that things have changed and that the only people benefiting from the old approach were the device providers and support companies.
Not only has technology changed, but the demands in school have also changed significantly since then. Most schools now use smart boards, computers and iPads in classes which reduces the amount of paper required for lesson planning and delivery alone. Newsletters and parental communications also rely more on email than paper resulting in a further reduction in demand.
Technology costs now mean that it is much more time and cost efficient to have a device per classroom, even more so than centralisation ever offered. Recent examples that we have delivered for our clients provide an all-inclusive price (hardware, consumables and support) for significantly less than their current service and consumable spend – and with no hidden extras! On top of the cost benefits of ‘in class’ printing, the idea of decentralising also has many practical benefits. Nurseries and Key Stage 1 classes tend to use photos and pictures to show child development and so access to immediate printing allows teachers to keep records up to date.
The explosion in wireless and mobile devices also means pupils and teachers alike need ready access to printers as more and more content is produced not in books, but on tablets, phones and laptops – in short the idea of leaving the classroom and walking to a centralised print area like the staff room or office is no longer a practical expectation.
With mounting pressure on schools to balance the books whilst achieving outstanding outcomes, the cost of print is once again becoming a major issue. And it’s time that things changed to ensure that schools can use their squeezed budgets to be cost effective, efficient and modern when it comes to print.
When you read this blog post about creating a healthy workplace you may be forgiven for thinking that we’ve spent a little bit too long in a confined space with some toner – and in some respects, you’re right – that’s why we are writing it!
Like many others, we do wonder what the impact of the technological revolution will be on long term health. Mobile phones, printers, screen flicker and wi-fi have all arrived in our life time and we won’t see any potential impact for a generation. Major studies are already taking place to consider the impacts of changes in working habits and the advent of mobile technology with concerns abound regarding their effect on our health and wellbeing.
So, what can you do to mitigate the impact of technology in your workplace?
One of the side benefits of updating your inhouse print infrastructure can be improved wellbeing for your personnel; and with wellbeing becoming a major factor in job selection for employees, it’s an important element not to overlook.
Let’s rewind to the early days of printers. The network infrastructure maybe didn’t exist or the print requirements of different departments required very localised printers. The accounts team could be relied upon to have one huge dot matrix printer, a cheque printer and a couple of ‘normal’ printers at the very least. The technology of these printers was rudimentary and resulted in the fans working overtime, coughing toner and dust into the air and across desks. Early laser printers with a very dry powder toner were amongst the worst for distributing their contents into the atmosphere.
Localised printing also turned us into a national of desk dwellers. We did not need to move from our desks, except to get a cuppa from the kitchen or for calls of nature, so we stayed, welded to our desks for longer, breathing in toner!
Ok, so we paint a bit of a grim picture but sadly we are old enough to remember offices that did seem to have a fog – although that could have also been the people smoking at their desks of course!
Technology and thinking have moved on considerably. The printers of today are far more efficient, produce less emissions and don’t need such big internal fans to keep them cool, reducing the amount of bi-product being pumped into the office environment.
The ongoing debate about centralisation Vs decentralisation of print continues, but the simple fact is there are typically less printers in the average office today, compared to 20 years ago. We also print less, but when we do print at least, it does require us to get up, move about and then, most importantly, readjust our posture as we sit back down. These little breaks away from screen and desk are already proven to have a positive effect on health and wellbeing.
So, if you haven’t updated your printers in a long while there is every chance that you could not only enjoy some cost and process efficiencies but also have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of your staff by creating a healthy workplace.
Considering forthcoming GDPR regulations, the question of print and document management security is becoming a hot topic. A great deal of focus regarding data is placed on the storing and use of it and yet very little attention is paid to that same data whilst it is in the ether or when it is recreated in physical/hard print format. We have previously blogged about securing the print process in and around the end point i.e. at the printer, but what about the process up to the point of print?
In most organisations network security is taken seriously with thousands invested in it and yet this investment could be put to greater use to secure documents in the print queue, introduce print efficiencies and further reduce the security risk at the end point.
Over the years there has been a swing between centralised and decentralised print, meaning fewer people have dedicated printers immediately near their regular place of work. Add to this a more mobile workforce, global operations and multiple offices and you soon understand the risk that is posed by printing to the wrong machine in the wrong office at the wrong time. Furthermore, the traditional view of localised printing does not offer any flexibility to the individual concerned or reflect the fact that different job roles may require more personalised print settings, specific to the work being undertaken.
Making your print infrastructure more connected will solve all of these issues whilst further securing important data and files. Technology and software like ‘follow me’ print utilises the flexibility and security of the network infrastructure to enable on demand printing – allowing users to print the files they need, when and where they need it and only if they need it. Instead of an immediate print to device function, files are stored in the cloud or on a server, which forms part of the network and is covered by the investment in network security. The document then sits there, safe, until such time as it is called down to a device by the relevant user. The user specifies the device and the print settings at that point in time or if working across a range of connected devices can simply have a personalised print setting which identifies the user, file and device and prints the file accordingly.
As well as answering print security issues, technology like follow me print can help to reduce print volumes and therefore cost. So, if your print infrastructure is not connected and using the latest technologies, this may be another risk when GDPR regulations come into force in 2018.
GDPR legislation is set to highlight print device security as a major issue
The forthcoming introduction of GDPR legislation has once again shone a light on the security (or lack thereof) around print infrastructure. As highlighted in our recent blog about GDPR compliant workplaces, print hardware and devices typically remain the weak link in IT security.
What many people fail to realise is that most office printers have a hard disc and a network connection, just like a computer, and yet they are not afforded the same level of hardware protection. Printers present a back door to otherwise highly secure networks and as devices become more accessible, so the risk increases.
The introduction of Airprint technology and wireless printing can be useful from a user perspective, but it also makes devices more visible and therefore more ‘hackable’. To test the theory, we recently sat in a car outside a serviced office block and scanned to see how many devices we could see. An eye watering 25 network access points (excluding wifi access points) were presented for our selection. Now, we didn’t test the security behind these but our experience suggests that we could probably have hacked up to 50% of these with little or no effort, putting us on networks and able to access other devices or upload malware, trojans or viruses. A dedicated hacker would probably be able to access closer 75% and in far less time than a keen amateur.
With print infrastructure once again moving away from centralised print, back to a more generous scattering of devices around the workplace, the risk to IT security, if not taken seriously, will only increase. However, even secure network devices present a continued data risk if other aspects such as secure document destruction, immediate collection of confidential documents and on demand printing are not taken into consideration.
Securing your print estate is not as difficult or expensive as you may think, especially when compared to the risk:benefit analysis of not doing anything, and so we now recommend this as standard for all our clients. For more information, contact us today.
Are you paying too much for print?
The title for this should probably read ‘You ARE paying too much for print’ as it is increasingly rare that we come across a company that cannot make savings across their print estate. This is not for the want of trying as most companies understand that the provision and maintenance of devices and consumables is normally a big chunk of their IT spend.
So, in this blog we wanted to share the benefit of our experience in this sector to try and help more of you drive down costs. Some of the ideas below may seem obvious but the small costs soon add up and if you haven’t reviewed your print estate recently, then maybe these five top tips will help guide you:
There are plenty of unique criteria that may only apply to you and so if you need some more bespoke advice and support around efficiencies and cost reductions please let us know.
GDPR Compliant Workplaces
We’re used to hearing horror stories of laptops and USB keys going missing stacked full of data, or websites being hacked to access personal information; but despite spending huge budgets on securing electronic data, most companies still fall foul of new data protection regulations due to hard copy material.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force in May 2018, has once again shone a light on the subject of data protection and will introduce far reaching conditions on holders of data to ensure they are doing all they can to protect it. But walking around most offices, many have overlooked some of the most obvious breaches.
Working with clients to introduce print efficiencies and reduce costs, we spend a lot of time around printers, scanners and other networked devices that hold and generate significant amounts of data. Whilst most workstations are secured, it is amazing how few devices, such as printers, are not.
Printers are, to all intents and purposes, PC’s and if they are not protected can provide the same level of access to your network and data (as demonstrated in this HP video). Furthermore, incorrectly configured print management systems can result in secure and confidential documents/data popping up on machines around the building and not always in the right places. Not a problem if you remember to pick them up immediately, but how many times do we forget, leaving the content on display for anyone looking?
In the last 20 years, secure destruction of documents has avoided personal data ending up in freely accessible bins or blowing down the street, but these bags of documents are a data dream, all neatly packed together in a handy bag that can be picked up and taken away. How easy is that? By putting documents in these bags, we get a false sense of security, but actually all we are doing is creating a nucleus of data.
So, as we help clients prepare for the introduction of GDPR, one of the first things we do is a walkaround of their premises to point out these seemingly obvious issues. You’d be surprised how many organisations with highly secure, locked down IT processes are undermined by the simplest things.