3 Critical Factors You Must Consider When Choosing A Copier/Printer Assessment ProviderHannah Recla
Recently, while reading the April 2011 issue of THE IMAGING CHANNEL and other blog posts on their site, I had growing concerns about how the copy/print/MPS industry is positioning and using copier and printer assessments.
The document output assessment, as we all know, is the most critical step along the path to achieving a “well-managed” output fleet. But not all assessments are created equal, and more importantly, not all assessment providers have the same goals for the project as you might be assuming.
Bottom line – unless the assessment provides you the right information you need to establish your Document Output Strategy (and ultimately Print Policy), AND you can trust it to budget for savings and improvements in advance, the information might not even be worth the paper it’s printed on.
Over the past 20 years, we have come up 3 questions CIOs and IT Administrators must ask themselves when considering any type of assessment, especially for copier/printer fleets. Here are the three most important ranking criteria for a document output assessment.
- How COMPLETE will the data be?
- Will the analysis be OBJECTIVE?
- How much will the assessment COST (especially if it’s “FREE”)?
Because these questions are so important to honestly answer BEFORE taking the time to even talk about a document output assessment, I feel compelled to reinforce the reasoning behind each of these critical questions. So, here we go, in reverse order…
FACTOR #3: How much will the assessment COST (especially if it’s “FREE”)?
If you’re interested in conducting an assessment with internal resources, more power to you. We’ve provided an assessment video series with some helpful hints for conducting a complete and objective assessment with your internal resources. If you have the resources, an internal assessment is completely feasible.
However, if you’re like most organizations, you can’t “spend” internal resources on an assessment and you might be thinking the next best option is a “free assessment” by an MPS provider. MPS providers use the “free assessment” as a way to get their foot in the door, and to get a conversation started. However, for the MPS provider, according to a blog post on THE IMAGING CHANNEL, “MPS is less about the initial assessment and implementation and more about the ongoing management and partner relationship” and the question is “how much information do you [the supplier] need to develop recommendations that are close enough to creating an optimized environment?” Also, “an implemented MPS program is not an end state, so the important thing is to get your foot in the client’s door”.
The “free assessment” is the MPS provider’s method of determining how best to mesh your needs with their services, and what you’ll end up with will be a summary of the findings and a proposal — not an assessment. The idea that “an implemented MPS program is not an end state” is highly problematic. To engage an MPS agreement requires signing a contract, and to leave the end state up for grabs when signing a contract is equivalent to “ready, fire, aim.”
However, you may be saying to yourself, “A summary sounds great! Who wants to (or has time to) wade through a bunch of data? I’ll have three vendors do free assessments at the same time, and then I’ll just pick the best one.” If this is what you’re thinking, please keep reading…
FACTOR #2: Will the analysis be OBJECTIVE?
If you know how much you’re spending and how many pages are being produced, AND you’re happy with the way things are going, AND nobody (e.g. your boss, board of directors, colleagues or end users) is asking you to change anything with the Document Output Environment or reduce expenses, AND all you really want is to see what the vendors’ new offerings are… I’ll concede that you don’t need an assessment.
However, if there are things you don’t know that you want to know…
…OR if you’re not happy with the way things are going or others are not happy with the way things are going…
…OR if you have been handed a missive to measurably reduce costs and improve operations…
…OR if you’ve been handed a whole new set of responsibilities (perhaps you’ve been given charge of the “copier” or “printer” fleet for the first time)…
…you need an objective assessment so you will be able to make some very important decisions based on real information.
Simply put, by “objective” we mean that the vendor who wants to sell you their copiers, printers, MFDs, supplies, or MPS services cannot be the party conducting the assessment. Many organizations seeking assessments now stipulate this condition in their RFP for assessment services. If you don’t require the assessment to be objective, what you’ll end up with are proposals from suppliers.
If you engage in a new contract without conducting an assessment, you are virtually eliminating the likelihood for any lasting change or measurable cost reduction, and you’re bypassing your single greatest opportunity for making improvements.
According to Albert Einstein, (I find it helpful to remind myself of this) “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is the definition of “insanity”. So, if you need things to change, you need to approach this area differently. You can’t continue to rely on your vendor to provide you with the information you need or the contract they recommend. You need an objective assessment and you also need it to be complete.
FACTOR #1: How COMPLETE will the data be?
When you have all the right data in front of you, it becomes possible to start talking about the reasons why things are the way they are and to see what needs to change. If you’re looking at a summary of information, especially from a vendor, the information is being provided to reinforce a proposal, and it will be very hard to see the data for what it is.
The “complete”-ness of the assessment will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, but it starts with a basic set of data points that need to be collected for every device in the fleet. See the following blog post for information on those data points: http://www.optimizon.com/good-copier-printer-data-equals-good-decisions/. In addition to the data points, there are conversations that need to take place with key personnel within your organization. Some of those conversations can take place before the data is gathered in order to establish goals and identify areas of concern. Then, conversations need to take place after the data is collected and analyzed so that the key personnel can see how the decisions in the past have affected costs, volume, utilization, workflow etc. and begin talking about concrete strategies for going forward.
Recently, one of our clients was told by a prospective vendor that a particular device type (which the vendor did not sell) was extremely expensive and the client should consider getting rid of that type of device. Getting rid of that device type would have meant that the client’s IT team would have to engage in extensive software updates so the software used to conduct their daily business would interact with the replacement devices. Fortunately, the client chose to do a complete assessment. Prior to the data collection phase of the assessment, the client shared this concern with us. During the data collection phase, we made sure to get all the information needed to fully analyze this particular area of the fleet, and the data showed that the devices in question are cost effective and a good fit for the client’s business. After all the data was collected and analyzed, the client’s key personnel were able to see that there is no need to replace the devices or engage in time-consuming and costly software updates. Needless to say, IT was very happy to take that software update off their list of the “top 900 things to do in 2011”.
You, too, have important decisions like this to make for your organization. If, after doing a Complete and Objective Assessment, you go on to implement the rest of the 9 Best Practices, this will be the only assessment you’ll ever need to do for your fleet. It’s worth getting right the first time.