The concept of managed print services (MPS) has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people over the years, by definition and in revenue. Is it just about A4? Auto-replenishing of supplies? How deep and wide can it go? MPS has evolved to be anything a dealer wants it to be, for lack of a better way of putting it. It’s elastic, flexible. One thing we can all agree on, though, is that taking a consultative approach with customers leads to better relationships and greater financial success for all parties.
And because of that, it takes an exceptional listener to execute and deliver on managed print services. Greg Walters is that exceptional listener. While he started his career in IT, he’s been immersed in the print industry for a while now and currently finds himself working with clients on MPS deals, specifically—surprise, surprise!—A3. All of this is quite ironic seeing as, in 2008, Walters created The Death of the Copier, a website that’s still going strong.
Carl Schell: You’ve come a long way since you started selling computerized accounting systems in 1987. Where were you at when you decided to go out on your own, and how has it progressed?
Greg Walters: Going solo was an evolutionary step after my experience building an MPS practice inside a VAR (value-added reseller). I’d been in the business of helping businesses for decades. MPS was just becoming mainstream back then, so there were no experts. I started attending tradeshows and conferences, then began writing. The Death of the Copier site commanded attention in those days, and there were very few bloggers at that point.
The commentary got me clients, speaking spots, invitations to shows, and all that pomp—but the best times were helping folks get started in managed print services. The journey has also included IT asset management practices and guiding end users by designing self-supported programs. I believed that MPS was the on-ramp to opportunities, beyond marks on paper, and I still believe that. I love helping others reach the same conclusion.
CS: Listening is a critical skill in a position such as yours. Can you give us an example from your consulting experience where this played a huge role in landing a job and, ultimately, a positive outcome?
GW: There is no good argument against the importance of listening. Most salespeople listen for the opportunity to drop their sales prowess on a prospect, it is what we were trained to do—but it does not promote empathy.
In 2009, a large organization that generated thermo-electricity and moved water wanted to place fax options and add devices to its MPS agreement, but after some digging we realized a document management solution made more sense than more hardware. There were 45 employees in the accounts payable department, and each device had two invoices per month: one for the lease, the other for usage. Add lease expiration dates, managers autonomy in the decision process, and multiple incorrect invoices, and it’s easy to see why the current copier supplier had claimed many hours and caused many headaches.
We could have deployed a fax server, installed devices at each desk, or strategically placed MFPs, but it would not have solved the bigger problem of managing the mass of incoming documents. You can probably guess that we set up OCR, zonal scanning, auto-routing, etc., along with a digital repository. The project streamlined approval and review procedures as well as reduced time required to process payments. Listening with intent helped me save this client millions, brought home a profitable software solution, and elevated our relationship from “supplier” to “proven advisor.”
|Greg Walters, Founder of the aptly named Greg Walters, Inc.|
CS: Now you’re heavily involved in print, and you’ve referred to this era as an MPS Renaissance. I’m eager for all the details, sooo…?
GW: It’s the Managed Print Services Renaissance because once-dead MPS is alive and well. It was defined as toner and services billed on a monthly invoice—actually, “managed toner services” was a better description, so we killed it, at least that version of MPS.
Perhaps it is more of a resurrection, but just as print approaches zero yet never reaches it, MPS was in a box but was not dead. Today, with depleted IT staff and possibly 50% of the workforce heading back to offices, supporting print internally takes a backseat to delivering a secure remote working environment.
There are fewer machines in the field, but they are still generating volumes. Combined with fewer internal IT staff and altered priorities due to COVID, it gives us a space to inhabit. This was not available prior to the pandemic, mind you. Some companies eliminated or reduced IT staff, yet devices still need to be managed—and print has fallen off the priority list.
A vacuum exists, and we have another chance to fill the void with MPS contracts. My hope is that we now assess the entire IT environment, not just output devices. Let’s help our customers along the journey to fewer machines, replacing them with adjacent solutions.
CS: Now of course, because of the pandemic and the supply chain nightmare, dealers need to diversify beyond the box more than ever before. Has your past come back to help fill in the canvas that is MPS?
GW: Over the decades I’ve witnessed multiple revolutions, a few renaissances, and even fewer ages of enlightenment. This is no different than decades past, but diversification is the new mantra, and the world has opened immensely. I’ve always said, “If you can sell a copier, you can sell anything.” Now we have the chance to prove it.
You may see it as diversification, but I call it “convergence.” What would I recommend looking into? Everything. We already know what a DCA (data collection agent) is and the basics of remote monitoring of output devices. The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing exponentially every week. Explore if not understand artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, edge computing, LoRaWAN (long range wide area network), and the partner ecosystem.
Do not listen to managed print services naysayers when they say you are wasting your energy going after MPS contracts. These charlatans are using the outdated definition of managed print services and have an anti-MPS agenda. Grab the opportunities, pivot into adjacent services, and migrate away from just the marks on paper.
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