Managed Print Services (MPS) is one of the largest influencers in the business print market. Reuters predicts an increase from $25 billion (2015) to $51 billion by 2023, or 16% of the total estimated $317 billion the commercial print industry will be worth in 2023. This increase is largely being driven by small-to-medium businesses adopting MPS wholesale, especially as services expand, cloud-services become more reliable, and the cost of MPS drops.

Today’s managed print services offer value to businesses of all sizes, functioning as a provider for printer hardware and software but also filling in gaps to help organizations deliver on key objectives surrounding security and compliance, reduction of environmental impact, cost saving, and waste reduction. Understanding this and what an MPS provider actually offers means understanding the history of MPS, where it came from, and how it’s changed over the years.

The Evolution of Managed Services

Managed services first originated in the 1990s, as the increasing complexity of internet meant many businesses could not create and excel at their own networks. Application service providers launched to meet those needs, allowing businesses to outsource IT infrastructure. This quickly evolved into managed security, remote device administration, information services, marketing, and eventually print.

Originally, managed print service providers functioned in much the same way as a glorified rental company. MPS would distribute hardware and software, set up print networks and servers, and manage print server architecture but little more. However, while the goal of these solutions was to relieve IT of print workload, drive costs down, improve the quality of print, and improve visibility of the print fleet, MPS was capable of much more.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has meant a decreasing reliance on print and paper, forcing MPs providers to shift how and where they add value. Modern MPS providers shifted to meet the needs of primarily digitized businesses by adapting services to offer value, individual service, and cost-saving by implementing digital into print. MPS providers integrate into business processes, optimizing workflows, and delivering best outcomes around the processes they engage with.

Audit and Assessment – Modern MPS begin service offerings with a detailed audit and assessment of organizational needs, capabilities, and requirements. Your MPS provider will use this information to recommend best-fit products as well as cost-saving measures across the organization.

Digitization – Most MPS providers will audit document and print output, collecting information on cost, workflows, waste, and optimization. This includes digitizing some workflows, creating digital printer queues, and automating various aspects of document processing and management. Your MPS will tailor specific solutions to your needs to help your organization optimize and reduce costs.

Workflow Optimization – Printing is often one of the most under-optimized processes in an organization. Your MPS vendor should improve that through measures such as optimizing the number of devices in each area, managing security to offer the most protection and the least impediment, managing the speed of printers, networks, and devices, introducing more efficient software and networks, and offering training to ensure employees understand how to make the most of their software and hardware.

Relieving IT of Print – If IT is handling print, they are often doing so inefficiently and at the cost of more value-added tasks. MPS vendors offer full printer support, including network management, help-desks, and repairs. This means that when something goes wrong, an employee simply picks up the phone, calls support, and if it requires maintenance, can immediately schedule a repair. Printer help is more focused because it’s handled by experts and maintenance is handled in-house rather than through third-parties.

Eco-Friendly Practices – An MPS functions to reduce print-related costs, which very often ties into goals for reducing carbon footprint, waste, and improving sustainability. Your MPS provider will track waste and work to reduce it, will reduce electric consumption by fitting printers and scanners to meet needs, and will consistently monitor output. An MPS provider will also choose hardware based on long-term sustainability, including reliability and lower run-cost, which will reduce your total environmental impact as well.

Print Security – Printers are a large security risk. Unsecured printers offer remote access, can connect to the Internet, are vulnerable to USB attacks, may not be secured with a firewall, and are vulnerable to malware and viruses. Many also become risks when employees use them carelessly, with confidential information often printed and left in trays or in print queues, allowing nearly anyone to accidentally access it. One element of an MPS audit will be to review your security needs, existing security practices and processes, and to optimize them. This will involve optimizing print security to meet industry standards and to meet data protection laws.

Flexibility and Scalability – Organizations committing to long-term print fleets through leasing or outright purchase often limit themselves for the long-term. Digitization, expanding businesses, BYOD policies, and other factors can all greatly increase the complexity of your print-fleet needs, as well as the solutions you need long-term. Here, an MPS can offer a lot of value by delivering the print hardware and software you need now, while committing to updating and changing it as your needs update. For example, your MPS can fairly easily introduce mobile print solutions and security, lock out BYOD devices with VLAN, and implement scale-up or scale-downs in hardware. Your organization would be hard-pressed to keep up on your own without having dedicated print specialists on employ inside your organization.

Will MPS Keep Changing?

Most of the tech world is expanding and adapting to incorporate new technologies such as AI, automation, machine learning, and cloud computing. MPS is already beginning to integrate these technologies in the form of document management and processing, print assistance, and so on. It will continue to do so, offering more automation, virtual assistance, and data tracking, so that businesses can reduce manual data entry while improving the quality of print management.

Managed print services have a history in simply providing hardware and software, but today’s vendors often specialize in process optimization and improvement, rather than simply print hardware and software. With services beginning and ending with audits and data collection to reduce costs and improve productivity, MPS can have a huge business impact. As a result, MPS is becoming more and more crucial to organizations that simply cannot afford to focus on print and print optimization as part of their core business.