The Long Tail, Parasites and the Dumbing Down of Imaging
Two years a ago I was ringing the bell, exclaiming '...the OEMs were hi-jacking managed print services..." by angling to define MpS in their own likeness.
You remember, in 2008 (ITEX), the second or third generation of MpS was a breach presentation.
Back then, OEM MpS programs defined MpS/OPS as managing their devices, ignoring all others.
Everyone was scrambling to release a program. Xerox had PagePack 1.0, HP had OPS Elite, Kyocera had the "cheapest devices", Konica had OPS, OKI jumped in and Toshiba's MpS was one of the best kept secrets in the industry.
The pendulum swung hard right, all the way up to OEMs = MPS as they dictated their doctrine of either 1:1 refreshes or bundled lease and service.
That didn't work. They couldn't get their heads around the fact that MpS means reducing MIF; how could we rationalize a business model that demands less hardware, leaner work-forces, more technology and less print?
It was the Clash of the Titans.
Well, as you know, the promise of MpS, when defined by a single OEM, was empty or at least reserved for all those 'Enterprise' level accounts. Revenues fell by more than 20%.
Today, the pendulum is arching back through the independent and over to the third party parts and toner suppliers. It is true that these companies have been managing fleets of single function or multi-function, cartridge based devices for at least a decade. And yes, while it is also true that within the MpS ecosystem, third-party toner, refurbished parts and machines are all important components of the ecosystem, they do not and never have defined the entire ecosystem.
This is what I am seeing today - the service driven, aftermarket players are attempting to define MpS as "the management of delivery and fulfillment of parts, toner and machines".
MpS does not begin and end with maintaining the status quo by providing parts; that's simply a starting point. Don't get me wrong, I know there are plenty of great MpS infrastructure programs coming out of the 'supply-side' of MpS - LMI, Parts Now, etc. - my only caution here is to remind us all that MpS Purity actively manages away the "p".
More insidious, the analysts are dedicating more words to 'MpS ready hardware', cheaper toner prices, 'color is now ready' and office supply stores providing MpS. This is nothing more than a re-hashed, 1990 approach to office equipment and furniture.
That's right, I am hinting that some feel selling MpS is the same as selling office furniture - I am not first to say it. From an article over at The Week in Imaging:
“It’s(MpS) similar to furniture,” says Barkowiak. “You have sales people who are scared of furniture in a lot of cases and it takes a while to develop them so they’re not afraid of it. We’re still in that phase with print management, getting sales reps to where they’re comfortable with it and believe in it.”
Managed print Services Stage 1, meet commoditization. Commoditization, meet MPS/S1. It's the dumbing down of our industry resulting in a blissful, Stage 1 existence.
Don't even get me started on the new or new-again promise of remote printing, it is a BoonDoggle - GAP
I am not denying the reality of the day, just pointing out the irrelevance.
The Long Tail and Parasites -
Building the perfect infrastructure program or implementing a flawless toner fulfillment process is laudable yet unsustainable. Why unsustainable? Because people are changing the way they get their information. More and more, content is consumed off a screen, not a piece of paper.
It won't matter how perfect your monitoring software works, how well your algorithms are designed or if you deliver on time. People will print less, companies do not need to copy as much as they did in 2007.
The 'hosts' of our industry, the biggest being HP, are dying. Think I'm wrong, just ask Wall Street. Did you ever think you would see the day when HP's stock would FALL on word of Lexmark's stock?
If we stay attached, improving our little systems as we go, we will still die. Our demise will be long after the host has moved on - if every manufacturer of devices suddenly stopped producing devices, the world would still have the ability to print and copy for decades - but fooling ourselves into sustainability around fusers, toner, remanufactured HP4250's and office furniture is amateurish.
One way or another, our ultimate transformation is guaranteed. We're just saying, transform with your eyes open, wide awake.
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