More and more enterprises are gaining insights that support better decision-making by applying sophisticated analytics to data they collect about their customers, markets, offerings and finances. So it’s probably no surprise that similar techniques are being applied in managed print services (MPS) to offer insights for improving the service and the larger enterprise it serves.
The data that underlies MPS business intelligence comes from multiple sources: the printing devices, the user population, the documents that are being produced, the process for producing the documents, and the overall performance of the service. These data complement one another to provide a nearly 360-degree view of the ways print and documents are used in an organization.
By applying analytics to this data, providers can do more than simply report on operational status. You can gain insights into trends and causations, to learn what needs to change and where to focus efforts. You can identify efficiencies that can save time and money. You can better align your print infrastructure with business needs. And because you base your decisions on hard evidence, rather than anecdotes or hunches, you make better decisions and you present a better case for change to your management.
Here are five ways providers use data about an enterprise’s documents and printer fleet to unlock the business intelligence that can be one of your most valuable resources.
1. Understand Your Device Needs
Your analytics journey begins with data about your device usage — how much do you print and how much do you pay for that print. This helps you understand your actual volumes and associated costs — something many businesses don’t track — as well as your environmental impact.
With this baseline knowledge, you can begin planning to improve your organization’s printing by establishing targets and developing a policy to help you hit them. This exercise usually is part of an MPS startup, and it makes use of three key benchmarks:
• Your current printer fleet: Where are your printers physically located, how many pages are they printing each month and what is their projected useful lifetime?
• Your cost baseline: Two key benchmarks are your cost per page and your total cost of ownership.
• Your environmental impact: The electricity you use to run a device and the amount of paper you consume are among the measures for your printing fleet’s impact on the environment.
Analytics on this data helps you rationalize your printer fleet. Using predictive analytics, you can model “what if” scenarios to evaluate different options for improvement and optimization. You’ll make more informed decisions about what devices you need, where you need them and whether you should allocate higher print volumes to multifunction printers or a centralized print room. The process should help ensure that you have the right number of devices and that none are over- or underutilized.
You also can begin defining your goals moving forward. What do you want your MPS service to achieve? Typical targets include reducing print volume, shrinking the device fleet and cutting required storage space. To help you achieve these goals, include them in your service level agreement with your supplier and point your users in the right direction by developing a print policy for the organization.
2. Know Your Users
The next level of insights comes from understanding who uses the enterprise’s printers, and what they print. User analytics can help you understand:
• User behaviors: Who prints and what types of documents are they printing? Where do they print, and when?
• Content: What types of content are typically printed? Could some be delivered more efficiently and less expensively?
• Volumes: How much are people printing, individually and at team/group level?
• Trends: How do these factors change over time? Are there usually peaks or troughs in a given day, week, month or year?
• Waste: Do people use paper wisely? Could they use less, or make better choices about how and what they print? For example, are they printing in high-resolution color when a black and white draft would work just as well?
Some providers offer print management tools that can collect data for this analysis. This data should address individual usage, such as what document was printed, by whom, when and on which devices, as well as aggregate figures on monochrome and color print volumes and costs by user/department and by document type/file extension. Some providers also present these data in interactive dashboards, which can accelerate analysis and boost accuracy.
A wide range of insights can be gained from these analytics, including:
• Identifying opportunities for costs savings
• Finding new ways to share or allocate costs, such as chargebacks
• Understanding security implications and ensuring policies are followed, a particular concern if you work in a highly regulated, document-intensive industry such as finance or healthcare
• Identifying automation potential
• Determining where educating your people about best practices can help
3. Explore Why Your Enterprise Prints
Understanding device and user analytics reveals the “what” and the “who” behind your printing. To get to the “why,” you need to understand the role printed documents and their associated processes play in the organization. This involves linking knowledge about which documents are being printed and by whom — individuals, teams or departments — to the stages of your business processes. Your research should follow printed documents from creation all the way to the end of their useful life, to understand when they are filed, archived, shredded or recycled.
With this knowledge you can add more depth to your device and user analytics to identify which printing is essential and which can be avoided. You also can get a better grip on which manual, paper-intensive processes can be simplified or automated to reduce costs, conserve resources and save time.
Such a study requires two types of data:
• Quantitative data, such as printing volume by user and data on the number of documents being filed
• Qualitative data, to understand how people use print. This can be derived from online surveys, phone interviews and face-to-face workshops. The data can be cut by organizational level, individual departments or business processes, to understand how print is used in your enterprise’s many workflows.
Analytics on this data will likely support one observation you’ve probably already made: that paper-intensive processes often can be improved with a digital workflow. Advantages can include lower costs and greater efficiency. Some also find digital is more sustainable and more secure.
4. Reshape Printing and Business Processes
To gain the clearest available view of your print environment and the way it supports your business, one additional area needs your attention: your work processes — what happens when and who does what, at each stage. Process analytics can give you a clearer view of each of the steps in each of your business processes.
You collect the qualitative data you need for these analytics by speaking with the process experts or owners. They understand the processes in detail, and can provide the granular data you need to help identify opportunities for improvement. The resulting analytics can help you pinpoint process steps that are inefficient and don’t add value to you or your customers—and they can begin to provide evidence on the benefits of improving them.
With device, user, document and process analytics, you have a nearly 360-degree view of your printing environment. With these analytics, you can confidently explore ways to simplify and optimize processes with digital alternatives and automated workflows that can boost productivity, reduce costs, improve sustainability and increase customer satisfaction.
Keep in mind that replacing print-based workflows with digital can be a major undertaking — but it isn’t always. For example, something as simple as a digital signature solution can radically change your users’ print behavior, giving you a quick and easy win to build upon.
Done well, digital transformation will change your work processes from being complex, time-consuming, manual, reactive, expensive, error-prone, rigid and disorderly to being simple, concise, automated, proactive, economical, high-quality, flexible and controlled.
5. Assess Performance
Your journey isn’t over. Now you need to monitor the service analytics that give you a big-picture view of your print fleet performance. These are generated automatically from your MPS provider’s print management tools. You can track print volumes, incidents like paper jams and other data, and analyze trends to spot emerging needs, slack capacity and potential issues that need addressing.
Service analytics provide a convenient way to assess how well your MPS provider is performing and the impact of any process changes you make. You can use it to measure your return on investment, adapt goals and service level agreements, and make sure you achieve the continuous improvement you seek.
A Map to the Future
Analytics can give you a deep understanding of what’s really happening in your business every day—and more importantly, they can help you improve it today and in the future, because analytics are future-proof.
Your goals and priorities may change down the road, but hard data and intelligent analytics will always support your efforts to make better decisions.
That’s why one of the best decisions you can make today and for the future is to embrace MPS analytics.
Elizabeth Fox leads Xerox Managed Print Services (MPS)
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Workflow.