By Antonio Sanchez Navarro
What are you looking for in an MPS tool? If you have already responded to this question, who are you commissioning in your organization when it comes to evaluating it? Would I surprise you if I tell you that 3 out of 9 will ask their order fulfillment and account billing organizations to test it, while 6 out 9 will delegate the review to their IT team? Which group are you in? Let’s review the pros and cons of both decisions and the implications it has on the future of your MPS business.
Of course it all depends on your answer to the core question: what are you looking for? It seems that nowadays there is a consensus on these first 3 aspects that companies with serious plans in MPS are looking for: accuracy for an automated order fulfillment, ease to bill pages and vendor agnostic to manage any device from any vendor.
Order fulfillment and account billing organizations
An MPS business today is perceived as a natural transition for a dealer to move from a transactional business to a service business. Indeed it is a rationalized defensive move, yet the internal organization has not evolved in the past 20 years to efficiently manage it. The possibility to provide cost per page is no more the goal but a consequence of providing MPS. The dealer moving to MPS is therefore addressing the business as a way to automate the order fulfillment process, to again own the control of its customers (lost against “internet” and the ease to buy anything anywhere always at a better price) and to reduce its costs. All three core aspects, accuracy, ease to bill pages and to be vendor agnostic, are part of the road map.
What is then the Order Fulfillment organization adding when evaluating an MPS tool? The first core aspect falls fully under its current competencies. If auto fulfillment is a goal, no one better than this organization to assess to which extend the tested tool will adapt to the current procedures and know-how of the firm, and how it will contribute to reach the goal of complete auto-fulfillment of consumable orders.
Auto fulfillment goes beyond the fact of converting one alert into a purchase order. There are plenty of issues that do occur daily that need to be positively addressed: duplicate orders, wrong delivery address, DOA, cartridges lost and many more are the nightmares of any firm, causing thousands of working hours of rework and resulting in many customer’s to be dissatisfied.
Account billing is perceived as the Achilles’s heel of an organization billing pages. Dealers with just 500 devices are spending 3 to 7 days billing; they too spend the whole month long responding to invoice related questions from customers. Therefore an MPS tool in place must provide a solution to do it and should pass the test from the Account Billing organization. It is not simply a question as to just reflecting the right counters in a piece of paper called an invoice. The test must prove that the MPS system will solve in advance the daily issues around the invoice, and provide the information that the customer needs to validate it. It is meaningless to bill all your contracts in 2 hours if the customer will then call you to find out how the amount billed has been calculated.
What has IT in common with an MPS tool? We are talking about software that communicates with remote printers and copiers through the network. As a consequence it is recommended that an expert analyses the following two aspects:
- is the tool compliant with network security industry standards? Any customer, but more specifically medium and large size, will request that there is no violation of the security of its network. Among other things IT will pay attention to identify some risky practice like automatically grab the password from the PC, or to leave open certain ports that can be used for bidirectional communication and as a consequence put in danger the integrity of the network.
- Is the tool respectful with the confidentiality of the data of the customer? The question indeed is translated into “what data are you collecting from my printers and copiers?” Bear in mind that the customer is requesting from you to control its costs. A printer management tool is not a document management tool, meaning that collecting the 100+ counters available in a printer is of no value for the service you have to provide. It makes no sense to collect personnel data like location of the printer, user name, job title and all the other data that exists in the printer. The IT tester must talk to the Order Fulfillment and Billing organization to determine what is relevant for their processes. Any other data must simply not be collected; else the conflicts when installing the service in a given customer will likely exist.
The role of IT when testing an MPS tool is important but its scope should be narrowed to these 2 aspects. Indeed, its participation ensures that there will be no show-stopper when going to the market with this solution.
As a result of this exercise, it is hard to understand the reason why a majority of companies delegate primarily to the IT department to make the decision of what MPS tool to acquire. Such behavior is the answer to an industry problem: why so many dealers abandon MPS or just stop pushing it after 18 months? It is simply nor fair nor appropriate to ask IT, whose responsibility is to ensure that the systems, hardware and network resources are available, to take a business decision.
If you are in the process of selecting a tool to manage your existing or future MPS business, you may want to think long term. Keep in mind that MPS is a natural and logical change of your organization from the way you have being managing your business over 20 years, to a full new way of managing it supported by the rationality that the new technologies provide. One last tip: an MPS tool is very different to an ERP; it is not aimed to replace it, nor the opposite. But this is another discussion.