Can Samsung's new software tools help channel partners develop their MPS offerings?
Many organisations are recognising the financial and environmental impact of unmanaged print environments. Escalating print costs are a consequence of fragmented purchasing and ownership of printers and copiers and the associated consumables. Lack of print management tools mean organisations often have no control over who is printing what, where and when. And while many organisations may have invested in sophisticated multifunction peripherals (MFPs), very few exploit their full capabilities as document capture and management devices.
As a result, printer and copier manufacturers are all placing increasing emphasis on the benefits of integrated enterprise document workflow solutions which can actually help minimise wasteful printing, as well as managed print services (MPS) which can result in cost savings, often without the need for upfront capital investment.
Samsung is one vendor with a particular focus on encouraging organisations to manage their print costs. Its "CTRL P" campaign, which is now in its second phase, is part of Samsung's ambitious plans to grow its footprint in the corporate space. Samsung's printing business has seen rapid growth in recent years, now ranking second in the worldwide and European laser printer shipments markets. It posted $550m of revenue in 2008 and is growing at an annual rate of 15% year-on-year. Now snapping at HP's heels in terms of volume market share, Samsung is banking on its recent launch of document workflow and print management solutions to move it further up the corporate value chain.
Samsung is offering a range of document workflow solutions under its SmarThru Workflow brand which include capabilities for document capture, processing and routing. Meanwhile it has also launched its Solutions Alliances Programme for third party developers enabling the integration of Samsung devices with third party solutions such as document management, document accounting and document security. This is made possible by Samsung's embedded application platform XOA (Extensible Open Architecture) which provides developers with open APIs for its devices.
With these capabilities, Samsung is catching up with its competitors who have been offering their own embedded platforms for some time. Similarly Samsung is now looking to compete more actively in the MPS market, where its main competitors already have established programmes for channel partners.
So far most printer and copier vendors have navigated the MPS waters with varying degrees of success. Perhaps the most success has been seen by those with direct MPS offerings such as Xerox and HP. Lexmark, Canon and Ricoh also offer MPS directly to large enterprises. Whilst larger enterprises have been faster to adopt MPS, vendors are now increasing their focus on the SMB market which has largely been an untapped opportunity. In particular, Xerox has recently launched Xerox Printing Services (XPS) specifically for the channel and HP has for some time been offering Smart Printing Services for its channel.
Despite beginning its MPS journey later than most of its competitors, Samsung has launched a cohesive set of multivendor MPS tools for channel partners that will enable them to assess a customer's print environment and track printer status and consumables usage. These tools, which are scalable from small medium businesses to large enterprises, are:
- Assessment Consulting Tool (ACT): a USB device which can be plugged into any networked PC to automatically assess a company's current printing environment. The ACT reports on how many prints each printer and MFP has produced. The ACT has full multi-vendor capability, so can be used in mixed fleet environments.
- Cost Simulation Tool (CST): after assessing the printing environment with ACT, the CST compiles data which shows how much a company's current printing infrastructure is costing. It then runs a cost simulation to demonstrate to customers how much money they could be saving with MPS. This tool helps to provide customers with data and recommendations for optimising their printing environments.
- CountThru™ 2 Pro managed print service solution: enables remote management of printing devices for customers and the monitoring of supplies and outputs from hundreds of devices in real time.
As Samsung seeks to expand its reseller base to boost its presence in the enterprise printing market, these tools certainly add an extra string to its bow and are already proven and being used in MPS engagements in South Korea, where Samsung is the dominant brand. In Europe, Samsung is testing the market by running a series of customer pilot engagements in conjunction with its channel partners. This will enable Samsung to determine if its MPS tools should be further enhanced in response to customer and channel requirements.
Although the channel opportunity for MPS is gaining momentum, Samsung is just one of many manufacturers now offering MPS tools aimed at resellers. In addition to channel MPS offerings from Xerox, HP, Lexmark and Ricoh are the independent print management tools which enable resellers and systems integrators to manage multivendor environments. These include PrintFleet and Doxense along with ekm4 who is seeing growing success through its Open MPS proposition which provides independent MPS providers with a single end-to-end multivendor contract management and service delivery infrastructure.
Consequently multi-brand resellers who are already actively considering MPS have a range of tools and approaches to choose from, and are likely to favour using one tool which enables them to easily support and manage a multivendor environment.
In a highly commoditised market, where margins are thin, resellers cannot afford to ignore the potential for additional revenue that MPS offers along with the potential for longer term customer relationships. The challenge that remains for Samsung, as for all vendors trying to deliver MPS through channel partners, is training resellers to move to a solutions and services-led model.
With many resellers still operating a hardware sales approach this is no easy feat, and is further compounded by the fact that vendors are all offering their own flavour of MPS for their channel partners. Therefore Samsung needs to ensure that it develops its MPS channel offering to be simple and flexible to operate, which will lower the cost of entry for those resellers that have so far been reluctant to dip their toe in the MPS waters.
Samsung recognises it will take time to build out its channel, strengthen its supply chain and develop its service proposition before it can be seen as a credible MPS player. For now though, these tools are a step in the right direction and show Samsung‘s serious intentions to capitalise on its growth in the corporate arena.