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Analysis

Think big when tidying up your office's printer mess
Louella Fernandes By: Louella Fernandes, Principal Analyst, Quocirca
Published: 8th January 2010
Copyright Quocirca © 2010
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Office printing can be a huge cost drain to many organisations. This is largely due to fragmented ownership and management of printer and copier devices as well as unnecessary printing. A typical office print environment is characterised by a mix of old and new devices, vendors, all requiring different drivers, consumables and service contracts. To tackle spiralling costs, many large organisations are turning to managed print services (MPS) which involve assessing a company's existing fleet of devices, printing usage and workflow and then creating an optimised environment. This usually consists of consolidation and bringing management of break-fix, hardware and consumables under a single contract.

While this is a valuable first step in tackling print costs, for businesses that rely heavily on high volume or mission critical output, further value can be added to MPS by considering the management and control of enterprise application output, which is delivered across both printed and electronic destinations. This is the foundation of enterprise output management (EOM).

For many organisations, managing output from enterprise applications such as ERP or supply chain management systems is no easy task. Whether they run on UNIX, Linux or Microsoft Windows operating systems, such applications often have limited native print management capabilities. This creates a distributed enterprise application environment with a multitude of print queues that need to be managed. Without robust centralised management tools, organisations struggle to administer and manage all this.

This lack of visibility can lead to business disruptions, downtime and backlogs caused by printer failure or paper or consumables depletion. This not only puts pressure on support staff. When business critical output is delayed—such as invoices, shipping manifests or purchase orders—it has a significant impact on the smooth running of business processes. These problems can all be mitigated through the use of an EOM solution which integrates the diversity of print data emerging from the various enterprise systems and provides centralised control and management of all enterprise output. As EOM platforms are hardware, software, application and device independent, multi-site distribution and routing of documents can be enabled throughout the enterprise.

Output can be consolidated from datacentres, line-of business departments and individual desktops to a single point and distributed to production, workgroup, desktop, barcode and label printers as well as other destinations such as email, PDF files or archives. Through use of a dedicated server, EOM off-loads print services such as standard print spooling from the application servers, increasing application server performance. This also leads to improved productivity—for both the users and the IT department—as users can track their own print jobs and helpdesks have one tool to view the entire enterprise output environment.

EOM enhances the native output capabilities of enterprise applications through capabilities such as confirmed print job delivery, intelligent print job routing and printer load balancing and failover. If devices fail, jobs can be automatically redirected to the next suitable available printer. Such real-time notification of device failure or job interruption enables the reliable delivery of business critical output.

And in today's age of compliance, the need for centralised control of enterprise output is heightened. The content of many documents, particularly transactional ones, is subject to regulations that require accurate production and secure, timely delivery—whether electronic or printed. EOM tools can ensure document integrity and provide accurate audit trails and cost accounting.

Ultimately, print-related cost savings and business efficiencies do not stop with office MPS. By extending MPS beyond the office to the wider enterprise, organisations can reduce costs, improve document security and cut paper and energy usage. Reduced energy and paper consumption is achieved through better utilisation of existing devices and by identifying hard copy print that could be substituted with electronic delivery or completely eliminated. IT costs are lowered through simplified administration and management while centralised EOM security features assure appropriate access and seamless control of enterprise-wide output.

Quocirca recommends that any organisation considering MPS consider the added benefits of controlling output generated from enterprise systems. This requires understanding what output is produced from which application, the level of print volumes across an organisation, who is printing what and what business processes are involved. The assessment of the output environment is the foundation of an enterprise MPS engagement, and determines the potential for cost savings and workflow improvements through the course of the implementation. Considering EOM upfront is vital to ensuring that the benefits of MPS extend beyond the office environment.

EOM need not be a 'big-bang' approach; it can be phased focusing on a single functional business area or geography first, then once initial success has been demonstrated, expanded to other areas in the business.

You can read more in Quocirca's report, Uncovering the enterprise output management opportunity.

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