IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

MFPs Spell Opportunity

Multifunction printers are becoming go-to solutions for SMBs, and IT pros can play a big role in helping these organization evolve to digital businesses.

By Samuel Greengard

Over the past decade, the convergence of digital devices has changed the face of business. Nowhere is this more apparent than within the realm of office equipment. Copiers, printers, scanners, and fax machines have merged into a single device: the multifunction printer (MFP). Sales of these devices are growing as vendors include more features and benefits, such as internet printing, app connectivity, lower prices, and improved support.

“Multifunction devices are outselling dedicated devices by a large margin. In many cases, one machine can do what three or four did before,” states Jeff Bendix, president of BENDIX imaging Inc., an Aberdeen, S.D., firm that specializes in printing and imaging solutions. “While there still is a need for dedicated devices, buyers increasingly see the value of MFPs.”

Adds Keith Kmetz, program vice president for imaging, printing, and document solutions at IDC: “MFPs need to be part of the company’s broader IT plan and fully integrated into it.”

The Device Matters
Additional functionality and features that make MFPs popular, cites Bendix, are enhanced screens and control panels, better connectivity, stronger security, lower acquisition and maintenance costs, and less expensive cartridges and ink. The quality of prints, scans, and copies has also improved dramatically over the last decade. Finally, it’s possible to purchase an MFP without any contract or obligation. Dedicated copiers typically require a three- to five-year contract.

Bendix says that about nine out of 10 devices he sells are MFPs. While some companies do require a specialized device for specific speed requirements or high-volume situations, they may not need to purchase multiple units.

The upshot? Organizations must adopt a more strategic approach and think holistically, Kmetz says. As SMBs move into the cloud, embrace mobility, and look to migrate from paper to digital workflows, it’s important to focus on “how their office will evolve.” Ultimately, he says, buyers must “work smarter and enable employees to do so. The MFP should be part of this plan.”

Forward Thinking
Channel pros must focus on the needs and requirements of SMBs that are in the market for devices. A starting point, Kmetz says, is to help clients identify their organizational IT goals and objectives and determine how an MFP or standalone device fits in. This could involve questions about cost and productivity targets; work patterns and workflows, including the use of mobile devices; security concerns; integration with other technologies; and more.

Bendix says channel pros add the greatest value by serving as consultants that help SMBs migrate efficiently to digital businesses. This may mean determining when and where a dedicated device is essential, but using MFPs to serve as the backbone for digital input and output. “When a customer gives you specs, you need to have a more in-depth conversation,” he says. “There’s a need to discuss specific features and understand when and where they are needed.”

This includes reviewing usage patterns and workflows. “A customer may say that the business needs high-volume copying or the ability to accommodate 11x17 [paper] or A3 everywhere. But when you examine the usage data, you discover that they rarely use the feature,” explains Bendix. As a result, “Instead of buying a [single] high-end MFP for a couple thousand dollars, they wind up spending $8,000 to $12,000 [to] purchase multiple devices with the [specific] feature or capability.” Alternatively, the business may be able to outsource the function or rely on an outside supplier, such as a FedEx office, to handle the task.

Make no mistake, MPFs are rapidly becoming the go-to solution for SMBs, and channel pros can play an important role in helping these organizations evolve to digital businesses. Concludes Bendix: “Prices are dropping, features are becoming more sophisticated, and print quality on many devices is outstanding. The ability to break free from contracts and use a device that delivers a high level of functionality is transforming the industry.”

About the Author

Samuel Greengard's picture

Samuel Greengard, a business and technology writer in West Linn, Ore., is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015) and Virtual Reality (MIT Press, 2019).


ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.