IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Comparing Apples and Oranges – Why Managed Print Services is Different

In my late teens, I had the opportunity to travel with a friend to visit his family in Greece. The Greeks I met were friendly but curious about my origins and would often ask (translated by my Greek-speaking friend) if I was American. I would smile and respond “no, I’m Canadian.” Most of them would smile politely and move on but, on one occasion, a man stopped dead in his tracks and exclaimed, “Canadian, American: what’s the difference?” After I took the time to explain that Canada and the US were two distinct and separate countries, he replied, “you speak like an American, you look like an American, and you act like an American–I don’t see any differences.” While I could have gone into a deeper discussion about our differences in history, culture and politics; on the surface our two countries appear to be the same. A similar situation exists when it comes to managed print services (MPS) and managed IT services; after all, isn’t MPS just another type of managed service? The reality is MPS is quite a distinct market from managed services—with its own opportunities and challenges.

Before we explore some of the differences between the disciplines, let’s review the market data. MPS has emerged over the past number of years as a fast growing and profitable business model for delivering print services to end users. The Photizo Group’s industry research, published in November of 2009, shows the global market for managed print growing from $9.5B (USD) annually in 2006 to $20.3B in 2009. Furthermore, the organization predicted that the market will continue to grow to $59.7B in 2013, accounting for over 50% of the total distributed-imaging business market. In North America, MPS has been building for more than 10 years, with a growth rate of 27% CAGR in 2009. In addition to the Photizo Group’s research, CompTIA’s 2nd annual SMB Tech Adoption Study identified that 17% of SMBs planned to transition to a print managed services model in 2010, a significant increase from 6% in 2008. This corroborates the ongoing market transformation to MPS as a means of delivering print services; a very similar market adoption rate as managed services.

So what makes MPS truly different from managed services? The first major distinction is that there is little cross over between MPS providers and traditional managed service providers (MSPs). A distinct channel of MPS providers focuses on the management of hardcopy device fleets. Traditional MSPs without expertise and experience in MPS typically don’t want the headaches associated with these various output devices. Up to this point, there is still little crossover between MPS and MSP tools and support services, despite the best efforts of several vendors and distributors. MPS requires a different type of sales process and an employee skill set that varies from traditional managed services—due to the physical and consumable requirements, as well as the challenges of document management and multi-function imaging devices.

As this market matures, there will be an increased need for MPS training to help traditional resellers transition and take advantage of this emerging market. In addition, there is an increasing need for unified direction for managed print–to differentiate it from traditional managed services as well as to better differentiate its providers from traditional print resellers. What’s the difference between MPS and traditional managed services–it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

About the Author

With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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