Hewelett-Packard Co.’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) plans to focus its enterprise efforts not only on cost reduction, but also on helping customers understand where solutions fit into their overall business processes.

This was part of the message Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice-president of HP’s IPG communicated to attendees during his Wednesday morning keynote at the vendor’s imaging and printing conference, held this week in Carlsbad, Calif.

Businesses face a “tremendous pressure with respect to cost,” Joshi said. But the challenge goes beyond the bottom line. “Let us help you understand where our devices fit into your business process,” he said to his audience. The goal of IPG is to help its business customers “bring down costs and help knowledge workers be more productive.”

During a group interview with Canadian press later in the day, Joshi said HP Canada’s focus, from the IPG point of view, will be “end-to-end business management,” paying attention to both the consumer and enterprise side. With its range of products, from personal to desktop and workgroup, the firm is “trying to be clear about what value proposition we can provide to the customer” – one that’s different from what competitors Xerox Corp., Canon Inc. and Ricoh Company Ltd. have to offer, Joshi said. Rather than selling big, new devices, “our view is to do an assessment based on what the customer needs, rather than just tell them what they need,” he added.

IPG customers were at the keynote to share their stories of how HP helped them put together solutions, initially intended to solve specific problems, but which produced other benefits in the end.

Jean-Jacques Lang, corporate purchasing director for Paris-based Alcatel, said his firm initiated its printing and copying service solution (PRICOSS) project with HP roughly two years ago, partially because the company was “engaging in a heavy cost-reduction program,” but also because its long-term copier contract was going to expire in a year.

Alcatel had a very good idea about copy costs, but was “less at ease with printing costs,” partially because different departments were responsible for keeping track of copying and printing device acquisitions and costs. In addition, Alcatel had 35 different device brands and hundreds of different printer and copier models deployed throughout its various offices. “You can imagine the work for the maintenance people,” Lang said.

Alcatel decided that it wanted a flexible, comprehensive service solution. “We wanted to move from a product solution to a full print/copy service solution – we wanted a partner that would be a service provider and specialist,” not just a supplier, Lang added.

Only three vendors were prepared to address the situation, and in the end, Alcatel chose HP. The first stage was to replace the monochrome Xerox copiers with new HP multi-function printer (MFP) devices. Next, Alcatel launched a full-service pilot phase, “testing the ability of HP to meet all these challenges.” The printing fleet was replaced with new-generation devices offering additional functionalities such as scanning and faxing. The introduction of HP’s device management tools was also a “very important part of the process,” said Lang, adding that the tools helped streamline business processes to produce more cost-effective and better-quality printing results.

Now in the third phase – the deployment of HP solutions in over 100 sites – Alcatel has seen more than a 30-per-cent cost reduction, according to Lang. In replacing its infrastructure in Europe, it has brought its device count down from 12,000 to 5,000.

Minneapolis-based American Express had its own device devils to deal with, according to the travel, financial and network services company’s senior systems integration manager, Ron Mielke. With 6,000 employees working in downtown Minneapolis, and 16,000 users across North America and beyond, the firm had a huge IT infrastructure and was facing a major problem: it had to migrate off of 150 Novell print servers within a very tight 45-day deadline. The IT department was also receiving 30 to 40 print-related help desk calls per day because of inconsistencies in printing device set-up.

HP had the solution: printers with embedded web servers. After buying several hundred HP network cards, Amex was ready to try out the print server appliance (PSA), which, with its simplicity and remote manageability, was ideal for an organization with 250 sites and no local support staff, said Mielke. The PSAs were up and running in 20 minutes, and when plugged into the network, “can be controlled from the central office.”

The success rate was “mind-boggling,” and the cost reduction “huge,” said Mielke. In the first two days after implementation, help desk calls dropped to fewer than 20 per day – that number is now down to fewer than two per day. Amex now spends “a fraction of the time managing printing and a fraction of server support costs,” Mielke said.

John Beaird, information technology manager for the Clark County District Attorney’s office in Las Vegas, said HP’s automation solutions helped the law firm gain something money can’t buy: credibility. “Our first way of justifying this had nothing to do with saving money,” Beaird said. Instead, attorneys needed quick access to motion information, and couldn’t afford to look unprepared, because “people can lose confidence in you.”

The problem was that every day, the law office would receive about 50 motions from defense lawyers regarding cases currently under prosecution. The process of getting the motion to the appropriate attorney took between three and seven days, even though it only had to go up two floors within the building, because it was shuffled around through the interoffice mail system. Meanwhile, an attorney would be standing in front of a judge with no idea of what motion the defence had put forth – potentially affecting the outcome of cases for victims and their families.

The solution was there all along: the scan-to-share functionality of HP devices already sitting in the law office. The firm was able to “leverage in-house equipment and deal with technology we already had experience with,” said Beaird.

Now, as soon as a motion is delivered to the office, someone at reception slides it into the digital centre, which turns the document into PDF format, and sends it to a shared area on the Web. Anyone who wants to be notified when new motions come in can register under specific courts or departments. The scan-to-share functionality also “adds accountability,” said Beaird. “We know who scanned [the document] and who viewed and acknowledged it.”

Motions are now viewed and acknowledged within 24 hours, said Beaird. Another benefit is the resulting repository of motions that the district attorney can use to locate and research motions connected to a particular case.