Step away from the printer: Optimize your fleet

Print optimization has been called by Gartner Research the “final frontier” for IT.

“IT is so focused on some of the higher-level and sexier technology projects out there. We refer to [print] as always number six on the list of priorities,” said Brett Bailey, WBM Office Systems’ manager of marketing and business operations.

“As a result, you do have an infrastructure that’s really just a printer here and a printer there. It’s very easy for an organization to become bloated in terms of the number of printers that they have.”

Printing up money

This was a problem that Farm Credit Canada (FCC) was struggling with recently. Kimberley Schneider, procurement administrator for FCC, said the firm turned to print optimization for a number of reasons.

“We were getting a ton of requests for printer after printer. It just took me or my boss to ask, ‘Why are we buying all these printers? There has to be another way.’ And, actually, our partner, WBM, suggested, instead of buying all these printers, let’s come in and see what kind of work [the employees] do, and let’s ask the end users some questions, and let’s see if we can do this in a better way,” she said.

According to Schneider, the top benefits of print optimization are savings in toner and energy consumption. “The toner cartridges for the new printers are cheaper immediately. On energy consumption, they use 96 per cent less energy,” she said.

Not optimized yet

FCC seems to be ahead of the curve, however. “Print, copier and document management — it’s not on the radar of most CIO’s and the IT department,” said Frederico de Silva Leon, principal analyst at Gartner. “It tends to be relegated, probably because of historical traditional aspects, meaning that copy functions were relegated to the facilities people.”

“Many of the copy contracts are handled by facilities and print is handled by IT. They don’t have a clear understanding of their entire print infrastructure…I think companies are starting to realize, but print is not as sexy as enterprise content management, server optimization…any of those cooler technologies. I think print suffers from that,” said Leon.

But the situation is starting to change. “We are seeing more traction on the part of IT departments because print is one of the last bastions of untapped opportunities for companies to save money. Companies have literally hundreds or thousands of devices scattered across their organization. In many cases, they don’t know how many they have,” said Leon.

One step at a time

Print optimization will benefit businesses of any size, according to Bailey, who pointed out that, although FCC is a billion-dollar company, their business case involved one office in Edmonton with only 35 employees. “If you asked us to do an optimization project for a large organization with 100 office locations, we would take it department by department or location by location. We would, in fact, approach it like a group of small companies.”

The biggest challenge FCC faced was end user support, said Schneider. “Everybody had their own printers and we wanted to optimize by taking them away and giving them a more efficient piece of equipment…You have to be enthusiastic and get their buy-in…It was pretty easy after that.”

Get them to sign on the dotted line

To obtain CIO approval, simply show the ROI, suggested Schneider. “That’s all they care about. They aren’t into the nitty-gritty…CIO’s love business cases, but, even if you just take two numbers to them and do one small department or one smaller office, they will see the success in that and let you continue.”

“It’s money in your pocket. As a company, you’re going to save money doing it, so why wouldn’t you?” she said.

“In general terms, we tend to see saving opportunities of around 30 per cent, which makes print optimization very attractive once they pay attention to it,” said Leon.

According to Napoleon Sansregret, account executive for HP Canada’s imaging and printing group, one reason major organizations haven’t yet adopted print optimization as a core practice may be a question of priorities. “For the last probably four or five years, HP and others like Gartner have been talking about the potential to save at least 30 per cent on your costs.”

“I think that it’s taken a while for major organizations to prioritize print over other things like Vista migrations and server virtualizations. We are starting to see a real snowball effect between the cost savings and the environmental aspects that’s driving organizations now to finally have a look at this,” he said.

Another reason may be the difficulties vendors had in quantifying the returns, said Sansregret. “I think a lot of organizations felt that some of this was just consultant and vendor speak. Maybe we as a community didn’t do as good enough of a job of really detailing how the savings would be achieved.”

“I think now HP and other vendors are doing a good job of convincing them that it really is money that can be had quite easily.” HP, for example, has developed a toolset that presents the cost savings in detail to companies.

WBM is Western Canada’s largest independent provider of HP technology. According to Bailey, HP technology delivers cost savings on a number of fronts. “Primarily, wherever a deployment is driven by an assessment and infrastructure optimization program, cost savings result from having the proper devices in place to handle workflow and volume requirements. In most cases, we are consolidating pages onto faster MFP’s such as the 9040, with lower per page operating costs.”

Optimization equals eco-friendly

Reducing the number of devices, often by over 50 per cent, leads to additional savings in energy consumption, said Bailey. “In addition, the new devices themselves require far less energy to operate, as they benefit from technology such as instant-on fusers and low melt toner. Clients like FCC see cost savings in overall efficiencies in managing the infrastructure remotely, utilizing HP utilities such as WebJetAdmin and Universal Print Driver.”

Employees themselves might be more willing to provide support if they are aware of the environmental benefits optimization brings, she added. “If you can sit down with your end users and tell them exactly what you are doing and explain to them the energy consumption savings one-on-one, they’ll definitely buy in. It’s not just, ‘Here’s something new. Let’s take away three things, but only give you one.’”

Print optimization benefits businesses of any size, according to Leon. “I think both SMBs and enterprise suffer from the same issues in that many just buy these devices because, again, historically, there hasn’t been a clear policy with regards to the purchase of the device and the management of the device…the savings opportunities are equal for both.”

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