Enhancing the managed print value proposition

As businesses look to get smarter with their printer fleets and many turn to managed print services, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) has launched several print-related enhancements it hopes will give partners a more compelling offering to bring to market, and one that will earn them higher margins as well.

The enhancements to HP’s print offerings are three-pronged said Sean Kosticin, a sales manager with HP Canada’s imaging and printing group, and play into HP’s overall corporate strategy to deliver solutions that are seamless, secure and context aware. On the seamless front, Kosticin said a new approach by HP to printer firmware will mean easier management for business as well as faster updates and future-proofing print infrastructure.

“We used to write custom firmware for each device and it took time to roll out new features to all devices,” said Kosticin. “We decided to take a step back, start with a universal code base and build features on top of that so when new features are developed, we only need to write it once.”

FutureSmart is in HP’s new commercial products, and for legacy customers an Open Extensibility Platform (OXP) communicates with the device and connects into third-party developer solutions, such as SharePoint and other document management tools.

On the secure front, HP is focused on security and print consolidation with HP Access Control, which was formerly confined to the enterprise space but will now scale down to SMBs.

“Just because the printer is beside you doesn’t mean it’s secure,” said Kosticin. “It’s still out in the world.”

With Access Control, when a user hits print the job is sent into a queue which they can retrieve from any supported printer on the network by going to the printer, pressing the access control button, entering their PIN and releasing the job to print.

“It eliminates the chance of anyone else getting access to your job,” said Kosticin. “And you can go to another printer if it’s busy. It allows a lot more flexibility for users to retrieve their jobs when and where they want, and reduces the waste of lost print jobs.”

And on context aware, Kosticin said HP’s new ePrint Enterprise solution is a software client for iPhone and Android (coming soon for WebOS) that allows users to print directly from their mobile devices. The software will connect to HP Enterprise Server to find the nearest printer the user has rights to, via GPS coordinates. It could also soon be able to point to local pay-per-print businesses.

Todd Bercovitch, a business development manager at HP Canada, said from a partner perspective HP is focused on helping its print channel in three areas: finding where the revenue growth is, margin opportunity and capturing customer mindshare. By building up its managed print offerings, Bercovitch said HP is allowing partners to have stickier, trusted advisor conversations with customers.

Additionally, while the margin on hardware and supplies averages 15 per cent, he said it can be triple that on services.

Managed print is what the IT guys called the old copier lease model once they got hold if it said Brian Ridgway, president of ShareNet Inc., a Mississauga, Ont.-based HP partner and managed print solution provider. The big difference, though, is the ability to build in solutions that add significant value, an ability he said is enhanced by the new initiatives from HP.

“OXP is interesting to us as a service provider as it should accelerate HP’s ability to bring solutions to market,” said Ridgway. “And the development platform, anything that helps ISVs come to market is obviously an advantage for us, and allows us to have more conversation with partners we’ve already won.”

Sharenet has also done a number of pull print solutions based on HP Access Control, usually as a follow-on to an existing customer, which Ridgway said provides resellers an opportunity to stay engaged with the client. It’s all about manageability, he said. Clients don’t want to bite off more change than they can chew; it needs to be managed gradually, over time.

“There’s no ‘big bang theory’ of managed print. It’s evolving the platform and rationalizing devices to a better cost model,” said Ridgway. “Then we get to go back and talk more about security, workflow and data capture, and over the three-to-five-year term we’ve built a more robust solution and increased our ability to retain the customer when the contract is up.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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