I started in the Imaging Channel working for a company that introduced automated meter and toner reads across multiple OEMs. When I signed up for that job “managed print” didn’t even exist. Every process relied on humans interacting with other humans. Needed a meter read? Send out a tech or have the office manager pull it off the device. Out of toner? Customer would have to call it in. Something not working? Yeah, you guessed it, a human let another human know about it.
Then came automated meter reads. As I mentioned, that’s how I got started in the Imaging Channel. You’re probably thinking “what’s so revolutionary about that?!” Today, I’d agree with you! Back then, however, gathering meter reads remotely in an automated fashion was a very, very big deal. The first real step in vendor-neutral automation in the office equipment channel.
But wait, I get ahead of myself. Funny story actually, so bear with my rambling. I was pulled into the Imaging Channel kicking and screaming. True story. Back then I had left a job managing a data-center so I wasn’t really keen on anything to do with printers and toner, which were pretty low tech compared to what I was doing. But one day I got a call from MultiLaser (if you’re under 30 you may not have any idea who that was!) asking if I’d like to join them. I looked them up on the Inter-web. Wow. They were re-manufacturing old toner cartridges, something I had no interest in. So I said “No, not really interested, toner people.” I thought that was that. Then a week or so later I got an email saying, “No, we don’t want you to sell toner, this is about software for getting meter reads.” I did some more research on the WWW. Lexmark, Xerox, HP, yada, yada, they all had software to do that. So, I said “Still not interested, toner people, with software that already exists.” A couple of days later I got another email: “Yeah, but nobody monitors ALL the meters regardless of manufacturer. This is revolutionary.” That raised my eyebrows and led me into the next 17 years or so of my career.
Automation. Fast forward to today and automation in the managed print space has really taken hold in more ways than most people realize:
- Automated meter collection. Gone are the days of having to manually collect meter reads from devices for billing. Any managed print provider worth your attention is using some kind of RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) platform to get these. If they aren’t, well, you need to talk to one who is.
- Automated toner fulfillment. Need toner? You no longer need to order toner, it will just show up when you’re close to being out. The magic? Software and algorithms.
- Automated customer billing: Thanks to the ability to gather meter reads remotely, dealers can now invoice their customers automatically as well. Sure, things can go wrong, but for the most part this is normal practice now.
Automation, what does it really mean to you? That depends on who you are and what you do for a living. If you’re an office equipment dealer, it means you’d better be automating EVERTHING related to office copy and print to keep up. But who wants to just keep up? Not you. Want to get ahead? You need to start thinking about ways to help your customers by automating processes related to other things in their offices. Things like VoIP, managed desktop, patch and update management for anything with an IP address.
Are you a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP)? Then you’d better start managing print. Don’t worry, it’s all automated now, just like the other things you run in your Stack. You won’t get your hands dirty with toner. Just money. An extra $17 to $24 per user kind of money. High-margin money too.
Office Equipment Dealers selling Managed IT Services and Managed IT Services Providers selling managed print. Sounds to me a lot like Convergence. Automation is bringing our industries together whether we like it or not. Are you ready?