As part of our on-going series about print management and document business process outsourcing, today we hear from Brad Cates, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Standard Register, who talks about the slightly different perspective his company takes. Because print occurs in three main environments – desktop/office, copy/data center, and externally procured print – Standard Register has a holistic view of print spend across the entiredocument-related supply chain. Brad and his team focus on the complete document lifecycle.

WTT: What do you mean when you describe your approach as a “holistic view” of print management?

BC: Our approach is to work with the client to develop a high-level enterprise strategy for all documents and all print. The first step is to develop a corporate strategy for print management to gain control, reduce costs, improve internal and external processes, and to consolidate print spend where possible. Companies are often amazed at the high degree of waste and inefficiency uncovered through this process.

The next step is to discover ways to better manage and optimize document production and use in the areas where documents normally originate: the office, in-house copy or data centers, and externally-sourced commercial print. While each of these environments are often controlled and managed by different functions within an organization, a solid document strategy requires that you break down these silos.  Unless you are managing documents and print throughout an enterprise, it is very difficult to fully realize the total savings and process improvement opportunity available to an organization.

WTT: Let’s talk about those three “environments” of print. Where is it that print originates in the corporate enterprise?

BC: Documents and print predominantly occur within three environments in an organization.  From the desktop or office perspective there is a need to optimize print at the device level – desktop and departmental printers, fax machines, copiers, MFDs, and scanners. Local and desktop printing is definitely on the rise and there is often significant under-utilization and waste.  With the growth associated with desktop color and the migration of clicks away from the centralized copy center to the desktop, we expect this trend to continue.

From the desktop or office perspective there is a need to optimize print at the device level – desktop and departmental printers, fax machines, copiers, MFDs, and scanners.

Closely tied to that is the centralized production environment – the in-house print shops, copy centers, data centers – where we’re finding that the number of images produced is going down. As I mentioned earlier much of this is a result of this volume shifting to the desktop and it is leading to underutilized and inefficient assets in the on-site copy centers.

At the same time the external print environment is a critical component of the overall process.  Because commercial printing makes up such a large percentage of a company’s spend, we’ve found that a company can often fund process-reengineering initiatives in the two previously mentioned environments, by the savings generated with well-managed external print sourcing.  We help our customers understand what is happening in each of these environments. In a lot of cases, because these processes are managed by so many different people in the organization, there tends to be some chaos. You have to get your arms around all that to ensure that you’re putting print production in the right place.

In addition, we take a look at the technology. For example, at the desktop it is not uncommon to find an employee-to-device ratio of 1:1; that is probably not the most cost effective ratio. However, when we look at desktop devices we not only look at the number, but also what is being printed on those devices. What are the cycle times? Are there peak hours that network printers are being used, in what area, and for what? We help our customers make intelligent decisions based on facts. They can decide whether the documents we identify really should be printed at the desktop or be migrated to electronic distribution. Could they be produced by the internal print shop or copy center? Or are these documents that should be outsourced all together?

Then we work together to develop a strategy and implement the technology that drives print to the most appropriate point for production. We develop a strategy for each company, depending on their culture and requirements. We work with them to adapt the controls to their internal culture.

WTT: As we look at your print management solutions, do you describe them as business process outsourcing (BPO)? Or should we apply that term to something wider in scope?

BC: BPO can encompass a wide variety of processes in a business; what we’re talking about is very specific to print or print-related processes. As you look across all industries, you see BPO across all kinds of applications; we focus on a very specific customer need. It’s a large and often unmanaged need, but it is specific to print and communication.

It is necessary for good print management to understand the industries that you’re supporting. You have to understand what the concerns of an industry and what their unique business requirements are. For example, manufacturers have numerous documentation requirements due to regulatory and compliance issues.  Additionally, because their documents, labels and tags, are considered parts, the production line can be shut down if they’re not available, like any other part. You need to know the nuances of a particular industry to be an effective print management vendor.

WTT: Why is print management as a solution so popular in the UK? Do you envision that it will become as popular here in the US?

BC: That’s a great question; I wish I had the right answer. On the surface, it’s a more mature market. There are a few companies like TripleArc (a Standard Register partner), Astron (now RR Donnelley Document Services), and Williams Lea who have done a good job “conditioning” the market that print management is a viable way to gain control of document spend and optimize document and print production across the company.

It is necessary for good print management to understand the industries that you’re supporting. You have to understand what the concerns of an industry and what their unique business requirements are.

Another reason might be the geographic constraints – the UK is simply smaller. Good print management and good distribution are closely linked, so a vital component of any print management program is a solid supply chain to ensure on-time delivery. You can do that effectively in the UK with a pretty small footprint, so the cost of entry isn’t as high to have a substantial distribution network.

We expect to see print management and document BPO continue to grow not only in the UK, but globally. The ability to partner with a provider network across Europe, China, and/or the US will be essential from a print management perspective.

WTT: Does that mean we’ll see more print management outsourcing or more “distribute and print” across global networks, or both?

BC: Both, it depends on the particular company and its needs. Standard Register is a large company and we have a lot of large customers with a variety of needs. We have customers who are going global; we also have a lot of customers on a national or smaller scale who are looking for print management services. Print management is not their core competency and we are a trusted partner.

WTT: What kind of print management solution are your customers asking for? Are they looking for transactional print or print programs?

BC: We see both. In some cases we focus on transactional customers and in others we have larger scale customers who are looking at print management across the board. All of our customers are interested in process improvement; they’re interested in enabling technology to help reduce costs and improve productivity.

There is, of course, a larger return for customers on the program model. We look at those customers from a life-cycle perspective; from the creation of documents, managing and storing, aggregating print spend across preferred and certified vendors, and, of course, print distribution. We have the mechanism on the back end for feedback with measurements, metrics, and reporting. As a customer moves from the cost perspective of a transaction to a program, reporting becomes more robust and more necessary. Then you’re no longer looking at just the cost of print, you’re looking at the cost of the process too.

WTT: Moving upstream, there is a business process involved in the document design where you go from concept to production. How far “upstream” in the design or development process do you get involved?

BC: Because we help develop a company-wide strategy for all documents and print, we are actually involved before the document is designed. We then enable the strategy with a technology platform. And we can offer the people and expertise that can add value and deliver on all the different steps of the document life cycle, from design to archival/retrieval.

Our model depends on a specific agreement with a specific client; in most cases, when we sell an enterprise document management agreement, the client buys services across their entire organization for all their documents and print.

WTT: Let’s talk a little about offline vs. online; where do you fit in the online document space?

BC: That’s a good question. Everything that we’re describing here is really online. For the most efficient print management, you need to manage all documents from a central platform. Whether the documents are output electronically or warehoused and distributed from an online catalog, all the information needs to be stored in a centralized repository. Even though something is “offline,” the information is housed on a single technology platform – in our case, it’s SMARTworks – that allows for electronic documents, print-at-the-desk documents, print-on-demand documents, or a catalog of documents that are warehoused and released on demand.

We help people manage all their documents even when they aren’t printed at all. For example, fanfold green-bar reports are often printed in a data center and distributed to a department that only needs a few pages. We identify which pages are needed, convert that portion to a digital document and distribute it for desktop printing. Or, the whole document is converted so that a “pull” technology is used to present only the data needed on demand.

WTT: Tell us a little about your engagement model? Do you participate in risk sharing, for example?

BC: We typically structure our print management outsourcing relationships in such a way that if the client doesn’t benefit on an aggregate level, then we don’t benefit on an aggregate level. And, yes, in some cases we are doing some risk sharing.

Our model depends on a specific agreement with a specific client; in most cases, when we sell an enterprise document management agreement, the client buys services across their entire organization for all their documents and print. We provide a shared incentive or guaranteed level of performance where we have a certain impact on their organization; whether it is cost reduction, process improvement, risk mitigation, or what ever it might be. We go in at a program level and commit to have a certain degree of impact.

In some cases as it relates to commercial print, for example, we will actually buy and resell to our clients with a guaranteed not-to-exceed price leveraging over-capacity in the market. In another case, we might help a client optimize their portfolio of commercial print and migrate it to digital where appropriate; we handle that with a management fee.

WTT: Any other thoughts you would like to share with us?

BC: Just one more thing. From our experience we’ve found several essential elements that lead to a successful print management program:

  • Have a guided integrated print strategy.
  • Have management involvement and ongoing executive-level support.
  • Don’t treat print like a like a commodity.
  • Have more than just a software-only solution.
  • Have the people and intellectual capital behind your strategy.
  • Measure your progress and be sure you hit your goals.
  • Make it easy for workers to work and managers to manage; if your final implementation isn’t easy to use, it will fail.

It’s the executive commitment to process improvement that really makes good print management outsourcing successful.