Five lessons for the internet of things from managed print services

Both Internet of Things and MPS track, trace and follow things -- in MPS’ case, it’s printers -- with every device connected and communicating data that can be centrally managed. The insights they provide, such as reports on device usage, user behaviour, state of operations, help organisations increase efficiency and improve the relationship between people and technology.
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The Internet of Things presents a new frontier where people, machines, devices, sensors and businesses are connected and interact with each other. Experts say it is poised to address a wide range of enterprise needs such as transforming asset management in field service, fixing supply chain bottlenecks, connecting retail to consumer demand and more.

When blazing a course, it can be instructive to examine the pathway of a similar disruptive technology – Managed Print Services (MPS). MPS is the Internet of Things for printers, with Photizo Group predicting the global MPS market will reach just under £98 billion by 2015. MPS is well established as an effective strategy to consolidate and optimise printers in the enterprise.

Both Internet of Things and MPS track, trace and follow things — in MPS’ case, it’s printers — with every device connected and communicating data that can be centrally managed. The insights they provide, such as reports on device usage, user behaviour, state of operations, help organisations increase efficiency and improve the relationship between people and technology.

As MPS has matured into Managed Document Services (MDS), organisations have found there is much more to be gained than document output efficiencies and reducing print costs. The pathway to big MDS payoffs is managing the interrelation of commodity things (printers) and the people, workflows and the documents connected to those workflows. By doing so, organisations not only gain deeper understanding of how printers are used but also how documents move through their enterprises to drive business process optimisation.

Here are five lessons from Managed Print Services experiences that your organisation should keep in mind as it embarks on Internet of Things strategies in the enterprise.
 

1. Push inefficiencies out of your enterprise

    MPS and MDS help organisations identify over-capacity of devices, maximise utilisation of those devices, and then spot inefficiencies in document processes as a function of moving from paper (print) to digital documents. Knowing workloads require only 80 of the 100 printers on an enterprise floor makes it an easy decision to eliminate 20 devices. Enterprises need to monitor an Internet of Things environment to constantly look for inefficiencies that can be wrung out of the system.
     

    2. Tap intelligence built into the system to enforce decisions, speed productivity

      Print management capabilities in MPS match individual privileges to device usage. They enforce rules like a certain type of document can only be printed double sided, or some scanned documents can’t be emailed from the printer to outside the company. Once identified on the network individual privileges extend to digital document workflows much the same way. The routing of a document to a printer or to an email is simply the same act of publishing information using a different delivery method — one physical and one digital. Internet of Things strategies can enable intelligent decisions about consumption and behaviour that should seek to reduce time, materials and human intervention. These strategies need to include publishing that information to its intended target amongst knowledge workers, customers, vendors or archives for long-term storage — all with an eye towards optimising processes and resources.
       

      3. Make security a priority

        Multifunction printers used in MPS turned printers into computing devices, able to send documents outside the enterprise and providing an on-ramp for scanned documents into business applications. Increasing the number of touch points for printers creates new security challenges that needed to be addressed. Likewise with Internet of Things, organisations will dramatically multiply exposure to security vulnerabilities — inside and outside the enterprise. This means assessing connection points and potential security deficiencies need to be a priority. Devices, people and documents should provide identities that can be utilised by workflows for tracking, accounting and security.
         

        4. Analyse and act on data gathered

          MPS software captures usage data from devices and workflows and analyses the information for trends and possible process improvements. Software designed as a centralised hub either on an internal server or in the cloud is as much a part of an Internet of Things solution as the sensors that collect and transit data. Look for an application platform that can integrate and manage the data, increase collaboration and employ analytical reporting to help understand conditions and behaviours, and find ways to make improvements.
           

          5. Always factor in the personal experience

            The Internet of Things must be inclusive of the personal experience. In the end, all workflows, although designed for a business purpose, are used for the benefit of the individual knowledge worker. While MPS looks at all devices as a whole so companies gain a bigger picture view of operations, the transition to MDS creates a level of granularity down to the document. Let us not forget that the intelligence that devices and software on the Internet of Things provide should allow maximum simplicity and speed of process for the individual. In today’s document connected world, there are multiple points of interaction that include multifunction devices, desktop and laptop computers, and mobile devices from tablets to smart phones.

            Just as MPS is about more than connecting people to printers and gathering data, the Internet of Things is about more than connecting things and gathering data. For the Internet of Things to be a disruptive force, organisations need look at these connections and see how the activities among them are interrelated both physically and digitally. That way, they create new ways to boost enterprise-wide intelligence and collaboration.

            This post originally appeared on the InnovationInsights blog by Wired.

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