5 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 behavior, state of operations, help organizations 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 $130 billion by 2015. MPS is well established as an effective strategy to consolidate and optimize 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 behavior, state of operations, help organizations increase efficiency and improve the relationship between people and technology.

As MPS has matured into Managed Document Services (MDS), organizations 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, organizations not only gain deeper understanding of how printers are used but also how documents move through their enterprises to drive business process optimization.

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

Push inefficiencies out of your enterprise. MPS and MDS help organizations identify over-capacity of devices, maximize utilization 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.

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 behavior 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 optimizing processes and resources.

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, organizations 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 utilized by workflows for tracking, accounting and security.

Analyze and act on data gathered. MPS software captures usage data from devices and workflows and analyzes the information for trends and possible process improvements. Software designed as a centralized 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 behaviors, and find ways to make improvements.

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, organizations 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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Jeff Segarra

About Jeff Segarra

Jeff Segarra is Senior Director of Product Management for the Document Imaging Division at Nuance Communications. He is responsible for the team that delivers the full line of scanning and business productivity products including eCopy scanning solutions for MFPs, the PDF Converter product line for creating, editing and converting PDF files, OmniPage for OCR document conversion and PaperPort for desktop document management. He has an MBA from Iona College, Hagan School of Business and has been working in the software technology field for over 20 years. Jeff is an original New Yorker and, therefore, a staunch Yankees fan – in the heart of Red Sox nation.