Managed print services eliminate the headaches in an IT leader’s role

The world of work has changed and managing printing and technology is trickier than ever. Allowing someone else to worry about it is worth it

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Hybrid models, multiple sites, a disparate workforce sprawled across offices and home offices – often doubling as kitchen tables or spare bedrooms – and multinational operations with associated reporting requirements may seem like a headache for business leaders. When it comes to organising and managing their printing and technology, each added complexity poses a challenge for companies navigating this unprecedented landscape.

And it’s a headache that businesses have been trying to manage for four years.

“It was a mad scramble back in 2020,” says Terry Caulfield, chief commercial officer at Brother UK, the business technology solutions provider. “IT departments had to basically support a huge number of workers who had never worked from home before. It was a mad scramble to get everybody operational at home.”

From new laptops to printers, configuring home Wi-Fi connections and remote desktop access, all while training newly remote workers, IT functions across many businesses were asked to consider a new working paradigm. And it’s one that has stuck for the long run. In total, 44% percent of British workers work from home or in a hybrid setup, according to the Office for National Statistics. “Most of the businesses we deal with are running some kind of hybrid working scheme,” says Caulfield.

The new normal for IT services

It’s all part of the new normal of work – a phrase that has permanently gained a second meaning thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the new normal poses challenges for IT leaders in the enterprise, and a recognition that if things are to stay the same, then businesses need to adapt.

We’re making printing simple. If you think print is a headache – and a lot of organisations do think that – we’re taking that headache away

What was in 2020 a ‘grab what you can’ approach to equipment has now become a more considered ‘what works best for the business’ strategy. On top of that, security can be more accurately and carefully configured to ensure the safety of the broader, more widely spread, and disparate IT network that has appeared in a post-pandemic world.

But it’s not just about IT safety. For hybrid workers who need access to printing solutions, there’s a whole other set of headaches. Beyond safely transmitting materials from devices to printers on home Wi-Fi networks to simply ensuring that printers have enough ink or toner, the everyday issues of managing supplies become more complicated when spread across employees’ homes as well as offices. “That’s where our managed print service (MPS) offer, which is quite broad, comes into play,” says Caulfield.

Brother provides a fully bespoke managed print service that’s designed to meet businesses’ complex individual needs, with the ability – following a consultation – to tailor the service to specific requirements.

A helping hand

Getting support is vital for IT decisionmakers at enterprises and SMEs. A Brother survey of 1,255 executives across the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany highlights the challenges they face. Of the key issues impacting their organisation’s IT budget management in the last year, 28% said that unforeseen spending had knocked them back, 27% pinpointed security issues, and 24% cited increased demand on their IT department – all of which are symptoms of the changing way of work, and all of which can be alleviated and mitigated by a managed print service.

Security, cost efficiency and sustainability can all be improved by partnering with a trusted third-party provider. And all are important priorities for IT decisionmakers when running an enterprise-level business.

Brother works with a number of clients, providing its managed print service enterprise offering to businesses that need a comprehensive solution built specifically around their complex print needs. Following an in-depth assessment, the company provides a full, seamless transition from existing to new devices with ongoing service optimisation to ensure clients’ businesses are working at their peak performance. A dedicated account manager and a customised customer MPS portal help the cloud-based or on-premise technology operate as it should, with tailored payment plans.

In all, 96% of businesses who take up Brother’s services renew their agreement, with a 25% growth in machines in field, year-on-year. In 2023 alone, Brother managed to take 8,676 service calls off the hands of IT service desks, freeing them up to focus on what’s important to them.

Staying secure

Businesses are trusting managed print services like Brother’s because of the stakes involved in handling and manging such issues. “As people leave the building, documents leave the building,” says Caulfield. For a large business, those documents can include highly sensitive, business-critical information. Having audit trails and a strong document management system with clear markings indicating which documents are sensitive and should have limited access is key.

But it’s also about ensuring the enterprise as a whole is secure, which is where managed print services come into their own. The print industry often faces issues with vulnerabilities on devices that require constant patching with new firmware to avoid offering up an opportunity for hackers to exploit. Managing that across a sprawling IT estate can be challenging, while outsourced expertise ensures regular updating of firmware to ward off any attacks. “We’re not suggesting there isn’t a lot of complexity there,” says Caulfield. “But you don’t need to be in the weeds. Leave it to us.”

MPS providers like Brother can also advise, based on your business needs, whether an on-premise or cloud solution would be best suited to your enterprise’s operations. For the purposes of safety, cloud print solutions may be a better option, because of the enterprise security build into the cloud, and the ability to set audit trails to see who has printed what, and where. “Cloud printing gets you much closer to zero-trust,” says Caulfield, which can be useful for those worried about their company’s security. Cloud printing solutions are driverless for the user, and use encryption to transmit data to the device.

Saving money and the planet

Cloud printing’s audit trail also serves a second purpose: to allow oversight of how much is being printed, by whom and what type of printing. “You can see how much it’s costing you and see if you can get some control over your print costs,” says Caulfield. This can be crucial within larger organisations of the type that Brother helps support, where there are often different departments with different printing needs and volumes. “All these things help in terms of that print cost,” says Caulfield.

The company has helped one large supermarket chain oversee 5,115 fully managed devices, printing more than 120m pages. Using data, Brother managed to optimise the fleet of devices from a cost efficiency and sustainability perspective, including full toner recycling and outlining the firm’s circular economy credentials; a must for any business’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting.

Outsourcing and automating print services to a managed offering can also help reduce costs by lowering friction. “There are a lot of hidden, soft costs in printing,” says Caulfield. Among them are the time, effort and money spent ordering and delivering consumables like toner cartridges or ink to users, particularly when workforces are distributed in a hybrid model.

Research suggests that it can cost £200 for a large organisation to raise a purchase order internally. This can be eliminated via a Netflix-like subscription managed by a company like Brother. In 2023 alone, Brother automatically delivered 38,464 cartridges to business customers before the previous one ran out – ensuring continuous uptime of print services, and saving time, effort and money along the way.

Putting sustainability first

What happens to ink cartridges in an organisation that manages its own printing requirements can also cause consternation, especially given CSR reporting responsibilities. With Brother’s managed print services, it’s all taken care of, meaning enterprises need not worry about how to dispose of consumables once they’re finished with them. “Part of our management in all different flavours is recycling, taking the empties and managing the return of those empties so they are manufactured back to an essentially new cartridge,” says Caulfield.

The process is entirely automated. Employees receive their new cartridge in a box alongside a return label for the old item, while the company is provided with a certificate showing the CO2 savings made. Furthermore, that solution is not just available to the Brother-branded printers within a business portfolio. “We realise that businesses have multiple brands of products and printers,” says Caulfield. “They might want to return other empty cartridges from other brands. We’ve got a scheme that takes care of that, too.”

It’s all part of Brother’s ethos, which is a consultative, caring approach to print solutions. “We are customer-centric,” says Caulfield. “We will try and work out what your pain points are, and engineer solutions to address them.”

Businesses need not spend their time and focus on thinking about printing and IT solutions alone. “We’re making printing simple,” says Caulfield. “If you think print is a headache – and a lot of organisations do think that – we’re here to help take that headache away.”

To find out more, please visit Brother Managed Print Services