Thursday, September 9, 2010

MPS Interview #7: Jim Lyons

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Jim: I write a monthly column for the Hard Copy Observer, a publication of Lyra Research, and also cover many other news stories and analysis's for them, as a contract writer.

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Jim: Since I am a contractor, I am not privy to this company information (and I don’t ask).

AIOI: How long have you been involved with the printer industry?

Jim: While I joined HP in 1981, my first five years was spent on the storage side of the house. But beginning in 1986, I moved over to the LaserJet division, working there until 2005, when I jumped over to the “other side”, so next year will be my 25th anniversary of working in the printer industry.

AIOI: Which college(s) do you teach at?

Jim: I teach marketing and economics, graduate and undergrad, for the University of Phoenix, both in a local setting here at our Idaho campus, as well as in the online-only format.

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Jim: I won’t try to compete with so many others who have come up with their own definitions, but I think that simpler is better, so the MPSA version is more than adequate (though I appreciate how your own Luke Carpentier put it, in his recent DOTC interview, about knowing what the “related business processes” thing meant!). This is not to minimize the importance of definitions and terminology -- I am a strong believer that if something can’t (or hasn’t) been defined and labeled appropriately, it won’t be going anywhere. Just the simple “MPS” moniker has gone a long way towards making the whole category real, in terms of a solidified part of the larger industry. I remember when we at HP started off with a “print-related services” idea in the late ‘90’s that suffered from its lack of clear definition.

AIOI: What do you think the future holds for the printer industry in regards to MPS?

Jim: As a participant and observer, I have mixed feelings, both about the current state and future of MPS. I have had the conviction for some time that MPS (in its “growth” stage at least) is a one-time thing, a consolidation effort that may be wringing much of the true innovation out of the business, for once and for all. All those personal printers that made their way into large organizations? Those printers were actually filling user needs, though granted at some expense. Getting (forcing) people to walk to a shared printer? Yes, that will reduce the amount of printing, but partly because it’s removed considerable end-user convenience from the equation. Printing (or anything else) flourishes when friction in the system is reduced.

I can certainly understand why vendors are scrambling to participate, and will continue to do so, but it really isn’t the type of trend where innovation flourishes, but in fact, mostly represents the contrary. The exception may be in how the actual printing of documents is being removed from the workflow, with online, electronic documents substituting for hard copy. Here’s where innovative products and services are shining, no doubt.

AIOI: Do you think MPS is being marketed effectively?

Jim: As characterized by any “land rush” trend, it is tempting by vendors and service providers to lump anything slightly related to enterprise printing and imaging under the “MPS” umbrella. Again, tempting, but it distorts what really is at the heart of the key players’ MPS initiatives. A great example are mobile and cloud-based printing solutions, an area I cover as well where I believe there is a great deal of innovation occurring. Yes, these initiatives provide value to the enterprise, involve printing, and have a services component, so, therefore, voila, they’re part of Managed Print Services! I shouldn’t be so skeptical, perhaps, but recently much of my reporting has been dis-aggregating press announcements, and separating the “wheat from the chaff” as we used to say, or “what’s truly MPS and what’s lumped in for hype value”?

I don’t want to come across as negative, and I think there are good things happening within the MPS space. It just is a mixed bag, with much of it, as previously stated, a reigning in/consolidation effort which will have a dampening effect on growth and innovation in this business I’ve been part of for 25 years.

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