HP to focus on services with new print division

Hewlett-Packard on Monday formed a new print services division with a focus on managing print and imaging hardware and software in enterprises.

Hewlett-Packard on Monday formed a new print services division with a focus on managing print and imaging hardware and software in enterprises.

The division, called Managed Enterprise Solutions, aims to unify disparate hardware such as copiers, printers and scanners in order to cut hardware and printing costs, said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's imaging and printing group. The unit will also provide services and software that put scanned or printed documents in workflow systems to make document management easier.

The company's attention has been geared toward hardware and supplies, but software and services surrounding printing and imaging are a growing opportunity, Joshi said. The company sees a US$121 billion annual opportunity in the printing market, of which $64 billion is for hardware and $57 billion for software and services.

There is more to printing than just hitting the print button, said Roger Douglas, director of managed print services at HP. For example, software provided with the managed services could enable an invoice to be scanned, which can automatically be put into a company's payroll system. The automation reduces the number of steps and cost required to manage the document, Douglas said. It also reduces the chance for error through manual transcription.

The documents can also be secured through a service by establishing a status to ensure documents aren't appended, Douglas said. For example, if a marketing logo is finalized on a particular document, its status can be appended to ensure no one changes it. This approach is particularly helpful when editing legal documents, he said.

The company is also changing printer designs to build in more services-related functionality. For example, a touch screen on multifunction printers can be used to input or check the job status of scanned documents like patient records.

"A lot of times customers have treated imaging and printing like an afterthought," Douglas said. Managed print is all about stepping back and taking a more strategic and methodical look at how those documents are managed, he said.

The company has also expanded the availability of a program that guarantees savings for customers who sign up for its print services outside the U.S. Under the plan, HP assesses a company's imaging and printing environment and calculates the possible savings a company can realize using HP's managed services. If customers haven't realized the savings in a year, HP will make up the difference with a credit that can be used for their next printing services contract. The company has already signed up 100 customers since it launched that program, Joshi said.

The unit will be a part of the company's imaging and printing division, Joshi said. The company has pulled some personnel from the existing services division and has seen its services customer base expand since acquiring EDS.

HP has a strong presence in the printer market, and the expansion of services could help it capture a larger share in the printer space, said Edward Crowley, CEO of Photizo Group, a consulting company that specializes in managed print services, who was at HP's press briefing Monday. The increased level of focus on services could also benefit HP's enterprise customers, he said.

HP is the first company to establish a dedicated print services division, according to Crowley. Competitors including Xerox have managed print services spread across various company divisions and programs, which can make it harder for customers to find the right offering, he said.

More and more customers are focusing on their print costs per page, Crowley said. The new HP division could potentially charge companies per page printed, he said, a fee that would cover hardware, supplies and services such as help desk support.

An analyst agreed with Crowley, saying the new unit will deliver transparency between imaging and printing services and other HP services offerings. "They probably are the first to form a global-focused business unit at this level," said Jon Reardon, group director at research firm Infotrends.

Xerox claimed leadership in the managed printing services space over HP, though, citing research from Gartner. It also disputes the claims that HP is the first with a dedicated print services division and that Xerox's print services are spread across various divisions.

"The race for leadership in enterprise print started a decade ago, it isn't something that another vendor can easily replicate. Xerox has one division that handles managed print services -- Xerox Global Services," said Jim Joyce, senior vice president of Xerox enterprise print services, in an e-mail.

The Xerox Global Services group includes managed print services as well as document and enterprise content management services.

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