Unlike a stand alone copier most MFPs are likely to be attached to your organisation’s network, which means that it needs to be secure and will integrate well into your IT infrastructure. This in turn means that the IT department should be involved in the process. “It is important to ensure that IT are involved in whatever project plans are taking place right from the start, whether that is an external company or an in-house IT department. It really is crucial particularly from a buying point of view to make sure that you do not go half way down the road only to find out that IT are concerned about its integration, particularly if it has got unique software attributes.”
Because MFPs are often bought to replace existing copiers, they frequently end up getting treated in the same way as those copiers. In order to fully exploit the new capabilities on offer it is necessary to rethink the way in which the devices are integrated into your organisations processes. While this can involve some quite complex application design and and strategic thinking, it can also come down to something as simple as where you place the device. “From my experience and from speaking with customers, part of the issue within organisations is that they invest in a very highly specified MFP that allows them to print, copy scan, and so, but they tend to just replace their existing machine. So they may have one copier, and replace it with an all singing all dancing MFP and probably locate it where they located the last one. What they really need to do to get the best out of their devices is pull them away from where they would normally have them and put them by the workgroup itself. That is how they are going to get the benefits, because people being people will not walk that far, so the machine needs to be accessible.”
Print and Copy Convergence Opens Market for New Entrants
The convergence of printer and copier devices has opened the door for market leading printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard to take a slice of the conventional copier market. The company has traditionally avoided the copier business, focusing instead on inkjet and laser print devices, a market in which HP is the unchallenged champion. However, since conventional copiers have been increasingly displaced by devices which are essentially laser printer engines with added copy, scan and fax functions, the company could no longer resist getting involved. In November 2004 the company announced that it intended to seriously disrupt the traditional copier market with 45ppm MFP device, the LaserJet 4345 priced at a highly competitive £1500. While the copier business works around having a sales presence in small to medium businesses, HP claims to be able to offer significant savings by selling through its existing network of partners.
Instead of having to send a rep into companies, the company can leverage its established IT sales infrastructure. The company also believes that because the new breed of MFPs is more likely to be attached to the corporate network, end users will prefer a supplier with a strong background in IT and more experience of delivering network attached devices. Because MFPs are being used to replace both document handling and IT devices, the market is being contested by manufacturers from both backgrounds. It remains to be seen whether businesses will choose those with a strong IT background or those with proven leadership in document handling solutions. HP, it could be argued, offers both and is therefore likely to gain market share over the next year, particularly if the company opts to add devices with higher volume capacity and colour capability to this segment.