Mark Boggia explains how end user analytics can help businesses reduce print volumes without inconveniencing employees
Managing printing better represents a significant opportunity for organisations to save on operational expenses estimated to be as much as 5% of their IT budget. However, controlling this cost is not without its challenges, especially when it involves changing the behaviour of an IT savvy workforce.
Traditional approaches involve controlling printing in a physical or a fiscal way, saving paper and toner by changing printers’
default settings to duplex and draft quality; cross charging departments a per page usage fee; automatically deleting printer queues; and so called ‘pull printing,’ requiring end users to key in a PIN code on the printer itself to save wastage and add a level of security.
The issue here is that all this is at odds with an end user’s desire to print, and it doesn’t address the core reason of why people want to print, or provide a reasonable alternative. This results in a classic displacement effect as the problem goes underground in the form of shadow IT, a proliferation of personal printers and the unintended consequence of higher costs and less control.
Why do people print at work? We see three main use cases: printing to edit, printing to read and printing to share documents. Printing to edit: an end user is in the middle of editing a large document and it becomes too cumbersome to track changes and compare versions, so they decide to print it out, glancing at the printed copy whilst making changes on the screen.
Printing to read: people print documents because they prefer the clarity of reading a hard copy.
Printing to share: an end user is about to go to a meeting and wants to make sure everyone is on the ‘same page’, literally, so they print out copies of their presentation or of the document to be discussed for every attendee at the meeting.
With the proliferation of mobile devices, printing to share has become less prominent. Today, it’s easy to bring a phone or tablet to a meeting, but printing to read and edit remain widespread.
End User IT Analytics is all about monitoring the IT infrastructure from the end user perspective and the insight it brings about how end users are really experiencing IT, irrespective of what the service desk is reporting.
One application of this technology is in end user workspace design. The operational data it provides, such as workload trends and usage metrics about how services are being consumed, enables organisations to design optimal service for a given use case.
When organisations have an IT analytics solution in place, they start asking questions such as ‘What metrics could we use to better understand the relationship between a particular workspace design and printing behaviour?’.
Given the use cases of printing to read and printing to edit, reasonable metrics might include ‘end users with more than one monitor’ or ‘end users with a high resolution monitor’ and ‘number of pages printed per day’.
This is presented in one of the out-of-the- box dashboards shown below. What this dataset shows is that end users who have either a second monitor or a high resolution monitor print less than those who don’t.
So armed with the insight and knowledge gained from these analytics, organisations can now construct a solid business case to make a targeted intervention (i.e. purchase additional or new monitors for specific end users), and do this with absolute certainty of both reducing costs and improving the overall end user experience.