(Guest post by Tommy Pelham, Senior Director, Transition & Transformation, Managed Document Services, Xerox Global Delivery. @tleep61)

The majority of Managed Print engagements are in second, third or even fourth generation contracts. This means that as a consumer of Managed Print, your next version could mean switching vendors. How that move to a new vendor gets handled is critical to the satisfaction of your end users and to the success of your incoming Managed Print Service provider. Let’s look at a Walk In Take Over (WITO) scenario and what can smooth the transition to your new service partner.

Tommy Pelham

In a WITO implementation, you have all the activities of an MPS implementation – assess, design and implement. However, the twist is your MPS provider will also support your current-state environment from the beginning of the contract.

Now, don’t take that to mean these contracts are easy. I think WITO is one of the most difficult to implement, because you have multiple projects going on simultaneously. Make sure your MPS vendor understands all the angles and risks if you’re being asked to consider a WITO contract. Let’s take a look at how this can be done effectively.

Relaxed Service Level Agreements. While the help desk and other support services are being stood up, most vendors can’t commit to standard service levels during this short term. The vendor will probably include verbiage about this in the SOW. Ideally, you would have a “best effort” clause for the first 60 days, then ramp up to the agreed upon future state service levels.

Reactive Ticketing Only. Look for your vendor to start early implementation of MPS tools for proactive monitoring of existing devices. Until that happens, services are likely to be reactive only, regarding existing devices that are part of the WITO effort.

Communications. Change Management should be a large part of any MPS implementation. In the case of a WITO, this becomes even more important, especially in the early stages. In some cases, the client choses to provide lower levels of service to end users in order to save some money. If this is not communicated properly (or at all), it will leave you, as the project sponsor, and your new service provider in a bad position.

As an example, one client was going from on-site services with four-hour response, to a different arrangement of next business day response and second business day resolution. The end users had already become accustomed to having service technicians on-site, providing in some cases, almost immediate response. Users actually had the technicians’ direct line and bypassed the help desk. On top of this, we were committing to a best effort service level for the first 90 days. We worked with the client during SOW negotiations and in the very early post-signature days to make sure the message was communicated properly and often that there was change in not only service provider, but also in expectations. While this was generally effective, there are always outliers. We still had some users who claimed not to have seen any communications and escalated issues, that when investigated turned out to be nothing more than expectation resets. While this creates problems for your vendor, it may also damage internal support and enthusiasm for your carefully thought-through MPS contract and initiative. Think through the communications carefully.

Device Inventory. The importance of an accurate starting inventory can’t be stressed enough. You, as the client, could be held responsible for providing one, and your new provider should perform some due diligence on it. To ensure accuracy, an alternative would be to request an early assessment to gather the inventory. This would also provide a head start on transformation activities. In either case, devices can be missed, and you should be prepared to discuss with your provider how those will be supported if a service request is needed.

A suggestion for the contract in this area: If a ticket is opened on a device that’s not listed in the inventory, then it will be added, and the service provider will charge for it retroactive to the contract start date. Yes, this sounds drastic, but this is what was allowed in a previous engagement I had. We were able to negotiate this as a Project Change Request. The client sponsor agreed that we would have supported the devices from the beginning if they were found, so he agreed we should be paid for them. Now, that may not work in all engagements, but it is something your provider should be looking at. If not, you may need another provider. Keep in mind, this scenario will only work in a per device pricing contract.

Pricing/Schedule. This final item always comes up in a WITO implementation. How do we keep to a schedule that allows us to quickly optimize and get to our ultimate goal of saving money? Your new provider may recommend a tiered pricing structure where you are charged more for devices in your current state, and then the price is reduced as transformation occurs. This has been done successfully using current state/future (optimal) state pricing. It’s something I’ve experienced in the past, and it was a critical part of our success in driving to project schedules.

The concern with this as a consumer of Managed Print is that the vendor may feel they’re getting more money out of the current environment and look to slow down the schedule. Please understand that some vendors want to get any competitive equipment out as soon as possible because it’s more expensive to support. However, you should look for protection in the contract. Just as the vendor will be looking for compensation if you slow down the timeline, you should do the same. Ask for penalties or some form a reimbursement if the vendor fails to meet their obligations or timeline.

So in conclusion, if you’re switching Managed Print vendors, expect your new vendor to have a plan to get you through what can be a difficult transition as seamlessly as possible. There will be expectations from both sides (and sometimes even from the outgoing vendor), but it’s a journey that can be made together. If done right, you’ll come out at the end with a happy user base and a Managed Print Services engagement that meets the needs of both you and your service partner.