Imagine you’ve been tasked with reducing your organization’s annual printing costs. This ongoing expense, which is surprisingly high, has caught the attention of senior management and they want to understand it better for expense planning purposes. Few details around office printing are readily available. Where do you begin to get the answers you’re seeking? What information must be gathered and analyzed? How do you start digging into this to deliver tangible results?
Reporting, Analysis and the P.I.G.
Up front, it’s important to distinguish between reporting and analysis; these two components are often confused. Reporting has a more tactical focus, looking at what has already happened and what is currently happening. Analysis is strategic and more forward-looking, leveraging insights from reports to achieve specific goals.
After many years of this work I have distilled my process down to an essential three elements, what I call the P.I.G.: Perspectives, Influencers, and Granularity. These are my three pillars of effective reporting and analysis for an organization’s print optimization needs.
The printer fleet dashboard in Pharos Beacon
Perspective involves the person who creates the report, the audience of the report, and the goals the audience wants to achieve. Maybe the goal is straight cost savings across the board, or maybe it’s to focus only on the departments generating the most print volume. Or, maybe the organization needs to have a better handle on all the potential security issues involving network printers and secure documents.
Influencers encompass motivation and goals. You need to understand why people print in the organization, what documents are truly critical to business, who are the outliers in terms of print volume, and are these outliers expected due to the nature of the department or individual role? Understanding these motivators is an important facet of print management initiatives. Strategic goals include print volume and cost reduction, printer fleet optimization, improving security, and improved sustainability metrics.
“For one company, the data revealed that several employees were printing a large number of 100-page color documents relating to the ketogenic diet.”
Granularity involves looking closely at specific data groups. For example, what does the printing activity reveal in terms of the devices, employees, departments and office locations. Then there’s time frame and how you aggregate this granularity: on an annual level, monthly or weekly level, or even daily.
In one recent customer scenario, their print activity reports showed that over the previous six months the organization was printing about 25 percent of their total print volume in color. Of this 25 percent, we found that almost 35 percent was being printed to desktop devices. This was not only needlessly expensive, it also posed a security risk because desktop printers are not usually secured by authentication and tracking software.
Our suggested solutions were three-fold: one, remove the desktop printers from the equation; two, ensure that secure printing is enabled on shared network devices; and three, understand the reason(s) employees tend to choose color print in order to educate them about the associated costs and promote more efficient alternatives.
Dashboards and Drill-Downs
Strong reporting and analysis starts with questions. This is an iterative process, gaining detail and meaning on each level as you get more and more specific information.
In the past few years I’ve had more requests for dashboards than any other type of report. Dashboards provide a quick summary for executive management, but it’s important to keep in mind that the metrics on these reports should only serve as the start of a deeper data analysis process.
Dashboards are great for the quick overview and as a tool to prompt the print administrator to ask questions about their print landscape. Using the previous example, the path of inquiry might lead to questions about which groups are printing the most color: departments, business units, users, etc.
“Business leaders today always need to find new ways to reduce costs and security risk. Analyzing your company’s employee printing data is an excellent way to accomplish these goals. ”
At Pharos, I conduct print activity analysis for large global enterprises. One aspect that I find particularly interesting is keyword analysis; looking for the frequency of a set of words in print job names. For one company, the data revealed that several employees were printing a large number of 100-page color documents relating to the ketogenic diet. This analysis highlighted the need to educate employees on the actual cost of personal printing in the office. In my experience, people are always happy to improve their printing habits once they understand the costs involved.
Print Data Management
Any data analysis effort is only as good as the data supporting it. Like most things, print management systems require some “care and feeding” – the ongoing maintenance of the details associated with the incoming print data. This particularly applies to print device and employee usage data. Keeping on top of this information goes a long way to ensuring you’re working with accurate reports.
Business leaders today always need to find new ways to reduce costs and security risk. Analyzing your company’s employee printing data is an excellent way to accomplish these goals.
My career spans over 20 years of reporting and analyzing data in a variety of industries. In my time with Pharos I’ve learned that corporate printing data is a fascinating and often overlooked source for achieving corporate efficiency and security goals. It has been a rewarding experience to help large enterprises reduce their annual spending, improve their security, and enhance their sustainability efforts.