Today, printers are used in most (if not almost all) office environments, and in a lot of homes. Office employees often rely on being able to print to do their jobs. However, for people managing the printers, most of their tasks are related to annoying day-to-day issues rather than setting up and managing a companywide print management policy. Some people even think that printers are sent from hell.
Let's talk to Peter Schneider and Erik Norell, the founders of Cirrato, about the history and view of strategic print management.
Q: Tell us about the differences in how print management was viewed twenty years ago compared to now.
A: To be honest, people always thought that printing was boring and ‘unsexy’. Earlier, the facility managers, more often than IT departments, were in charge of managing printers and making sure they worked and even repairing them to some level. The only thing the IT department did was adding the queues. They weren’t interested in doing the ‘boring’ work.
Over time, the responsibility moved from facility management to IT. Today, it is usually the IT departments that make sure that printer and copy machines are installed and configured correctly, run efficiently in the network, that there is enough paper and toners, and of course supporting end users. Unfortunately, many people still find print management pretty boring. This is something we wanted to change, hence we designed our print management tool to automate the "operational" tasks and lifting print management to a more strategic level.
Q: Why is print management perceived that way?
A: Well, how would you like to spend hours on updating printer drivers just to make something as simple as “being able to print” work? Or take hundreds of calls suddenly when a print spool server stops working? This is what we mean by "non-strategic" print management.
And a lot of the times, the problems may not even be related to the printers themselves. It may be something in the IT infrastructure backend, or settings in the users computers. But it is easy to blame the printers and the IT guy who set them up.
What is needed in most companies is a way to make such "operational" problems disappear, and instead a way to give managers a way to manage hundreds or thousands of printers on a more strategic level. Then suddenly it becomes interesting for them again, since they can save money and make the end users work environment more efficient.
Erik and Peter answering one of my questions.
Q: How come large companies don't have more strategic control over their printing?
A: As many things in the IT world, print management has grown organically. Decisions made a long time ago are still affecting us today, when the environment and conditions have changed drastically.
Just as an example: When applications first started being used in the enterprise sector, things used to be centralized. You started off with a central application on a central server that managed a small part of the business. Print management was one of these things. When companies started to manage their printers, most printers in use were dot-matrix printers. They didn’t cause much bandwidth problems. The bandwidth started becoming an issue as four-color printers became more and more popularized. Suddenly, those print jobs consumed 20 times more bandwidth when being sent to the central print spool server.
This is just one example of why enterprises don't have much control over their printers. Other aspects of printing, for example how printer drivers work and are managed, have also grown organically. What worked then doesn’t work today, when the IT environment and the demands are completely different.
To solve the problem, you need to start from scratch. Patching a solution that is fundamentally designed for a different time doesn’t work. For example, adding management software on existing print spool servers doesn’t solve the problem – in the best case, it adds new features and capabilities, but the underlying architecture is still not designed for the demands that are placed on printing today.
Q: How do you think people will view print management in ten years?
A: There is so much going on in the industry. Not only in the print management industry, but in the IT industry in general. This will definitely affect how printing is viewed and managed. Just look at the Windows 8 print management announcement from Microsoft recently, in which they are drastically changing how printing works. We think Cirrato is perfectly poised to fit into that model. The thinking is the same – simplify, give management control, reduce IT footprint, and make printing “just work”.
Q: In what way does this interact with Cirrato’s vision and goals?
A: First of all, our vision is to make “centrally managed direct printing” the new printing standard. It is early days and we can’t say for sure, but the Microsoft announcement just mentioned fits in very well with this vision. End users and managers will be happier.