by Rodney Gedda

Country Energy switches on managed print services

Jan 05, 2011
GovernmentGovernment IT

NSW government-owned energy supplier, Country Energy, has entered into a managed print services contract with HP to reduce time spent by IT staff managing printers by as much as 95 per cent.

Country Energy has 4525 staff and 169 offices across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. It has about 800,000 customers. Alan Montgomery, group manager for business services at Country Energy, said back in 2007 about 31 IT staff serviced some 800 printers at the utility.

“It took up a substantial amount of time that could have been better spent servicing our customers,” Montgomery said.

In some offices, non-IT staff were also buying printers, consumables and managing maintenance contracts.

“The challenge is that many offices only have staff numbers of between three to 30 people,” Montgomery said.

Before going down the full MPS route, Country Energy procured an automated toner service from HP in 2006, but it did not live up to expectations.

“The service was never set up properly. HP needed to take ownership of the solution to drive its success,” Montgomery said. “Initially, the partner resources did not have the expertise to realise that even though the solution was provided by HP, it still had to be owned and manage — especially in a unique business environment such as ours.”

The then CIO at Country Energy, Patrick Cooper, concluded that partially outsourcing printer management was not working for the business and, in August 2008, Country Energy engaged with HP for a managed print services contract. Cooper moved to general manager of strategic procurement and Andrew Hillsdon came on board as general manager for IT services and CIO.

“We set up SLAs and deliverables that met our business needs, and outlined the cost savings and benefits we wanted to measure,” Montgomery said.

SLAs are based on requirement and location and Country Energy requested a 60-minute response time and nobody in the business must be without a working printer for more than three days, regardless of location. The utility also stipulated tighter SLAs for regional offices and now has about 670 HP printers under the MPS.

The service takes in six to eight core models under MPS and, in addition to the 670 printers, Country Energy has another 100 printers, plotters, scanners and inkjets not under the MPS.

The contract has been in place for two years and it is working well, according to Montgomery, with no reduction in the headcount of IT staff.

“IT staff set up the network drives, but they do not undertake maintenance or support. HP’s MPS has cut out about 95 per cent of the time they used to spend on the printers,” he said. The utility first investigated MPS as a way to reduce consumption and devices, but at some locations it was better to use two smaller devices than one large device.

“We had a goal that in our fourth year the number of printers we had on board would be down 10 to 15 per cent. We still have a lot of under-utilised printers in our head office, however” he said.

Country Energy is still looking to rationalise printers in key locations such as Port Macquarie and Bathurst. There is a standard cost for toners and other consumables and toner is automatically delivered to offices without having to be ordered, saving time. A single billing system provided by HP delivers one bill that includes the cost of printers covered by the MPS, and those printers that are not. Individual business units can now perform cost management.

“We can better track and forecast our budget now that we have a total cost, excluding paper, as each office buys its own paper,” Montgomery said. “Without having an effective tracking mechanism in place prior to the MPS, it is hard to say if our costs have reduced, but we can now track our growth, costs and budget accordingly.”

Montgomery advises CIOs looking at manged print services to be aware that expectations have to be two-way.

“An MPS vendor won’t solve all problems if the company doesn’t manage it hands-on,” he said. “That is a key thing we learnt. The service is good and the ownership has to be owned by the business. IT still has to have accountability as the vendor is still only the delivery arm of the expectation.”