The federal sector is tightening its budget belt in search of savings. Efficiency is the new modus operandi. But as is often the case, the appearance of potential savings in federal spending aren’t always what they might seem.

In November, the White House issued Executive Order 13589, “Promoting Efficient Spending,” directing agencies to identify efficiencies. Section 5 of the Executive Order specifically directs a reduction in printing costs. The execution of printing efficiencies, however, is not always easy. The decision to get efficiency is only the first step.

Finding efficiencies in printing does not require an M.B.A. Depending on the size of an organization, the costs of buying or leasing high-volume printing and scanning, purchasing supplies and paper, and contracting technical support can easily total tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. An organization’s printing costs and capabilities are a complex combination of hardware, software, supplies, and technical support.

The costs of technical support can be misleading; a reduction of 33% in printing capacity doesn’t necessarily equate to similar savings in technical support costs.”

Efficiencies need to be thought through carefully before being executed, however. A failure to adequately plan execution can lead to disruptions in operations. Other unintended consequences and hidden costs can also undercut what were believed to be prudent efficiencies.

Executives and staff alike should consider a few observations as they look at possible printing efficiencies:

First, do not assume contracts or lease agreements involving printers can be terminated expeditiously and without penalty. The structure of the contracts and leases may not permit termination during the period of performance (POP) without paying a sizable penalty. If this is the case, it may be advisable to execute the efficiency at the end of the POP.

Second, conduct a detailed analysis of the costs printing supplies and technical support. There are often economies in purchasing in bulk. Buying fewer units or purchasing lower quality hardware can end up costing more, biting into expected savings. Similarly, the costs of technical support can be misleading; a reduction of 33% in printing capacity doesn’t necessarily equate to similar savings in technical support costs.

Third, know the hardware, software, and current technical support for the printing architecture. Delays can result once execution begins if vendors, technical support, and other staff do not have all of the specifications on the existing architecture available. It is easy to conclude “someone” has all of the information but it can only help to have documented as many of the specifications as possible before execution.

Finally, prepare a thorough execution plan. Unity of action and minimizing reductions can only be achieved through detailed planning in sequencing the specific tasks. Ensuring all of the prerequisites for each task is in place, including making sure the right people are present when needed, and the time it takes to complete the tasks are essential to minimize disruptions.

The push for efficiencies in the federal sector is likely to continue. Adequate planning and analysis will ensure the impact of efficiencies is minimal on operations while the expected cost savings are realized.

James Windle is a federal employee who has worked for executive branch agencies, the Executive Office of the President, and Congress. The views and opinions of the writer are his solely and independent from the United States Government.