Going soft on print

Managed Print Services
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Paperlite offices are putting pressure on MPS providers to innovate, writes Niall Kitson

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19 November 2018 | 0

A recent survey by research firm Quocirca put managed print service providers on notice as to the sustainability of their business model as more firms begin their digital transformation journeys. The problem was put in stark terms: if you’re not adding value you can’t win – or retain – customers.

“While budget and resource constraints have previously held SMBs back from digital transformation, the need to improve efficiency and productivity is now driving them to explore deploying increasingly affordable ‘as-a-service’ digital workflow technologies to achieve their goals,” wrote research director Louella Fernandes. “Momentum is growing behind digital transformation in the SMB space and many have identified document workflows as a great place to start to gain quick wins in efficiency and productivity.”

Fernandes contended that as print volumes decline “MPS providers who want to secure their future profitability should look at how they can broaden their services to include digital workflow services that can help customers along the road to digital transformation”.

But what is the end point of this transformation? Is wholesale digitisation inevitable?

Not necessarily. According to some experts, the future is more likely to be one of peaceful co-existence of hard and soft copies. The paperless office is being replaced with a ‘paperlite’ alternative with tangible benefits for customers and a new set of challenges for the channel in terms of package offerings and expectation management.

Dylan Haworth, sales director UK & Ireland at Oki Europe (NW region), says many resellers are replacing the high-turnover, low-margin model with the slower burning, but ultimately more rewarding, consultative sales. A central tenet of this model is to view the printer not as a device but a communications hub. “These devices no longer just sit in the corner to be used occasionally to print the odd document – they are an integral part of a document workflow, managing and storing these documents with the help of integrated computing systems.”

Piece by piece
James Kavanagh, head of managed print services, MJ Flood, agrees that managed print has moved on from output management to the provision of bespoke software and workflow solutions: “This additional functionality provides further value to the customer and enables the vendor to increase revenue streams from the inclusion of these valuable services. A good example of this is MJ Flood’s SafeQ 6 software. This is a traditional print management software application that now adds modular advanced scan workflows such as scan-to-sharepoint, Dropbox for Business and Google Drive.”

He continues: “MJ Flood’s latest offering includes complete document searchability using optical character recognition scanning as well as redaction scan workflow for GDPR compliance.”

IT Force managing director John Bergin sees paperlite as something of a happy accident. “I’ve been around long enough to remember when we were all going to have the paperless office,” he says. “Maybe 12-15 years ago the talk was ‘we’ll have no more printing and a clear desk’. None of that happened. We came around to the thinking that print is always going to be here and to be honest it probably always will be here to some extent. We’re noticing a slowing in the demand for print services. We notice a lot more scanning and DocuSign seems to be coming into its own so there seems to be a slow acceptance of paperlite. I’m not sure that it’s part company strategy, more on a piece-by-piece basis.”

Bergin notes that while IT Force has some managed print contracts demand is not “skyrocketing” but greater awareness of GDPR could change that. “I think compliance to ISO27001 and GDPR is having its own impact but the idea that there is an overall reduction in print demand is true,” he says. “There are some companies that have taken GDPR seriously and some that have completely ignored it. There’s more to play out here. We haven’t seen anyone taken to task over GDPR – at least not in the public domain – and when we see that we’ll start to see more of this trend emerge. I don’t see any huge rush. There was a bit of a ripple when GDPR came and went but not a wholesale rush to get it done.”

Print is not dead
From the vendor side, Chas Moloney, director for Ricoh Ireland & UK, argues that while print demand is down in conventional offices, globally it shows no sign of slowing thanks to specialised uses like packaging and direct mail. He says an awareness of the client’s needs and workloads is becoming paramount as channel players seek to maintain relevance and that starts with an awareness of workflow and security.

“The way we see it is you have to keep adding value to the client in terms of their workflows,” he says. “Paper will get passed from one person to another, but now it’s about the ability to use the print hub as a communications hub, so we look at things like having Office 365 on the device, so if you have something urgent you have the ability to print that. You can take documents down from an Azure of OneDrive cloud. Or you might like to use Box or Dropbox or Google Drive to make sure the print device is adding value to your resellers.”

Moloney says having a multi-generational workforce is a challenge in itself. “If you have a millennial and digital is their preferred way to work, who’s working with a baby boomer who prefers print, they may want to digitise that for workflow. So it’s about working with clients to understand the processes that organisation has and build those workflows with them, you cater for the needs of everyone in that organisation.

“One of the things I talk about quite a lot with clients is that they have four generations of people working within them, and each of them will want to act and interact in different ways. What we have to do is understand how those people are working and make sure they are working in the most effective way for them – which is different for Gen Z as compared to a Baby Boomer.”

Moloney notes that when it comes to security documents are leaked because people have been careless with a hard copy. “It seems to be a trait with politicians that they walk around holding papers that can be read – that’s exactly what they want the media to see,” he argues. “Hard copy, from a security perspective, is very difficult to control and that’s where is comes back again to understanding the processes within organisations. Everybody knows when they get rid of a laptop they have to have the hard drive forensically cleaned but don’t take the same level of care when disposing hard copy yet the same principles apply.”

Moloney says when it comes to assembling a solution for a client, the technology arrives only after a process that fits the needs of the client has been designed.

Furthermore, that ongoing service element that used to rely solely on managing volume and supplies is a regular touch point where new solutions can be discussed, assessed or implemented. Moloney explains: “You have to have that constant level of engagement. We are constantly looking at [our customers’] IT strategy. What are they changing? How can the communications hub flex to add more value?”

That question of added value will continue to motivate digital transformation efforts for the foreseeable future.

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