Despite expectations of its demise, our affinity with the printed page means that it continues to fight its corner in today's rapidly evolving mobile workplace. However, the future of office printing relies on keeping pace with the digital world. Tomorrow's "less-paper" office will remain a hybrid paper and digital workplace. The most effective organisations in 2014 will be those that automate paper intensive processes, integrate paper with digital workflows and completely eliminate wasteful printing.
So what trends will shape the printing landscape in 2014?
- Managed Print Services (MPS) grow up. 2014 will see stronger competition with each vendor looking to capture bigger slices of the MPS pie. MPS has reached maturity in the enterprise, and businesses will look to gain greater business value from MPS engagements. Intelligent print management will become a key enabler for MPS as next generation contracts look to address broader document security, sustainability and information management needs. As software plays a stronger role in MPS contracts, enterprises will evaluate cloud infrastructure capabilities. MPS providers that lack a strong cloud MPS play within their software portfolio will be at a disadvantage given the broader acceptance of cloud services amongst enterprises of all sizes.
- Cloud document workflow through Smart MFPs (multifunction peripherals) catches on. The growing acceptance of cloud services such as Box, DropBox, SkyDrive Pro and Sharepoint will create new opportunities for the new breed of cloud-enabled MFPs. These devices will enable businesses to scan and store documents in the cloud, promising to reinvent the MFP as a true cloud document collaboration and workflow tool. When leveraged within MPS contracts, smart MFPs can play a vital role in the transition from paper to digital workflows. 2014 will see more devices released with scan-to-cloud capabilities, which will pave the way for broader adoption of MFP document capture and storage in the cloud.
- Big paper becomes a big deal for business processes. While broader "Big Data" content such as social, mobile and video may have synergies with MPS, for now the priority will be on digitising paper-based information and capturing this in enterprise content management (ECM) systems. Businesses will start to prioritise MPS solutions that enable greater business automation in an effort to minimise paper-intensive processes, remove mundane manual tasks and free up expert resources. Examples include back office applications such as invoicing, loan origination and expense management. Next generation MPS offerings will be viewed and prioritised based on their ability to deliver further cost savings and efficiency and the stakes will rise for MPS providers that can deliver business process automation, particularly those with industry specific focus.
- The second coming of mobile print. Fragmentation of mobile platforms will continue to create problems for seamless enterprise mobile printing, particularly across mixed fleets. Although mobile devices have boosted user productivity, printing has been the key shortcoming of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon. Printer vendors are seeing that pages that may have shifted from the desktop to mobile devices are being lost due to complexity of current solutions. Although the emergence of the Mopria alliance in 2013 seeks to redress the balance, to date much of focus has been around Near Field Communication (NFC) printing. However, while NFC is supported by Android and Windows 8, Apple has placed its bet on iBeacon, rather than NFC, and Airprint for direct printing. To avoid shadow mobile printing through using multiple mobile print apps, businesses will benefit from a vendor-agnostic approach that can drive all mobile printing securely through the existing network. This can ensure that printing is secure, native drivers are used and printing is monitored through existing print management tools.
- SMBs will wake up to MPS. Printing still plays an important role amongst SMBs, yet most purchase and manage printers, supplies and service in an inefficient way. By embracing a contractual approach to printing, organisations can lower costs, reduce device downtime and the administrative and IT burden associated with ad-hoc print management. The broader availability of basic print services means that more SMBs will turn to channel partners for guidance and recommendations on how MPS can help them reduce the impact of poor print management on their business.
- The print room fights to survive. The print room/corporate reprographics department (CRD) is often perceived as a glorified printing and copying service. However, by raising its profile, the print room can add real business value through the delivery of broader services, often enabled by web-to-print. In today's noisy online world, high value colour printed communications are playing an ever important role in the marketing mix. The print room should exploit this opportunity, for instance through cross-media marketing solutions that can create and manage personalised communications across multiple channels. Whilst such services can elevate the profile and perception of the traditional print room, organisations will need to gain a wider commercial perspective on how the print room can deliver support revenue generating customer communications.
- Interactive print boosted by augmented reality (AR). With developments of GoogleGlass and other wearable tech, AR technology is set to move from labs to wider mainstream adoption in the coming year. 2013 saw marketers and publishers experimenting with AR as a means to bring life to the printed page. 2014 will see broader use of AR apps such as Blippar and Layar to connect readers of printed adverts (think magazines, billboard posters or even cereal boxes) to online web sites via their mobile devices. By making print interactive, AR promises to be a useful tool in helping traditional print communications work together with digital channels, but 2014 will largely be an experimental year for the technology in the print world.
These trends will all serve to mark an important shift for vendors as they address the broader trends influencing the market. An increasing focus on software and innovation is key to success for vendors who will continue jostle for position in a market that continues its rapid evolution beyond the printed page.