Making more of print

Mobile, cloud, the internet of things and other fast expanding technologies might be making dramatic changes in many organisations, but the much heralded ‘paperless office‘ is still not only an out-of-reach concept, but for most it is way out-of-sight. The reality is that a great many companies – large and small – still operate a hybrid mix of paper and digital workflows. And both of these workflow models need effective management.

Many organisations and especially their employees have bought into the concept of bring your own device (BYOD), where some of the complexities and costs of mobile working are essentially borne by the individual. When it comes to getting any mobile thoughts and experiences onto paper however, even among small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the onus quickly moves back to the organisation. Quocirca research shows that the business activities of three quarters of SMEs depend on printing and over half are struggling to control costs.

It is clear that just trying to cut costs by simply and blindly limiting access or usage to printing is not the right approach, yet without some controls the entire process of managing print resources and using paper workflows becomes unnecessarily problematic.

This means all companies need a well thought out strategy for print, and a complete plan for how to accomplish what is required. Major elements to address include:

  • Print reliability – On the face of it, printing might seem like this is a simple, low cost investment – after all, who hasn’t been amazed at the low cost of a personal printer for their home computing needs? However, paper workflows are integral to most business processes and the consequences of downtime can be serious; cutting corners with poor quality devices that too often break down or lax service with too many interruptions will disrupt business processes and frustrate employees.

  • Software and services – While this seems like a heavily hardware dependent part of the business support environment, there are plenty of key roles for software and services to play in the print environment, either installed and managed directly by a company or as part of a set of managed services for print (MPS). Not only is there a need to extend the availability of printer access to different types of devices and provide suitable queuing controls and management, many organisations will want to be able to limit who has access to which print resources and to have a way of accounting for usage.

  • Asset management – In addition to this operational management requirement, there is a need to manage the entire lifecycle of individual assets, including hardware systems – printers and multifunction printer (MFP) devices for document scanning, copying and print – as well as a wide range of consumables such as the ink, toner and paper which will require processes for ordering, stocking and effective deployment and installation.

  • Appropriate hardware – It is generally a false economy to keep any old IT equipment for too long. All technology improves, becomes cheaper to run and offers increased flexibility to users over time. Print is no different. New MFPs are far more efficient than older printers, both in power and more sophisticated paper, ink and toner handling to reduce the use of precious resources and keep running costs down.

  • Network connectivity – MFP devices also provide greater flexibility through their additional functionality, especially when connected to the internet. Increasingly they have features such as the ability to scan, perform OCR to determine content and then route automatically to other locations for example sending expenses or invoices to be processes. Connectivity means they can share ‘upwards’ to offer storage of scanned information in a cloud service and ‘downwards’ to provide wireless printing from mobile devices and on demand printing.

Printing has long been a key part of IT systems and despite of advances in displays or other technologies and the appeal of paperless (or at least ‘less paper’) offices, paper workflows still drive and support significant elements of almost all business processes.

Purchasing the right hardware to meet all user print needs will make employees more able to reach their productivity objectives and help ensure business continuity.

It should keep costs down with more efficient use of energy and other resources and have the management attributes that allow the organisation to not only securely control access, but also understand and identify what is being done at a sufficiently fine-grained level to properly account for usage.

A casual investigation of any print environment reveals a complex mix of requirements and the need for serious investment in many areas. However, the load can be spread to match usage though intelligent use of external financing and investigating managed services for print. The key is to ensure that available financing covers all aspects – increasingly complex hardware, software demands and managed services – to keep the ink and paper flowing.

For some thoughts on how to finance the changes required to address an enterprise print strategy as a whole, download this free report.