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Brother finds SMEs still enjoy the printed page

The paperless office remains a bit of a dream for those operating in the SME sector where the vast majority still like to read off the printed page

The concept of the paperless office emerged at a time when people believed that alternative technologies would come along and replace the need for printing physical copies of information.

The growth in digital communication, with email and instant messaging, along with a move by users to a more mobile world were all seen as factors that would be the death knell of the grey boxes that sat in offices up and down the land.

But things haven't quite gone the way of the 'Tommorrow's World' forecasters and if anything printing is now even more crucial to users, particularly those that work in an sector like legal or in a position like HR.

There have been changes with greater uses of multifunction printers and more of a shift towards managed print services but to proclaim a paperless office is still very premature, according to two seperate studies completed for Brother.

"Although technological advances and electronic communications have chanjged how companies operate, the results confirm that printing is still a critical and essential element in the business environment," said Dan Waldinger, director, services and solutions marketing at Brother.

"So it is vital that business owners and decision-makers ensure printing is efficient and productive within their workflow," he added.

The main findings of the Brother research was that 73% of business owners at firms with 500 staff or less used the printer at least four times a day, according to work carried out by Wakefield Research.

Some departments, including HR, accounts and legal, relied heavily on printing hardcopies of information, according to the second study carried out by InfoTrends.

There is also a question of preference with 49% of people admitting that they like being able to read documents on a printed piece of paper.

Waldinger highlighted an opportunity for the channel to play a role in helping customers understand the role of printing in their business.

"It is making sure the right devices and the right workflow are strategically placed to optimise workgroup operations," he said.

For those in the channel that have specialised on printing the good news is that their skills are going to be in demand for a long time to come.

"We are still a long way from the 'paperless office', and given the long-term reality of a combination of printing and scanning, multi-function printing devices will be crucial to companies for years to come," said Randy Dazo, group director at InfoTrends.

But he did advise users to think more about the printer to make sure it increased productivity and didn't just gather dust in a corner of the office.

The joy of statistics of course is that there is always another piece of research that can be quoted to come up with the alternative argument.

Last summer, research from document management specialist Margolis found that almost half of businesses either believed that they could go paperless by the end of last year or had already done so.

Those that had made the switch moved to a more electronic way of running the business and decided to use processes that stored documents without the need for printing off and filing the material.

Mind you this might not be the best month for trying to prove the paperless office theory with Danwood last year pointing out that January was the busiest month in the year for printing and during the average week print volumes rose to a Wednesday peak before tailing off to a Friday low.

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