Businesses are looking for greater value from their MPS (Managed Print Services) engagements as they continue to struggle with issues related to digital transformation. Greater customer demand for more complex and advanced MPS programs to address issues such as paper-to-digital conversion, content management, document management, content security, process optimization, mobile workflows and workflow automation are becoming commonplace.
Factors behind these trends are easily identified. We are living through one of the most transformative times in our history as it relates to business process. Adoption of mobile technology and cloud-based computing is accelerating rapidly, impacting the way we work with documents and creating new methods for information consumption and collaboration.
Many business functions like document creation, collaboration, capture, scan, distribution and archiving can now be performed electronically with minimal need for printed output, and can be done using a mobile device running a cloud-based solution. Print remains an important and viable business function, but it should no longer be viewed as a standalone one. More often today, businesses are looking at print as part of an overall document lifecycle strategy — one that begins at the smart MFP (multifunction printer).
The Smart MFP
The smart MFP has become a valuable asset for helping businesses close the gap between the paper and digital worlds. Like traditional multifunction devices, they go beyond printing, copying, scanning and faxing documents. Built on an embedded systems architecture, smart MFPs help support additional applications and solutions to enable various custom functions. These solutions can be developed by third-party vendors, service providers, or by the equipment manufacturers themselves.
These advanced solutions are designed to integrate standard MFP functions with other office and enterprise systems to create customized applications and workflows. By utilizing the consistent and customizable user interface of the smart MFP, organizations can help simplify processes and improve productivity through digital transformation. According to a recent study from market research firm Quocirca, organizations that are maximizing the use of MFPs are more likely to be effective when it comes to workflow integration. The study shows that 85 percent of organizations with a well-defined MFP strategy believed their workflow integration to be effective or very effective, compared with approximately 40 percent of those without a clear MFP strategy1.
Most MPS providers offer a comprehensive set of document software solutions as part of their offering. The solutions are often brand agnostic and support programmable APIs to run as embedded applications on the MFP device itself. There is a wide variety of software solutions available for smart MFPs, and most fit within one of two basic categories: print management or document capture and workflow solutions.
Print management is a fundamental component of any MPS program with solutions to help businesses understand how print resources are allocated and used. At the same time, these services can be utilized to influence end user behavior through properly established print policies.
The ability to track documents throughout the environment is crucial to understanding existing workflow and identifying opportunities for both cost and process improvement. This can be accomplished by most print management solutions that track documents as they move through the device, as well as those that add the ability to track individual usage. Tracking usage in this way and then measuring the improvements can allow for better ongoing decisions about device deployment. The ability to allocate costs and even charge back to various departments or billing codes is another important feature allowing for cost recovery.
Businesses can also utilize print management to establish print policies, which helps to ensure that printing is performed responsibly, securely, and within established corporate practices. Rules-based print policies can be used to control access to devices, encourage users to print responsibly by printing only what they need and when they need it, suggest or require duplex printing, route print jobs to the most cost-effective devices, restrict access to color, and assist with managing print quotas. These solutions also can help to identify and eliminate unnecessary or unwanted printing, such as the printing of e-mails or unauthorized personal documents.
Many print management solutions integrated at the smart MFP can provide an added layer of security to protect access to content. Secure printing technologies, such as pull printing, work by holding print jobs until they are released at the network device. Print jobs are held in a queue until the user is authenticated at the device by swiping an ID card or entering a PIN number. Once this is done, users can release individual print jobs, move them up or down in the queue, or simply delete them. This is a key feature to help eliminate orphaned print jobs — documents that are left in the printer output tray and never retrieved. Pull printing solutions are also important for enabling secure mobile print capabilities.
Document Capture and Workflow
Automating workflow is probably the most significant opportunity businesses have to reduce document costs and drive efficiencies into the document environment. While print management solutions can be deployed to optimize the use of paper by consolidating print devices and controlling access to printing capabilities, document capture is equally important when it comes to controlling the use of non-essential paper in the office environment.
Scanning has moved from being mostly a back-office requirement to something that is utilized by nearly every employee. The value of scanning and capturing documents has transitioned far beyond storage and archival, and employees need the ability to scan directly from the front panel of an MFP in any location. When then combined with an intelligent capture and workflow solution, the smart MFP provides the ability to convert paper to digital format at the optimal point in the overall process.
When used as a scan and capture device this way, the smart MFP can be utilized to help add real efficiencies into existing business processes, which explains why workflow software and intelligent scanning is a fundamental component of any digital transformation strategy. Good capture and workflow solutions have the intelligence to scan directly into office applications and back-end systems, and in the format that is needed. The most effective scanning solutions utilize OCR capabilities to convert paper-based documents into editable, searchable text files. A crucial component of streamlining workflows is the ability to convert paper documents into common electronic file formats such as PDF, Excel or Word. This reduces the amount of time spent by employees manually rekeying or searching for information.
There is a tendency to look at managed print services merely as a means for reducing print costs, but while MPS can certainly help organizations to optimize their print infrastructure, there are other, more powerful benefits to be realized. By focusing solely on reducing costs, organizations might not realize the full potential of managed print services. Smart MFP solutions deployed through an optimized MPS program can target real efficiencies through improved business processes. This way, changes to the print environment will occur naturally in support of larger objectives around digital transformation. At the same time, potential cost savings will grow exponentially and businesses will likely see dramatic improvements in worker productivity.
1Quocirca Enterprise MPS Study, July 2015