by Robert Palmer
Information management is without a doubt the biggest challenge facing businesses today. It is not just about how much information we create and acquire, but also how that content is being consumed and distributed. It is all about the mobilization of the workforce. Forrester estimates that 29 percent of the entire global workforce can now be characterized as anywhere, anytime workers — a figure that has doubled since 2012. Studies have indicated that more than three quarters of the U.S. workforce has some form of mobility associated with their job.
As a result, knowledge workers require constant, uninterrupted access to business-critical information. It is easy to say, but for small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) that lack an effective digital workflow strategy it can be overwhelming. The challenge lies not just in the process of making information accessible, but also controlling, securing, and ensuring that the integrity of content is not compromised as it is manipulated and moved throughout what has increasingly become a fragmented document environment.
To address the changing demands for today’s office environment, businesses need an integrated document infrastructure built around three core elements: print management, capture and conversion, and intelligent document workflow. These three elements, deployed through an integrated solution at the MFP, can deliver the comprehensive information management capabilities needed to address most critical business objectives.
Many businesses fail to recognize the importance of the network MFP as the best foundation for integrating these solutions together. The distributed network MFP, combined with scanning software and intelligent workflow tools delivers the ability to convert paper to digital format at the most opportune point in the overall process. This is how businesses can begin to automate processes and drive real efficiencies into existing business workflow.
Interestingly, the three elements mentioned are often thought of as cost centers and a drain on IT resources. For example, printing today is primarily viewed as a business expense: difficult to manage with costs that are not easily recovered. For most smaller businesses, scanning is used either to share or store documents, and typically considered a specialized task that occurs at the end of a process. Meanwhile, most SMBs simply avoid changes in document workflow for fear of disrupting productivity.
When coupled with integrated workflow solutions, the network MFP becomes a strong IT asset and a measurable source for productivity. Businesses can dramatically cut costs by reducing print consumption and eliminating non-essential paper, gain control over key business processes to improve productivity, drive efficiencies by automating workflow, and manage content security while providing access to information when and how it is needed.
The network MFP should be positioned as a gateway to fully integrated digital workflow. Sourcing and deploying the necessary software components across multiple scanners and printers is very costly and difficult to manage. The more effective alternative is to move these activities to fewer, but more powerful MFPs. The ultimate goal is to help your customer transition to digital, reducing dependency on paper-based workflow while allowing employees to work with digital content in more effective ways.
Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Palmer has more than 25 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. Palmer is a popular speaker and he presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.