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PRINT IT Reseller Magazine Issue 107 – Keeping up in the Digital Age

This month, PrintIT Reseller invites key industry vendors to share their thoughts on digital transformation and how it has impacted the print industry

PrintIT Reseller: What does digital transformation mean for the print industry – does it present challenge or opportunity?

James Overton, SOS Systems: Director, Digital transformation is a phrase that has been used for a long time now, but many businesses have still not fully grasped its concept. It is more than just digitising forms or automating a process, used correctly and combined with the right technology it can transform the way your entire business operates and improve your customer experience by enabling them to communicate with you on multiple channels and making it easy to do business with you.

If a print partner understands this and can deliver this via a combination of different technologies, it is absolutely an opportunity.

Chris Bates, Business Unit Manager – Print and Supplies, UK, TD SYNNEX: The growing dependence that we have on technology, as organisations and individuals, means that we need to be able to access IT just about everywhere. The ability to print a hard copy of a document is an important productivity aid for many people – and sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s become quite commonplace for people to print work documents at home from a version of Office they are using on their smartphone, for example.

Printed documents are still a part of many business processes, and many people prefer to review a printed document or will print something to share it with others – at a meeting or an event. What that means is you need more printers in more places. While it is probable that many print devices will be used less than they have been in the past, and will thus have a longer lifespan, there will be more devices in the digitalised, hybrid working world than there were in the old world of manual processes and office based working.

What this also means for partners is there is more potential to offer managed print services. This is really starting to take hold in the SMB market now – businesses don’t want the hassle of managing devices and ordering consumables. They want to get on with their core activity and that essentially, is what digital transformation is all about.

Rory Gallagher, Director of Workspace I think that very much Services, Vision: depends on the business in question. For businesses that haven’t made the investment in people and technology the new and emerging landscape could absolutely be seen as a challenge. Offering scalable solutions in the process, and the hyper automation space takes a great deal of investment; something that Vision did nearly ten years ago.

Back then, we recognised the opportunity and have been helping our clients, both new and existing, on their digital journey with capture, automation and content management services. The results we’ve seen have been fantastic, with clients reducing their print volume, reducing their environmental impact and boosting productivity. We’re well positioned to continue support clients on that journey and continue to add value, remaining an integral part of their operations in the process.

Richard Hall, Solutions Manager, UTAX: Digital transformation within the print industry is visible in the shift from a traditionally hardware-focused industry, to one that now needs to be at the forefront of software and security for document management. This shift does present a challenge, one that will eradicate any competition who doesn’t fully embrace it. This does make it an exciting time for end-users – new solutions are constantly being developed with specific industries and workflow issues in mind, so those painful processes that were made more complicated with the introduction of remote working are now being addressed.

Arwel Griffiths, Managing Director, Ar Graff Cymru: I feel that, although digital transformation is difficult for the managed print and office equipment industry due to declining printing demand and shifting business models, it also presents opportunities for us to evolve with the integration of advanced technologies and the chance to diversify into related services. Providers who can adapt and embrace these changes are likely to thrive in the digital era.

John Green, Managing Director, Commerce Business Systems: We have had first-hand experience as to how the market has evolved into a mostly digital environment, but the key is being able to adapt to the changes quickly so that managed print and IT providers remain a couple of steps ahead of their customers, in preparation for them to make the transition, which many still find quite daunting.

Digital transformation creates opportunities for managed print providers to diversify their portfolio beyond traditional print services. They can expand into areas such as document security, information management, workflow consulting, and managed IT services. By becoming all inclusive technology partners, managed print suppliers can meet the evolving needs of businesses and position themselves as providers of all-in-one digital solutions.

Richard King, Channel Partner Manager iTS definitely (UK & Nordics), iTS: believes it has opened up opportunities. With the advent of COVID in March 2020 and the subsequent lockdowns, people quickly realised that key business critical printed information was no longer available, so, when the world opened up again, digitisation expedited lending itself perfectly to print professionals with digital workflow solutions in their portfolio.

Jon Palin, Service Director, Elmdale Group: Digital transformation has, undoubtedly, had a significant impact on the print industry, which presents us with a mix of challenges and opportunities. Some of the challenges that we are seeing is the difficulty some businesses face when it comes to adapting to new technologies that can require them to make sweeping financial, office equipment or staff changes, and we know that’s not ideal.

On the other hand, managed print providers have an opportunity to evolve their services to align with digital transformation, by offering document digitisation, content management, data security, and workflow automation services to help businesses move from paper-based processes to digital workflows. By providing comprehensive solutions that bridge the gap between physical and digital document management, print can remain relevant in the changing landscape.

Mark Ash, CRO, Konica Minolta: Digital transformation is a big opportunity for everyone, including the print industry. From a customer’s point of view, there is great demand for managed print solutions that deliver the scanning and digitisation of historical records and paper-based data, along with the need to employ digital workflow solutions which store and organise this data.

For customers in healthcare or the legal sectors for instance, this means records that must be retained for legal/ compliance reasons, so finding the right managed print partner that can reliably deliver the right solutions for their needs is essential.

There is still an obvious need for print as well, particularly when physical documents are required as proof or as a way of tangibly sharing information for meetings or events. There are also plenty of opportunities for managed print providers to cater for digital workflow needs as well. We work closely with our channel partners to ensure end customers have access to a range of digital workflow solutions (along with managed print) that best suit the needs of their organisation and employees, particularly with the proliferation of hybrid working.

On the production print side of things, digitalisation is the perfect way to funnel jobs and customer orders directly to the production line via the likes of web to print. Being able to offer online tools which enable customers to specify what they want and when they want it, and then to process these jobs obviously saves considerable time and money for any print business, as well as ensuring accuracy and service. Naturally, print businesses can also benefit internally from a move to automated digital processes that incorporate billing/invoicing for example, enabling the business team to concentrate more on core activities rather than administration.

Arjan Paulussen, Managing Director, Western Europe and English-Speaking Digital transformation Africa, Lexmark: presents both challenges and opportunities for the print industry. On one hand, the shift towards digital workflows and the reduction of paper based processes have led to a decrease in traditional print volumes. On the other, it brings new opportunities for vendors in this sector to enable new revenue streams, while simultaneously cementing their future competitive position.

At Lexmark for example, we’ve invested heavily in our portfolio of cloud services which enable organisations to simplify processes, such as configuration and firmware updates. This really starts with having a cloud strategy and a firm platform like Lexmark’s Cloud Fleet Management, from which to build additional capabilities.

Simon Hill, Managing Director – EMEA : Digital transformation & APAC, Vasion has often led to the perception that print, being an analogue form of communication and document management, should be eradicated.

The print industry has at times been undervalued as a technology supplier that can drive organisations towards their digital goals because digital transformation is not just a destination – it is a journey. This presents an opportunity for the print industry to showcase its capacity in helping bridge the gap between legacy systems, infrastructure, and modern alternatives, creating a journey for end-users to evolve their work processes.

As an industry we can deliver products and services that support the shift away from analogue and physical infrastructure, aligning with modern ways of working. This includes provisioning for hybrid work environments where printing may be required in multiple locations. It also involves catering to new types of hardware such as Chromebooks, mobile devices, and tablets, as well as accommodating printing from cloud based systems. For us at PrinterLogic, it also mandates the ability to deliver print management without the need for servers – from a cloud-native solution.

By demonstrating its adaptability and embracing the changing digital landscape, the print industry can position itself as a valuable partner in organisations’ digital transformation journeys.

Richard Stewart, Workspace Portfolio As Marketing Manager, Canon: businesses have made significant progress in their efforts to digitise; accelerated by the pandemic and shift to hybrid working, the print industry has also had to adapt to meet their ever evolving needs. This has brought with it both challenges and opportunities.

Graham Foxwell, Product Marketing Lead, Kyocera Document Solutions UK: Digital transformation presents both a challenge and opportunity.

The challenge is knowing who to trust to help you make this move. Digital transformation is not something to be taken lightly, without due diligence and support. Most organisations don’t have the skills, knowledge, or infrastructure to do this themselves, and therefore need the support of a company like Kyocera. We can provide end-to-end consultancy, project management, installation, training and ongoing maintenance and support. We would advise on the pitfalls to look out for, where to start and what areas of the business are best suited to digital transformation whilst avoiding disruption to normal business.

The opportunity, however, is about the significant cost savings, productivity, security benefits, customer, and employee well-being to be gained from digital transformation. Encouraging collaboration and communication, whilst increasing efficiency, agility and customer and employee satisfaction. Once the transformation starts, the future digital transformations are simpler and quicker.

How businesses can make the shift to this new way of working, without causing too much disruption is something that is going to become increasingly important moving forward into 2023 and beyond. And this is just one area where digital transformation can transform the way we work.

Andy Ratcliffe, Managing Director, Key Digital: The wider print industry is feeling the strain of organisations shifting to digital-first communication strategies. However, digital and offline channels are no longer equal in terms of their frequency of use or effectiveness. Print still has its part to play running alongside digital communication and therein lies the opportunity.

With enterprises adopting an omni-channel communication strategy, the print industry holds a great deal of knowledge surrounding effective content communication and end user perception that delivers positive customer experience.

While our customers continue to develop their digital strategies with us, print and direct mail also remain important to their transactional communication strategies and marketing outreach.

Nigel Eaton, General Manager, MyQ UK, Ireland & Nordic Region: Rather than a challenge or an opportunity, I would call it a necessity. The pandemic has kicked digital transformation into high gear and shown all people and institutions that it is possible to work differently and often much more effectively than ever before.

According to Quocirca’s Cloud Print Services 2023 report, 21 per cent of organisations expect their IT infrastructure to be completely in the cloud by 2025, up from 5 per cent today. Another 36 per cent expect it to be mostly in the cloud, up from 29 per cent today. This is creating momentum in the cloud print services market as more organisations realise the benefits of eliminating or minimising their reliance on on-premise print servers.

Greig Millar, Chief Revenue Officer, Brother UK: Digital transformation holds a huge opportunity for the print industry. Businesses have used hybrid to re-evaluate their print infrastructure and introduce technology to discover more efficient and productive ways of working.

Steve Holmes, EMEA & America’s Regional Director & GM, PaperCut: A digital, data-driven business is always going to be more agile, which underpins competitive advantage in today’s digital economy.

Secure, cloud-based platforms should help foster and accelerate collaboration, which is important in an industry like print, given that those in the ecosystem often work together very closely. Therefore, digital transformation will enable us to bring new solutions to market quicker, ensuring we’re meeting our customers’ evolving print needs from a device, software and support perspective.

PrintIT Reseller: Digitisation is driving business innovation, does print still have a place in the digital workplace?

James Overton: Digitisation continues to improve processes and drive innovation in the workplace but printing also very much still has its place. Our volumes have recovered to around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic and we are actually seeing growth in other areas so I would absolutely say yes.

Chris Bates: Yes, absolutely it does. With few people now spending 100 per cent of their working time in the workplace, the kind of devices in use will change. The shift in attitudes to sustainability and energy consumption will also be a factor here. But printed output will still be needed for many processes and activities.

Rory Gallagher: Absolutely! Most clients recognise the advantage of digitising paper-based processes but for some it’s simply not achievable, certainly in the short or even mid term. Taking healthcare and logistics as a case in point, two verticals we are particularly strong in; some of these organisations are so reliant on paper based workflows, they simply can’t take a revolutionary approach to transform them. We work with these clients to look for evolutionary steps to streamline paper-based processes with a longer term strategy to reduce the reliance on print.

Richard Hall: As a result of digital transformation, the print industry no longer focuses primarily on the functionalities of the physical hardware, manufacturers now must focus on the greater picture of document management to remain competitive. With more integrations and connectivity, come greater security risks which need to be addressed. In addition to this, business structures have adapted since the COVID-19 pandemic with more people working remotely which adds an additional dimension that manufacturers need to consider. Digital transformation is great for consumers because there are far more options than ever before when it comes to addressing cumbersome digital workflows and processes.

Arwel Griffiths: There is definitely a place for print in today’s digital workplace. Printed materials can enhance learning, understanding, and the retention of information. Research suggests that people tend to remember information better when they read it in print compared to in digital formats. It’s also a fact, that printed materials can also help reduce distractions and promote productivity without the interruptions commonly associated with digital devices.

Also, while digital media has become more widely accepted in the day to day running of life in general, it’s important to consider that not all individuals or target audiences prefer just to receive digital content. Some customers, clients, or employees may still prefer or request printed materials and it’s essential to accommodate their preferences to ensure effective communication and engagement.

John Green: Definitely. In many industries, there are legal and compliance requirements that makes it a mandatory for the use of printed documents for record keeping and documentation purposes. Some organisations still rely on physical copies of contracts, invoices, and other important documents to meet these legal requirements.

What’s more, printed materials such as brochures, business cards, direct mail, and magazines still play a crucial role in branding and marketing efforts – take PrintIT Reseller and Technology Reseller magazines, as prime examples. Printed documents can make a lasting impression on potential customers and provide a physical representation of a company’s identity and values.

Richard King: Print will always have a place in the workplace but in our experience, innovative organisations are now taking a hybrid approach to ensure documents are always readily available via simple digital but advanced workflows in various locations and formats to match the unique requirements of their business.

Jon Palin: Yes, print still has a place in the digital workplace. Printed documents provide a physical presence that digital content cannot replicate. Employees often find it easier to review and analyse printed documents, especially when dealing with complicated or lengthy information. In addition, print can be more accessible to individuals who have difficulty reading from screens or have visual impairments.

I do feel it’s important to strike a balance between print and digital resources in the workplace. Many organisations are adopting a hybrid approach, using benefits of both print and digitisation in their communication where it’s necessary. The specific use of printed materials will vary depending on a business or organisation’s audience, in-house expertise, and individual preferences, but it’s clear that print still has a role to play alongside digital communication in the workplace.

Also, while digital media has become more widely accepted in the day to day running of life in general, it’s important to consider that not all individuals or target audiences prefer just to receive digital content. Some customers, clients, or employees may still prefer or request printed materials and it’s essential to accommodate their preferences to ensure effective communication and engagement.

Mark Ash: Print continues to have an important role to play even in increasingly digital workplaces. Printed materials, such as brochures, business cards, and reports, provide a tangible and permanent source of information that is easy to use, find, and reference. It also ensures that information is accessible to a broader audience, including those who prefer or rely on physical formats over digital information. It is practical for displaying information in public places, on walls or as signage or instructions, particularly for a specific event or meeting for example.

In some industries and contexts, there are legal or regulatory requirements that necessitate the use of print. For example, certain documents, contracts, or certificates may still need to be produced and maintained in physical form to comply with specific regulations or for evidentiary purposes. Whilst digitisation has many varied applications, print still has an important role, it’s just that this role needs to evolve to match the latest requirements.

Arjan Paulussen: Yes, print still has a place in the digital workplace, just in a different capacity. While digital workflows have become prevalent, print materials can complement and enhance digital efforts. Print is still critical in many areas, mainly in any front office area. As an example, we have had lots of success and increasing print volumes in the logistics industry where we combine robust print technology with workflow processes for bill of lading. There are many examples like this.

Simon Hill: While digitisation is driving business innovation and the shift toward digital workflows, office print still has a place in the digital workplace, albeit with some changes in its role and usage. Print continues to serve specific needs, such as legal documents, physical records, marketing collateral, and certain types of communication. Additionally, some individuals and industries still prefer printed materials for various reasons, including ease of reading, annotation, or offline access.

I think that as an industry we already have established ourselves through innovation as a key component towards a more digital way of working. Simple capabilities like centralised print management allows end-users in New York to manage printers in London and Sydney within a few minutes of each other – a huge digital stride. Mobile print solutions have catered to our evolving ways of working. Moving forward we will see more innovation with an increased integration with digital workflows.

By offering these capabilities, PrinterLogic helps organisations adapt their office printing to the digital workplace. They facilitate efficient and secure printing practices while integrating print processes with digital workflows, ultimately supporting organisations in their digital transformation efforts and ensuring that office print continues to have a relevant role in the evolving workplace.

Richard Stewart: The journey towards digital transformation is by no means linear or absolute, and many IT teams are continuing to face issues implementing digital workflows seamlessly. IT teams are struggling to digitise at the pace needed to support this new workspace. Our research found that one in four employees are unable to access the physical documents they need when working remotely and are finding it difficult to perform functions that they expect to be seamless, such as invoicing, contract approval and signing digitally.

To successfully support hybrid working practices, businesses need to implement solutions that simplify the management of their workspace and maintain a ‘business as usual’ approach while also allowing employees to work from anywhere. This is where an accessible, yet secure print and scan ecosystem is crucial.

Graham Foxwell: As many of us found when we started working remotely over the COVID lockdown, there is already a wealth of tools available to help with the process. Almost overnight, remote meeting and conferencing platforms became an essential part of the ‘new normal’. As employers begin to look ahead, there is going to be an unescapable shift towards newer technology, where staff can interact in the same way they did before, whether together in the office, at home, or out on the road, including the ability to print and scan, increasing productivity, engagement and maintaining working relationships.

This is creating a real momentum in the cloud print services market, as more and more organisations recognise the benefits of eliminating or minimising their reliance on on premise print servers and moving into the cloud. In addition to flexibility and scalability, the cloud can also help organisations reduce costs – both financial and environmental, compared to operating a traditional on-premise environment. Cloud print services help overcome the complexity and inefficiencies of managing a traditional on-premise print infrastructure.

Andy Ratcliffe: Print in a digital workplace is still a necessity for every business we speak to with an effective communication strategy in place. Print can be both an essential function and a convenience to have that runs alongside digital tools – as opposed to acting against it.

Print remains one of the most effective forms of communication, particularly within collaborative scenarios. Digital tools can then be used to manage version control and automate document workflows – this allows people to do what people do best: create, innovate and drive change.

The visual impact of printed media can be a source of inspiration that is needed to drive innovation. Mobile print functionality and cloud access from MFPs provide ready access to data and information can be securely released, updated and uploaded from any device on any location. Connected devices are at the forefront of innovation in communication services.

Nigel Eaton: Lockdowns meant we all printed less for a number of reasons – either because we didn’t have a printer at home, or there was no one in the office to retrieve documents sent remotely. We saw a huge uptake in digitisation in traditional paper-intensive sectors such as local government where office closures meant they had to accept digital forms of communication. As a result, printed output showed a clear decline, and demand for scanning and automated digital workflow solutions increased exponentially. That said, however, print still has a place in the digital workplace and will continue to do so for years to come.

Greig Millar: The growing popularity of print-as-a-service has helped businesses to boost security, access just-in-time supplies, benefit from remote monitoring and receive enhanced maintenance support from their reseller partners.

But it’s also resulted in more focus on transitioning to the cloud, implementing the right hardware and software solutions to make devices easier to use, enable machine learning to automate document management and remove any chance of human error.

Steve Holmes: It’s not just digitalisation that’s bringing down print volumes in the workplace, but also more stringent ESG goals. It’s print solutions like the ones offered by PaperCut that provide organisations with much more control over who prints what, as well as actionable insights to help them honour their ESG commitments. Companies still want print to be easy and secure, but they also want their print solutions to proactively guard against unnecessary output. So, on one hand, solutions like ours are both facilitating print, while also keeping it to a minimum, especially in industries – like education, legal and healthcare – that are traditionally reliant on paper-based documents.