Better productivity is a goal of most IT projects, typically through automating manual processes. Productivity gains often stop when a paper document is introduced into the process. At that point, someone has to manually enter relevant data into a system of record and then store or destroy the document. In some cases, the document needs to be routed to someone else for more information or approvals.
Solutions to scan and analyze paper documents have been available for years, but they still required some manual intervention, weren't easy to use, and integration with workflow software has been limited. Now, more fully automated, user friendly options are coming on the market from an unexpected source: printer and copier vendors, or as they now prefer to be called, document imaging companies.
The idea of Xerox, Canon, Konica Minolta and other well-known brands owning that “first mile” of digitizing documents and automating workflow makes sense. They and their channel partners have decades of experience helping customers manage their paper documents. They have deep knowledge of how those documents fit into workflows and how they are generated, processed and archived.
So why are companies that were built on hardcopy volume suddenly helping their customers move to digital documents? Hardcopy output is dropping and document imaging brands have simply accepted that they need to look elsewhere for growth. “Customers became aware during the recession [of 2008] just how expensive printing can be,” says Charles Brewer, president of Actionable Intelligence, a market research firm that follows the document imaging industry. Page counts have consistently fallen each year since.
That led to a focus on services such as managed print services (MPS), which helped companies manage their output devices and associated costs. “What you are seeing now is MPS 2.0, where you can further build out workflow and business processes that you can do with your capture device,” says Brewer. “The printer/copier guys have the hardware in place. They have the relationships with the IT teams. Because of the way they sell MPS, they have relationships with CFOs. They are at the C level, and the corporate officers realize that you can use your copier for a lot more than copying.”
“The traditional office device—the multifunction printer (MFP) in particular—has become a much more centralized component in different types of application workflows that you find inside the general office,” says Dennis Amorosano, vice president and general manager, Canon Business Imaging Systems Group (BISG) and Canon Information and Imaging Solutions (CIIS) Professional Services. “We’re at a point now where customers are much more educated in terms of the office technology that’s available and are using that technology more frequently than ever in key workflow processes.”
Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.