While many have predicted that the rise of digital technology would spell the end of the need for workplace printers, scanners, and copiers, reality has been very different. Businesses of all sizes understand the continued need for physical print services.
Even with the rapid acceptance of electronic documents, there are still many business functions that require the printing of hard copies. These include communication with customers who still prefer paper documents. There is also still a desire, and sometimes policy in many organizations to hold paper copies as an additional backup method in the event of catastrophic data loss. There is still also power in the act of holding a physical copy of a document and specific tasks that are made more effective by the presence of printed materials. In addition to this, there is still strategic value in using the postal service for some applications. This will, of course, require the continued capacity to print.
Fortunately, printer manufacturers continue to invest in research and development and advances in technology have made it possible to deliver smarter and more efficient printing services. Managed print services have become even more critical as organizations desire to increase the efficiency of their printing, scanning, and copying devices. Now, instead of a collection of various printers, copiers, and scanners, smart companies have entirely integrated document management solutions installed, managed and maintained by modern managed print services firms (MPSs).
As we look ahead into 2020, new technology in managed print services is focused on four critical aspects: security, workflow integration, sustainability, and hybrid cloud architecture. These represent some of the ways that MPSs will embrace the latest technology to help make the most of business printing processes.
Even the most cyber-security conscious businesses often fail to take seriously the cyber threat related to the multi-function printers (MFPs) on the network. These devices need to be treated in the same ways as any other endpoint on the network, especially as hackers look for ways to circumvent the latest security protocols.
Without property security precautions, smart MFPs can directly expose sensitive data. As users scan, copy, or print sensitive documents, critical information can be exposed to anyone who can gain access to the device. In some cases, with older units, there is a trove of information available for the taking.
In the worst-case scenario, accessing an MFP can provide an unlocked entryway into an otherwise secure network. As with any device that is part of the modern internet of things (IoT), we need to be aware that unknown vulnerabilities can make our organizations susceptible to data breaches.
As we wait for printer technology to address these issues, Managed Printer Services can mitigate exposure through security assessments, security policies, continuous monitoring, and user education and training.
In 2020, we should see more examples of “secure by design” print infrastructure. This involves embedded security with automatic vendor upgrades that will continue to be secure against the latest threats. Vendors are also implementing integrated hardware and software solutions that create secure connections protecting data throughout the transfer and printing process.
As vendors continue to adopt the latest security technology, we can look to MPSs to help keep our documents and networks secure.
As businesses continue to work in digital/paper hybrid models, digital workflow continues to be an essential part of creating efficiencies in business processes. In many business scenarios, there is a need to move seamlessly from paper to digital and from digital to paper. These require workflows that don’t require the use of multiple legacy processes, which were often patched together as electronic procedures entered the process.
While workflow apps are already a part of many MFPs, the continued advancement of the technology inside smarter devices will allow for the development of more robust applications that will create capabilities for more efficient ways to capture, share, and distribute digital information.
Whereas MFP, in the past, may have been seen as merely a starting or endpoint in a digital workflow, it will become more of the driver of the entire process.
The move to cloud printing is a trend that is already in progress. Moving traditional print infrastructure to a cloud-based system can improve productivity, save money, and lower the overall in house I.T. footprint. Simply eliminating on-premises print servers can significantly reduce costs.
What is changing as we move into 2020 is the addition of hybrid cloud models of print architecture. Many businesses that have not yet adopted printing services to the cloud were waiting due to factors that made the cloud solution less than optimal or just not possible. Now the possibility of a hybrid approach opens the door to even more organization moving at least partly to the cloud.
Many businesses need to maintain some on-premises presence due to policies or regulations. Advanced hybrid solutions may solve these issues with the ability to handle things such as data storage onsite.
The hybrid models will open up even more organizations to the advantages of cloud printing. This provides a printing and document processing landscape that is much more suited to organizations that rely less on desktop computers with networked printers and more on portable devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
In 2020 managed print services will continue to develop and promote technology that will offer a more sustainable approach to printing. Business customers are looking for ways to reduce not only the cost but waste and power consumption. Many are also looking to demonstrate corporate responsibility in terms of environmental resources. By working with their vendors, managed print services are embracing the latest technology to reach sustainability goals.
Just the move from in-house management of print services to a managed print services model can significantly improve efficiency. Better device management leads to the use of fewer devices, which, in turn, reduces energy consumption. This will continue to strengthen as printer manufacturers and managed print service providers look to new technologies for even greater efficiencies.
Some of the most significant sources of waste are unnecessary and easily reduced. All that is needed is the ability to know the source of the waste. Managed print services can provide a much granular level of detail in tracking the use of paper and toner. The availability of detailed tracking can help leaders look for areas that may be expending more energy and creating more waste than necessary.
One of the most significant areas of possible increased sustainability comes from using technology to create more efficient document workflows. Advances in workflow integration have the potential for a massive reduction of waste. Most legacy document systems were developed before sustainability was a major focus of organizations. With the new technology that allows the creation of custom workflow applications, MPSs can develop workflows with intentional goals for reducing waste. This turns into long-term savings as the workflow becomes part of the overall processes of the organization.
While there are always predictions about the demise of printing and the adoption of all digital solutions, none of them have come to fruition. Technology is leading to more sustainable printing options, both better monitoring, and better workflows. At the same time, advances are leading to better security to mitigate vulnerabilities of MFPs and hybrid cloud solutions that offer the convenience of cost savings of cloud architecture to even more companies.
Also, given the rapid rate of technological innovation, there may be technological innovations, of which we are not yet aware, that will impact managed print services in 2020. As long as paper is a viable part of business, manufacturers and service providers will be looking for new ways to improve document processing at all phases of business workflows.