It is fitting that we are approaching autumn, because for managed print services (MPS) sales, the winds of change in business can now be considered as moving at gale-force speeds.
The industry is being hit from within due to gradual declines in page volumes, sharp increases in demand for document-imaging products, and demand for more readily adoptable MPS. Customers in many verticals are looking to MPS to satisfy security and compliance requirements, contain costs and control shifts in their own document-management needs.
We have experienced an increase in the number of large deals, but also a demand for deeper software and service components and offerings that can be plugged into a customer's existing environment.
If industry and customer changes are a tropical storm, the influence of technology – in this case cloud computing and mobility – turns this into a Category Four event as document workflow patterns diversify.
Cloud and mobility is the new path businesses are taking. How can providers of MPS keep pace?
Cloud has stimulated demand for MPS that makes it easy to use digitised documents anywhere, any time. However, it has not affected the need for or usability of paper documents. Customers want to speed up business processes, use documentation more effectively and, at the same time, rationalise their hard-copy peripherals fleet.
Mobility also presents compatibility and accessibility challenges. This year, for the first time, sales of mobile devices are predicted to exceed those of traditional desktop and laptop computers. IDC has said that millions of mobile apps are expected to be downloaded, generating more revenue than the mainstream computing market. Many workers already use mobile apps to manage content outside the office.
The related consumerisation phenomenon represents a tremendous opportunity for MPS providers. It is clear from conversations we have had with dealers that the desire for greater ease of use extends to all business processes.
It can be done with the customer's existing multifunction device fleet. Most enterprises already have document imaging software to convert paper to digital files and manage document life cycles. This software can be extended to incorporate the cloud and mobility, once the customer's needs are understood.
Differentiating an MPS offering requires different thinking in the value chain, however. Lowering the TCO is not enough; instead of a device-centric approach, which focuses primarily on device optimisation, a user-centric approach, which focuses instead on automation and optimisation of document processes and workflows, should be adopted.
Ask prospects how they value the ability to approve business applications more quickly, on-boarding new customers in minutes rather than days, and integrating all their critical documents to records management software in real time.
This helps convince customers that MPS can help them keep up, rather than slow them down. It can mark the beginning of a move up the value chain where the reseller is adding the software and services that make the network more valuable to a customer's organisation, not simply less costly.
Michael Rich is senior vice president and general manager of the document imaging division at Nuance Communications
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