Early in July, I wrote a very brief post, excited about a just-released marketing research report sponsored by Mopria, the mobile printing alliance I have covered since its inception in 2013. The research and resulting report, conducted and compiled by The Economist, was commissioned with the goal of shedding further light on the impact of mobile technology on the enterprise by surveying high-level IT managers.
The research is a treasure trove of interesting findings that include the high value IT managers place on mobile technology for its impact on collaboration and gains in productivity, their appreciation of the importance of paper and printers/scanners, and, by looking a little more deeply, data that seems to defy perceptions about differences in age/generation with respect to these attitudes.
At the time of the report’s release, I took a rather quick look at the research results (contained in a 14-page report entitled “Untethered employees – The evolution of a wireless workplace” and available for free download). And I also had a pending interview with Mopria executives (actually executives from representative companies who make up the alliance), to discuss their views on the study and share any alliance news beyond that. So I concluded that July 8 blog post by stating that I would be publishing an update with more findings and results of my conversations within “a day or so”. And now, here it is the end of July, and I'm just now getting to that update! Part of the delay I can honestly blame on, “it's just one of those summers.” But I also must say I have had, with the fascinating research results particularly, much more to chew on than anticipated!
Going back to that first look at the survey results, which were gathered from 332 members of The Economist’s executive panel, from all over the world and in senior positions in IT management roles (over half C-level), I was particularly impressed with the broad-based nature of the questions, or more specifically, the study was not overly print- and hardcopy-focused, as by definition the Mopria Alliance is. The research goes far beyond the relatively narrow aspect of the why’s and when’s of printing from mobile devices, i.e. smartphones and tablets, instead, seeking to further understanding of the current and future impacts of mobile technology on the enterprise – which of course ultimately will drive the narrower concerns.
Also, that “first look” showed me I had little to fear that this would feature questions leading to results along the lines of, “I want to print from my device – I didn't know that I can print from my device. If I could print from my device I would do it”, then further leading to optimistic forecasts about the future of mobile printing that is just around the corner. (And that's not to belittle that stage of research, but just recognizing there was a time for, and a place for that, and we need to move beyond that.) What the industry needs now is meaningful understanding of user needs, market segments, and, from this research, IT management’s vision. Happily, The Economist and Mopria have gone a long way with this study in satisfying the latter.
Before getting into print and hardcopy, the research makes it clear – that the application of mobile technology in the office is all about increasing collaboration and productivity, at least, in the view of these executives. Combining the categories of “very positively affect” and “somewhat positively affect”, huge majorities of the respondents in the survey (pushing 9 out of 10) cited the categories of collaboration and productivity has being most affected. Innovation, idea generation and creativity followed, still all with large majorities on the plus side (see illustration above). Note – The breakdown on these responses between groups represented in the survey, is material enough for at least one more post of its own, so look for my analysis coming from me in the future.
The research summary next takes the step of highlighting improved communication as one of the keys to the aforementioned improved productivity, which naturally leads to the potentially changing role of print and paper in the communication mix.
The appendix of the report provides more responses to more detailed questions and results of probes on the importance of printers, scanners, and paper itself in the mobile-influenced office (some of those results can be see above).
It is interesting that printers/scanners and paper are right up there relative to laptops and smartphones in their importance ratings, per the 332 respondents. (It is also interesting to note the much lower numbers for “Tablets (e.g. iPads and similar devices)”, in light of the recent Apple earnings announcement and the admission that their tablet business has been weakening in quarterly unit sales. With the also recently announced agreement with IBM seen as a potential lift to iPads by boosting them in enterprises – the Mopria/Economist results seem somewhat prescient!)
Having access to cross tabs not available in the summary, I was anxious to see what the oft-cited “age”, or generation factor, might have on responses on these questions. As might be expected given the senior nature of the executive positions sought out for the survey, the 332 respondents skewed older, with just under half age 50+, and only 16 percent age 40 and below. The remainder (36%) in the age 40-50 bracket. But on the “importance to you” and “importance to your employees” questions, the younger respondents actually recorded the highest percentages on the combined “very” and “somewhat” important percentages. (See graph below.) While findings like these are far from conclusive, they do offer encouragement for the industry that the relevance of print and paper will not fade away with the Baby Boomers.
(Proportion of respondents within age ranges, responding, “very important” or “somewhat important” to “How important are each of the following office tools to the performance of your employees’/your jobs?” – source Mopria/The Economist data, July 2014.)
Mopria Executive Update
To get a firsthand Mopria perspective, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with two Xerox vice presidents, Karl Dueland and Carl Langsenkamp. Dueland has been one of my regular contacts during the launch and then the development of the Mopria alliance and updated me on the latest stats, noting the number of member companies now stands at 23, representing 93 percent of the market share of all printers, and the ever-growing number of supported printers and MFPs now stands at an ever-growing 245 models. An even more impressive number is the 19 million units in the field which a currently Mopria compliant, either having been purchased this year when that list of 245 started (with the HP Color LaserJet M476, the first Mopria compliant printer). He pointed out that beyond printer OEMs, other members included applications and hardware companies. And as far as the research report, he pointed with pride to some of the points I’ve already covered here. “The study hits on the printing world and the mobile world, with C-Level respondents from all around the world. Some of the timely topics we included that of the trend in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and related trends.”
I mentioned near the beginning of this post that I have had a lot to chew on, especially with all the data that has been made available to me. And I continue to chew! I will conclude my summary here with the promise that even if it's not “in the next day or so” I will return with more reporting and analysis which include insights from this research. And special thanks to my colleagues from the partner companies of Mopria, Edelman and The Economist for taking special care to answer some of my detailed questions and also provide access to the data. It is much appreciated and hopefully it will be of considerable value to my readers as well, as together we continue to understand and in response, innovate in the ever-growing and ever-changing world of mobile, and its subtle and not so subtle impacts on printing and imaging.
Jim Lyons has been writing, analyzing and blogging about industry developments since 2006. In his monthly Observations column he comments on business and marketing developments in the printing and imaging industry, combining many years of experience with an ever-enthusiastic eye on the future. In the Jim Lyons Observations column on The Imaging Channel, highlights from that blog appear monthly. Lyons is also a faculty member at the University of Phoenix, teaching marketing and economics at its school of business, and is a regular contributor to both The Imaging Channel and Workflow. Follow him on Twitter @jflyons and read more of Jim Lyons Observations at http://www.jimlyonsobservations.com/.