by Greg Walters | 10/22/14

The debate rages — is there, will there ever be, a paperless office? The politically correct response is, “no silly, it’s less paper, not paperless.”  My answer is the paperless office is already here and those who refuse to admit it are deniers. In the end, we’re all simply debating ourselves, expecting different results; academic insanity. As I consider the denier position, if print volume is increasing or holding steady, why has HP been experiencing so many challenges and why did International Paper shutter paper-making plants?  I can imagine many carriage and buggy whip manufactures feeling the same way and expressing similar arguments the year automobiles started replacing horse drawn carriages en masse: 1913.

Back then, I am sure some big companies kept building wagons and rewriting value propositions promoting the safety of a horse, the disadvantages of fuel vs. oats and supporting the local job market. The market responded to an undeniable, evolutionary shift — people may have thought they wanted a faster horse because that’s what the horse farms and carriage makers told them they wanted. Just like the buggy makers couldn’t stop the automobile the copier, printer, ink and toner producers have failed to maintain relevance or slow the digital movement — with or without us.

Technology is making access to information ubiquitous

Lately, I’ve refocused on something that’s been around since the 1990s. It shouldn’t be a surprise; the next wave in the neverending turbulence is the remote worker. I know, I know, this is nothing new. The concept is not unique but the rate of acceptance is about jump the curve. We can blame the iPad, iOS8, Windows 10, the cloud, or smartphones. It doesn’t matter how, here we are. 

The cloud allows all of us access to data from any location on the planet. Technology, WinTel or otherwise, brings our once unique and heavy applications into the palm of our hands. Picture this – an accounts payable clerk is no longer tied to a desk as all hard copy checks received by USPS are quickly scanned into the system at reception or in the “mail room.”  Of course, this too, shall change – a 2013 study underwritten by J.P. Morgan revealed the typical organization still makes half its B2B payments by hard check — good news for MiCR toner and desktop scanners, but hold the phone. In 2004 81 percent of businesses sent checks in the mail. Quite the shift, wouldn’t you agree? Plenty of companies print hard checks.

Once hard copy is digitized and in the cloud, the “great machine” will handle almost everything – even oversight. But let’s bring more local focus to bear – think about your remote monitoring program. Ten years ago, most managed copier fleets were supported by onsite, full time employees. Monthly meter reads were either estimated (yikes), manually collected by the customer (no, really) or part of the monthly service technician’s ritual.

Remote worker functions are increasing, driving paper out of the process  

The remote worker movement is gathering new steam as day after day, employees are less satisfied with their work environment or simply being laid off (See HP 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15). More and more functions and processes are being shifted to the digital. Processes from setting up new bank accounts to buying a new car are all settling into the cloud, enhancing customer experiences and reducing costs

Technology unchains us from printers and opens opportunities to work from anywhere on the planet. The ability to work from anywhere demands faster-than-paper communication vehicles which in turn drives even more print from every process — its a perpetual cycle that never stops spinning.

Regardless, opportunity is everywhere beyond paper

The world is not all doom and gloom, you are not in same position as a buggy whip manufacturer in 1914. Turbulence brings opportunity, what can you look to do:

Sell tablets

How hard can it be?  Instead of learning the latest workflow software, put some time into earning the right to sell a tablet or two.

Sell time

You’ve got talent on staff; people who know more about connecting devices, setting up scan folders and troubleshooting server connectivity. During your next company planning session, take stock of your internal strengths, put some marketing ideas together and start marketing your strong points.

Sell services in the cloud

The pallet of cloud services expands almost daily. Hundreds of cloud service firms are out there dying to build a channel. Find one or two and call them up.

Shrink your organizational overhead

This is tough, you have too many people. As your infrastructure starts moving into the cloud, fewer envelopes require stuffing or postage stamps. And if you’ve been selling smaller footprint devices for any time, you know the service tech to device ratio is different between A4 and A3 devices.

One last thing: Fewer clients, less money, more profit

The smaller organization can focus on higher quality customer relationships and respond  to market changes quickly. As you begin to optimize your organization, you’ll start to see which one of your vendors is ready to support your new business model by removing your equipment quotas. It is an insidious game that leaves your customers’ real business concerns in the dust and encourages you to do the same.

 

A prolific writer, frequent speaker, and hyper-charged freelancer, Greg Walters shares his passionate, unique and provocative view on technology, addressing the digital impact on 21st century business and the new way of work and society. His book, Death of the Copier, published in 2014, offers a controversial summary of the early days managed print services and the not-so-distant future of the hard-copy industry. For four years, he was part of and then rebuilt a managed print services practice inside a West Coast VAR/MSP. Over the last three years he has been assisting companies with optimizing their IT portfolio of services, analyzing information workflow and processes, building self-supporting MpS programs inside IT departments and creating and implementing print policies for medium to large businesses. His company, Greg Walters Inc., is a bold consulting and content creation firm helping companies optimize processes and communicate their stories. Contact him at greg@grwalters.com