How Does Technology Affect Managed Print in 2016?

by Amy Weiss | 1/8/16

One of the more interesting ways to start each year is by watching the stream of new technology that comes out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Every year it takes over my RSS feed, my Twitter stream and my email, bombarding me with the latest in technology and cool gadgets that I absolutely need to make my life better.

One thing you won’t see a lot of coming out of CES 2016: print. With the exception of 3D printers (and I consider that a separate category) there are no real print headline-makers coming out of CES this year. Oh no! Is print really dead this time? What will become of us?

Never fear, good people of print. In the interest of working a Star Wars analogy into this blog, print is like the Dark Side — it never really goes away. However, that’s not meant as a negative analogy. Print has stamina, it has legs, it has an ability to make itself relevant. Print has staying power.

Once example from CES that, when you dig in a bit, is actually somewhat relevant to print, is the smart refrigerator by Samsung that everyone is talking about. To quote a press release I received, “the Family Hub refrigerator has a 21.5” Full HD LCD touchscreen, a digital command center for the connected home, which combines powerful performance with ground-breaking technology.” 

Let’s replace a couple of words, shall we? Let’s replace “refrigerator” with “MFP” and “home” with “office.” That’s all it really takes, isn’t it? The smart, connected device is the center of the home or office, and it’s where our future lies.

This isn’t rocket science, of course. We’ve been heading in this direction for quite a while, with words like “workflow” and “content management” at the center of many discussions of the future of print, and specifically managed print. In December, the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) recognized this shift in direction with an update to their official definition of MPS. Formerly “The active management and optimization of document output devices and related business processes,” the MPSA’s new definition is: “The active management and optimization of business processes related to documents and information, including input and output devices.” 

When you look at the words, it’s not a big change. But the focus — the focus is a big shift. We’ve moved from the devices themselves as the crux of MPS to the processes. The devices are still important, no doubt — you can’t have managed print without the hardware. But the hardware is so much more than a printing device, and this is what we really need to focus on.

At The Imaging Channel, we’ve been focusing on this shift for a while as well. Our sister publication, Workflow, is of course a great example of how everyone in the chain — end users, VARs, dealers and more — are working with and managing enterprise content management, business process optimization, and all the dynamic solutions that come along with it — everything from robotic process automation (RPA) to automating mailrooms, storefronts, and more. But there is a difference between talking about the evolution of advanced technologies in a landscape in which they already exist, and discussing how an industry so entrenched in the hard-copy solution can move into these more digital and dynamic areas.

This is our goal at The Imaging Channel. We launched six years ago (although our origins go back even further) with the goal of helping dealers and VARs navigate what was then a tricky terrain, one just beginning to converge between managed print, managed IT services, and other complementary and ancillary product areas. Our hope then was to enable the dealer channel to understand the new challenges and challengers it was facing in the form of the VAR, managed IT, and the convergence between the copier and print channel; at the same time we hoped to allow the VAR channel to understand and navigate the MPS space.

Today, our goals are not terribly different, even if the terrain has changed. As managed print becomes document management, ECM and more, and as VARs increasingly recognize MFPs as simply another networked device, we hope to help provide a clear and defined path for all involved. Whether you are managing devices, networks, workflows, or all of the above, our goal is to provide insight, information and resources regarding all of the business processes you manage — to be the network, carrying information between the OEM, dealer, vendor and reseller. Print isn’t dead and the paperless office isn’t happening anytime soon — but there are marked shifts in the landscape. We’re here to help mark them.

Amy Weiss is editor-in-chief of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel and analyst for BPO Research. She has more than 20 years' professional writing and editing experience and has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 14 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, managed print, document management solutions and software, business solutions and more. Contact her at amy@bpomedia.com.