There was a time when it was newsworthy for an MFP to include software. Today, although new partnerships usually warrant announcements, the idea of MFPs coming with software and solutions either preinstalled or easily available as add-ins is expected. Today’s businesses are looking beyond hardware; they are seeking complete solutions that integrate into their document management systems, provide document security, and are fully network compatible. And as business inkjet devices become part of that mainstream, it stands to reason that solutions and software are an expected — and welcomed — addition to these devices as well.
But what exactly do we mean by “solutions”? Simply put, a solution is anything that augments the MFP within an ecosystem that helps enhance the workflow. It can be something as simple as connectivity — working with AirPrint or Chrome OS right out of the box. Or it can be more sophisticated, like print management implementation to control usage and cross-accounting within an enterprise. Both are important and necessary, and it remains essential for devices to allow the onboarding of third-party solutions predominant within the print space as well as building a suite of in-house solutions.
Solutions, in many ways, create a seal of authenticity for business inkjet devices that, historically, have not always offered a full solution set. Being able to offer a complete services offering when selling into the enterprise creates a message for the end user that “this is a workplace device fully capable of meeting all a business’s needs.” It is also critical for selling into vertical markets — which is inevitable when selling into commercial accounts — as offering solutions that help augment those verticals is a critical selling point.
In addition to top-line needs like print management, security, mobile workflows and document management that every enterprise will likely need, there are many specialty needs within verticals. Healthcare, for instance, needs to be HIPAA compliant, and selling into healthcare requires being certified by some of the big names in medical software and integrating with the back end of billing systems. Education needs integration with Chromebooks — 60 percent of devices sold into the K-12 environment are Chrome. Native Chrome OS printing capabilities are a great selling point for education, as setting up Google Cloud Print is a multi-step process and most busy educators prefer things to be simple. A print solution that works out of the box is a major selling point for this vertical.
Additionally, when we’re talking business inkjet MFPs it’s important to remember the MF part of the P — these are fully functional multifunction devices that input as well as output, and scanning is an important function. This is critical at a time when so many businesses are working toward digitalization, and document management is a focus — scanning is the most efficient way to convert hard copy documents to digital form. The legal vertical, for example, is highly reliant on scanning. However, simply scanning an image is not a solution. Scanners need to be combined with software to be an optimal onramp to your digital investments. Not only does the device need to scan, it needs to integrate with software that will ensure documents end up in the right repository.
In the past, users would scan documents to their computers, where they would then need to adjust the image and perform any needed indexing, conversion and processing before manually moving it to its intended destination. Today, leveraging the solutions embedded in the MFP, users can scan, index, convert, and send documents to their desired destination in the required format. Additionally, many solutions allow the creation of customized scan profiles to be configured and embedded on the device, allowing workers to tackle scan jobs with the touch of a button.
An additional solution that is a useful add-on for MFPs performing scanning is OCR, or optical character recognition, which captures the hard copy content digitally and transforms it into documents that are electronically fully searchable and editable. With OCR solutions, users can capture either select portions of a document, like contact information, or the entire document. These OCR solutions also can search for and read barcodes and specific character strings and identify the type of document file.
Useful across all types of business, administrators can train OCR software to recognize content and deliver it to specific applications. For example, from a scanned purchase order, the information can be routed to accounts payable so an invoice can be generated and to a warehouse so the order can be fulfilled.
Solutions and software are essential pieces for most businesses operating in today’s digital office. As the predominance of inkjet in the office increases, there are many productivity and efficiency benefits for SMB, large workgroups, and enterprise alike. But it’s one thing to be able to sell business inkjet’s speed, cost efficiency and low total cost of ownership — none of that matters if it doesn’t fulfill the full set of functions required by today’s business. For that, software and solutions are a must.
Joseph Contreras is Commercial Marketing Executive, Office Solutions, for Epson Ameria Inc. He oversees portfolio management, strategic partnerships, software integration and support, and sales and marketing programs for Enterprise inkjet printing solutions.