After just over a year serving the dealer community, I’ve come to two conclusions about paper in business processes. 1) Paper is a space hog and time suck (not a new revelation), and 2) dealers are perfectly positioned to help their customers digitize their business processes.

I’m both new and old in this industry. As an editor (and later community manager and marketer) for AIIM, a trade and member association dedicated to helping information professionals do their jobs better, I covered enterprise content management and gained an appreciation for anyone whose job is to make access to document-centric information as efficient and effective as possible. This stuff is HARD. I’ve spoken to users, consultants, and vendors over the years about the technologies and challenges of meeting that goal, including document imaging/capture. That’s the old part.

The new part is focused on the dealer community, but even here the old bleeds through. I met with Xerox when they first launched their DocuShare web-based document management software in 1997 and we were talking about how the dealer community needed to “look beyond the box” and become a partner to their customers. Using the digital copier as the entry point, dealers could help improve their customers’ business processes by not just selling boxes.

It’s been nearly 20 years and many dealers are still talking about taking this step. I understand the pressure of staying in business and the need to make sales.


But, if you want to be known as something other than a box pusher then stop pushing boxes.

The good news? Dealers are perfectly positioned to help companies bridge the gap between paper and digital documents. Many of you are trusted partners to your customers (I’m regularly blown away by how well-regarded our clients are by their customers). Copiers – with their Swiss Army knife range of capabilities – are the perfect way for you to have a conversation about process automation and digitization. Finally, a useful – and helpful to your customers – Trojan horse!

Document Management Products Abound

Office equipment hardware is more easily matched with software than ever (I know, I know; it’s never quite that simple. Still.) Many SMBs could use basic document imaging and document management functionality to be more efficient. Off the top of my head, AnyDoc, Cabinet NG, Digitech Systems, Laserfiche, M-Files, Nuance, DocuWare, Kofax, Filebound, Perceptive Software, Paperwise, GoScan, and others all have various relationships with the manufacturers and established reseller programs.

By pairing software and hardware into a single solution, dealers can help their customers become more efficient, productive, and effective businesses.

The previous issue of this magazine had a great overview of how removing paper can help SMBs with access to their business information (“Outsourcing Document Archiving and Storage Solves Expensive Headaches for SMBs,” June 2016), so I won’t recap those arguments here.

You can do this – the copiers you sell can be the foundation for your customer’s transformation from manual, paper-based processes to automated processes. With the right expertise and sales ability, you can be your customers’ hero.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a quick recap of trends and reasons for you to begin seriously thinking about helping customers with removing paper from their business processes.


It always boils down to revenue. Manual processes are a space hog and time suck indeed. Document imaging tools can help connect the dots in each of the following three “disconnect” points.

IDC research about “document disconnect” points out a lot of wasted time and lost revenue from manual processes:

76 percent of line-of-business leaders say document process issues impact revenue recognition and/or create auditor issues

Reduced productivity. One-third of staff time (36 percent) is spent on administrative tasks, which leaves less than two-thirds of their time to spend on their core job function

Poor customer experiences. Sixty-three percent of line-of-business leaders say document process issues negatively impact customer satisfaction, and 77 percent say that gaps in automation (and lack of integration) in existing systems adversely impacts the quality of the customer experience they can provide.

And while there are no hard figures for lost revenue tied to customer dissatisfaction, common sense tells you there’s an impact.

Document imaging also delivers exceptional ROI. AIIM research reveals that 77 percent of companies see ROI after 18 months for an investment in document capture.

Find Information

Paper documents get lost. The biggest driver for scanning (53 percent) is improved searchability (by which the AIIM report really means ability to find documents).


Fifty-nine percent of organizations feel that mobile access to content is very important or vital to their business.

IDC predicts that by 2020, two-thirds of the U.S. workforce will be mobile. They’ll still need access to their documents.

Hello there, Mr. Copier. Teach your customers to take advantage of copiers’ ability to scan to various cloud apps, a document repository, email, etc., and educate them that they can print from their mobile devices too.


Manual processes, even if efficient, can only be so fast. As business speeds up, 72 percent of respondents to an AIIM survey feel that business at the speed of paper will not be acceptable in five years.

Those Darn Millennials

By 2020, nearly half of the workforce will be millennials. They are the first born-digital generation and don’t use nearly as much paper as previous generations – 21 percent of millennials have never written a physical check to pay a bill according to a Western Union survey. Help your customers make their workplaces welcoming to this tech-savvy generation by removing as many manual, paper processes as possible. (And, yes, I know, the volume of articles about millennials annoys me too.)

No Halfway Crooks

The need is there. The opportunity is there. Dealers are well-positioned as already-trusted partners to help their customers automate their business processes with document imaging and management tools and software.

You might be thinking, “but we rely on hardware sales and print/copy output to make our margins.” I’ll just refer you back to the incoming influx of millennials and their print habits. Also this, again from AIIM research:

• 20 percent report that their consumption of paper is increasing; but for 49 percent it is decreasing, including 11 percent where it is decreasing rapidly. This 2015 net of 29 percent compares with 23 percent net in 2014 and 3 percent net in 2011.

• 55 percent report that paper flowing through their processes is decreasing including 12 percent rapidly decreasing. With 20 percent increasing, this net of 35 percent compares with 21 percent in 2014 and 21 percent in 2011.

I’m not an economics expert or stellar businessman, but basing a business model on a declining piece of pie strikes me as a recipe for disaster and sleepless nights. Get ahead of the trend and help move your customers beyond the box.

Plus, while there is a lack of in-depth knowledge about the tools that enable automation, companies are becoming more ambitious about becoming a “digital enterprise.” Research from Xerox spotlights that companies (your customers) are expecting to become more automated: In two years, almost two-thirds expect to be working in digital enterprises, compared with less than half today, and on average less than 10 percent of processes will be entirely paper-based.

I was watching the movie “8 Mile” the other day and a line from the rap battle stuck with me as I was writing this: “Ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks.” If you want to be involved in software sales, be involved in software sales. Educate your salespeople and give them the time required to sell software deals – instead of claiming to want more software sales and then squeezing salespeople to meet box quotes at the end of each quarter.

Help your customers move beyond the box and they’ll stop looking at you as a box seller. Use your hard-earned expertise and knowledge of copiers and document processes to get them there.

Step out of the box; no more “halfway crooks.”


Paper-Free Progress: measuring outcomes by AIIM.

Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Addressing the Document Disconnect from IDC

Digitization at work: a study into the digital enterprise by Xerox

Bryant Duhon

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.

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