by Toni DuGal | 6/29/15

Before the age of software-as-a-service (SaaS), automation, mobile and analytics – the drivers behind the evolution of the document outsourcing industry – the market was radically different. In looking back at the space, which was characterized by siloed workflows, black-and-white communications and lack of transparency regarding print spend, it was a truly scary time – much like being trapped on Isla Sorna in Jurassic Park!

However, the innovations implemented over the past 20 years, in particular the cloud, have fundamentally changed the way organizations ranging from Fortune 500s to government agencies work and communicate with their target audiences. More specifically, these advancements have enabled companies to create more personalized communications, gain greater visibility into their overall print spend, automate workflows and increase efficiencies all while cutting costs. Technology has helped vastly improve all aspects of the entire document outsourcing market, but I’m going to focus on the enhancements in two critical areas customer communications and printing.

Mass Two-Color Marketing Campaigns

In today’s multichannel environment, customers demand that they are communicated with in a one-to-one manner and in the channel they prefer – print, web, mobile or social. Organizations are able to meet these demands today at scale by leveraging a suite of technology solutions; however, this was not possible back in the day. Hotmail, the first web-based e-mail system, was introduced in 1996 and color printing was cost prohibitive and reserved for certain applications. The result – mass-market, black-and-white paper-only campaigns.

Direct mail was the primary way for organizations to communicate with their target audience as well as disseminate their marketing campaigns. Many marketers at the time took the “spray and pray” approach. This was due in large part to their inability to effectively integrate customer preferences to personalize collateral. As such, companies were forced to print and mail massive amounts of generic content to a wide range of consumers and pray that the materials caught the attention of just 1 to 2 percent of the intended recipients and influenced them to take the desired action.

For example, if you attended a consumer electronics show back in the early 90s, you had to fill out a generic form in order to get additional information sent to you related to a particular product. The manufacturer would then send you their entire catalog in hopes that you found what you were looking for. Do you think something like that would be acceptable today? Probably not.

It wasn’t until more recently that industry leading organizations began to shift and utilize technology to effectively integrate existing customer data to develop more personalized materials. This trend really gained steam with online platforms that allowed companies to automate this process. Using the aforementioned consumer electronics example, that same manufacturer today can use a web-based document management platform to create customized templates for each of their products with editable sections that can be further tailored and deliver the collateral in the customer’s preferred channel. We will discuss this topic further during Part 2 of this blog series.

B.C. Multi-Function Devices and Service Automation

Print, copy, e-mail, fax and scanning are just some of the capabilities offered through today’s multi-function devices. These machines have allowed organizations to drastically reduce their overhead and increase end user productivity, which are two areas employers care about most. But, as most of you probably remember this was certainly not the case two decades ago.

During that time, the first digital copiers were being introduced into the market and by today’s standards were prehistoric – extremely slow and only in black and white. The technology in both copiers and printers continued to advance and later began offer simple features such as stapling in addition to increased capacity.

To help organizations manage these more complex devices, vendors started offering Managed Print Services (MPS). The goal of MPS was simple. To place high volume printers closer to workers within the office. The machines were managed by onsite vendor resources who performed tasks related to simple break/fix tasks, toner replacement and gathered usage information for billing purposes with little intervention from the customer.

As I previously highlighted in my Imaging Channel article, “People: The Driver for the Future of MPS,” organizations began to face immense pressure from their executive management teams to find ways to cut costs by any means necessary. Naturally, they turned to their MPS partners to help consolidate print environments through new multifunction devices as well as provide greater transparency into overall spend, manage consumables, and automate key processes such service notifications and toner replacement via web-based portals.

The advancements and adoption of new technology have had a significant impact in modernizing the document outsourcing market. In the next part of this series, I’ll take a deeper dive in the digital evolution of the space with a particular focus on the cloud and automation. If there are any topics you want me to address in my next post, please feel free to drop us a line.

Toni DuGal is the Vice President of Solution Services at Novitex, where she leads the development of Novitex’s MPS practice. Prior to Novitex she was the Vice President of Professional Services and Transition at Xerox and Director, US MPS Service Delivery at Hewlett-Packard.