by Amy Weiss
There are a lot of things to be scared of this Halloween: ghosts, zombies, vampires, political ads (sadly, those won’t go away on November 1). We like being scared by most of those things; it’s fun, harmless entertainment. But there is one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of many in the managed print business, and that’s the constant talk of declining print volumes.
We hear it all the time — “print is dead. Page volumes are declining. End times are here.” And while there is some truth in a few of these statements, they don’t represent the whole truth. Don’t be scared — hope remains.
Printing is Still Alive
Ironically, one of the best indicators for this comes from AIIM’s annual report leading up to World Paper-Free Day on Nov. 4. Their report this year, “Paper Free — Are we there yet?” demonstrates that paper is far from being a ghost in the office space. In it, 25 percent of respondents indicated they run a paper-free environment; while that number is up from the previous study, it’s far from 100 percent. Likewise, earlier this year Xerox published a study on “Digitization at Work” in which more than half of respondents said their organizations’ processes were still largely or entirely paper-based.
Processes Are on the Rise
What these studies do indicate, however, is that there is a need and a desire for digitization and less of a reliance on paper. Fear not; this is not a bad thing for managed print providers. Let me quote from the MPSA’s fearless leader, President Kevin DeYoung, in a recent blog: “This industry was founded on business processes and information distribution in the most efficient, accurate least burdensome way. … A solution could be one where it results in less prints, more automated workflows. It also could be one that results in more prints.”
Yes, managed print is evolving — so much so that the MPSA updated its definition this year. In case you missed it, the current definition of Managed Print Services is: “… the active management and optimization of business processes, related to documents and information including input and output devices.” It recognizes an evolution in the nature of MPS, and a shift in the focus to processes. Partners who are able to provide the technology and services to help enable this workflow will be sought after as businesses struggle to make the shift to not necessarily the paperless office, but the “paper-light” one. Xerox’s study showed that three-quarters of respondents have identified areas for automation, including accounting, expense reporting and accounts payable. Conducting workflow assessments, understanding document infrastructure, providing process modeling and offering solutions are all valuable tools that can be a natural expansion for MPS providers.
Contractual Print Models Survive
Things aren’t all bad for traditional hardware managed print models either, however. IDC reported in its Worldwide Quarterly Hardcopy Peripherals Tracker that for the first quarter of the year, although hardware shipments have been declining consistently (down 10.6 percent year-over-year in Q1 2016), the “contractual” sector grew in every major geographic region – Asia/Pacific, Japan, Western Europe, and the United States – with year-over-year growth ranging from 3.9 percent to 41 percent. IDC also noted specifically that more than 1.8 million units were shipped for managed print services.
So on this Halloween, don’t be scared by doom-and-gloom headlines. While printing may be past its heyday, it’s not dead and buried just yet. Opportunities abound as long as you’re not afraid to embrace change. And just remember, everything ends eventually (even the 2016 election) – you just have to be prepared for what’s next.