Printing is ubiquitous, so it is tempting to take printing technologies for granted. Actually, printing and related technologies continue to advance. New services, such as Cloud printing and Cloud faxing, are changing printers, multifunction products (MFPs) and fax machines from being assets that must be owned to devices that are accessed only when needed.
Managed print services (MPS) are helping customers optimise their printing environments and manage them over time. And strategic document outsourcing (SDO) is changing how enterprises manage their document workflows, providing economies of scale for printing and mailing bills and statements. At the same time, providers of printers, digital presses and MFPs continue improving their products.
However, not all innovations touted by print vendors and the news media develop into useful hardware or software products. Even useful innovations can take years to mature, and mature innovations can take time to penetrate the installed base.
Office printing technologies directly affect the widest range of users, so even small changes can drive down capital and operating costs while improving worker productivity. Office printers have matured into a commodity item, but they need to be monitored.
Costs climb as the wrong technology investments are made and as the daily office printing practices that drive up costs and have a negative environmental impact are ignored (such as runaway use of personal printers or profligate use of colour printing).
Services are advancing into both office and production printing. With office MPS and SDO are both at the early mainstream stage, emerging services like enterprise-level cloud faxing and cloud printing services are gaining more interest.
Mature and highly competitive print products provide great value to users in terms of low cost, appropriate print quality, environmental sensitivity and document security. The key is to align businesses with the proper product mix. MPS in the office is being actively promoted by leading technology providers, offering a viable alternative to the traditional ‘do it yourself’ service model.
Production printing continues to evolve as new products, stable (or lower) prices and an emphasis on communicating with customers in whatever medium the customer prefers change the traditional print paradigms.
Gartner anticipates several technologies will have a significant impact in the next two years:
- Media tablets will accelerate the viewing of documents on screen and decrease the need for printing, putting pressure on print technology providers’ traditional business models.
- E-book readers facilitate screen-based reading of books and periodicals for a large and growing market of consumers who want to read on formats other than paper.
- High-speed color inkjet printing produces compelling communications at high speeds, with low cost and increased response rates and revenue.
- Print/mail business continuity and disaster recovery enable any enterprise to continue producing and shipping the physical documents needed for generating sales and collecting payments when the primary operation responsible for the work is incapacitated.
- SDO cuts publishing costs by as much as 40 per cent, while retaining customers and growing revenue.
- Lai-Ling Lam is senior research analyst at Gartner