Six ways print has evolved

Print should be declining, digital is the way forward, we’ve been saying it for years. And yes, print units are declining worldwide on an annual basis, but solutions around print are growing at 6% to 8% per annum.

Johannesburg, 02 Mar 2020
Read time 5min 20sec

The trick in a weakened economy is to take a traditional box sale and turn it into a solution sell, explains Bernice Hynard, Managing Director of OKI. “And a solution sell that isn’t a reluctant purchase, but rather one that fits into the client’s business objectives and their overall strategy. The days of selling printers based on speed, feed and box price are over. Today, businesses invest in solutions that meet their exact strategic requirements.”

Hynard identifies six trends that have changed the way in which print is bought and sold.

1. Print is no longer regarded as a necessary evil and purchased purely on price. Today, it’s an integral part of the company’s IT ecosystem. The device is made smarter through the addition of software and servicing solutions.

The way that print services are bought and sold is changing. Print used to be a commodity, companies knew that they needed to be able to print, so they bought a device at the lowest price they could find.

However, times have changed, and today’s printing device is supported by a range of software, solutions and services that not only ensure each business gets exactly what it needs depending on its size and sector, but it also means the printing solution can be integrated into the company’s greater IT environment. This, in turn, means the data generated by that device can be shared and analysed for the greater good of the business.

2. Clients want more flexible contracts.

When printers were sold as a standalone piece of technology, the contracts weren’t always tailored to meet each client’s specific requirements and the cost per print was the main focus. Today, each client has a different requirement, depending on the size of the business and the sector that it services. If you consider the healthcare sector, their focus is on providing good healthcare; they want test results and other information to be available quickly, when and where required. They require maximum uptime from their printer and this has to be included in the contract.

The client’s needs must be built into the solution you offer; it’s no longer about just providing a printer, explains Hynard. Each vertical has its own set of business requirements that should dictate how the solution is structured.

3. A managed print environment enables you to fit traditional technology into a more modern infrastructure characterised by digitisation and automation.

This requires having the right software to turn the machine into a solution. If a print solution is deployed correctly with the right software, it can accommodate all of the imperatives that an IT manager may have, such as cloud, AI and digital transformation. Printers are helping transition the business to the cloud in that they enable the digitisation of documents or the automation of processes. Business intelligence can be gained from data produced by the print fleet. At the simplest level, this is knowing how much paper to buy. At the most complex level, it can help digitise processes across all divisions within the business.

4. Clients want a TCO (total cost of ownership) model that suits them, rather than just being a cost to the business.

Clients don’t want the biggest and most expensive machine that they can ‘grow into’. Hynard says: “You have to put together a solution that gives the client a good TCO while meeting the business’s requirements for both low and peak periods.”

The solution provider has to have a flexible contract to allow for the client’s changing requirements, allowing them to amend the contract – as their business requirements expand and contract.

5. To achieve a proper TCO, a best-of-breed approach is optimal.

Print solution providers need to be able to offer a best-of-breed solution to meet clients’ demands for increasingly flexible solutions that best fit into their ecosystem. “In managed print, there is still a trend for clients to favour a particular brand, but a truly bespoke solution will incorporate an array of brands. Being open-minded about brand choice will also help deliver an acceptable TCO for their print environment.

6. A proper ecosystem considers the trinity of customer centricity, people in the environment and technology.

All three elements of the trinity need to work together in the client’s business to create an ecosystem. “It’s about adapting solutions, taking into account not just internal factors but external factors, where the role players must be fully satisfied with the solution instead of it just being a benefit for the business.”

Customer centricity becomes an overriding factor when putting a print fleet solution together. “You need to optimise the client’s existing infrastructure, adding on the elements they lack and putting everything into a managed environment that enables you to provide them with a predictive service in terms of consumables and maintenance.

Hynard says: “The upshot of all of the above is that the print environment becomes part of the greater IT ecosystem, falling under the ambit of the IT manager or CIO or CTO. It generates data that becomes part of the greater company’s data, not only about the printer but the people who use it as well. This type of data can be used to help people evolve their business.

Digital acceleration trends are driving the evolution of digital imaging and print services. Despite the reduced dependency on paper documents, the capabilities of print infrastructure are expanding, through the development of newer technology and software, to support the growth of the digital workplace. With the merging of technologies, print becomes an important part of the digitisation and automation of the business infrastructure.

Find out more about customer-driven services by watching this video: