In the never-ending quest to run the most efficient office possible, many executives overlook a certain bulky citizen resident that exists in varying numbers in almost every office anywhere: the printer. If you've relegated your printer to back-burner status, then you might want to go back for a fresh look because there have been two important trends in modern printing during the last year that could each be highly beneficial to office operation, workflow, and your bottom line. Those two trends, which can even be considered somewhat overlapped, are managed printing and green printing. These two technology developments can completely change the way your employees approach printing as well as how you pay for it by providing a whole slew of benefits. Here are five specific examples to get you started.
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Remember the last time you had to stuff that toner cartridge into your office laser printer? And then the last time you saw yet another bill for that very same toner and wondered where it was all going? That's just one example of what a managed print service can do for you. If you've never heard the term, then think of it as just yet another evolution of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) except this is Printing-as-a-Service (PaaS). The features will vary but sign up for such a service and you'll be able to choose the printer that's right for your environment, pay a subscription charge, and start printing. All you need to supply is the paper. The subscription service will take care of toner supplies, printer problems, and all of the other headaches. Plus, most services will supply these three additional benefits as well:
- Print assessment: Most organizations have no idea of what their printing process really is—who is printing, what they're printing, and how much they're printing. That's because most offices are comprised not just of two or three standard office printers per floor, for example, but also countless of "shadow printers" in the form of personal printing devices that users have installed on their desks (either themselves or to support some little-known business process). That can seriously drive up not only toner costs but paper, hardware, and IT man-hour charges, too. When selecting a managed printing service, look for one that will send a specialist on-site to audit the number of printers you've got installed and study how they're used. Then, turn that knowledge into a recommendation of the proper number and kind of printers your organization really needs.
- Granular management: Managed printing services should be heavy on the management. Look for services that don't just manage connectivity and printer health but that also track cost and usage. Some can provide details down to the individual user level. Not only does this give you detailed information on who is printing the most, why, and how much that costs, but it lets you use that information (along with what you learned during your printing assessment) to constantly adjust and optimize your printing process, without ever paying more than your subscription.
- Cost control with simplified printing: The most obvious benefit of employing a managed printing service is enjoying a simplified life. All those small headaches that sent you scurrying to the supply closet or calling IT are now handled by the service provider. The provider leverages typically advanced and proprietary management software that gives them that kind of control while still maintaining an off-site presence by leveraging the cloud. But that same tech often has additional benefits, with the most notable in this case being that your users will likely have the ability to print to any printer in your subscription no matter where they are over the internet. For even a midsize staff of sales road warriors, that not only saves money over faxing, but it provides additional flexibility to get documents to exactly the person they need to reach, faster and more reliably.
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Sustainable printing sounds like a marketing buzzword that will yield little tangible benefit for your business. But in practice, it not only helps the environment, but it can also save you considerable cash. One "green" printing solution that would help most businesses but doesn't immediately come to mind when you're thinking about environmentally-friendly facilities is a multifunction or "all-in-one" printer. By moving to such a device, you not only save on electricity (one device versus at least two and often three), but you also save on space and your use of consumables. Plus, if you move to such a device through a managed print service (like the ones described above), then you'll not only get the latest print tech but also the latest green tech, too. As far as printers go, that breaks down into two general categories of potential benefits:
Toner and cartridge reduction: Most of the big-name printer manufacturers have developed new print engines over the past few years that are aimed at reducing the use of toner and ink as well as reducing or even eliminating the number of used print cartridges that wind up in landfills. Canon and Epson both have no-cartridge, eco-conscious printer lines, while Brother, HP, and Xerox all have cartridge recycling programs that can help you easily dispose of used cartridges, for less impact on the environment.
Leverage smarter software: This is actually a side benefit of a cloud-optimized printing strategy. Most managed print providers will provide these kinds of solutions but you can configure them yourself, too, if you've got some IT chops. It's simply a matter of mapping the business processes that involve printers to as much software as possible rather than to paper. For example, do you really need to print that purchase order for accounting? Or would it be just as effective, if not even more effective, reliable, and secure, to have the printer simply generate a file that shows up in a cloud storage folder to which accounting has access? They can then simply open it up in whatever software they use and carry on the business process from there. This kind of shift can include not just cloud storage but other applications as well, including document management, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and even email or online collaboration software, to name only a few. It can completely eliminate aging technologies, especially faxing and copying, and allow you to add a layer of immediate organization and data security that paper simply can't provide. It can also easily and securely include mobile devices and remote workers, which is something that's usually very difficult to do with older devices.
Printing may not be the IT technology we hear about most anymore but that doesn't mean the category has stopped innovating. If you're still using behemoth office printers that evaporate toner and chew through forests of trees, then it's time to take a closer look at what's available today. Sit down with the folks in your organization who use your printers the most and carefully map out why and how those devices are used. Then, match that to what printer manufacturers are offering today in conjunction with cloud services and SaaS-based business apps. You might be shocked at how much more efficient your business can run, while simultaneously saving you considerable money.