The future of the office: Less paper, but not paperless.
1. SMBs can transform document management to improve efficiency and agility in the business.
2. Today’s document management platforms help companies to vastly reduce the costs and inconvenience of printing, managing, sharing and storing the massive volumes of paper they process every day.
3. Cloud and software-as-a-service solutions have made intelligent document software much more affordable today - reducing printing costs, decreasing data capture errors, and freeing people up from manual tasks.
4. MFPs (multifunction printers) are becoming increasingly popular, with benefits such as consolidating office automation fleets and lowering carbon footprint.
5. With optical character recognition, data from invoices, waybills, application forms, CVs, orders and so on can even be transformed into structured data for databases or editable documents.
6. Demand for specialised solutions, such as QR and barcode printing on product packaging and waybills, large format printing and high-quality colour printing continues to grow.
7. A good place to start re-evaluating your printing environment is with an audit of the printing environment—many SMBs are surprised to learn just how much money they spend on printing, how much of that money is wasted and how much office automation would decrease friction for end-users.
8. For companies on the larger side of the SMB spectrum, a managed print services model is a way to bring costs to heel.
9. With most SMBs looking to reduce costs, simplify IT and become more agile, the print environment offers low-hanging fruit for optimisation: simplify document management, increase efficiency and drive down costs.
Throughout Remaining Relevant, we’ve spoken about some dramatic changes, such as pivoting a business in four days or outsourcing your entire logistics to a smart warehouse enabled service provider, but the printing industry has transformed itself quietly, diversifying and flowing through the previous chapters, like a trickling stream of ink.
We’re witnessing this effect in how global supply chains are being influenced by printing innovation, through cloud-based publishing services, where print-to-order is done with the click of a mouse, no minimum order quantity or lengthy wait for a bulk shipment. Digital printing technology has significantly decreased time-to-market with more businesses diversifying to include a wider product offering - textiles, advertising banners, point-of-purchase displays and even home décor, are easily accessible and becoming ever more affordable.
Traditional print has, of course, been around for as long as the Gutenberg press and paper even longer still. But as small and medium businesses (SMBs) focus on improving efficiency and sustainability through digitisation (see chapter 5), the role print plays in business processes is changing fast. As with most things digital, COVID has played a big part in speeding up a transformation that was already underway.
Consider a financial advisor onboarding a new client and opening a new investment for them. Pre-COVID, the advisor would sit with the client to fill in reams of papers, scan them to send to the asset manager or insurer, and file them in a cabinet. During the days of hard lockdowns and social distancing, advisors and their clients were plunged head first into an era of paperless signatures and remote meetings.
For many SMBs, it is now difficult to imagine going back to things as they were. Beyond e-signatures and scanning, SMBs can transform document management to improve efficiency and agility in the business.
This transformation isn’t likely to mean that offices will become paperless any time soon; however, it does mean that they will use less paper and that they will handle paper-based documents in more efficient ways. In this world, office printers, copiers and scanners are becoming part of an intelligent workflow and document management environment.
Today’s document management systems enable companies to tame the deluge of paper streaming into their businesses. For most SMBs, keeping on top of the volumes of paper, emailed and scanned documents has become a headache, especially with the demands of privacy regulations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
The results of the paper chaos may include misfiled or lost paperwork, time wasted retrieving documents from multiple sources, inefficient collaboration, and slow customer service. By embracing digitisation, SMBs can streamline processes that once involved speaking to multiple people or scratching through filing cabinets for paperwork.
Simply scanning documents is not enough to get on top of document flows. SMBs need integrated solutions that help them simplify processes and take control of their information. Today’s document management platforms help companies to vastly reduce the costs and inconvenience of printing, managing, sharing and storing the massive volumes of paper they process every day.
Where this technology was once too expensive for the average SMB, cloud and software-as-a-service solutions have made intelligent document software much more affordable today. The return on investment comes from reducing printing costs, decreasing data capture errors, and freeing people up from tasks such as sorting and manually retrieving or sharing documents.
As for printing and scanning hardware, we are seeing several trends accelerate as companies become smarter about the paper in their business processes. The market’s gradual swing from single purpose printers, copiers, scanners and faxes gained more momentum during COVID, with all-in-one multifunction printers (MFPs) emerging as the choice for remote workers.
MFPs are becoming increasingly popular because they support enterprises’ drive to consolidate office automation fleets. Not only do they take up less space than single purpose devices, they are often cheaper to buy and own. Running an MFP rather than separate printers, copiers and scanners also means a lower carbon footprint from manufacture and usage.
We’re also seeing companies move towards cloud printing, enabling users to print directly from a mobile device or PC via the Internet with no cables required. People can easily access printing devices without hassling about downloading drivers or worrying about compatibility issues. This offers a dramatic improvement to the user experience, while simplifying support for the IT department.
A driver-less and PC-less MFP or scanner can enable a business to capture paper documents such as customer forms in the right format at the point of scanning and send it straight to the right systems and workflow. With optical character recognition, data from invoices, waybills, application forms, CVs, orders and so on can even be transformed into structured data for databases or editable documents.
Also noteworthy is the amount of innovation we’ve seen in creating office automation devices that have less negative impact on the environment. For example, safer materials such as ultra violet (UV) and electron beam (EB) inks are replacing the volatile chemical compounds used in the past. What’s more, MFPs are increasingly designed to make efficient use of energy.
The shift towards digitisation and intelligent document management means why and when SMBs print is evolving. We foresee a gradual decrease in printing transactional and informational office documents in the years to come, with customer applications, purchase orders, invoices and other routine paper documents going digital.
At the same time, there is strong demand for specialised solutions, such as QR and barcode printing on product packaging and waybills, large format printing and high-quality colour printing. It’s up to vendors and resellers to respond with solutions that answer to the needs of different SMBs—from an ad agency that does glossy brochures to a cellular dealer that needs cheap black-and-white printing.
As awareness of the environmental impact and business cost of printing continues to grow, many SMBs are re-evaluating their printing environment. A good place to start is with an audit of the printing environment—many SMBs are surprised to learn just how much money they spend on printing, how much of that money is wasted and how much office automation would decrease friction for end-users.
This is a process we have undertaken at Tarsus in recognition of how our printing needs have evolved over the years. Following an audit of our print environment, we reduced our fleet from more than 70 to around 40 units. This has not only positioned us for cost-savings, but also given us a more agile and user-friendly printing environment.
For companies on the larger side of the SMB spectrum, a managed print services model is a way to bring costs to heel. In this commercial model, companies can get transparent per-page pricing for printing and copying. The vendor or service provider oversees the printing fleet, replaces old printers, takes care of consumables and maintenance, and uses device consolidation and management tools to reduce costs.
Smaller companies are not yet as well served, but we are starting to see innovative models that reduce cost of ownership and simplify management of the print-and-scan environment for SMBs. Some vendors offer device-as-a-service options that encompass device acquisition, lifecycle management and even cost optimisation with simple pricing.
With most SMBs looking to reduce costs, simplify IT and become more agile, the print environment offers low-hanging fruit for optimisation. Printing, copying and scanning is something SMBs have always taken for granted. But now is the ideal time to look at ways of simplifying document management, increasing efficiency and driving down costs by embracing the latest tools and technology.
Courts and law firms have a reputation for being stuffy and slow on the uptake of new technology. In the words of Belinda Scriba and Simone Nel of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr: “In the minds [of law firms], flexi-hours, working from home, hot desks, service via email and “online consultations” were distrustful phrases which the legal fraternity in South Africa was not yet ready for.”4
But in Gauteng, digitisation threw the legal profession a lifeline during lockdown. At the beginning of 2020, the Gauteng Division and Gauteng Local Division of the High Court, Pretoria and Johannesburg implemented a digital case management and litigation system, named CaseLines.5 This system, despite some teething problems helped law firms to navigate the time of social distancing.
CaseLines enables legal practices to enrol new civil matters, file documents and present evidence electronically in the Gauteng High Court. Law firms can present fully digital court bundles. The system also allows involved parties to interact and collaborate in pre-trial preparation and procedures. Judges can access a fully electronic version of a court file prior to a hearing, virtual or in-person.
The system was initially proposed as a solution to challenges such as files disappearing. It enables files to be traced online, with an audit trail of who handled a digital file. Furthermore, CaseLines was deployed to enable the efficiency and effectiveness of court administration through evidence management in High Courts across South Africa.
As Scriba and Nel note, in courts where CaseLines has not yet been implemented, judges and legal practitioners had to resort to cumbersome methods of filing paperwork, such as email. “Even though digitisation has been forced on us, many practitioners, even the traditional naysayers, have welcomed the era of digitisation and recognised that South African courts are now becoming more in line with the approach in other jurisdictions,” they write.
The disruptive innovation Tesla is bringing to the auto industry may seem a world away from the print industry. However, they share common characteristics. Like the auto industry, the print industry is steeped in traditions of long manufacturing cycles and engineering perfectionism. Despite both industries having access to huge amounts of capital and enormous economies, they are saddled with corporate inertia…
While print manufacturers continue to innovate their core product portfolios, there is little disruptive technology and business model innovation. Typically, their corporate cultures are not conducive to pushing new products and services at the expense of old ones. Shifting buyer priorities and a rapidly evolving technology landscape in which print and digital technologies are converging means print industry heavyweights may not be the leaders of tomorrow. They must reinvent themselves, which will involve undergoing rapid cultural change...
Tesla has led a paradigm shift and proved that a legacy industry can be disrupted through both technology and business model innovation. Tesla, like most of the innovative disruptors of recent years, leverages software and a data-driven model to unlock opportunities.
In comparison, legacy vendors such as print manufacturers are constrained by a traditional value chain and partners with fixed business models. To overcome this, print manufacturers must be able to drive the level of personalised customer intimacy that is common to today’s disruptors—not only Tesla, but also Netflix, Spotify and Amazon.
Louella Fernandes, Director and Owner, Quocirca6
 Paperless Office? 2.8 Trillion Pages Printed in 2020, Down By 14% or 450 Billion Sheets, The Register, August 5, 2021.
 8 Factors To Consider When Selecting a Cloud Printing Platform, Quocirca, April 30, 2021.
 Quocirca Managed Print Services Market, 2021, Quocirca, March 25, 2021.
 COVID-19 Silver Lining? The Dawn of A New Digital Era for South African Dispute Resolution, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, August 31, 2021.
 Court digitisation – the future is here, De Rebus, April 2, 2022.
 What can the print industry learn from Tesla?, Quocirca, January 19, 2022.