How AI and Automation Can Save Your Business Money
Embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and automation is more than just a tech trend—it’s a strategic move that’s revolutionizing cost structures and resource allocation in businesses. As technologies advance, AI and automation demonstrate their potential to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and allow customization in novel ways.
Saving Time Through Process Streamlining
AI and automation can reap substantial time savings by streamlining repetitive manual processes. Consider service calls – AI-powered chatbots handle basic customer queries without human agents, allowing them to focus on complex issues. Similarly, back-office tasks like PO processing and OCR of paper payments that once sucked up valuable worker hours are now automated.
A 2020 PwC study found over 50% of large global enterprises reported significant time savings through back-office automation. These automated document workflows cut processing times from weeks to hours for many companies. One insurance provider reduced claim processing by digitizing paperwork from 12 days to just three.
Freed from tedious administrative busywork, employees have time for high-impact strategic duties. Automating such rote tasks boosts productivity across organizations—one marketing agency automated contract generation, paring the process from days to under an hour. Employees refocused on new business pitches and saw proposal win rates surge by 25%. Offloading grunt work through streamlined digital processes unleashes massive productivity gains and labor cost reductions.
Enhancing Efficiency Through Intelligent Automation
AI and automation enhance efficiency by performing tasks with superhuman capabilities. Advanced machine learning algorithms can rapidly analyze vast amounts of customer data, identifying patterns and trends that would be impossible for humans to detect. This augmented intelligence boosts marketing, customer service, and product development functions.
For example, algorithms can scan terabytes of customer purchase histories within seconds, uncovering purchasing habits and preferences. Marketers can leverage these insights to develop hyper-targeted campaigns. According to IBM, a single algorithm uncovered $300 million in additional annual revenue for one retailer.
Robotic process automation (RPA) provides another avenue for dramatic efficiency gains. RPAs emulate human actions to complete repetitive rules-based tasks around the clock. A survey by UI Path found RPA adoption cutting operation costs by over 30% on average in early adopting companies: Bots process invoices, data entry, and forms at superhuman speeds with perfect accuracy. One insurance company accelerated claims processing from weeks to days using RPA, improving the customer experience.
Allowing Flexible Process Customization
AI and automation also bring the advantage of adapting processes on the fly. With intelligent systems in place, workflows, and business logic can be tweaked easily through configuration instead of code. This allows non-technical staff to easily incorporate new rules, exceptions, and scenarios based on changing needs.
Consider how AI chatbots or RPA bots can be taught new responses, linked to different systems, or optimized to address atypical cases—all without reprogramming. The flexibility makes processes future-proof and continuously improving. As Robotic Process Automation Netherlands found, over 75% of responding enterprises report reductions in IT maintenance costs after deploying automation platforms for this reason.
Aligning AI with Business Strategy is Key
Appropriately directing AI initiatives requires aligning them with organizational goals and strategy. Leaders must thoughtfully determine how AI can augment competitive positioning and value propositions. Without this human element providing guidance, even the most advanced systems will lack focus.
The first step is assessing where AI can generate the most impact. A manufacturing firm aiming to cut costs and boost output might prioritize automating capital-intensive production processes. On the other hand, a consulting business focused on innovation could leverage AI for advanced data analytics and improving client-facing solutions. Performing a strategic review of core strengths and weaknesses helps identify optimal initial targets.
Equally important is establishing governance around AI projects. Clear ownership and oversight ensure technologies continually serve strategic objectives as they evolve. Periodic reviews check alignment and allow pivoting investments where needed. AI must flexibly support reshaping business models over time. Otherwise, there is a risk benefits fail to materialize or automation undermines human aspects critical for success. Strategic direction is what unlocks AI’s full potential value.
Measuring Impact and Continued Optimization
To truly maximize ROI, it is important that companies establish clear metrics for tracking AI and automation impact over time. Key performance indicators could include labor hours saved per project, reduced error rates, customer satisfaction gains, or increased revenue from improved processes. Benchmarking baseline performance allows quantifying improvements and refining strategies based on data.
Leading organizations also view AI implementation as an ongoing optimization process rather than a one-time project. As technologies and use cases advance, so too must the alignment of these systems with evolving core capabilities and operational needs. A flexible, metrics-driven approach keeps automation working hardest for the business on a continuous basis.
When embedded thoughtfully into strategic planning and enabled by the human element, AI and automation fundamentally have immense potential to alter cost structures for forward-thinking companies fundamentally. Proper execution can deliver time savings, efficiency boosts, and process flexibility that few other innovations rival. At the same time, the journey requires investment and discipline; the payoffs of streamlining mundane tasks through intelligent systems open new growth opportunities.
For decades, office printer services have had one primary focus, selling products. Toner, ink, and paper were the main commodities. But the introduction of the world-wide-web has forever changed that business model.
The World Goes Digital
Today, printer services deal with a decreasing demand for print as more companies work toward a lofty (and arguably unattainable) “paperless workplace” goal. Organizations are eschewing faxes and scanning for software like DocuSign, Evernote, and Google Drive. These businesses encourage saving essential emails to PDF rather than printing them out and storing them in physical files.
But, it’s more than just a move toward paperless offices. It is human behavior. We are being trained more and more to “buy online.” The impetus being that we can get it more conveniently. And, perhaps more importantly, we can compare multiple prices. The goal, of course, is to source things cheaper. These businesses want to save money. That drive to reduce costs means printing services providers must contend with big-name online stores like Amazon, Newegg, and eBay for everything from paper to ink and even cartridge recycling.
Changing The Narrative
It might be time to rethink your business model. Printer services are so much more than an ink and toner dealer. They offer a wide range of additional benefits, including high-volume, networkable printers, maintenance, service, and, yes, the consumables required to keep things running.
So, what is stopping Managed Print Services (MPS) from emphasizing the “service” over the consumable? Over half (61%) of printer services companies say they are having difficulty making this move, possibly because it feels almost like a bate and switch.
In a product sales model, your view and the client’s view of the sale are the same. They are purchasing a product (ink, toner, paper, printers, and maintenance contract) for which you will charge them.
When you sell MPS as a service, the conversation with the client and internally is from two completely different angles. What you are selling and charging for is the convenience of printer placement, operation, maintenance, and provision of consumables.
Essentially, the move to “service” versus “product” is all about mindset. It’s no longer about what you can physically sell the customer. Instead, it’s how the things you traditionally sold can be put together to resolve problems your customers are facing.
Taking The First Steps
The first move to make when you begin to transition from product sales to a service organization is to outline your approach. Some key questions that can help you get started include:
- What are your clients’ goals when it comes to printing? Are they seeking to limit their print volumes, expand to multiple offices, cut costs, or lower their office footprint?
- Would your customer spend to handle print services on their own?
- Are there any “hidden costs” associated with print management, such as cybersecurity, etc.?
- What are issues your MPS regularly encounters that customers might not know how to handle?
- What other problems can your specific products and services help address? Energy use? Recycling? Division of labor? Use of physical space? Paper usage?
The goal is to figure out exactly what problems your current clients and target audience have that your business can solve. Things like cutting back-office costs, better cybersecurity, and preparing for hybrid and remote-work organizations are areas in which MPS providers can provide unique solutions and help businesses thrive. Managed print services also have better knowledge and access to printing solutions that help reduce office footprint, focus on internal networking, and more longevity.
Bundling Service Packages
Once you have a strategy in mind, it’s time to build out “service packages” and “service add-ons.” These bundles should cover the costs they would incur to your business. However, website wording and promotional materials should focus on highlighting the benefits and estimated savings of partnering with an MPS.
Businesses using systems like PowerMPS, for instance, could talk about printer performance reporting, predictive or subscription consumables reordering, and online service and maintenance requests. All of these options services help partners target specific pains within their business, such as:
- Reducing wasteful printing.
- Decreasing spend on ink, toner, and paper.
- Reducing inventory space needed for printing consumables.
- Improving service and maintenance response times.
Other standard perks could include friendly online or phone-call trouble-shooting, ink and toner recycling, or additional data-driven cost savings recommendations. But, don’t forget how the world is becoming ever more enamored of self-service portals, mobile applications, and 24/7 access. In addition, the majority (81% ) of print service companies expect to see demand for cloud-based print management grow in the next few years. Therefore, investing in a customized website and customer portal for faster and always available access to ordering, service, and bonus features is highly recommended.
As the world becomes more and more digital, MPS businesses cannot begin their journey from product to service too soon. So, whether your organization is struggling with the transition or just getting started, remember to start where your sales team has always begun – talking to current and potential customers. Their needs, problems, and stories are the perfect foundation for building your future in printing services.
Cultivating A Digital Mindset In The Office Printer Industry
The past year and a half has seen e-commerce become more than a shopping option for consumers. It is now a habit. Online sales spiked during the 2020 pandemic. But even six months later, digital sales remain much higher than before. E-commerce has exhibited nearly two decades’ worth of growth since 2019, according to a 2020 US Ecommerce Market Report.
And online purchasing habits affect more than consumer retail. Interactions throughout the past eighteen months have trained even business purchasers to search online first. So, how can Managed Print Service (MPS) providers survive in a world that is edging more and more into online retail? By shifting business strategies to embrace both the traditional and the digital.
One Small Step For MPS
Businesses that fail at digital adoption usually fall into two buckets – those who refused to embrace change and those who jump in without testing the waters. What ink, toner, and office printing service businesses must understand is that digital transformation is a long-term strategy. Therefore, implementation requires much more than a laissez-faire attitude.
A robust digital plan will include an evaluation of company goals, target audiences, and a thorough analysis of competitors and clients. For example, why do customers seek your products and services? Why do some businesses go elsewhere for MPS? What differentiates your business from others? What kind of experience do you want to represent your company?
Once goals, targets, and vision are set, it is time to map out implementation. This is where you decide how your MPS business will host a website, manage digital communications, and integrate these digital aspects into your existing sales and customer service. Again, there is nothing wrong with having an extended timeline to allow your business the opportunity to fully integrate each change before tackling the next step in the digital transformation process.
Communication Has Changed
No one picks up the phone anymore. No, really. Nearly 90% of US adults ignore phone calls. Why? Because most of the time, when the phone rings, it isn’t someone you know. Despite efforts from the Federal Communications Commission, robotic calls, or robocalls, have nearly tripled in the past decade to over 3 Billion calls per month. People’s work phone numbers are not exempt.
So, how are people communicating if not by phone? Just like everywhere else, they have gone digital. Buyers are looking for their information online through search engines, email, and social media. The good news is this gives managed print services an excellent opportunity to showcase their businesses. Websites, emails and social allow the office printer industry to highlight their benefits in ways that directly correlate to the needs and preferences of their target audience.
Nearly half (47%) of buyers report having viewed 3-5 pieces of content before they ever contact a sales representative. Popularly viewed content includes product and service features, comparison guides, benefits highlights, infographics, white papers, and interesting statistics. When posted on a company’s website, emailed out, and highlighted in social media feeds, this content helps position the business and its salespeople as reliable, responsive experts in the industry.
Sales Is Social
Like the phone call, cold call sales are pretty much dead. Recent studies show this tactic now provides a bare 0.3% success rate. Social media, however, is helping to create new sales leaders. Over three-quarters of salespeople who use social media regularly outsell their peers. Social users are also more likely (23%) to exceed sales quotas.
Rather than cold outreach, these salespeople build up professional networks on platforms like LinkedIn using engaging content, commentary, and conversation. Then they use these networks to gather insights and intelligence – targeting key decision-makers.
A majority (92%) of buyers who are active on social are willing to engage with those considered thought-leaders or experts in the industry. Over half (62%) are eager to speak directly with salespeople. MPS companies who encourage their salespeople to use company-generated content to sell on social are setting themselves up for future success in today’s e-commerce economy.
Karen Said It Works
People talk. But, more importantly, people listen. Most consumers purchase products based on recommendations from friends, family, and acquaintances. But, just like general e-commerce, this behavior is not limited to consumer retail. Over 80% of business-to-business buyers begin their search with a referral.
In this new digital age, where service is a significant differentiator, managed print services, toner, and ink providers should have a strategy for managing their reviews. And that management should be more than putting out fires when things go wrong. Print businesses should actively ask for reviews for their Google Business page, to post on their website, and to highlight on their social media platforms. Great relationships can lead to great content and a good boost in business.
The most critical beginner tools for taking your Managed Print Services business into the digital world include a high-performing, responsive website and an email marketing kit. In addition, your business website will serve as your hub for initial brand introduction and content hosting.
The best programs will also go above and beyond the basics. Savvy businesses will be sure to partner with platforms that offer what they need to fit their ongoing digital transformation strategy. For example, systems like PowerMPS provide easy-to-use customizable websites and a complete email marketing campaign management system as well as the order and service management, reporting, accounting tools, and other programs most MPS businesses need to find digital success.
The Office Print Industry, A Platform Economy Service?
Do you remember when a platform was a place from which you caught a train, subway, or bus? Of course, today’s growing digital economy has since co-opted the word. But, deep down, the meaning remains the same – a location from which you connect to another person or place. Now, however, those connections exist in cyberspace.
The new digital platform is an environment in which a piece of software is executed. Today’s most common platforms are a set of stable components that allow for various other functionality and connections with other components. For instance, an operating system like Windows 10 and web browsers like Chrome or Microsoft Edge are platforms. So are Zoom, Skype, eBay, and Etsy. Or, more simply, a platform is a system that makes it easier for you to do other things.
At the end of the day, platforms are disrupting nearly every industry across the globe, and as you will see, that includes the office printing space as well! Are you prepared for the digital disruption that is occurring within managed print?
How Software Platforms Began
Disk Operating System, or DOS, is the program without which a personal computer cannot run. Though the terms “platform” and “platform economy” may be new, digital platforms have been around since the development of the computer. As personal computers picked up popularity, more user-friendly operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and Linux were developed. From there, we began to see word processing, finance, and artistic platforms such as Microsoft Word, Quicken, and Adobe Photoshop.
The development of the worldwide web saw an even more comprehensive array of software platforms. Things like America Online (AOL) and CompuServe allowed people to access and interact with other internet users and rudimentary website pages. Then came the early nineties. Referred to as the “DotCom” era, this period was a hotbed of digital platform development. The nineties brought Prodigy, a CompuServe competitor, along with chat service competitors such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ. In 1995 the first internet search system, AltaVista, was launched, followed by the first social media platform, GeoCities.
While most platforms and websites developed during the DotCom boom have fallen by the wayside, some of these ventures now claim spots among the top five largest US companies. Giants such as Google and Amazon were created during this era. And with them, the age of the platform economy was born.
Platforms Disrupting Industries
As internet software has progressed, platforms have begun to shift into distinctive categories. The most common are also the most disruptive, those providing retail and services. Popular retail platforms include the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. These popular online retailers have pushed larger physical stores such as Walmart and Target to create their own robust online offerings. But they have also destroyed many smaller retailers who have difficulty maintaining the inventory on internet clout to attract digital customers and sell online.
Similarly, service platforms have shaken up several major industries. Perhaps the most notable are taxis, public transportation, and hotels. Where once a taxi, bus, or commuter train were primary ways to get places, now it is common to “call” an Uber or Lyft. Hotels have suffered a similar fate as Airbnb allows smaller, independent owners to rent out rooms, condos, and homes to travelers at rates that often rival those found for the typical inn.
Today these platforms have gone beyond traditional disruption. In their bid for continued growth, they have begun to cannibalize portions of other industries – including Managed Printer Services. Big names in the printer industry, like HP, are already working to offer online service and maintenance scheduling. Other unrelated businesses such as Amazon and eBay offer a variety of inks, toners, and parts at often ridiculously low prices.
But industries like retail, service, and even managed print services (MPS) don’t need to sit by and watch their businesses get gobbled up. Because the platform economy has grown so much, there are now programs that provide online tools and support to help companies create their own platforms — services like PowerMPS.
Competing At The Platform Level
Becoming a platform changes the rules of engagement, even in the printing industry. For MPS providers, it often means changing the game on how your company conducts business. Some companies may continue to prefer the brick-and-mortar store and in-person or over-the-phone sales and service relationship. But a growing number of businesses are beginning to prefer browsing online inventories, as-needed or predictive subscription ordering, and online chat and scheduling for service and maintenance. Group these robust interactions with in-depth office printer and copier use and consumables volume reports, and regular platform users have an experience they will grow to love. In fact, they will rely on it!
MPS providers using services like PowerMPS can couple retail and service platforms into one customized e-commerce storefront and service platform. With such a powerful tool, it is easy to keep up with current clients while leveraging the platform to help increase reach to new, more digitally-focused customers.
The platform economy has been steadily expanding and disrupting traditional retail and service spaces for over three decades. Fortunately, new technologies allow even those unfamiliar with e-commerce to build their businesses into online platforms. Tools such as reporting, service scheduling, email marketing, digital storefronts, and more will be the foundation that can support current business while giving these companies a digital mooring for growth well into the future.
Data has always been essential to running a business, especially when it comes to the financial side of a company. Tracking materials usage and time spent on projects or tasks has always been a struggle for accounting departments. However, Big Data has made it much easier to set up programs and systems to assist in tracking items essential to fully developed financials.
The beginning of this type of tracking was embedded in the use of firewalls and servers. IT used these tools to block access to websites and services that were deemed unsafe or distracting. It also helped keep tabs on what and how employees were using their time and equipment.
Now, however, with an ever-growing remote-work environment, companies are moving beyond the standard in-house tracking. Instead, they are beginning to implement project management software like Monday. More intensive clock-in and clock-out tracking systems like Toggl are also a common alternative. However, businesses with significant security concerns and stringent compliance or regulatory requirements have begun to migrate to all-in-one screenshots, website usage, and time-tracking systems—programs like Time Doctor or Clockify. But, no matter the software or methods being used, businesses can now fully monitor and track the work and time of each of their internal and remote workers.
For finance departments, the introduction of these systems means easier tracking and categorizing of employee time. It helps them tabulate hours spent on individual projects and apply costs to specific areas throughout the business. However, despite more advanced tracking capabilities in the realm of the employee, there are back-office and overhead expenses that are still tough to trace, such as printing.
The Printing Expense Dilemma
Many may argue that printing costs are very easy to tabulate. But printing industry experts such as Managed Print Services providers know the actual costs of printing go far beyond the equipment and supplies. How much a company pays to purchase or lease a printer or spends on paper and toner are only the surface expenditures.
The truth is that, for every $1 spent on office printing, another $9 is paid to manage it. This expense is created by IT management, infrastructure, and support. While the Information Technology (IT) group may lump print in with the rest of their general office assistance and structure, analysis proves it takes up far more time and energy than anyone would like to believe. Most businesses report 40% of their help desk calls and tickets are print-related when thoroughly evaluated. And these ongoing print problems can require anything from basic assistance such as supply replenishment or jam assistance to a repair call.
But IT is not the only department affected by office print management. Equipment, toner, ink, and paper supplies all fall on the administrative and procurement departments. Ensuring these items are appropriately sourced in a timely manager often requires inventory regulation. Larger offices may even require regular reports on print dispense and ink levels. In some cases, this information may involve direct contact and inspection of the print equipment’s stored data.
Add to all of this the need to provision and upkeep on-site (and now remote and at-home) printing facilities; it does not seem unreasonable for print management to encompass such a staggering hidden cost. Yet nearly half (40%) of North American businesses cannot accurately track print and print management expenses. As a result, most companies spend a great deal more than they should to provide these services to their employees. A typical business spends up to 3% of its annual revenues on office print services.
Managed Print Services – Solution To Print Costs
Seeing such a cost analysis, finance departments might immediately attempt to steer their company toward a paperless environment. Indeed, many organizations have been working hard toward the vision of a completely digital office. But studies have shown paper is still an essential feature for employees and security. Fortunately, there are ways for businesses to provide finance with the data attributions they desire while significantly lowering the overall costs of business office print.
Managed print service (MPS) providers consolidate administration, printer helpdesk, and maintenance into one package. As a business that is wholly focused on providing printer services, equipment, and supplies, they can leverage their industry knowledge, experience, and volumes to help reduce wait times, resolve issues, and lower supply costs. Overall, MPS services can reduce overall printing costs by up to 30%. The cost-savings to print-related helpdesk tickets and calls alone range from 7-14%.
MPS providers using business process automation systems like PowerMPS offer even more data and cost savings. These platforms provide MPS customers with easily accessible data on print volumes by printer, location, and current supply levels. This information can be accessed from the comfort and safety of the home office – for even remote office and connected desktop printers.
MPS using PowerMPS systems can provide an in-depth look at supply usage for those finance departments demanding even more convenience and cost savings. And there are ample time savings with predictive supply ordering technology and online maintenance management.
Finance departments in businesses across North America might be at a disadvantage for tracking and understanding their actual office printing spend. But, just like there is a growing service and software space for proper employee time management and attribution, there are solutions for the enterprising finance team. When it comes to tracking and management for print, these companies should take a hard look at partnering with a reputable MPS provider – especially one galvanized by an authoritative tool such as PowerMPS.
Redefining Workspaces: The Role of Wellness Zones
Creating a positive and healthy work environment is essential for employee well-being and productivity. In recent years, especially since the pandemic, businesses have recognized the importance of incorporating wellness spaces into the workplace. These dedicated areas provide employees with opportunities to relax, recharge, and prioritize their physical and mental health.
In today’s brisk work environment, employees’ mental health should be the top priority of organizations. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee. As businesses strive to create a positive and productive work culture, incorporating wellness spaces into the office has become a prevalent trend.
The Rise of Wellness Spaces
In the late 1980s, companies focused on psychological well-being as part of their workplace wellness initiatives. In pop culture, these efforts were fueled by the popularity of an exercise video series released by Jane Fonda at the start of the decade.
Workforce wellness grew in popularity at that time due to diminished employee loyalty, resulting from tumultuous economic issues and distrust in corporations. Employees started protecting their own needs in comparison to the wants of their employer. In 1986, OSH began to encourage implementing stress-related mental health programs in the workplace.
By the new millennium, workplace wellness programs were fairly established domestically. A 2008 Employer Health Benefits Survey reported 70% of large companies in America had workplace wellness programs. It also helps that global businesses are experiencing drastic innovation due to technological advances.
The Current Landscape
As we continue the second decade of the 21st century, the workplace wellness journey has gone full steam ahead, increasing awareness and prevention services. Today’s workplace wellness programs are designed primarily as preventative care for innumerable health conditions.
Screenings and health risk assessments accurately detect acute and chronic conditions. Mental and emotional health services have been emphasized with increased absenteeism due to the global pandemic. Teams of clinical and non-clinical practitioners include mental, behavioral, and integrative health working in partnership with health, wellness, and professional recovery coaches. Because of the isolation of 2020, the need for mental and behavioral health services has never been more prevalent. So has an increased want of wellness spaces in the workplace.
The Impact of Wellness Spaces on Employee Health
Research shows that incorporating wellness spaces into the office can significantly impact employee health. According to a study by the World Green Building Council, employees with access to natural elements and spaces designed for relaxation and rejuvenation experience a 15% increase in well-being and are 6% more productive. Furthermore, according to Gallup, engaged employees are 21% more productive than their disengaged counterparts.
Understanding the connection between employee happiness and overall organizational health is vital. By providing areas for physical activity, quiet reflection, or even a quick power nap, employers can help reduce stress, boost mental clarity, and improve overall employee health.
Designing Relaxation Zones
Creating dedicated relaxation zones within the office environment can offer employees a retreat from the demands of their workday. These spaces can be designed with comfortable seating, soothing lighting, and calming elements such as plants or water features.
For example, Google has incorporated nap pods in their offices, providing employees with a quiet space to recharge. Additionally, Salesforce has installed meditation rooms in their offices, recognizing the importance of mental well-being in achieving optimal performance. Employees can take short breaks to relax and return to their tasks feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by designating specific areas for relaxation.
Incorporate natural elements like plants and natural light to create a calming environment. Provide ergonomic furniture and adjustable workstations to promote good posture and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal issues.
Prioritizing Physical Activity
Encouraging physical activity at work is vital for maintaining employee well-being. Many forward-thinking companies have implemented on-site fitness facilities or designated exercise areas within their office spaces. These spaces are equipped with exercise equipment, such as dumbbells, treadmills, or yoga mats.
For instance, Zappos and USAA offer an on-site gym and organize employee group exercise classes. Regular physical activity improves physical health, increases energy levels, reduces stress, and enhances cognitive function. Fitbit reports that employees who engage in physical activity during the workday have 53.8% lower healthcare costs.
Embracing Nature & Biophilic Design
Biophilic design, which incorporates elements of nature into the workplace, has gained popularity for its positive impact on employee well-being. Natural light, indoor plants, and views of green spaces have been shown to reduce stress, enhance mood, and improve productivity. Amazon’s Spheres, a collection of glass domes filled with plants, exemplifies this approach. By integrating nature-inspired elements, employers can connect with the outdoors and promote a sense of calm and serenity in the workplace.
Supporting Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, promoting mental health is the most important aspect of improving employee well-being. Organizations can foster a positive work environment by destigmatizing mental health and offering support. Companies must foster a supportive culture outside of wellness spaces that encourage employees to utilize these amenities. Managers should all lead by example, emphasizing the importance of work-life balance and wellness practices. Offering flexible work arrangements, promoting regular breaks, and providing access to mental health resources can further this initiative.
Coding Evolved: The Past, Present, and Future of Programming
The incredible story of coding, the essential engine powering our modern digital world, begins much earlier than many realize. The rudimentary form of programming came into existence in the 1800s, when people manipulated punch cards to control the operations of devices like Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. This marked the first time human instructions were translated into a format readable by a machine, paving the way for the age of automation and the digital revolution.
The Revolution of High-Level Languages
The mid-20th century marked a significant turning point in the history of coding with the emergence of high-level programming languages. The first among these was Fortran, an innovative creation by IBM that revolutionized the landscape of programming.
Fortran stood as a beacon of change in the coding world, simplifying the intricate processes that had once dominated the domain. Unlike the low-level languages of the era, it did not demand programmers to delve into the complexities of the machine language or the architecture of the computer systems.
Instead, Fortran provided a more abstract way of programming, using a syntax that echoed English language constructs. This represented a dramatic leap from the complex, machine-specific code that programmers were accustomed to, facilitating a more intuitive and less error-prone coding environment..
The development of Fortran streamlined the coding process, leading to a significant reduction in debugging and coding time. Programmers could now produce efficient code more quickly and with fewer errors, enhancing productivity and spurring further technological advancements.
The arrival of high-level languages such as Fortran was indeed a transformative shift, paving the way for the myriad of high-level languages we see today. This revolution underscored the potential of abstracting away from hardware specifics, leading to the development of more complex software systems, ultimately driving the digital age forward.
Transition to Object-Oriented Programming: A Paradigm Shift
High-level languages set the foundation for more sophisticated forms of programming. The decades of the 60s and 70s witnessed the birth of languages like ALGOL, COBOL, and C These languages empowered programmers to shift their focus from the hardware they were coding on to the logic of the code itself.
This transition reached its pinnacle in the 1980s with the emergence of object-oriented programming (OOP). Languages such as C++ and Java, embodying the principles of OOP, allowed developers to write reusable code, enhancing efficiency, and managing larger software projects with more ease. This was particularly beneficial for businesses adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, as the modular nature of OOP enabled scalable solutions.
Coding in the Internet Age: The Arrival of Scripting Languages
Python, though not exclusively a scripting language, gained traction for its simplicity and versatility. It found numerous applications, from web development to data analysis, becoming an omnipresent force in coding.
These scripting languages not only enhanced the capabilities of developers but also made coding more accessible to newcomers, contributing to the evolution of coding in the internet age.
The Rise of Low-Code/No-Code: Democratizing Coding
The ascendance of low-code/no-code platforms represents a profound shift in the world of programming, one that is democratizing the act of coding and expanding its reach beyond the realm of trained developers. By simplifying the application development process, these platforms are redefining what it means to be a coder and breaking down barriers that have traditionally separated programmers from non-programmers.
Low-code/no-code platforms allow individuals and businesses to create software applications using intuitive, graphical interfaces that minimize the need for traditional, manual coding. Instead of writing complex lines of code, users can now manipulate prebuilt components and functions to design and deploy applications rapidly and efficiently. This reduction in the need for specialized coding skills is expanding access to software development, enabling a more diverse range of people to create solutions to address their specific needs.
These platforms are not only transforming who can develop software, but also how software is developed. They enable rapid prototyping, iteration, and deployment of applications, significantly reducing the time from idea to implementation. This agility is particularly beneficial in the fast-paced digital world, where the ability to quickly respond to changes can provide a significant competitive advantage.
As such, the rise of low-code/no-code platforms signifies a democratization of coding, opening up the benefits of software development to a wider audience and fostering a new era of innovation and inclusivity in the digital world.
The Future of Coding: A New Horizon
As we venture into the future, the realm of coding continues to evolve, bringing forth revolutionary concepts that promise to transform the way we create and interact with software. A striking development in this domain is Quantum computing, It challenges traditional coding paradigms with its superposition and entanglement principles, introducing a whole new approach to problem-solving.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are also set to play a pivotal role. They are fostering the creation of intelligent algorithms capable of learning and improving over time. These technologies not only promise to automate mundane coding tasks but might even help to generate complex code in the future.
Moreover, the low-code/no-code movement and advancements in cloud computing are pushing towards making coding more accessible, enabling more people to create applications without needing to understand complex syntax.
The future of coding is indeed a new horizon, filled with unlimited possibilities.
Online Shopping Security Matters: What You Need to Know
While physical retail might be making a comeback, it will be hard for retail storefronts to compete with the convenience, variety, and availability of the worldwide web. Unfortunately, online office supply sales are no exception to the rule. While overall sales have continued to increase as companies begin to return to normal operations, online purchases have continued to outpace those in physical retail establishments.
But the continued and growing reliance on digital purchases has opened up a bigger problem for companies; online security and the risk of company data falling into the wrong hands.
Online shopping has been available for years. But the rapid growth and significant boost seen since the end of 2020 has also made businesses offering online sales options even more of a target than before. With more traffic, fraudsters see more opportunities to attack unsuspecting businesses and their customers. In some cases, legitimate businesses are even willing to resort to underhanded tactics to take down the competition.
When Online Stores Crash
There have been multiple instances in the news where online retailers are flooded with so much website traffic that it causes long wait times or even completely crashes the site. If a company or page has been featured in a popular show or showcased heavily, this might be real business reaching levels overwhelming the host server. But for print management, services, and supplies that serve the needs of corporations and business offices, attracting that much website traffic is highly unlikely. The more likely scenario is a Distributed Denial of Service Attack or DDoS.
A DDoS attack employs utilizes bots to significantly raise traffic on an eCommerce site to the point where it crashes or stops performing normally. For businesses looking to take out the competition, the disruption in regular service can degrade client confidence in the company’s ability to meet convenience and supply expectations. In 2021, there were a record-breaking 9.84 million DDoS attacks in the USA.
For cybercriminals, the tactic can be used as a diversion to mask other, more nefarious activities such as planting malware or backend hacking to steal data. The fallout for small eCommerce from a DDoS attack can reach as high as $50,000 per incident.
Other Types of Online Fraud
While DDoS is one of the most common tactics used against online stores, there are several other ways criminals attempt to take advantage of businesses and their customers.
- Interception fraud is an order placed as usual with a matching shipping address and stolen credit card information. However, the actual purchaser intercepts the order by calling the shipping company or customer care representative to change the final delivery address once the order is accepted.
- Account takeover fraud occurs when criminals log into a customer’s account. They have usually gained access to the account by purchasing passwords from the dark web or through phishing schemes. Once logged into the account, criminals will make orders or change customer details.
- Triangulation fraud is performed by setting up a storefront with pricing that will attract customers. They then use stolen credit card numbers to purchase goods from other eCommerce sites to fulfill their orders. As a result, their customers receive their goods, but the original store and the owners of the stolen credit cards are victims of fraud.
- Friendly fraud is based on standard customer care practices for legitimate grievances. For example, criminals will order a product and then cite a problem with the product or delivery to either request their money back from the business or initiate a chargeback directly with their payment processor.
Identifying Commercial Fraud
Many online store platforms have the technology to help guard against the most common forms of fraud. However, office printer industry businesses should be aware of the critical signs of criminal eCommerce behavior to add an extra layer of protection for the company and its customers. Some things to look out for include:
- Inconsistent order details are a big signal of potential fraud. For example, if the zip code and city don’t match or the IP address of the shopper and their email address don’t match, it is most likely a sign of attempted fraudulent activity.
- When a client suddenly places a larger than average order, it is a giant red flag. It might be good to contact the customer to confirm the quantity and other details before processing the transaction.
- Customers usually order using a specific IP address. Therefore, anytime a customer logs in from a new IP, it is advisable to require additional login steps and follow up with the customer for an order confirmation.
- If a customer was not initially set up with multiple shipping addresses and is suddenly expanding the number of delivery locations, it could be a sign of criminal activity.
- The timeframe is another item to watch closely. Criminals usually utilize bots and will trigger a series of activities in a short timeframe, such as multiple orders, multiple credit cards, or initiating several declined transactions in a row.
With the rapid increase in online shopping platforms and the ongoing move of consumers to digital channels, fraudsters are thriving on attacking businesses and their customers. Those who are new to the eCommerce space are especially vulnerable. Therefore, companies planning to operate or already use an online store should make sure they are training staff and taking steps to secure themselves and their customers.
The first industrial revolution was mechanization through water and steam power. The second was the development of mass production through assembly lines and division of labor. The third was spawned by the introduction of computers, electronics, and automation.
Now, experts say, we are in the fourth revolution, or “Industry 4.0.” Welcome to the age of Big Data, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things. In this transformation, worldwide commerce is being significantly reshaped by the proliferation of the internet throughout our society. To many businesses, it means more intelligent manufacturing or better networking. For others, this revolution means a whole new way of doing business.
Some companies have taken advantage of these significant changes and incorporated 4.0 as an advantage that sets them apart. Others, facing an industry that has worked quickly to embrace what the worldwide web offers, face a stark picture should they continue to follow the business practices they have known for decades. For those, the message is brutal but straightforward – “Evolve or Die.”
But even companies faced with dire choices can take heart. This is not Kodak or CPI Photo facing the influx of the digital camera. This is not the phone booth business melting in the face of a suddenly booming mobile phone market. This is evolution, not extinction – as long as you embrace the revolution before it is too late.
What Customers Want
Industry 4.0 has spoiled the customer on nearly all fronts. Amazon provides curated item picks and fast delivery. Grocery stores will shop for you and drop the goods at your doorstep. The majority of customers who reach out to businesses on social media (75%) expect a response within 24 hours. Over a quarter (35%) expect some sort of answer in an hour or less.
We are so incredibly spoiled that 40% of online shoppers won’t wait more than 3 seconds for an internet page to load. Goldfish would wait longer.
But it’s more than an expectation for fast response times, predictive metrics, and quick delivery. The demand for self-service has risen significantly. Even for business-to-business channels, companies are far less likely to visit a location, pick up a phone, or even send an email for a quote. As of 2019, more than half of companies (61-65%)preferred self-service for research, evaluation, ordering, and reordering.
So, today’s business customer is searching for intuitive technology with a simple user experience on the front-end and lightning-fast, friendly, and helpful response on the back-end. Where did they get this expectation? From other industries that have already upgraded to a 4.0 model.
Industry 4.0 For The Printing World
Business and office printing is a unique industry that relies heavily on printing supplies, equipment, software, and maintenance. While some companies cobble together their own mish-mash of vendor suppliers, a growing number of businesses have realized the real efficiencies and costs savings are found partnering with Managed Print Services (MPS) providers. And 4.0 technology is giving the Managed Print business even more of an advantage.
Most MPS companies already pride themselves on high quality, fast delivery, and low pricing. But office printers have become so ubiquitous to the business space that equipment manufactures were forced to divorce them from anything resembling the small consumer printers found standard in big box stores. Office printers are designed to connect to networks. Initially, this was to allow for fast inter-office printing. Now, however, it will enable these machines to be securely connected to cloud-based services that can assist with better overall management.
MPS using services such as PowerMPS, for instance, can use their cloud-based customer connection to provide more in-depth services for their clients and generate a better self-service experience online. Things like predictive supply ordering, usage reports, and online service requests are just a few of the ways a 4.0 empowered MPS provider’s customers can benefit.
But it’s more than a convenience; MPS 4.0 also offers a significant return for MPS businesses. Updating the business to provide in-person and online interactions caters to both companies who thrive on face-to-face sales and those who prefer a fast, always available, online alternative.
In A Post-Covid Print World
In a post-COVID-19 world, an online strategy is even more critical as it can help cater to those business partners still subject to more stringent safety measures. It also creates a way for the MPS business to continue operations even if they are forced to temporarily close their physical doors. And, while in-person service and maintenance areas may be limited, cloud-based connections can expand remote maintenance and sales opportunities. The result is a larger, more digital space to grow.
Fortunately, implementing a 4.0 strategy doesn’t have to be an IT and labor-intensive project. Services like PowerMPS offer comprehensive and easily implemented software that allows MPS businesses to create customized storefronts, customer profiles, and connections that will get them online quickly and efficiently. While the print industry’s call to embrace the 4.0 revolution may not be a blaring alarm yet, savvy MPS providers are taking advantage of everything the Internet of Things has to offer…before it becomes a “due or die.”
Remote vs. In-Office: Should Employees Return to the Office?
In the wake of the global pandemic, remote work became necessary for many companies, revolutionizing how we work. However, as the world recovers, a debate has emerged about whether employees should return to the office or continue working remotely. On the one hand, employees have been enjoying the freedom of working out of the office. On the other, managers miss the supervision and collaboration of in-person work.
Here are some of the biggest arguments for having employees return to the office, and the biggest reasons against having the workforce return to the office and instead favor a remote or hybrid work environment:
For: Boosting Collaboration & Innovation
Disney CEO Bob Iger recently sent out a mandate for all workers to return to the office. His reason: “In a creative business like ours, nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe, and create with peers that come from being physically together, nor the opportunity to grow professionally by learning from leaders and mentors.” Disney joined the likes of Tesla, Amazon, and JP Morgan as companies demanding an in-office workspace.
Research has shown that face-to-face interactions foster creativity and knowledge exchange. Employees working side by side can engage in spontaneous conversations, brainstorming sessions, and impromptu problem-solving discussions, leading to fresh ideas and innovative solutions.
Research from MIT revealed that face-to-face communication is 34 times more effective than email exchanges in driving collective intelligence within teams. Moreover, in an office setting, employees can leverage shared spaces such as meeting rooms, whiteboards, and brainstorming areas, facilitating group discussions and fostering camaraderie. These physical spaces serve as catalysts for collaboration, enabling teams to bounce ideas off each other and build on collective knowledge more effectively than virtual platforms allow.
Against: Unleashes Productivity & Flexibility
Eliminating commuting time allows employees to dedicate more time to work-related tasks, resulting in higher productivity. Remote work eliminates commuting costs, including transportation expenses, and parking fees. It also reduces expenses related to professional attire and dining out during lunch breaks. These savings contribute to employees’ financial well-being and serve as an additional perk of remote work.
Remote work also enables flexibility in managing personal and professional responsibilities. Employees can tailor their work schedules to suit their peak productivity hours and accommodate personal commitments.
For: Nurturing Company Culture & Social Connections
In the view of some, office environments provide a sense of community and belonging that is challenging to replicate remotely. Regular face-to-face interactions foster stronger relationships, trust, and a deeper understanding of colleagues’ strengths and working styles. These connections play a vital role in building cohesive teams and driving employee engagement. It’s also proven that employees with a best friend are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
Furthermore, the office acts as a hub for shared experiences, fostering a sense of identity and purpose within the organization. Celebrating successes, recognizing achievements, and engaging in team-building activities are more impactful when conducted in person. This strengthens the bond between employees, aligns them with company values, and bolsters employee loyalty.
Against: Enhances Work-Life Balance
Working from home allows individuals to spend more time with their families, engage in hobbies, and take care of personal responsibilities. This balance reduces stress and burnout, resulting in happier and healthier employees.
A study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that remote workers report lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction compared to their office-based counterparts. Remote work fosters autonomy and empowers employees to structure their work environments according to their preferences, leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates.
According to a survey by FlexJobs, 65% of respondents reported that they are more productive working from home, citing fewer interruptions from colleagues and fewer office politics.
By eliminating the need for long commutes and allowing for flexible scheduling, remote work offers more time for personal pursuits, family obligations, and self-care.
For: Overcoming Productivity Challenges
Working remotely is not an all-size fits all approach; some love it, while others consider it their worst nightmare. Distractions at home, isolation, and difficulty separating work from personal life can all hinder productivity. A survey by Buffer reported that 20% of remote workers struggle with loneliness, leading to decreased motivation and engagement.
Returning to the office can provide a structured environment that promotes focus and concentration. Separating work and personal space allows employees to establish clear boundaries, improving work-life balance. Additionally, in-person supervision and access to real-time support from managers and colleagues can help overcome obstacles more efficiently.
Studies have consistently shown that a physical office presence positively impacts productivity. According to research conducted by Stanford University, companies experienced a 13% increase in performance when they transitioned employees from remote work to an office environment. The study also revealed that remote employees are more likely to experience difficulties staying motivated and achieving work-related goals.
Against: Unlocking Global Talent
When location is no longer a barrier, companies can recruit top talent regardless of their geographical location, leading to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Remote work allows companies to tap into specialized skills and expertise that may not be available locally, leading to increased innovation and problem-solving capabilities. According to a survey by Owl Labs, 58% of companies believe that remote work options can enhance diversity and inclusion within their organizations.
Additionally, remote work promotes a more level playing field, particularly for underrepresented groups. By eliminating the need to relocate or face discriminatory practices in certain regions, remote work provides equal opportunities for career advancement and fair compensation.
Which do you think is the future? Remote or in-office work environments? Let us know with a comment below.
In recent years, the concept of working from home has gained significant popularity. With the rise of remote work, it’s crucial to create a productive home office space — an aesthetic and comfortable design that allows you to stay focused and motivated.
Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or remote employee, setting up an efficient workspace is vital for your productivity and overall well-being.
Remote work offers numerous benefits, including increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and reduced commuting time. In addition, it allows employees to tailor their work environment to their preferences, leading to higher job satisfaction. However, it also presents challenges such as potential feelings of isolation, difficulties in maintaining work-life boundaries, and the need for self-discipline.
To combat these negatives, we’ve devised numerous suggestions on the best ways to set up your productive home office space.
Designate a Dedicated Workspace
Even before the rise of remote work, we’re sure you’ve heard this philosophy before: it’s important to always separate your personal life from your professional one. Dedicate a specific area in your home that is solely dedicated to work-related activities. This will help you mentally transition into “work mode” and minimize distractions.
Individuals who work in a dedicated office space reported higher productivity levels compared to those who didn’t have a defined workspace.
Most important: make sure you do not have a bed in the room. The temptation to nap will be way too strong.
Ergonomics play a vital role in maintaining physical well-being and productivity during long work hours. For example, invest in an ergonomic chair that supports proper posture and reduces the risk of back pain.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for a significant percentage of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Additionally, ensure your desk is at an appropriate height and invest in a keyboard and mouse that promote comfortable hand positioning. Of course, a standing desk couldn’t hurt either, allowing you to sit or stand whenever your body needs it.
Proper lighting is essential for creating a productive home office environment. Natural light is ideal as it boosts mood, energy levels, and focus. Position your desk near a window to maximize the natural light intake. If natural light is limited, incorporate ambient and task lighting to reduce eye strain and create a well-lit workspace.
Workers exposed to daylight in their workspace reported significantly better sleep quality compared to those who were not.
Reduce Noise Distractions
Noise distractions can significantly impact your concentration and productivity. Choose a quiet area in your home for your office space to minimize disruptions. In addition, consider using noise-cancelling headphones or playing background noise that helps you concentrate, such as soft instrumental music or white noise.
A study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that background noise can improve focus and enhance cognitive performance.
Maintain a Clutter-Free Environment
Cluttered and disorganized environments can lead to increased levels of stress and decreased performance. In other words, a cluttered workspace can lead to a cluttered mind.
Keep your home office clean and organized by decluttering regularly. Invest in storage solutions such as shelves, filing cabinets, or desk organizers to keep your essentials within reach but out of sight.
Establish a Routine
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that individuals with consistent daily routines reported higher levels of productivity and satisfaction with their work-life balance (92% of participants).
Working from home offers flexibility in the digital age, but it’s important to establish a consistent routine to maintain productivity. Set specific working hours and create a schedule that aligns with your most productive times. This will help you stay focused and motivated.
As discussed in a previous suggestion, when working from home, setting clear boundaries between your personal and professional life is essential. For example, establish specific work hours and communicate them to your family members or roommates.
Consider using a room divider or a designated office area to physically separate your workspace from the rest of your living space. This separation helps create a mental distinction between work and relaxation zones.
Prioritize Connectivity and Technology
A stable internet connection and reliable technology are crucial for a productive home office. This is obviously the downside of working remotely at home: once the internet is out, your workday is severely compromised. Therefore, invest in high-speed internet to avoid disruptions during virtual meetings and file transfers.
Set up a backup system to safeguard your work in case of computer failures or data loss. Utilize project management and communication tools to stay organized and collaborate effectively with colleagues.
Plants not only enhance the aesthetics of your home office, but also offer various benefits. For example, research shows that having plants in the workspace can improve air quality, reduce stress levels, and increase productivity.
Consider adding low-maintenance plants like succulents or peace lilies that thrive indoors and require minimal care.
Enhance Technology Setup
A well-equipped home office requires reliable technology. Ensure your computer, printer, and other essential devices are up-to-date and in good working condition.
Backup important files regularly, invest in cybersecurity measures, and use cloud-based storage solutions for seamless access to your files from anywhere.
Printer Usage Tips for Home Office
Maintaining a home office requires an efficient and reliable printer. Research by Grand View Research suggests that the home office printer market is expected to reach $29.14 billion by 2025, emphasizing its importance.
To optimize your printer’s lifespan, select the right printer for your needs, whether inkjet for photos or laser for documents. Always use the manufacturer’s recommended ink or toner to prevent damage. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the print heads and replacing worn parts, is crucial.
Additionally, consider a printer with duplexing capabilities for saving paper. Keeping your software up-to-date ensures compatibility and improved performance.
The Future Office Is Paper-Light, Not Paperless
The term “paperless office” was coined by Micronet Inc. in 1978. At the time, it caught on pretty hard as the ideal for the office of the future. How often do you see paper in Star Trek or any other future-based, high-tech science fiction? Even 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick) presented space travel in a completely paperless environment. The film’s props list included “a 2001 newspaper to be read on some kind of television screen.”
Yet paper use doubled between 1980 and 2000. In 2017, offices used more than 400 million metric tons of paper. In 2018 the United Nations predicted paper usage would rise by 50%.
And here we are in the year 2021, where printed book sales still outstrip digital book sales worldwide. The typical employee still uses around 10,000 sheets of paper per year at a pace of 34 pages per day. The average company increases its paper usage by 25% year-over-year.
How have we gone so long without realizing the “paperless office” dream?
The Failure To Eliminate Paper
Perhaps the most common reasons for paper usage and printing in the office have been for memos (or interoffice communications), records filing, and signatures.
Well, we all know what happened to memos and interoffice notes. The invention of email significantly reduced the need for physically written communications within the office setting, and chat software and text messaging all but ended written memos. But let’s be honest, it was also meant to minimize phone calls between employees and help dwindle unnecessary meetings. While it may have practically eliminated the former, it has had little to no effect on the latter. The same goes for reducing paper usage. Rather than avoid passing out a newsletter or interoffice message on paper, what happened? Every single employee printed out the email. So, the same amount of paper gets used. It’s just less time spent printing and handing out that paper on the part of the person sending the message.
Signatures, however, are a rare instance where paper-reduction was truly realized. At first, contracts had to be mailed back and forth. It was a lot of waiting and a few cents in postage. But it was the same stack of paper. Then people started faxing contracts. This practice tripled or quadrupled the amount of paper and ink used as each fax created a duplicate of the document on the other end. Faxed document sharing remained a staple until the scanner stepped in to allow contracts to be emailed. However, the physical signature still required at least one page of any agreement to be printed out and rescanned.
Then, finally, digital signatures took hold. Companies such as Sign Server, I-Safe PDF, and Docusign came out with secure options for contracts to be securely sent and virtually signed, complete with standardized cybersecurity measures. Today digital signatures have advanced enough to allow even banks, healthcare, and government entities to accept signatures using e-sign technology. While growth in this area was relatively slow and steady over the past decade, social distancing in 2020 created a significant increase in the use of digital signature platforms. And signs point to continued use as companies begin to head back to a semblance of regular business.
But, while esignatures may be taking a more permanent hold, digital record keeping is still something many companies hesitate to implement. This reluctance can be caused by several considerations, including the cost for conversion, methods of storage, and security of information.
Depending on the age and type of business, the number of past records to be scanned and stored can become a monumental task. Healthcare, finance, insurance, and law are just four industries where this issue could be incredibly daunting.
The method of storage and security is also a significant issue for these and other groups as documents containing sensitive personal and corporate information need to be thoroughly protected. Selecting between off-site, third-party, or company-owned and operated servers is a careful balance between digital security, capabilities, and cost. The result is that many businesses are satisfied keeping their paper record system or creating a hybrid environment rather than take on the investment and potential risks of going completely digital.
People Need Paper
But the costs and security of going digital are not what keeps the average office worker printing thousands of sheets per year. In reality, people have a significant attachment to the printed word and tactile engagement specifically. Studies have consistently shown that screens not only drain more mental resources but also impair focus and reduce reading comprehension.
Another issue with a truly paperless office is the inability to take hand-written notes. Whether in meetings or the margins of a printed document, research shows people who write things down by hand remember the information better than those who do not.
So, while note-taking apps, digital business cards, and project management tools may seem like monumental steps toward the “paperless office” of which we have been dreaming since the late ‘70s, the truth is strategic companies are far from bucking paper or printing.
Print Management Can Help
But not being “paperless” does not mean a business can’t be progressive or take an active role in managing their paper and print use. Innovative companies have an excellent opportunity to help reduce waste and their bottom line by partnering with print management services to become “paper-light.”
Using systems like PowerMPS, managed print services or MPS Software can provide printer data collection to properly track the use of paper, ink, toner, and other materials throughout the business – even at remote and home office locations. This information can help companies build better internal processes to address paper use and the needs of their employees. A strategic print management partner can often help companies reduce hardware costs, reduce output waste, and reduce energy consumption. The result is an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, “paper-light” ecosystem that allows both businesses and employees to thrive.
Remote printing has always posed issues for businesses with multiple locations and satellite offices. Whether it is enforcing company-wide print standards or managing information security, the print aspect of expanding companies has always been a point of contention. Then 2020 changed the entire office landscape.
Facing widespread closures, most corporations scrambled to temporarily convert their operations to a remote-worker tolerant atmosphere. Many businesses were forced to put the issue of print management on the back burner. The idea was that closures would be short and temporary, minimizing any potential security risks as the world dealt with a global pandemic. Once everyone was back in the office, things would go back to business as usual.
The New Normal For Remote Printing
But now, after a year of working from home, many office workers are reluctant to come back to a central office. And businesses are beginning to realize the potential benefits of a hybrid structure with more work-from-home flexibility. These benefits include fewer real estate worries, happier employees, and higher productivity rates. But the positive outcomes of a hybrid workforce won’t keep IT and Finance from thinking about the vulnerabilities and costs of all of those remote offices still needing access to print services.
Concerns Over Remote Printing
Everyone knows the IT department has an iron hold on your computer. Most are learning they also control or have access to anything you do on the mobile device you use for business. This is, of course, all in the name of security. Data breaches of big names such as Experian and Target highlight the problem hackers have become. But well-known companies are not the only ones vulnerable or even targeted. Approximately 41% of small businesses have said they were hit by a data breach that cost them $50,000 or more to recover.
What you may not know is that 11% of security incidents are print-related. Over half (59%) of businesses have reported at least one print-related breach in the past year. As print industry professionals are aware, printers have become far more than simple dot-matrix ink dispensers. Laser and ink printers nowadays have small hard drives that store the documents they print.
When employees “send” something to the printer, the complete document is forwarded to the machine. Those documents are typically stored for an extended period of time, providing a lengthy history of every item that has been printed and complete access to the information contained.
But an unsecured hard drive connected to the company’s network provides more than potential access to printed items. It can also create a backdoor entry into the business mainframe, which criminals can leverage to bypass firewalls and gain access to sensitive company information. With these risks so prevalent, is it any wonder that IT departments balk at an exponential number of new home offices potentially using unsecured consumer printers?
But IT isn’t the only one complaining about an influx of home office printing. Finance is likely to begin asking questions about in-office print requirements and the increase in home-office printer purchases. But perhaps the most crucial item is printer supply management. There will be concerns about company printers being used even more extensively for personal use, leading to increased paper, ink, or toner supply costs. And what about the delivery of supplies? Shipping costs on office supplies can add up quickly in a hybrid work environment.
Options For Better Hybrid Printing
IT will be the first to offer up a VPN network option for managing remote printing security. Most companies are already using VPN to allow remote work in general. Adding printers into the already existing mix seems like a no-brainer. But VPN connections for printers are often clunky to set up, and Windows printing still requires several ports to be open within the firewall. Then there is the common issue of missing print drivers on individual devices. IT will have to look forward to managing ongoing printing problems from remote employees that require them to remote in for driver updates and other configurations. And a VPN hardly resolves any issues Finance may have regarding supply, delivery, and print monitoring.
Is An MPS Partner The Right Option?
Partnering with a managed print service provider is a far better option to control both the financial and security concerns around hybrid workforce printing. Printer services can provide secure printer models with software and services configured to the needs of the business – including the home office, remote offices, and work-from-home locations.
Print service providers using managed print services platforms like PowerMPS can make corporate print management even more straightforward. These powerful tools help business partners manage their print document output and supply usage with advanced analytics that help monitor supply levels, pages printed, and more. The system also allows printer supplies to be ordered and shipped on an as-needed or subscription basis leveraging the discounts and low freight pricing managed print service suppliers enjoy.
Managing The Hybrid Workforce Print Reality
So, as the hybrid workforce comes to fast fruition, hackers are sure to pivot further toward exploiting remote workforce printer vulnerabilities. But smart businesses will be prepared by implementing secure and affordable printing solutions for their business by partnering with reputable and innovative managed print service providers.