Note: This article was filed by a paid contributor to Xerox Corporation.

Information is the lifeblood and the most valued asset of any organization. Companies invest millions in information management systems designed to facilitate controlled storage, organization, and distribution of business-critical content. Improving information management practices is a key focus for small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs), fueled by desires to drive operational efficiencies, improve worker productivity, and support various regulatory compliance initiatives.

In today’s business world, how we work with information is rapidly evolving. The centralized “print and distribute” model that propagated so much printing in the early days of the structured office environment vanished years ago with the emergence of the network computer and the Internet. Today, business information flows both from the top down and the bottom up, creating an environment where content creation is no longer structured and departmentalized but is much more collaborative in nature.

Documents and business-critical content have moved closer to the point of need, but with increased convenience comes new hurdles. Knowledge workers today are capturing, creating, and consuming massive amounts of content, forcing businesses to find a proper balance between the need for information access and maintaining worker productivity. Moreover, information has become a strategic asset for businesses of all sizes. With proper governance and corporate oversight, information can be used and analyzed more effectively for cost management, risk mitigation, operational improvements, and better overall decision making.

Businesses of all sizes need help managing the challenges associated with information overload.  According to IDC’s recent Document Processes Survey, over 50% of the time knowledge workers spend on document-related tasks is focused on information dissemination: publishing, sharing, emailing, and collaborating. Moreover, knowledge workers spend an average of 2 hours and 28 minutes a week simply searching for documents.

MPS and The Information Age

How are these trends impacting the future of managed print and document services (MPDS)? Most MPDS implementations today utilize a very linear approach, with a focus on reducing print costs. In many instances, changes to the printing infrastructure are made with little regard as to the impact in other areas of the document infrastructure. Yet, outdated or inefficient business processes could be costing companies much more in wasted effort and lost worker productivity than could ever be recovered by making output less expensive to produce.

For example, rules-based printing policies are often utilized as a means for controlling access to print devices and taking cost out of the print environment. These policies can range from administrator-controlled access to output devices or features, to mandatory restrictions and printing limitations. Implemented properly and as part of an integrated document workflow strategy, rules-based printing procedures can be an effective means for optimizing business processes and controlling output costs.

Too often, however, these policies are strictly enforced with little to no thought given as to the impact on information management and document workflow, often resulting in lost productivity and unhappy employees. In some cases, employees will create work arounds, spending significant time and energy to avoid certain restrictive print policies to do their job more effectively.

While printing remains a viable and important business function, the shift to 3rd Platform technologies (mobile, cloud, big data, and social media) is impacting paper consumption. Today, more SMBs are adopting paperless initiatives to lessen dependence on paper and paper-based workflow.

Building Information Management into Your MPS Program

Print service providers have a real opportunity to capitalize on the ongoing trends around digital transformation in the SMB sector, and there are many factors that should be considered when looking to build a successful MPS practice.

1.      Expand Assessments to Include Workflow

Extending your assessment capabilities to include document workflow is one of the most effective ways to add value to your MPS program and differentiate from competitors. Most MPS assessments today fail to move beyond the print environment. Instead service providers should look to deploy a more detailed, site-level review of existing business processes to identify opportunities for workflow optimization and automation. Workflow assessments can seem daunting, especially without the proper training or expertise. Fortunately, there are solutions on the market today to enable channel partners to tackle workflow assessments more effectively. Some of these tools utilize drag-and-drop functionality and a graphical interface for creating detailed process mapping of current- and future state processes.

2.      Promote Printing Best Practices

An effective MPS solution should encourage better print behavior, rather than simply mandate it as a cost-savings utility. Include a print management solution within your MPS portfolio that encourages employees to print more responsibly, with consideration given to worker productivity and environmental impact. Some toolsets can provide IT administrators and users with a dashboard to monitor end user behavior and provide real-time feedback comparing actual usage to company-wide policies and print-reduction efforts. Utilize software tools to capture employee participation by providing comparisons between departments and peers, measuring performance, and offering incentives to help drive smarter, less wasteful print behavior.

3.      Collaborate and Automate

Advancements in cloud-based software and mobile computing platforms make it easier for businesses to collaborate more effectively. Service providers should look to incorporate collaboration and workflow tools into their MPS arsenal to make it simpler for businesses to connect people and processes, even on a global basis. With the smart MFP, users can leverage software to completely redesign ad-hoc, document-based work processes across multiple computing platforms. From simple web-based capture applications to more complex workflow and collaboration tools, service providers have a wealth of untapped resources at their fingertips to help facilitate better business performance around documents and document-based processes.

4.      Increase Visibility

Finally, deploy tools that can improve management visibility and provide better insights into the people, paper, and processes that drive business operations. Service providers can leverage workflow tools that provide real-time analytics on the entire document lifecycle. Building workflow analytics into the solution will allow your customers to better understand ROI from programs around digitization and process optimization.

Bringing information management tools into your MPDS portfolio will strengthen your overall value proposition as a service provider. Seek out partners and solutions that enable knowledge worker collaboration and foster more efficient and secure ways of working with information.

Finally, build an MPDS practice that leads with solutions designed to help customers drive digital transformation. This way, you can differentiate from competitors, while positioning your business for long-term success in a market where customers are struggling to deal with the convergence of paper and digital.

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