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MFPs and the Perfect Storm

10 Aug, 2007 By: Mark McCuen imageSource

MFPs and the Perfect Storm

It wasn’t all that long ago that the first Multifunction Peripheral (MFP) was
attached to a corporate  network and the transformation from “convenience
copiers” to communication enablers began. Today, MFPs provide convenient access
to multiple document-related services, including printing, copying, faxing,
scanning, archiving and distribution within a single  networked device that can
be accessed from  the  desktop, or used as a walk-up service.  In fact, when
looking at a digital document life-cycle in today’s office  workflow, the MFP
has become a vital  artery in the constant  flow of digital communication and is
embraced at all levels of the enterprise as a key component of the
transformation from paper to digital. Today, companies look to reinvent their
knowledge access, distribution and archiving capabilities.

While the transformation from analog to digital has been happening for a
while, there are several factors that have recently come together to create a
perfect storm for resellers looking to leverage the digital promise of MFPs
growing placements, revenue and their customer base.

A Perfect Storm for Resellers

As we look at this perfect storm we see a large color front blowing in, and
with it steadily falling consumables costs, increased ease of use and a
seemingly insatiable demand for color printing. There is also a growing mass of
users who are implementing document management technologies at a record pace,
fueled by increased high pressure for regulatory compliance and a need for
document tracking. At the same time, a document capture and repurposing wind is
blowing in, gaining momentum and strength. Additionally, there’s an ever
increasing accumulation of users that need to publish complete documents and
reduce their dependence on outside resources.

At the center of the storm, the digital MFP empowers users to ride the
growing waves of user demands and technologies by serving as a conduit for
corporate document needs. This, while streamlining processes, reducing costs and
making it easier to do business.

Color Growth, Color Costs, and the Color “Gotcha”

As the productivity of color output devices has increased, the cost per page
has declined dramatically over the last five years, and according to an
InfoTrends report (September 2006), over the next several years digital color
page costs will continue to decline by 10% per year. InfoTrends reports that
this decline is adding fuel to the already exploding demand for color in the
office, referencing that the total color workgroup impressions will have a 51.3%
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2004 to 2009, compared to -3.5% CAGR for
monochrome impressions over the same time period. Enterprises are creating,
downloading and printing more color documents than ever, and there is a strong
shift from outsourcing to workgroup-based color publishing.

With the exponential growth of color copiers in office workgroups, and all of
the new demand for the ability to produce complete color documents, there is a
mass of new users with high expectations for quality and throughput. These users
developed their desire for color documents printing to highly reliable desktop
inkjet printers capable of producing quality prints at a price.

Realizing the expense of these desktop solutions has created a growing trend
for IT professionals to consolidate network assets, and on average they are
replacing three desktop printers with one new, higher capacity MFP that can be
utilized by a larger number of users. This helps take the burden off of the IT
infrastructure supporting these devices, and it streamlines their ability to
upgrade the centralized MFPs while greatly reducing user training and support.

Many of today’s MFPs produce both color and black & white output using the
same device, with affordable color and black & white at the same cost, or even
less, than a dedicated black & white machine.  With increasing amounts of color
being demanded in the office environment, these color-enabled MFPs offer an
affordable alternative to more expensive dedicated color devices (including
desktop inkjet printers) and/or outsourcing to the local copy shop.

Nonetheless, simply because an MFP can print in color it doesn’t mean that it
will meet the needs of the users printing to it. IDC’s 2006 Color Hardcopy
Multi-Client Study identified that 26% of color laser end users typically print
over 100 color pages per week, with more than 50% of their print jobs in color.

“Power Office Users” primarily use the Microsoft Office Suite for document
publishing and distribute documents as PDF files. They may not be savvy experts
in color, but accurate, predictable color is important to them and they are
looking for intuitive solutions that allow them to produce fully-finished
documents quickly and without hassle. These users can be the biggest champions
for bringing state of the art color MFPs into their organizations and can help
reduce the sales cycle, adding substantial justification for purchase of them.
They depend on the MFP to produce mission-critical documents that support their
success, and the last thing they need is to have the MFP print sub-standard
quality. That’s the “color gotcha.” These users represent one out of four of all
color office users, and they are everywhere. You need to identify them as
champions for your products and make sure that the devices that you recommend
meet their requirements so that as they grow within their organizations, so do
your MFP placements.

Office Publishing – Light Production moves to the Office Workgroup

The introduction of less expensive MFPs capable of printing at speeds
greater than 45 pages per minute and featuring a compliment of finishing
attributes has been readily adopted into office workgroups that need the higher
volume throughput and finishing for diverse applications. According to recent
IDC Market Analysis, this category has the highest growth potential for color

IT organizations appreciate the ability to combine powerful functionality in
a single footprint that captures expensive office space that was formerly
consumed by a proliferation of single-function office equipment, meeting the
needs of a diverse set of users. Light production MFPs allows the IT groups to
accomplish the goal of consolidating technology by replacing not only desktop
printers, but also expensive data-center printers, distributing their operation
throughout the organization instead of having to manage a special environment
just for printing financial information, such as forms, etc.

In a variety of office environments, light production MFPs are used by a wide
range of users. These devices are also being used for task-specific operations
that include printing on-demand product documentation, manuals, invoices,
reports and forms.

Because of throughput and publishing capabilities, these light production
devices are attractive to the Power Users in an organization, especially if they
offer color output. These users will leverage the finishing capabilities of
these devices, including booklet making, binding, tabs and mixed media to
produce completed documents, eliminating the need to outsource their publishing
needs, saving time and ensuring complete control over the finished product.

Document Capture

Using the MFP scanning feature to digitally capture paper-based documents
and send them elsewhere in the organization for further processing, is now an
exploding corporate trend. The InfoTrends 2006 U.S. Network Document Solutions
Market Forecast stated that U.S. capture solutions would see a 33% CAGR in
2004-2009 with annual sales at $274M in 2006 and $715M by 2010. The report went
on to say that 29% of workgroup hardcopy device acquisitions are driven by the
need for scanning, and that the top three customer benefits of capture were
making information more accessible, thus reducing costs and time to complete a
business process.

The quick adoption of the MFP as the core document capture solution has
happened because they are easy to use. Office workers are already comfortable
with operating copiers so making the transition to MFP capture/scanning
operations is simple, putting increased capabilities at workers’ fingertips.

For companies without a formal document management strategy, MFP-based
document capture and distribution solutions can serve as an excellent starting
point for those organizations interested in building efficient document workflow
processes in the office. They are less costly and inherently less sophisticated
than a full document management system, so  they are easier to implement. 

Some companies are taking the next logical step by adding front-end document
capture and distribution solutions to their MFPs, providing even more
sophisticated capabilities such as full page preview, editing, document cleanup;
printing from mobile devices such as Blackberries or cell phones;  connections
to enterprise document management solutions and other enterprise software
applications, including cost recovery and accounting.  These “document
controllers” have the advantage of a full-page display that offers more
functionality and ease of use than the small LCD panels found on most MFPs.  

When using one of these document controllers in conjunction with an MFP,
users easily transform hardcopy information into digital files that can be
instantly sent anywhere in the world and to any number of e-mail addresses, fax
machines/servers or printers, or filed on a desktop, network folder or document
management system.

Document Management

Whether a company employs a formal document management solution
enterprise-wide, or adopts department or workgroup-level document management and
workflow strategies, offices are moving quickly to work with less paper and
reduced cycle times and costs. Understanding that 23% of employee documents
exist only in paper form, according to IDC’s 2007 Scanning Opportunities Report,
it is a challenge to create an efficient and completely digital paperless work
environment, and in many cases, it simply is not desirable or productive to
completely abandon the use of paper.

In efficient workflow, documents, whether paper or digital, must be stored so
they can be easily retrieved.  With the availability of a network of MFP-based
document portals throughout the enterprise, users can easily convert their paper
documents to digital form and store them in a location accessible by multiple
users who require access to the information. Once they have been located, they
can be retrieved to the worker’s desktop, printed, faxed or electronically
distributed as needed, creating a seamless bridge between paper and digital.

MFPs - the Eye of the Perfect Storm

By establishing the MFP as the “core” communication tool in the office,
resellers can implement new technologies that empower office users with the
ability to leverage connected MFPs as productive printing devices that provide
powerful office publishing capabilities as well as effective document capture
and distribution functionality. When coupled with document management, cost
recovery, fax and imaging systems, they can provide unrivaled management,
archival and cost accounting functionality. By helping organizations to
implement these capabilities, you will also attach your MFPs to major
initiatives inside the office, creating significant value-add for your products
in the eyes of corporate executives and IT/MIS organizations that are
increasingly key decision makers in the acquisition of any technology that will
be connected to the corporate network.

Today, corporations are looking to maximize their existing IT infrastructures
and design workflows that allow them to comply with government regulations. They
are also looking to drive document printing and publishing closer to the user,
and to reduce or eliminate the need to outsource in order to print color or to
access document finishing. It is imperative for MFP resellers to clearly
understand their role in these processes and to stop marketing them as digital
MFPs that can copy, print and fax.

Instead, the path to success is found in the eye of the perfect storm where
resellers market the MFP as the office conduit for anything to do with a
document. Once you are clearly positioned in the center of the storm you will be
able to help your customers gain maximum productivity improvements, and
eliminate inefficient, wasteful, and unproductive document processes as well as
streamline business processes, reduce costs, and make it easier to do business.

Mark McCuen, whose career spans more than 25 years in the Digital Printing
and Publishing industry, is the Product Marketing Manager at EFI - responsible
for SendMe and Fiery Embedded solutions, innovative EFI solutions  designed to
increase efficiencies and reduce costs for customers in the office marketplace.

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