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Industry Transformation: How Mobile, Cloud & Business Process Automation is Affecting the Office Equipment Market

5 Mar, 2013 By: Randy Dazo, InfoTrends

We continue to see major shifts occurring in the office document technology and information technology markets. As the industry transformed last year in terms of its unprecedented technological, social and economic changes we are now starting to see the effects of these disruptive forces affecting our market. Strategies around cloud, apps, mobility, and business process automation are now being established by industry leaders and we will continue to see these grow. We see these shifts as being monumental on how businesses, IT departments and channels will need to shift their focuses in order to remain competitive. 

Each year, an increasing number of businesses and vendors are adopting a mobile and/or cloud strategy, and these relatively new technology platforms are transforming business processes and business models. Mobile devices have accelerated the availability of cloud services, where many vendors have included cloud storage as an added value accompanying their on-premise solutions. Likewise, the cloud has pushed vendors into the mobile landscape, as the appeal of remote and anywhere access works ideally with mobile devices. Both technologies complement each other, and it is almost impossible to come across a vendor that offers cloud storage without mobile compatibility, and vice-versa. The parallels between mobile and cloud offerings go hand-in-hand and provide users with a more complete offering, especially as mobile knowledge workers and virtual offices become the norm.

As vendors continue to release new offerings within this area, we will see the mobile and cloud markets slowly merge together over the next couple of years, where vendors will continue to combine mobile and cloud capabilities in a transparent or non-transparent fashion. Currently, mobile print—and occasionally mobile capture—have been the primary solutions offered by office equipment vendors on the mobile side, while Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings have been the primary solutions offered on the cloud side. We do, however, already see vendors—mostly independent software vendors (ISVs)—providing these type solutions together, especially within the document management space. This year, we will see these types of offerings become more prevalent with higher rates of adoption among businesses.

We have also seen “apps” on iTunes or on Google Play grow exponentially, and as we continue to see smartphones (and now tablets) outgrow PCs sales, the number of apps will continue to grow at astonishing rates. Interestingly, the apps we see can be as simple as a short-cut to a web portal or as complex that incorporates processing on devices and the cloud. Nevertheless, the simplicity of providing a packaged, often single purpose app has much more appeal than that of an over bloated fully featured programmable, flexible, and scalable software package. Although today we see many apps coming from the consumer side, businesses and corporations are utilizing these devices with business apps that may be commercial or customized specifically for their organization. For instance, we see apps like “digital signatures” where its main purpose is to eliminate the need to print out paper for a physical signature and just capture the signature on the device electronically instead. Although this particular app is for a specific function, it can be utilized in many different types of businesses.

Through our recent study on business process automation, we saw many organizations wanting to eliminate paper out of their business processes, as a core objective, for many reasons. First, paper within a business process tends to slow it down. Typically, it is used when filling out forms in which the information eventually has to be transferred into an electronic system. It is also used for capturing a signature for acceptance, or used to communicate information to outside parties. Paper within each of these processes poses a security and compliance risk, especially if it is not filed or disposed of correctly. In addition, paper is not easily traceable or auditable, and often difficult to know where it is in a process. Lastly, paper in business processes can cost time and money through the physical searching of paper-based documents as well as through many of the previous examples. Producing the documents themselves can also be a very costly.

Integration into existing workflows and IT infrastructures will be key in successfully merging the three technologies of mobile, cloud and app capabilities together through business process automation. We eventually expect them to become standard functionality across all types of business processes and solutions whether it is mobile print, document storage, device management, or capture/workflow. Our industry within the Office Document Technology space needs to embrace these new areas of mobile, cloud, apps through business process automation,  and continuously think about “How to bridge the paper world to this paperless world” in order for us to remain relevant within the document space.

About the Author: Randy Dazo, InfoTrends

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