Photo of printed material

Empower your digital transformation with a broader view of print

by Eric Stavola


The perspective of print as business strategy impacts digital transformation

Time: 8 minute read

Experiences with print processes lead to unique mental models — or perspectives — about print. In other words, how each of us works with print shapes how we understand it. Most of our mental models about print are limited to tasks that we can perform with multifunction printers (MFPs) and similar printing devices.

By taking a step back and looking at the part that print plays in information workflows across your organization, you can disrupt this mental model and begin to see print as a business strategy rather than a collection of tasks. During a digital transformation, this is a more valuable perspective because it leads to a better understanding of how your employees move information today — providing insight into how you can make these processes more efficient.

View print as a business strategy to help increase productivity and streamline operations

Although print can initiate data streams, it's not helpful to look at printing processes as linear. Print-related tasks show up everywhere in the output management process, and employees use print in a variety of ways, depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • Preferred work-styles

  • Client expectations

  • Approaches to collaboration

By taking a broader view of your company's printing processes, you can get a much better understanding of how your employees like to work. You can also uncover the variety of ways information is shared throughout your organization, as well as areas where processes and procedures need to be more well-defined.

You may find that your employees use print in ways that are extremely inefficient — such as printing too many paper documents and forcing themselves to visit file cabinets in search of hard-copies on a daily basis. However, at this early stage in your digital transformation journey, try to avoid making changes to print workflows. For now, you're just assessing printing processes to understand organizational workflows and how employees currently move information. This will serve you well when it's time to build effective technology-employee partnerships across your organization.

Reverse engineer print workflows to help improve business processes

This new way of seeing print can help you reverse engineer how information moves throughout your organization — providing insight into changes you can make to improve the flow of information. To help hone your new mental model, you can start with a simple question: How do our employees print? Answering this question can lead to more awareness about the cultural and organizational structure of your company. And, as with any serious investigation into business processes, it can lead to more questions that provide additional insights specific to your company, such as:

  • What's the benefit of our sales team's preference to share hard copies of brochures with potential clients?

  • Why do our HR employees make copies of employee documents and keep them in physical file folders rather than scan them directly to shared digital folders?

  • Is scanning our financial forecasts and sharing these digital documents with employees' smart devices safe?

Every company is unique down to every employee. Organizations with more employees have more multifaceted and diverse work-styles. There's a lot of work that goes into assessing print workflows to help you discover how you can improve business processes with new technology. You'll find that your investigation into print will lead to more questions that lead to more questions and so on — but don't get discouraged. It's worth the effort, because the more questions you ask, the more answers you'll get that are specifically geared to helping you realize the full potential of your investments in people and technology. It may be helpful to partner with a digital transformation consulting team that can provide a more objective perspective when assessing your print workflows and how they shape your organization today.

Your investigation into print will also reveal how data is currently prioritized and what steps you need to take to help protect sensitive information. For example, you may find that employees currently scan and copy clients' personal information during compliance procedures, so that they have both digital and hard copies of the data. This may tell you that your regulatory compliance staff is concerned about the possibility of losing this information — signaling that you need to put disaster recovery protocols in place to protect digital forms of this data and look for ways to reduce paper consumption.

In another scenario, you might find that a lot of proprietary information and intellectual property is printed, copied, scanned and shared with clients by employees when they're away from the office. This tells you that this data must be high priority, but at the same time, it tells you that the paper copies of this information are highly vulnerable to security risks. These insights may lead you to a digital rights management solution that enables employees to keep this information out of the wrong hands by letting employees:

  • Limit the number of times a user can open a document.

  • Disable files that were accidentally or maliciously sent outside your organization.

  • Track confidential information while it's in transit.

Another benefit of assessing print workflows from this new perspective is that it helps you gauge the digital transformation maturity level of your employees — so you can make the transition to a digital workplace easier on your team.

Assess your employees' digital maturity levels to help create a more successful digital transformation

Print workflows can also shine a light on how easy or difficult a digital transformation will be on your employees. Employees need to buy into changes that come along with a digital transformation while effectively managing their workflows in the midst of these changes. According to Gartner, “Creating an excellent employee experience is a pivotal aspect of a digital workplace. An engaged, creative and energetic workforce outperforms the competition in terms of service delivery, execution and product design."¹ So it's extremely important to keep your employees engaged if you want to stay ahead of the competition, and print can help.

Define & envision your ideal digital transformation

Learn to create a road map that helps you align your digital transformation with your business strategy — including goals like company growth, cost reduction, and process improvement, as well as specific project objectives.

Evaluating how your employees currently use print not only helps you determine how they prefer to work, it's also an indicator of their level of engagement. For example, you might find that your consultants and sales reps use hard copies of documents to share information with clients even though creating Microsoft® PowerPoints, SlideShare presentations or other options are available. This could lead to the realization that these employees are not open to changes that will result in creating digital presentations. You could then conclude that their digital transformation maturity level is low and will necessitate more education and training, as well as additional efforts to increase engagement with new technologies.

On the other hand, you might find that some employees go out of their way to avoid making hard copies. Perhaps they use MFPs to scan document data onto the devices' hard drives, so they can email that information to themselves to make it easier to share. This is a valuable insight that tells you these employees are ready for a digital shift now — perhaps even frustrated that you haven't made the transition already. The knowledge that your employees will embrace change may lead you to the decision to push for a more accelerated digital transformation so that you can increase productivity, improve business processes, enhance customer relations and grow your business sooner rather than later.

Looking at how your employees print also tells you what manual processes can be eliminated to make their lives easier. In “Digitization, digitalization and digital transformation: the differences," i-SCOOP defines digitization as, “the automation of existing manual and paper-based processes, enabled by the digitization of information."² In other words, you can't automate manual processes without digitizing your information first. i-SCOOP even seems to be saying that digitization and automation are one and the same. So when you're assessing how employees engage with print processes, pay particular attention to the manual and paper processes they perform each day. This can help you determine what information to digitize first — setting you up to save employees time with automation at some point in the near or distant future.

Whether it ultimately leads to a new business model, a more efficient operational process, an improved online buying experience, a revolutionary product or a new service that helps you to reorient the competitive landscape — or all of the above — taking a serious look at your current print-related processes can help to set you on the right path in your digital transformation journey.

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  1. 1"Gartner Highlights Eight Critical Components of a Digital Workplace." Gartner, Inc., August 22, 2017.
  2. 2“Digitization, digitalization and digital transformation: the differences." I-SCOOP, 2016.

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