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:
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:
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:
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.
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.