MFP and Print Solutions Predictions for 2019
The photocopier and digital workflow industry is advancing at a breakneck pace, with the technology used becoming more and more sophisticated.
Sharp’s head of product planning was asked about his thoughts on the direction which the technology might take in 2019, and how it might bring even more benefits businesses across the UK.
Print Solutions will help businesses to streamline more processes
A major trend for the print industry is integrating print devices with cloud services. Accessing files on the cloud via an MFP allows for a more useful connection to your data. By connecting to, or integrating with cloud services, such as Sharp’s Cloud Portal Office, Office 365, Box and DropBox, from our devices and solutions, users can streamline business with smarter workflows.
For example, from your MFP, you can scan and save to the cloud, as well as print documents that you have stored on your cloud account, perhaps when working from home or remotely. You might scan a document to input the information to an automated process.
We are seeing the development of more vertical solutions, such as in areas of accounts payable, HR, digital mailrooms, and even medical records. The MFP and scanning features of printing devices are a great entry-point into these types of solutions.
For the end-user, one trend we see gathering real pace is around greater personalisation. We’re seeing the development of bespoke printing solutions that system admins can download directly across the network, and the arrival of app stores dedicated to streamlining the user-experience.
This move to flexible software and appification is leading the trend towards a more personalised user experience. In the next couple of years, users can expect to log into their print devices and find bespoke home screens and apps that reflect how the individual user likes to work, as opposed to a uniform set of business prescribed tools.
More awareness of the need for printer security
While document services create opportunities for businesses to automate document-based admin and save time and money, using the MFP as a data hub means that it requires extra security. There have been several high-profile campaigns on printer and document security in recent years and this will only continue through 2019 and beyond. News of individual cases of printers being hacked are also a reminder that all networked devices need as much security consideration as a laptop.
Key to this success is putting the right security in place. By giving your IT managers the right tools, they gain peace-of-mind, while at the same time, end-users gain the flexibility of working patterns they desire.
Today, print devices have more robust security features than ever before. Features that were available five years ago as a standalone solution are now seen as an integrated part of many security solutions.
With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into force, a definite trend for print solutions is the secure storing and handling of users’ personal information. To this end, we’re seeing the rise in security features through connected platforms, such as our Output Management solutions.
For example, Sharp Job Accounting II comes with GDPR compliant services, including redacting user information and enhanced user identification, through to the use of PIN authentication, to login and password authentication.
Manufacturers will diversify into related products and services
Underpinning all these developments in the document solution market will be a shift toward a more IT-centric mind set and approach. Customers increasingly want to buy products from IT capable vendors; this is a trend that businesses will have to respond to in 2019 to stay competitive.
At Sharp we are doing this through the continued expansion of our managed IT services and have also been looking outside of existing business streams for new opportunities, for example Sharp has just completed its acquisition of Toshiba’s personal-computer business.
By placing the MFP at the heart of your company’s network you can help in your own digital transformation, digitising the workflow of operations and gathering a genuine return on your investment.
Manufacturers will innovate with IoT and Artificial Intelligence
We expect companies to build upon and refine the intelligent, connected technologies that have started to become a staple part of the print and IT industries. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become popular buzzwords of late, and as these technologies become more commonplace, organisations need to differentiate their offerings by delivering products that add real value for customers.
To do this, vendors will need to think more about the end-user experience. This is certainly something we are focused on at Sharp, looking beyond the technology to consider how new features and functionality are designed to have the most impact on the overall customer experience. This helps to create more targeted innovation that delivers the experiences customers need, want and value.
Regardless the size of your business, we predict that there will be a role for document solutions in the years ahead. In the short to medium term, this may be the continued reliance on the authority the printed document delivers over that of the digital version – especially in legal and corporate settings.
However, at the same time, the need for the digital transformation of all printed documents to meet the expectations of not only the business, but also the ever-diversifying needs of a company’s employees, we believe will put greater pressure on how the MFP evolves for future office use.