PrintIT Reseller asked a panel of solutions and software vendors to reﬂect on 2018 and share their thoughts on what may prevail over the coming year
Tony Milford, Managing Director, Vantage Computing
“Since launching the all-new Vantage Online in late 2016, the conversations that we have been having with customers and prospect alike has been driven mainly by ‘automation’ and ‘integration’.
“Whether large or small, local or international, it’s clear that current market conditions require a relentless drive for increased efficiency, reduced costs and improved productivity. It’s what the industry promises its clients and to be credible you have to be seen to practice what you preach.
“For Vantage, 2019 will see a relentless focus on improving and expanding connectivity with leading manufacturers, distributors, device collection agents and complementary software solution providers, driven by our industry-standard API driven architecture. Alongside this comes a need for continued innovation, including the soon to be completed 100 per cent automated meter billing – with no human involvement required at all, and a complete re-write of our smartphone app for field-based staff.
“The desire is to provide dealers with the ability to reduce data-entry duplication to as close to zero as humanly possible, whilst continuing to deliver easy-to-use, robust and scalable solutions to MPS and office technology businesses who face never-ending pressures both in terms of traditional margins and increased competition. With the line between managed print and managed IT becoming increasingly blurred, our clients tell us that they need integrated solutions that help them leverage their business-critical data so that they can hit their targets, reduce errors and make business-critical decisions armed with facts, rather than educated guess-work.
“We also expect to see a continuing demand from small and medium sized dealers for features that were once the preserve of only those with large budgets, namely software that enables them to tailor solutions to the specific needs to their clients. Whether that be ﬂexible contract terms, subscription-based billing, a full range of communication options using voice, email, text, chat and 24/7 online support options, or by being able to give end users real-time access to KPIs, historical and predictive trends and a full suite of performance dashboards.
“Whilst the industry has been in an almost constant state of change for most of the 25+ years we have been serving it, there is no doubt that the days of ‘service’ being the poor relation of ‘sales’ are now quite rightly long gone. The opportunities for those willing to grasp them are still real and demonstrable; the risks for those who do not, are just as real but, I would venture, slightly scarier.”
Phil Madders, Managing Director, PAE Business
“With hindsight, I think 2018 will be regarded as a year of significant transition. Where does that take us in 2019?
“In terms of the business world, Brexit has to be finalised and some certainty returned to the market.
“I have no idea of the impact for businesses in the UK once we know what the actual details are, but knowing in itself will be a massive step forward.
“Up there with Brexit in terms of a global development is AI. We are at the start of this journey – but it is definitely going to form part of the talk track to 2019. We already have MFPs with voice recognition applications processing commands from users, but in 2019 they will become mainstream in the office world. What is more interesting is the idea of printers that can learn. It does not take a huge leap to see an MFP learning how to process documents and sending them to where they are required, but what about scanning legal documents and checking them for legal terms, copyright issues, or simple errors – before advising the solicitor of their findings? This would be dependent on the machine learning required in that environment.
“I am intrigued by the Xerox ConnectKey concept – especially the app that turns documents into audio files so users can access them on their smartphone and listen to them on the move. I am not sure it is a killer app as such – but it shows what can be done if you reverse the dictation concept – creating an audio file from a printed document and it may end up in a new way of working.
“We have had a similar experience with our PAE BI toolset – what started off as a Dashboard to make it easier to spot trends in our device management suite – is drawing information from accounts packages, service applications and CRM. We will be launching Predictive Modelling in 2019 which was a very unexpected development.
“Closer to home in the office equipment sector we will continue to see consolidation as dealers are acquired. Most of them will not be on the scale of Apogee and HP but we saw lots of activity in our customer community during 2018 and expect it to continue in 2019.
“An interesting development for us was the increase in the IT resellers acquiring companies with a cost per page model. They bring a different approach, different back offce systems, and different skills and working practices to the market. It will be interesting to see how they develop, and I predict we will see more of this type of acquisition in 2019 bringing a different perspective to our market
“One area where the IT VAR differs is in billing for professional services. We have adapted one model that is prevalent in the world of IT – Seat Based Billing. We have been working on it in the North American market for 18 months and it is really starting to contribute to the success and profitability of our partners in that market. In 2019 we are going to introduce the toolset and programme to the UK market – and believe with our Premier Programme we can align the dealers’ and their customers’ objectives to create a new model more suited to today’s dynamic marketplace.
“Whatever 2019 throws at us I am sure the creativity and skills in our sector will ensure we move forward and continue to develop in an unexpected way.”
Michael Burke, Managing Director, Purpose Software
“I expect the high level of merger and acquisition activity to continue over the coming year resulting in further industry consolidation. In addition, there will be significant acceleration in the need for resellers to provide sophisticated, tailored solutions built around hardware, software and services to deliver true managed print.
“However, the success adoption of this new approach will require a change in mind-set for dealer principals as well as salespeople. Whilst some may be unable to make this change, those that do, will need to review the systems they use to ensure that they can continue to operate effectively in this new environment.”
Stacy Leidwinger, VP of Product, Imaging Division, Nuance Communications
“With respect to automated security and compliance, today’s information streams are moving much more quickly, introducing more opportunity for human error and sensitive data compromises. Automation can help ensure these ﬂows are executed and completed in a secure, compliant way, while taking undue responsibility away from workers so they can focus on more strategic ends.
“Data security breaches are not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ – given the inevitability of breaches, we are seeing the focus extend beyond preventing breaches, to addressing content when breaches do happen – understanding exactly when and what content may have been exposed and responding appropriately and quickly.
“Organisations have been spending inordinate amounts of time and money on audits. They will look for tools and techniques that allow them to collapse these time frames and reduce costs, while still demonstrating compliance. The more you automate, the more compliant you can be.
“Organisations are now striving towards achieving equilibrium between worker productivity and data security, through more efficient information ﬂows featuring automated security and greater auditability. These ﬂows help elevate the quantity and quality of work performed.”
Richard King, Channel Partner Manager, iTS
“Undoubtedly, cloud computing is still a hot topic. Although this is not a new thing, we are certainly seeing a shift in approach and new-found confidence levels to cloud hosted MPS software. Whether it be a multi-tenant public cloud offering with Software as a Service or a simpler end-user Azure hosted installation, it would appear that onpremise server installs may be a thing of the past (or certainly within various industry sectors with most notably SMEs leading the way).
“Of course, many other areas will still need to be considered, not least GDPR regulations and licencing, so it will be interesting to see where manufacturers and MPS vendors take the inevitable ‘cloud’ offering that is being driven by IT Systems Administrators up and down the land. “
Tim Waterton, Director of UK Business, M-Files
“As the nature of work changes and employees demand greater ﬂexibility with remote working options as a standard, business success will become inherently linked to the application of technology that meets that need. Adopting simple and ﬂexible intelligent information management solutions will become the norm as employees will be unwilling to waste their time searching for information across a sea of files and folders. Instead, staff are looking to be empowered to carry out their jobs and work smarter, regardless of where they are or what devices they are using.
“The idea that work is something you do, not somewhere you go, has become prevalent over the past year, and I fully expect to see that bubble up to the C-Suite in 2019. This ideology will take the form of a smart, digital workplace in which employees and technology-enabled systems interact in an increasingly open, connected, and intelligent information fabric.
“Firms unable to provide intelligent systems to underpin this ﬂexible way of working risk becoming less attractive to emerging top talent and losing to more tech-savvy competitors. To address this challenge, whether for office-based or off-site workers, organisations must think about the right technologies to deploy. Cloud-based intelligent information management solutions would be a great place to start; opening the door to exploiting AI technology while staying focused on creating the right workplace for their most important assets – their staff.”
James Turner, Regional Sales Manager, Y Soft
“Managing print services in the cloud will be a key choice for reducing IT burdens and costs. The advantages of managing print services in the cloud are well-documented, with the technology bringing operational efficiencies, reducing expenditure and increasing agility. As businesses increasingly focus on technology and processes that allow them to be more efficient, productive and secure, failure to implement cloud printing as part of this philosophy, risks organisations unable to use IT resources for more productive projects.
“While the need to frequently print documents isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was, printing still makes up a crucial part of IT processes for many companies, meaning managing print services in the cloud is essential if organisations want to take advantage of cloud services to run their business efficiently.
“Resellers have an opportunity to meet customers’ expanded needs. As the industry faces challenges ahead in addressing the inevitable digital disruption, resellers need to demonstrate the agility and vision to be at the forefront of meeting customers’ needs. Customers are looking for solutions that help them in their digital transformation and this can include business processes beyond the traditional print and capture areas. Resellers should look to expand their offerings and partner with solution providers who can offer attractive, new revenue opportunities.
“Organisations shift to one-stop shops for a simpler support model. As digital transformation initiatives continue to develop, and businesses look for ways of ensuring an efficient, smooth-running office of the future, we believe organisations will want to use one supplier for multiple document management solutions – as this provides a simpler support model. To do so, companies will start to look at ‘onestop shops’ that offer comprehensive solutions – both print management and document capture with software and hardware support – through one OEM vendor.
“Artificial Intelligence in the print industry. The potential disruption that AI brings to the print industry is significant. Through digital transformation projects, organisations will be looking for solutions that support productivity, efficiency and cost savings, and AI has a major part to play in these areas. The use of AI to support collaboration and connectivity will also impact workplaces of the future.
“AI is often used in predictive maintenance as well as paper to digital workﬂows; however, there is a scope to develop these further by enhancing existing products and services. The increase of analytics and the internet of things will drive yet further innovation and disruption using automation and robotics.
“One of the benefits and drivers towards the adoption of AI is the enhanced security measures of defence against security threats. By using AI to enhance security measures, the decision making process will become streamlined and improved as the automated system can detect and stop attacks quickly, while learning and adapting by using data.
“Security will continue to be a high priority. This year it seemed we were hearing of a new data breach every day and as such, businesses have become more conscious of the various touchpoints throughout the organisation, such as printers that require both external firewalls and strong internal authentication. With more connected devices entering the workplace and an increased emphasis on the Internet of Things (IoT), these touchpoints will continue to rise and as organisations update their security measures, they will need to ensure there is close collaboration between the IT department, the enterprise solution provider and the service provider.
“As enterprise workﬂow solutions are typically embedded as part of the MFD’s set of features and communicate to third party systems, the security of the entire system must be considered. Therefore, it is important for close collaboration between an enterprise solution provider, the MFD service provider and an organisation’s IT department. “