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Survival of the fittest

Louella Fernandes, Director, Quocirca, explains why print industry leaders must reinvent their businesses and become masters of innovation

Having revolutionised the office workplace several decades ago, print manufacturers are no strangers to digital disruption and innovation. The printer/copier has evolved from a ‘dumb’ peripheral to a smart connected IoT device, with sophisticated embedded software platforms capturing a wealth of data. As the market rapidly shifts amidst accelerated technology change, hardware commoditisation is forcing industry players down a path to another reinvention. Leading players are already reimagining and reinventing their businesses, but this is only the start. They must rethink their organisations from the ground up. This demands new focus, new expertise and new ways of thinking.

Some leading manufacturers are successfully leveraging the power of their brand and broad customer base to keep pace with digital disruption and enhance their competitive advantage. Market leaders, often the traditional stalwarts of the industry, are becoming more agile, pursuing innovation and recognising the value of new talent, along with a willingness to embrace profound transformation.

Customer expectations evolve
As customer expectations evolve and digital transformation takes hold, print manufacturers and their partners have an unprecedented opportunity to interact more closely with both traditional and new customers. There has never been a stronger case for transformation and print manufacturers must reinvent themselves in order to find new and sustainable sources of revenue.

This means turning scale and legacy into new strengths combined with driving innovation with technology and new business models. In the coming years, AI, quantum computing and machine learning will have significant impact on new products and services, while 3D printing, robotics and automation will disrupt manufacturing. There is no reason that traditional industry players cannot win at innovation, leveraging their scale and established positions – but they must embed digital strategy into corporate strategy to reclaim their status as industry pioneers.

Build a long-term advantage
Now more than ever, as print volumes decline and digitisation initiatives accelerate, print manufacturers who commit to transforming their leadership, organisation and culture will build a longterm advantage and survive and prosper. To stand out among competitors and maintain customer relevance, they need to apply innovation to not only existing and new business areas, but also in the products and services they develop.

To innovate and scale, industry leaders will need to combine the creative skills of a start-up with the traditional strengths of an industrial enterprise. Those that respond to digital disruption boldly and embed digital strategies in their corporate strategy will be best positioned to drive competitive advantage from the laggards and emerge as winners.

Five ways to strengthen competitive advantage

1 Rewrite the rules
Traditional players must avoid complacency about past successes. Disruptive change to the industry may not come from new start-ups as in other industries, but rather from existing competitors, as well as those in adjacent industries. Evaluate, experiment and engage with new technologies, platforms and ecosystems that could deliver a competitive advantage.

2 Reinvent business models
As the move to the subscription economy accelerates, driven in part by the IoT, industry leaders are well positioned to bridge the physical and digital worlds. The value is shifting away from the physical asset to managing and enhancing the business value of the print infrastructure while integrating and streamlining print and digital workflows. Leading players can turn their expertise in owning and managing the print infrastructure into new competitive advantage, particularly around the integration of paper and digital workflows.

3 Develop a culture of innovation Industry players must create marketshaping investments that inject innovation, new talent and technologies into the business. The print industry is at a crossroads where it must look at accelerating innovation networks. Developing an ecosystem of innovators can pay huge dividends and also help attract the next generation of innovators as employees. This means creating a more open and collaborative customercentric culture that builds customer trust and brand value.

4 Exploit big data
Because of their longevity, large, established companies such as the major print manufacturers have a wealth of data at their fingertips. Print manufacturers need to capitalise on this largely unexploited asset to make their data and data analytics integral to their business. Leveraging data with artificial intelligence for instance, can help industry players to develop more responsive customised and contextual experiences for customers, and also develop and monetise new products and services beyond their traditional core business. Ultimately, businesses that extract knowledge from proprietary data, and combine that with expertise built-up over many years, will win in a continually consolidating industry.

5 Partner and collaborate
Developing broader networks of partners can help industry players achieve new sources of scale and extract new value from ecosystems. This can lead to co-creation as well as close collaboration with customers and partners. Again, leveraging insights from close and continuous collaboration can help deliver new, compelling customer experiences and new products and services.

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