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The problem with print

A new study conducted by IDC and commissioned by Lexmark, suggests that legacy print infrastructure is a major barrier to digital transformation. The report makes the argument that it’s critical to understand the role print can play in helping to enable transformation, examining integration, transformation and security challenges

The research, which was carried out between March and April 2020 surveyed 1,511 respondents across three key regions and seven countries – Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France and Germany.

According to Robert Palmer, Research Vice President, Imaging, Printing and Document Solutions at IDC Research, organisations of all sizes have prioritised IT initiatives around digital transformation (DX) strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified these efforts, as businesses search for ways to enable a more efficient and productive distributed workforce.

Driving digital transformation
The research revealed that cloud migration is the top priority when it comes to driving digital transformation but lingering print infrastructure stands in the way. “The future of business is digital-first, which means businesses must modernise IT infrastructure to take advantage of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics,” Palmer said.

Despite three in five enterprises recognising that lingering print infrastructures are a significant barrier to success, fewer than half are prioritising investment in this space, hampering the progress of strategic IT initiatives.

Four in five (79 per cent) companies are investing in cloud infrastructure as part of their digital transformation initiatives, but 57 per cent say legacy print infrastructure is negatively impacting their cloud migration strategy.

“This research highlights the importance of considering cloud-based print infrastructure as a key strategic IT initiative,” said Matt Dollus, Lexmark Vice President of Global Marketing and IoT Portfolio. “Established companies in every sector are under pressure to transform into digital-first organisations. With the Covid-19 pandemic exposing gaps and weaknesses in IT infrastructure, many are struggling by failing to take print with them on their digital transformation journey.”

Transformation challenges
Nearly half of survey respondents reported challenges integrating existing IT into new infrastructure and updating or replacing legacy business processes. 60 per cent have seen digital transformation budgets exceeded, and 54 per cent faced delays and prolonged project timelines.

The study demonstrates a profound difference between countries. In the UK, USA and Germany, 67 per cent have integration challenges, compared to just 20 per cent in Brazil. This is likely due to business complexity in the more developed markets.

While print volumes have decreased as some organisations have pursued a digital-first approach to document management, just over half of all essential workflow processes still have significant printing requirements. Most functional areas still report significant integrated printing requirements; 52 per cent in operations, 52 per cent in supply chain, 49 per cent distribution, 52 per cent sales, 53 per cent finance, 54 per cent marketing and 54 per cent HR. As such, organisations will need to provide the ability to print as an essential IT service for the foreseeable future.

The problem with print
Across the board, managing IT infrastructure remains a challenge, with the majority expressing similar concerns when it comes to legacy print including:

*Ensuring the security of print infrastructure and devices (81 per cent)
*The IT burden associated with managing print and print servers (81 per cent)
*Inventory management (81 per cent), alongside a lack of visibility into spending (80 per cent)
*Technology obsolescence and difficulty in updating or replacing legacy print hardware (79 per cent)

“IDC believes that it is time for organisations to start thinking about print more strategically – to elevate the conversation around print and include it within the broader context of their DX discussions related to cloud migration and document process strategies,” said Palmer.

IT leaders appear to be united on a preference for as-a-service consumption models over financing (70 per cent vs 22 per cent), and a recognition (94 per cent agree) that IoT has the potential to improve printer fleet management.

“IT leaders recognise the benefits of cloud and IoT,” Dollus added. “Delivering print as an IoT product-as-a-service will accelerate business agility and simplify IT management and acquisition, while improving the user experience for customers. Cloud print infrastructure as-a-service provides access to a modern and secure print infrastructure that can provide a basis for future digital transformation initiatives,” he concluded.