Ricoh Maps Out Strategy for Moving from ‘Speeds-and-Feeds’ to Mobile Documents and Faster Business Processes

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Work IntelligentlyRicoh Americas held an interesting webinar early this week. There were no new products introduced, but the webinar, presented by Ricoh’s Terri Campbell, vice president of strategic marketing, gave analysts a key look at the place Ricoh has carved out for itself in recent years, not as a mere provider of printers and digital copiers, but as a partner to customers seeking to make their businesses processes faster and less prone to errors. For Ricoh, this means making documents and information much more accessible, and being able to quickly move documents from paper or other legacy formats, into digital format, and back again, with workers being able to easily access information both in the office and out of it.

Ricoh’s Campbell began by referring to a November 19th Ricoh press release highlighting information obtained from an information-mobility study sponsored by Ricoh. Among the survey’s interesting results were that 9 out of 10 respondents said information mobility is not just nice to have, but in fact “necessary” for their employees, and nearly half characterized it as “very necessary.”

Lack of information mobility would likely harm employee productivity, business processes, and innovation, said approximately 8 out of 10 respondents in the survey. More than 2 out of 3 said revenue growth, time to market and new customer acquisitions would also likely suffer without it.

Ricoh defines information mobility as:

“…the ability to make information move to and from its original form whether it is paper, other legacy formats or digital; and the ability to transform for re-purpose, re-use, and search for information; and ultimately the ability to access information anytime, anywhere.”

To provide information mobility, organizations must obtain and align a strong technical infrastructure, agile information system, and deep understanding of the work-style innovations required by today’s workforce.

It sounds easy, but according to Ricoh’s Campbell, roadblocks for many organizations include:

  • Sending, sharing, storing, and retrieving large files from cloud-based sites.
  • Collaborating in real-time among workers at multiple locations.
  • Managing and coordinating tools for collaboration.
  • Printing from smartphones and tablet PCs.
  • Securing or encrypting data.

Ricoh Solutions

Ricoh has a number of solutions designed to alleviate these roadblocks, with solutions fitting into three categories:

Business Solutions – For instance, a workflow solution for accounts-payable, under which Ricoh on-site personnel scan incoming invoices into an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system and payment is validated with an expense initiator

Document Solutions – For instance, imaging and content-management in a non-profit agency; non-profit agency personnel capture and index  incoming and legacy client data from multiple sources; data is then routed to cloud-based document repositories; following authorization, caseworkers in a courtroom, home, or other setting can securely access their client information 24/7 from a mobile device.

Printing Solutions – For instance, Ricoh print-management in bank branches; when personnel send company emails to an MFP, rules-based software ensures the print job is printed two-sided and routed to a lower-cost monochrome MFP in order to reduce both costs and energy use; user information, types of documents printed and bank goals are used to control costs and energy usage.

Network Devices – For instance, digital signature and distribution in the real-estate sector, enabling a broker to scan mortgage documents and email a digital version to the client for signature;the  returned electronic documents helps the broker complete the sales process faster and minimize errors.

Standalone Devices –  For instance, authenticated copying at the MFP in higher education – the student authenticates themself on a local MFP using their student ID; copying via student ID authentication helps the university track usage and manage unauthorized access.

Document Services Infrastructure

Campbell also spoke about Ricoh’s document-services infrastructure, which Ricoh began building in 1986. Throughout the United States, Ricoh runs over 40 imaging-services centers, where Ricoh personnel scan, digitize and route documents to the appropriate destination, including healthcare, legal, financial, higher education, and government files, as well personnel files, corporate-meeting files, corporate records, and even bound books. Currently, the centers, which are certified to comply with National Best Practices, Workflow and HIPAA standards, process 50-70 million pages per month.

Work Intelligently

As part of its Information Mobility campaign, Ricoh also introduced a new Web site – www.workintelligent.ly – that takes an in-depth look at many of the challenges confronting today’s enterprises and workforce, from digitizing hard-copy documents so that invoices can be paid faster, getting documents to a customer faster, to capturing legacy hard-copy documents into databases, and to safely integrating the mobile generation into the workforce.

As noted by Ricoh’s Campbell, Ricoh’s primary competitors in this market include Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Accenture, Konica Minolta, and Lexmark. What sets Ricoh apart, says Campbell, is that Ricoh understands generational differences (i.e., Generation Y’s mobile habit versus older generations’ paper habits), and its strong investment in change management – the often difficult process of getting workers to adopt to new ways of doing things. Ricoh is also developing tools for workers to more easily collaborate together – for instance, the firm recently introduced Smart Presenter, a free app that enables users on the same wireless network to follow along with presentations on their Apple iPads during a presentation.

Our Take

Our opinion is that although print volumes have declined, printing is going to be here for quite some time, and such hardware will still be important for Ricoh. But the firm is wisely looking into solving some of the pain-points of today’s working environment – mobile printing, accessing the cloud, keeping information secure, and making it easy to move documents into whatever form required at the moment,putting it into a good position to make the transition from trusted “copier company” to trusted partner for making the everyday mechanics of business easier for everyone.

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