Paperless Versus Paper-Lite?

One of the eternal questions in the office-imaging industry has been when – or will – there ever be paperless offices? At this point, it can be concluded that the answer is not for any time soon. However, office print volumes have without a doubt declined over the last decade or so. A better term for the use of paper in today offices and for those in the foreseeable  future might be “paper-lite” offices.

A recent Quocirca report, Print2025 Spotlight Report, took a closer look at paper and digitization among small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in Europe, Japan, and the United States, exploring how decision makers are adopting digitization and paper-lite business processes.

The report looks at how SMBs’ print and digital needs will evolve between now and 2025 to drive digital transformation in the SMB market.  According Quocirca, SMBs expect to remain reliant on print, but that alongside this, there’s a desire to accelerate digital transformation and that print manufacturers and their channel partners could help bridge the gap between today’s paper-based and tomorrow’s digital business processes.

Although SMBs will remain reliant on printing, states Quocirca, its importance is diminishing. Overall, two-thirds of SMBs anticipate printing to be important to their business in 2025, compared to 76 percent today. Digitization efforts are set to accelerate with almost half (49 percent) of SMBs expecting paper digitization to be very important to their digital transformation initiatives in 2025, compared to 13 percent today.

To determine the industry’s needs and responses to the changing print landscape, Quocirca conducted interviews with 55 senior executives in the United States, Europe, and Japan from a broad representation of print manufacturers, channel partners, and ISVs (independent software vendors). OEMs accounted for 45 percent of the interviews and channel/ISV organisations made up 55 percent. This telephone research was complemented by in-depth analyst-led interviews with OEM leaders.

SMBs Plan to Increase Adoption of Document-Automation Tools

When it comes to expectations about what will reduce printing between now and 2025, the use of document collaboration and document capture and workflow solutions are viewed as top factors, according to the Quocirca report. There are some regional variations – 90 percent of large U.S. SMBs see increased document capture and workflow as the biggest  driver, compared to 64 percent of large European SMBs.

Importance of Paper Documents

The perceived ongoing relevance of paper documents is driven by several factors, not least of which is the ongoing legal requirement for paper documents, particularly where e-signatures are not accepted.

Overall, 63 percent believe important documents should be printed, rising to 70 percent among larger U.S. SMBs.

In addition, more affordable and convenient color printing is leading to an increase in color printing in-house. Indeed, 41 percent of all SMBs expect color print volumes to increase by 2025. Fifty-nine percent believe customer collateral should be printed – this sentiment was highest among larger U.S. SMBs (66 percent).

Support from Trusted Advisors

According to Quorcirca, the desire for digitization, coupled with a continued need to use paper in certain circumstances, is a significant opportunity for managed print services (MPS) providers to articulate a clear proposition around integrated paper and digital workflow services and solutions.

Print manufacturers and their partners are well positioned to support SMBs in their digital transformation journeys, using managed print services as the foundation. The Quocirca report states: “The opportunity is significant – print suppliers have a large customer base subscribed to basic MPS (essentially a service contract with or without consumables management).”

Roadblocks to Progress

However, while digital technologies “undoubtedly offer limitless potential, optimizing tools and processes can be a daunting task for SMBs.” Many may face roadblocks such as a lack of resources and expertise, tight budgets, and or employee resistance. Often there may be a lack of strategic oversight to guide digital initiatives.

MPS Continues to Gain

According to Quocirca, among all respondents in the Print 2025 survey, 62 percent of U.S. and 60 percent of European SMBs indicated that they were using some form of MPS. Furthermore, 53 percent of SMBs say that MPS will be a key investment priority between now and 2025.

However, there remains some barriers to overcome. Concerns about data security top the list (45 percent), this rises to 48 percent among smaller SMBs.

The recurring cost of  ownership is a concern for SMBs overall. They will need to be convinced of benefits of moving to operational from capital expenditure. However, it should be remembered that the majority are already convinced and are using some form of MPS and doubtless many other cloud services, as just 13 percent stated they did not understand the benefits of MPS.

To see the complete Quocirca report, visit here.

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