Guest Column | September 13, 2018

The Next Evolution Of Print Management

By Stacy Leidwinger, Nuanceā€™s Digital Imaging Division

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Organizations in traditionally paper-intensive industries – legal, healthcare, financial services, and government, for example – have demonstrated strong success with print management tools. These are software-based solutions for tracking, measuring, monitoring, reporting and managing worker behavior and the printed output produced by office imaging equipment and copier fleets. Gartner has referred to printers as “the goldmine in the hallway.” With an estimated 1-3 percent of a company’s annual revenue being consumed by document production, print management initiatives offer extensive opportunities for cost reduction.

Beyond reducing costs, print management solutions enable organizations to improve document security, worker efficiency, customer service speed, and overall business agility. Even with the abundance of success stories, forward-looking businesses are not resting on their laurels and are advancing their print management strategies to drive further benefits.

  1. Bullet-Proofing Data Residing on MFPs. An estimated 30 percent of printed materials are never picked up. These “orphaned” print jobs – documents that are printed but forgotten and left in a paper tray – are a potentially huge source of security leaks, especially as compliance demands like GDPR are widely implemented. Print management solutions address this through features like “follow-me printing,” where a worker must confirm his or her physical presence (through a badge, ID number, or some other credentials) before the job is released.

Follow-me printing can be effective for ensuring sensitive paper-based data is not unnecessarily exposed, but it is not a catch-all for other security risks. Offices must recognize MFPs for what they are – a network-connected computer, and even an IoT device. The act of holding print jobs means that data is stored on the MFP, often for longer periods of time than one might think. This, combined with continued deployment of outdated print management software, can create a window of opportunity for malicious hackers. To address this, organizations equipped with print management software are going beyond features like follow-me printing to using encryption and redaction for electronically stored data, as well as making sure print management software is promptly updated and patched as necessary.

  1. Integrating Scan-based and Workflow Automation Capabilities. MFPs have traditionally offered scan-to-email capabilities. This can now be extended so scanned documents can be incorporated directly into highly efficient digital workflows and passed from one worker to others in order to complete a business process.

Beyond being more secure than paper-based workflows, digital workflows starting with document scanning at the MFP can increase employee productivity and efficiency, and customer service speed and convenience. Consider this example from the healthcare industry: a patient brings in the premailed paperwork for an appointment, which the front-end desk worker scans. This scanned document includes insurance information, which is promptly routed to a back office worker, who is then able to immediately determine (based on insurance details) what the patient is responsible for paying. This information is routed back to the front-end desk worker who can then promptly collect payments. that hospitals are much more successful at collecting reimbursements before the patient leaves the premises. This workflow has improved data security by transforming the document into a digital format, which is less susceptible to being lost or misplaced. It also maximizes workers’ time, enhances customer convenience and improves hospital revenue collection.

By extending workflows to the mobile workforce, companies can achieve even higher levels of efficiency. Consider the example of mobile factory floor workers, who can securely send shipment receipts as documents, photographs, or electronic files directly to core business applications from their mobile devices. Employees are more productive and inventory management is more accurate, leading to on-time production and customer deliveries. This also allows paper-based information to be incorporated more quickly and seamlessly into broader analytics initiatives.

  1. Automation and Enhancements in OCR and Machine Learning. The first step to leveraging the rich information residing in paper, including embedding it in digital workflows, is to transform paper into digital format. However, over the years, many organizations have accumulated so much paper that they do not know where to begin or how to prioritize important documents.

Today, there are tools available that can scan millions of documents in bulk, with minimal human intervention. Advances in optical character recognition (OCR) enable content within these documents to be appropriately classified, for example, identifying and filing a document as an invoice based on certain characteristics. While still in a nascent stage, machine learning is evolving so that one day machines will be able to “read,” interpret and route data accordingly, for example, queuing up invoices based on due dates, so an accounts payable department can focus on paying priority invoices first, thus avoiding late fees or other penalties.

The print management industry is in a period of transition, driven in large part by technological advances, digital transformation initiatives and worker behavioral changes. Enhancing print management strategies already in place will help organizations take these initiatives to the next level, including safeguarding the MFP and assimilating paper into digital workflows and other business processes quickly, easily and accurately, with minimal human intervention. Print management may seem like a mature industry, but many organizations are just beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible.

About The Author

Stacy Leidwinger is the VP of Product for Nuance Document Imaging. Her background is in both product marketing and product management helping position B2B software companies for growth and market leadership.