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Eighty-one percent of SMBs aim to curtail paper from their document workflow processes in the next year and many will turn to digitalization initiatives to do so, according to a recent Xerox study.
The study, which polled more than 1,000 owners and senior business managers of U.S. and European SMBs, found that 46% of respondents believe they waste time on paper-intensive processes on a daily basis. A large portion of SMBs have decided that digitizing paper processes is the right approach for fixing the problem: Twenty-eight percent of respondents reported they have implemented digitization initiatives, while 37% said they have just begun the effort. Twelve percent will initiate the process change in the next year. Additionally, one in five SMB organizations would like to digitize paper processes but are uninformed about paper-free options and products.
"It was a little eye-opening how fast the SMB space is now following the large enterprise space," said Darren Cassidy, president of the U.S. Channels Group at Xerox, about the research findings. "The large enterprise space for a while now has been saying, 'We need to figure out how to stop wasting time in our processes by the way that we're managing paper in the process.' ... Historically, we thought about that as the domain of the large enterprise space, but actually that's not true. It's happening in the SMB space."
In addition, the research found, managed print services (MPS) is seeing strong uptake among SMB customers. Forty-two percent of the organizations surveyed said they have adopted MPS, with another 40% planning to sign up for MPS within the next year.
"When [SMBs] have a managed print service, frankly, they love it," Cassidy said. "It delivers high value in terms of the things that the clients need. It provides the cost saving but also the other benefits that are driven by managed print services."
Less than one in five SMBs rated MPS as having no benefit. Thirty-seven percent of the SMBs said that the MPS quality exceeded their expectations, and 26% said the cost of the service positively exceeded their expectations. Among the major benefits of the service, cost reductions led the way with 48% of respondents citing that attribute, followed by reduced paper consumption at 47%, improved tracking of print costs at 42% and improved document workflow at 41%.
The Xerox report showed SMB print procurement preferences somewhat leaning toward office equipment dealers and the direct manufacturers in areas such as print-related security and document workflow technology and automation. For MPS procurement, however, IT resellers were the leading choice. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they will buy MPS from resellers, compared with 36% who will purchase the services from office equipment dealers and 33% directly from product manufacturers.
This is all good news for channel partners, Cassidy said. While SMBs increasingly look to digitization and MPS to streamline paper-intensive processes, channel partners have an opportunity to offer value in ways they may not have previously considered.
For Toni Clayton-Hine, vice president of global marketing and value proposition at Xerox, the adoption of paper-free technology fits naturally into the SMB's overall pursuit of efficiency.
"I think it's at a point where every customer is looking to do more with less," she said. "They have optimized as much as they can in the data center infrastructure, and now it's time for them to look at other areas where they can be more productive and be smarter about how they're running their business. And so in the same way, they're always looking to streamline internal operations."
And as an organization examines its paper usage to determine where paper is used meaningfully and represents the best medium for executing tasks, channel partners can offer insight to help make decisions. "We have the ability now to show what paper is doing in the context of [a] process and also show how [it interacts] with the task and the people," Cassidy said.
He noted that conversations around SMB print requirements connect with other important issues, as well, namely mobility and security.
For example, mobile printing has already become a key part of SMB workflow processes, with 66% of the SMBs reporting that they currently have mobile printing in their mobility initiatives. Twenty-seven percent plan to have mobile printing within the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, 56% of SMB respondents include printers and multifunctional printers in their security strategies. "The device is on the network. When it's on the network, it's open to all of the same security issues that other devices are," Cassidy said.
"We certainly recommend that any partner that has a security practice or delivers security assessments or security audits include print devices as part of that," Clayton-Hine added. "It's an obvious way for [partners] to ensure that there's a holistic view of the environment, but also monetize that as an additional service."
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