COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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TECHNEWS

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Issue Date: November 2003 (es)

The paper eating, money guzzling printer

1 November 2003

The message is simple - businesses need to pay attention! Costs are climbing, the bottom line is shrinking and no one is talking to anyone in the organisation anymore, let alone the CIO.
With the world's economy sitting where it is at the moment it would appear that the CEO and the financial director have shifted their primary focus to save an extra dime. So the message itself is clear we need to drive down costs, but where does one start. Do we outsource or do we take a closer more refined look at the cost structures eroding our revenues bases.
Let us look at paper, and the spiralling costs attached to the production, output and maintenance of the paper cycle. If we look at the inner workings of an organisation and its structures it becomes more and more apparent that not one person owns, or is responsible for, document production across departments, let alone the devices attached to the problem. When you are making a photocopy at 40c a page and reprinting and reprinting documents it all begins to add up. It has been cited that the cost of paper production and the process such as copying and printing associated with these can amount to anywhere between 1 and 3% of your overall revenue.
And this is not a cost that we feel needs monitoring? We beg to differ.
One should only start outsourcing when you know there is nothing in it for the organisation, when you have squeezed even the bone and there is no more fat in a process. Often wise investment in the right places can allow you the opportunity to entertain a long term strategy where employing now can cut costs in a year's time, where deploying technology tomorrow might start showing dividends in six months time. But do not outsource just to cut costs - outsourcing risk is a risk in itself and sometimes a cost you have no control over.
If we are really talking about costs and you are seriously looking at driving down costs it is not the devices which are costing you money - but rather the output associated with them. Now we have thrashed and bandied the idea of the paperless office around for a number of years now. Printing, copying and paper manufacturers have all lost sleep about this - but the reality is that this is a scenario which is eons away, what we need to strive towards is the 'paperless' office.
But driving down costs in the printing environment is not about avoiding colour printing, changing entire systematic procedures, or throwing out the printer. Everything in the print environment has a perceived, yet tangible value attached to it. That presentation to a new client is going to look better in colour yes, but why not print both sides? Those research notes can surely be printed in greyscale, two per page and printed on both sides. It is not an easy paradigm to get one's head around - in fact people often know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. Why photocopy a document when you can scan it and disseminate it via e-mail?
But do we have the technology to get us to this near nirvana of IT costs - the answer is very much a yes. Printing solutions and other communication devices have been following the pattern of convergence for some time now and they have finally managed to meet in the middle. The end result of this is that we now have devices which can not only deliver high efficiencies when it comes to the semantics of pages per minute and dots per inch, but are also able to intelligently use the multifunction features built into them to provide you with a single point of contact for activities related to document output. And again I stress, printing haemorrhages money out of an organisation - working smartly with the technologies provided gives us a better understanding of what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like.
So why are we, who should by all purposes be trying to sell you more printers - advising you of exactly the opposite. Well the market is demanding transparency from vendors, and this means we need to embrace change and accommodate it accordingly - we might not know how to run your business, but we do know the importance of the bottom line and the consolidation of cost structures. There are numerous offerings in the market touting their solutions will only cost you 6c a page, the truth is that you are looking more at a total cost of ownership of 40c a page, which makes no business sense.
When looking at any aspect of your business where you have to either investigate the use of or deploy IT make sure you remember it is about service. Whether it is identifying an outsourcing partner, selecting a technology, or employing people - IT is all about the service it can bring to your company. If a printing solution is fattening the overheads - change the model, find more effective and intelligent ways to manage the process. Yes IT is expensive and it is very tempting wanting to outsource the risk associated to it, but the real issue is that documents are part of your information system as well - so start looking for better ways to squeeze these processes for better efficiencies.
For more information contact Cathy Steyn, Lexmark International South Africa, 011 329 0999, cathryn.steyn@lexmark.co.za


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