Scan, Cloud, Mobile Usher in New Era of Hybrid Document Management

By: Bill DeStefanis, Nuance Communications imageSource

Businesses worldwide are more focused on productivity than ever before, and the immediacy of this business need represents an opening in the channel partner community to introduce better, more integrated solutions to customers.

In the past year, there has been a growing awareness among end-users, though not nearly a full consciousness, on what the possibilities are in document management. But the struggle to educate customers and have them grasp the capabilities of smart MFPs continues. Often, MFPs are still vastly underutilized devices, and many times are not connected to document workflows.

Because everybody prints, the majority of end-users have realized the value in print management services. Lowering the cost-per-printed page for a customer or consolidating devices are both financial incentives for a sale, but each also has the tangible appeal of a reduction in physical resources.

The challenge in the channel is that many have yet to envision the power that the combination of scanning plus print management can bring.  Scan plus print opens the door for the end-user to Hybrid Document Management—integrating digital and paper workflows into one.

The MFP device itself is built to support hybrid document management processes with its capabilities to copy, print, fax and scan. The solution sale to accompany the device should, in turn, be constructed to take advantage of hybrid document management.

Print workflows and scan workflows are distinct activities.  But when viewed within the context of business processes – and executed via the central ‘hub’ of a networked MFP – the process overlap becomes clear.  When presented with the decision of whether to print or scan – and having the software in place at every MFP to make each process as efficient as possible – users will overwhelmingly make the best choice to perform the task in the most cost-effective and most productive way.

This represents a huge business opportunity, with the enticing upside that customers can recognize more value from the hardware that they purchase, or already own. The challenge in 2012 is to inform more end-users about Hybrid Document Management, and how integrating digital documents and print can save them money and sustain their business. Meanwhile, ushering in added business efficiency will help strengthen the service provider’s relationship with the customer.

Mobile Impact

Document Management in the Cloud

In addition to scan plus print offerings, the introduction of a disruptive force, cloud access, represents an unprecedented opportunity to enhance a customer’s business processes.

For all its versatility and potential value, the cloud as a selling point hasn’t taken off, even though it is central to hybrid document management because it allows digitized documents to be accessible from any device and printed to localized MFPs.

Cloud-connected MFPs with scan-to-cloud technology offer a distinctive advantage to dealers and channel professionals in that it allows them to offer the customer not just a new functionality in their hardware, but a faster, better way to conduct business.

The question of how to extend the selling opportunity with existing clients or advance sales with new channel partners never goes away. The goal of any business person is figuring out how to offer compelling products with tangible value propositions. But another important component is to deliver those applications in a manner that fits the channel delivery model already place; this ensures that the applications are easier to install and service, and represent a less threatening change to the end user.

To help service providers capitalize on the cloud opportunity, Nuance developed eCopy Scan to Cloud – a service which allows for simple, lightweight clients to be installed on MFP devices. The client connects itself to the appropriate cloud services – there’s no server installation or maintenance required.

The minimal impact to IT is an important factor in adoption.  Generally, cloud adoption in document workflow systems has been treated cautiously by larger enterprises, to the benefit of small- and medium-sized businesses, which have been early adopters.

Small and medium sized businesses that either don’t need or want the IT investments necessary to run their own document management system onsite have turned to the cloud, and managed service providers are beginning to be there as they arrive, ready to add value through the cloud.

And the irony is that most popular cloud storage services—Evernote, Google Docs and Salesforce—get most of the attention, but yet none of them has the capacity to scan paper information, which is the cornerstone of a Hybrid Document Management system. And this is the niche in which channel partners can step in and bring very practical extensions to what will soon be a standard business practice, the use of cloud storage.

Another important component of the cloud conversation is that as more and more channel partners offer document capture and print management through a cloud-based infrastructure, they remove the server complexity of the end-user.

The Impact of Mobile Devices

Finally, cloud storage use and the rise in use of mobile devices drive one another. Research firm IDC has reported that this year, for the first time ever, sales of mobile devices are predicted to surpass those of traditional desktop and laptop computers, and 85 billion downloads of mobile apps are predicted to generate more revenue than the mainstream computing market.

Add to the equation that about three of every five business persons currently employs a mobile device to manage content outside the office.

Each day, each month and each quarter sees an ever-increasing number of individuals is being added to the millions who already tap cloud services to print, upload document captures, convert documents and send them.

The ease of management and the unlimited server capacity offered with cloud services and the high functionality of mobile devices is yet another powerful combination that results in a growing need for hybrid document management.

But mobile printing is complex. Smart phones and other mobile devices usually have no on-board print services and rely on either a cloud service or an e-mail service to render print jobs at multi-function printers. Solution providers are left to solve the issue of how to connect mobile devices to MFPs, which means device acquisition either by proximity location services or by building server-based directories.

The rapid adoption cloud services and the incredible rise in use of mobile devices in the enterprise are creating increasingly diversified document workflow patterns. The demand is becoming greater for solutions that provide both ‘anytime, anywhere’ access and the ease of use of digitized documents, but also the functionality and necessity of paper documents.

Hybrid document management is already in place today in many companies, and is being expanded by cloud services adoption.

However, it is happening on its own, not by design.  Using the MFP as the ‘hub’ for hybrid document management and providing the necessary software solutions to holistically control documents, both printed and electronic, wherever they reside – on the network or in the cloud – will unleash new revenue potential as organizations begin to put structure around this new, hybrid approach to document management.