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Is the 'smart office' the way of the future?

By Shannon Williams, Thu 14 Jul 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Businesses that fail to keep up with the latest ‘smart office’ technology are likely to fall behind in terms of productivity and competiveness, according to Konica Minolta.

The managed services firm says technology has already changed the way we work, turning any location into a mobile office. It says businesses may find it harder to attract top-performing talent if they don’t adjust.

“Most organisations have wireless networks and want to let employees work from anywhere and be equally productive,” says Shane Blandford, sales and marketing director, Konica Minolta.

“Collaboration is a key element of most knowledge workers’ roles, so letting people collaborate from anywhere is also critical,” he explains.

“Ultimately, smart offices aim to increase efficiency and productivity, and improve workflows for employees. The trick for today’s businesses is to choose the right technology and processes to invest in, and then maximise their utilisation.”

Blandford says putting smart solutions in place delivers measurable benefits in four key areas:

1. Cost management

Smarter processes like pull printing can cut printing costs by an average of 30%. Users can print documents from anywhere, securely, and track all printing activity, reduce waste, and contain costs. Documents are sent to a central queueing system and are released only when the user identifies them at the printer. People therefore only print what they need, resulting in cost savings. And, because users need to be physically present at the printer before documents will print, security is also improved. Using, pull printing, users can also achieve improved auditing, better efficiency, reduced paper wastage, and improved environmental efficiency.

Smart printers can also allocate the cost of printing to specific users and their cost centres. As a result, businesses can more accurately account for which departments have the most need for printers. Decision-makers can then more accurately decide when to purchase new printers, how many and what types of devices to purchase, and where to locate them within the office.

“By monitoring and controlling your printing, scanning, and copying processes, and knowing who is printing what, when, and how much, businesses can identify inefficiencies and start changing employee habits,” says Blandford.

“Implementing a PIN or swipe card (usually your building access card) to access the printer can have a substantial impact, such as enforcing simple rules like black-and-white printing and automatic duplexing. Businesses need to choose devices that offer this range of cost management features,” he explains.

2. Efficiency

Data capture software which uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is a widely-used business solution. When users can search scanned documents, or edit read-only PDFs, they can be more efficient. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is a widely-used business solution that converts complex documents fast and accurately so users can search and edit them, and replace inconvenient and time-consuming paper-based processes with streamlined and efficient electronic workflows.

Data capture solutions offer an enhanced extension of scanning. Users can capture specific data and transfer it into other files such as standard templates and forms. This lets businesses automate workflows and reduce manual processes.

Furthermore, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions mean people spend less time searching for information and more time adding value. Users can establish workflows for documents that require approval, automating the process to save time. ECM solutions also save space, reducing the number of physical filing cabinets required.

“Automation is a key way to become more efficient and effective, and most organisations are embracing it wherever possible,” Blandford explains.

“By adopting technology and software that automates processes that were previously manual, organisations can see significant time and cost savings.”

3. Mobility

As businesses embrace mobility, it remains essential to be able to print from any device. Employees can then be more productive, since they don’t have to fire up a computer in order to print. It’s ideal for employees that travel for business, don’t work regularly on-site, or work part-time from a home office.

“Mobility’s greatest value is in the fact that users have access to all the information they need through a device no bigger than their hand. Being able to print seamlessly from this device is the final piece of the mobility puzzle,” says Blandford.

4. Security

Document security is paramount in many businesses. Relying on employees to keep documents secure is important but it doesn’t guarantee that sensitive documents won’t be left lying on printers, for example.

Document security solutions can help businesses by delivering more control. For example, when employees use swipe cards to release printing at the printer, sensitive documents are less likely to be left unclaimed. Configuring who can see what in ECM solutions and encrypting data while en route to printers makes it less likely that unauthorised people will see secure documents.

“As workers become more mobile and start printing remotely more often, document security will become paramount,” Blandford says.

“Protecting confidential information is crucial for every business, so it’s important to choose technology that lets you secure your data, he explains/.

Blandford says there is a broad variety of smart technology available to help make organisations more competitive and efficient.

“By focusing on one area at a time, such as printing and document workflows, organisations can maximise the benefits of smart technology while delivering a workplace that lets employees focus on delivering value rather than on mundane, administrative tasks.”

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