As 2017 draws to a close, PrintIT Reseller asked a panel of print hardware and software vendors to consider what 2018 holds for the print and IT sectors
Stuart Sykes, Managing Director, Sharp Business Systems UK
“Ongoing technological advancements are going to continue to shape our industry, and society more broadly. Artificial Intelligence is a perfect example of this. Currently MFPs sit at the heart of a suite of integrated office solutions, but as AI technologies develop, there will be complex implications for information workﬂows.
“More MPS vendors will need to start exploring how AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be incorporated into products, so that they can retain a competitive advantage in an evolving industry. While this isn’t an immediate concern for many, all manufacturers should be aware of the opportunities posed by emerging technologies. Sharp has already unveiled prototypes in Japan based around AIoT; a concept that looks at the application of a fusion of AI and IoT to a range of electronic products for the home and office.
“IT security will undoubtedly remain a hot topic in 2018. Cyber-attacks of all kinds are on the rise, and hardware is becoming increasingly vulnerable. Customers are better educated on the risks; tenders will become more specific and customers will demand more from vendors in terms of IT security.
“Vendors have to be able to show that their products are secure. This will of course impact product development, with IT security becoming a more important part of the design process. But it will also affect people. Vendors need to become more adept at showcasing and explain how their products can accommodate that customer need.”
Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK
“The IT sector, like many other markets, has continued to operate in a climate of uncertainty throughout 2017 due to ongoing political and economic turbulence.
“With post-Brexit Britain still unclear, businesses remain vigilant, cautious and careful with their decisions and this shapes many of the predicted trends for 2018. New initiatives will be launched from a stable cost base.
“In 2017, the desire by CIOs to deliver consistent and stable IT performance increased by 21 per cent on the year before*, and I expect this will continue to increase even more in 2018.
Business leaders are looking for consistency, certainty and stability and my prediction is that this mindset will fuel further demand for services and solutions from reliable partners as businesses of all sizes take reassurance from the visibility, control and support they can offer.
“Failures of major resellers in 2017 demonstrates how merciless the sector currently is in terms of its pace. Our customers’ worlds are changing and, as a result, they are seeking partners to deliver services which provide control, increase efficiency and boost productivity.
As both vendors and partners, we need to make sure our business model and skills are equipped to deal with that requirement and speed. With so much uncertainty continuing into 2018, the IT sector will need to ensure their business model and teams are equipped for continuous evolution. For those partners that are yet to begin the journey to becoming a services provider, 2018 is the year to start as the clock is ticking.
“The economic climate has resulted in more sophisticated buying from decision makers, as they look to reduce costs and maximise value. As this behaviour rolls over into 2018, it may spark the return of ‘cold tech’. This trend first started in the early 2000s, where there was a demand for technology that quickly provides a return on investment (ROI), within the same financial year, delivering immediate savings to the bottom line.
“Tailored managed print services are an excellent example of this. They mean a printer ﬂeet can be updated to the latest models with all the latest productivity gains like high speed output with lower click prices vs. transactional purchase.
“A string of high-profile cyber security scandals has brought security to the forefront of IT decision makers and business leaders in 2017. With potential security breaches leaving so much at stake, this will remain a high priority for organisations as we move into the new year. Not only will the IT industry look to protect itself, but customers will choose partners and solutions that have business security at their core. Resellers will be expected to detail the levels of security offered by all the product portfolios and, in some cases, warrant them.
“For some, AI becoming a genuinely mainstream feature in businesses seems to be a far-fetched concept. However, we need to redefine what we think of as artificial intelligence.
AI is already being utilised by businesses in the form of automated software, which machines learn. We’ve already seen a proliferation of this in customer support and audit environments. As the technology continues to mature and become more sophisticated, more processes will become automated and it is smart investments in this type of AI that can deliver real results for businesses in 2018.
“As an industry, we’ll move away from thinking of AI as a sci-fi concept and instead as a tool to help our businesses operate more efficiently and productively.”
*The Harvey Nash, KPMG, CIO Survey 2017
Carlo Longhi, Director & General Manager, Indirect Channels UK & Ireland, Xerox
“In 2018, we should expect to see a huge surge in demand for apps within the print industry. Channel partners are increasingly recognising apps as the ideal solution to address customers’ pain points and as a means to provide personalised print services, and connection to SMB core business infrastructures. By nature, apps are light, simple and very specific which means they are easy to build – we should expect to see a larger breadth of apps available for the end-user in 2018.
“As paper usage continues to slowly decline, there will be an increased appetite to explore new ways to generate revenue. The next year will see vendors really adding value to existing annuity streams outside of the printed page, particularly as the role of the multifunction printer evolves from being a device traditionally tucked into the corner of the office, to becoming the heart of the work environment. It is the new workplace assistant a provider of improved workﬂows, and connection to many key SMB cloud applications.
“The new role of the MFP will cause a fundamental shift in mindset around the functionalities of printing technology outside of ink on paper. More conversations emerge between all profiles of resellers and customers as the MFP value proposition begins to show benefits and becomes a business essential for organisations throughout their digital transformation journeys.
“Typically some IT resellers have held back on offering cloud services as customers can be reluctant to make the move to something less tangible. However, we should expect more vendors to change that mindset – by showing the benefits of the cloud and providing a more ﬂexible and collaborative approach to working. Print vendors will also have to conduct more research into the cloud-based apps and services the SMB market is investing in to find ways in which they can integrate.
“Security will continue to be high on the agenda for businesses as we move into the new year, predominantly with the EU General Data Protection Regulation coming into effect in May 2018. Print organisations, amongst many others, will be assessing their data processing activity more closely than before and we should expect to see print businesses seeking out expert advice to get to grips with the needs of the regulation and to develop a more systematic approach.”
Eddie Ginja, Head of Innovation, KYOCERA Document Solutions
“Moving into 2018, it will become increasingly important for print suppliers to deliver greater value as part of their traditional services. Over the last couple of years, it’s become apparent that adapting to modern working habits is the only way that the ever-declining print industry will survive.
“With that in mind, we’ll probably see an increase when it comes to combining the file and print estate/environment with other areas such as document disaster recovery. Given the rise of mobile working, making documents or solutions accessible to anyone, at any time and from anywhere, will also become even more important.
“In 2018, I think customers will also increasingly look for integrated solutions that are truly ‘plug-and-play’. Printers, for example, will need to integrate seamlessly with not only the file and print server but also with the back-end document management (DM) solution. There will probably be an increase in the use of the printing applications – both on the printers themselves and on mobile phones – which can facilitate this. In theory, you should be able to install an app and away you go! This simplicity is what will enable their popularity to increase even further next year.
“The print industry will need to preempt what customers want before they even know themselves; 2018 will be the year when innovation is key.”
Jonathan Whitworth, Managing Director, DSales UK
“Compliance to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be the hot topic for all organisations in 2018. Organisations are beginning to audit their procedures and processes to adapt and change to meet GDPR guidelines and timescales but now only have until the 25 May 2018 to ensure that they are indeed compliant.
“Naturally, organisations have begun to ask about the data security risk of their existing and future print devices, fuelled by the constant news of hackers, malware and ransomware posing a tangible threat to their organisation. However, despite companies doing all they can to shore up the IT infrastructure there is often one area that’s overlooked – the print infrastructure.
“However many organisations do not have the infrastructure to manage printer security protocols in-house. To deal with this very real threat to device-based company data, Develop has launched a new industry-leading security service known as ineo SECURE UK, which will be offered exclusively by authorised Develop resellers. Highly trained professionals will configure the security features of Develop devices – either prior to onsite installation or at the users’ premises, customised to the individual user’s requirements.
“The workplace will continue to require more mobility, BYOD and innovative workspaces. Mobile workers are no longer tied to their desks, they use smartphones and tablets as opposed to laptops whilst on the move, but still expect seamless integration into workﬂows for both printing and scanning of documents. To meet this challenge Develop MFPs have been designed to provide uncomplicated mobile usability, including the award winning app ineoPRINT, free to download for Android and iOS mobile devices, providing extremely simple connection to the MFP.
“Workﬂow solutions are an increasingly important part of document imaging so Develop has also produced its own unique range of document management software solutions to meet the needs of SME customers. New ways to improve business productivity, ﬂexibility and efficiency are essential for the modern workplace that demands workﬂow solutions to help streamline document processing.
“For example the latest version of Develop’s easy to use convert+share software brings new functionality and new capabilities to everyday tasks. convert+share does away with manual document processes by allowing original documents to be scanned on a Develop MFP and automatically converted to many different file types including searchable PDF, xlsx or .docx files. The documents can then be sent straight from the devices to a number of destinations and this latest release includes any cloud-based archiving system”.
Shaun Wilkinson, Managing Director, UTAX (UK)
“The one thing we can be certain about in 2018 is that there will be market uncertainty. Brexit negotiations will continue to bring a lot of unknowns about the value of the pound and business confidence, which means organisations will need to make some tough decisions, particularly about costs.
“That will undoubtedly create a challenge for dealers, but out of that challenge comes opportunity. Documents will continue to be at the heart of every organisation – the need will not go away. The relationship between people and machines will continue to change. As such dealers will find success delivering real world solutions that truly solve the problems of their customers, drive productivity and enable new ways of working.
“Total cost of ownership will continue to evolve, as will hardware design, quality and reliability, while software and the management of documents will continue to grow in importance. At UTAX we see time and time again how the combination of our devices and software provides partners with the ideal opportunity to maintain, upgrade and sell to their client base the solutions that really make a difference to businesses. Those solutions also need to be practical and cost-effective, fully integrated with existing IT set-ups and delivered with minimum disruption.
“Another cause for optimism as we head into 2018 is the vibrancy of the sector – and that’s a trend I predict will continue based on our experience at UTAX. In 2017 we saw our partners’ network grow at a very healthy rate and it’s great for us to see so much younger blood coming into the sector. Those new partners are fully embracing the ‘new’ way of selling and have identified that by doing so they can tap into profitable business. They also recognise the need to work in partnership with a manufacturer where knowledge, expertise and resources can be shared. This collaborative approach is something I predict we’ll see more of in 2018 – both in terms of dealers working with manufacturers/ resellers and end-users looking to work with trusted providers of print and document management solutions.
“My final prediction for 2018 is that we’ll see an acceleration of businesses – SMEs in particular – bringing print functions in-house. The quality and speed offered by MFPs means that jobs that once needed to be outsourced can be managed internally, which allows for better control of costs, print on demand and personalisation. This allows businesses to manage uncertainty and enhance the customer experience – and is the perfect example of why we should be positive about the power of print in 2018.
“The biggest challenge is still the movement away from the box based sale to a true managed print solution involving both hardware and software. The sales cycle is longer but you end up with a much happier customer. Your solution is now not a cost burden to the business. Instead you will be showing a cost saving and greater efficiency and as such will become a valued partner to the customer.”
Rob Clark, Managing Director, Epson (UK)
“In the world of printing, one of the biggest debates is that of inkjet vs. laser. Epson keenly believes in the power of inkjet as a revolutionary technology, set to take the world of business printing by storm, and by nailing our colours to the mast early regarding our inkjet commitment, we are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the continuing trend.
“In 2018, purchasing trends, and our own analysts, indicate that inkjet usage will continue to rise in proportion to laser, as businesses continue to embrace the myriad of advantages and benefits that inkjet printing technology offers. For example, IDC has predicted that the overall business inkjet market is expected to grow 10.2 per cent (CAGR) by 2020, and inkjet is expected to account for 34 per cent of the total European business printer market by 2019.
“Epson’s share in the business inkjet market has risen to 40 per cent in 2017 Q1 (IDC, Quarterly market report, Q1 2017), and we are taking steps to ensure that figure continues to rise. Having already invested €400 million in new inkjet production facilities in Japan and other markets (and with plans to invest a further €185 million over the next three years), our investment and belief in this exciting technology is clear.
“Epson believes that inkjet printing as a technology will eventually help redefine the phrase ‘business as usual’, and we stand behind it as a means of changing our workplaces, and enhancing the way we all do business in the near future.”
Chris Strammiello, Worldwide Marketing and Global Alliances Director, Nuance Document Imaging Division
“Those print evergreens – security and running costs – will be front of mind in 2018. A combination of factors like GDPR will push security to the top of the print agenda. What we will also see from a security perspective in the new year is an increase in the information constantly transmitted between systems, people and organisations.
“This will result in the evolution of smart systems that automatically understand the content of the data to ensure information is only seen by and sent to the right people. The combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing is poised to radically change how paper and born-digital documents are securely accessed and shared to help protect personal information and other valuable data.
“Meanwhile, from an efficiency perspective, the growing dependency on data analytics across all operations means businesses will start to apply a forensic approach to print costs in order to reduce them further.”
Michael Burke, Managing Director, Purpose Software
“Following on from 2017, a year in which we have seen extensive merger and acquisition activity, it is likely that we will see further consolidation in the coming year. Organisations operating in the managed services and print reseller industry will be expanding their product portfolios through the acquisition of companies offering complementary products and skills, enabling them to address new business areas such as cloud services, managed services, managed network services, security and more.
“However, resellers trying to assimilate these new technologies and skillsets into their business operations will face major challenges as they discover that their legacy service management software, whilst designed specifically for the copier industry, will not support such diversification. The integration issues associated with linking separate CRM, accounting and other business software applications will present a major barrier to entering these new markets.
“This diversification is driving the adoption of a new generation of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that provide a single source of data on a single integrated platform, giving a clear view of every area of the business from sales and service through to accounting. One of the latest ERPs is Purpose Software’s new FORZA platform which is based on SAP Business One, a tried and tested platform used by more than 50,000 organisations worldwide. It not only offers greater functionality than the single point cloud-based versions that have started to appear but also eliminates all the integration issues that occur when trying to link disparate software applications.
“In 2018, a further result of the continuing industry consolidation will be a rise in the number of ‘seedling’ start-up businesses as ambitious professionals, including ex-directors and employees, choose not to remain with businesses that have been acquired and decide to go it alone and do it for themselves. They will also be looking for cost effective ERP solutions to handle diverse product sets with the ﬂexibility to start small and grow as their businesses expand.”
Phil Madders, Managing Director, PAe Business
“At a personal level: England will win the World Cup in Russia – beating Germany 6-0 in the final. Leeds Utd will win promotion to the Premiership. Pigs will soon be airborne at a farm near you…
“Business predictions are a little more difficult to make for 2018, but based on the activity and requests received from our 600+ dealers in the EMEA region I would predict the following.
“The UK market will battle on despite uncertainties surrounding Brexit on exchange rates and supply chains, the continued trend of acquisition and mergers, and the small but constant migration to accessing information digitally.
“The need to access the digital and in many ways the transient information we now consume, leads me to predict that the integration of data silos within organisations will continue to accelerate in 2018 and play a major part in the next twelve months. If you are wondering what I mean by transient data – things like sending a boarding pass to your phone is a great example. Ten years ago, we all printed these off, complete with the five pages of adverts and T&Cs, which were often in colour and generated click or consumed toner. Now if you are under 30, it is saved on our phone, we scan it at check in and then delete it at the end of the journey. Approaches vary according to age, but as time marches those clutching their phone in one hand and their print out in the other will inevitably diminish.
“In the office equipment channel a more interesting example of this phenomenon emerged in 2017, which is the Toshiba Paper Reusing system. Undoubtedly the main benefit of this system as Toshiba advise is that the paper is reusable as the toner can be removed. This is an obvious gain, however there is another aspect to this – the data that has been printed onto the page for the meeting, the memo, or the spreadsheet is no longer required permanently and can be erased. Even the printed page has become transient in the sense that a paper-based record of that information is simply not needed after the information has been acted upon. If it is required, our DMS system or Onedrive style folder can retrieve and even print it again for temporary consumption on a piece of paper.
“What does this mean for the channel in 2018? (Aside from less fling cabinets which impacts any of our partners who sell office furniture.) There are two areas affected – the back office will continue to be integrated. The aim, to create more productive and cost-effective organisations. The method automating meter readings, toner fulfilment, technical resource management, invoicing and logistics. We are involved in one or more of these requirements every day.
“What is significant is the number of new entrants we are engaging with to integrate our data with. It used to be the Service Management Systems were our natural partner, but now we have full blown ERP systems, SAP providers, asset management systems, logistics and supplies providers extracting and using our information to deliver a better service to their users.
“The second area is the offices our partners sell to. They too are involved in this world of integration. Looking at areas where automation can improve their productivity and reduce costs. Our dealers are embracing this exciting new opportunity, providing dashboards and business analytics tools, and workﬂow software. At one level simplifying and minimising the interaction required by customers to keep their output devices working, streamlining billing through seat-based billing, and proactive service arrangement. At another level integrating the same devices into the workﬂow processes of the organisation so they become a vital cog in the efficiency of the organisation. I predict this will continue to grow in 2018 and see the development of more project-based engagements bringing together different partners with different capabilities to deliver project-based solutions. These can be external partners or see more acquisitions by larger organisations to bring the skills in-house. You only have to look at the Konica Minolta acquisitions in the past 12 months as an example of this trend.
“For us, we are in the world of connecting different areas of a business into one seamless offering. It is early days, but we have developed dashboarding as a way of harnessing the power of the data we already have to help our dealers in facing the challenges created by the evolution of the office market requirement. We have been engaged in bringing service, finance, and device management into responsive and relevant BI Dashboards for better decision making. We have now been challenged to develop a predictive modelling offering so forecasting revenues and toner consumption is more accurate. It is fair to say 2018 is going to be an exciting year for all of us.”