Printing reaches CIO agenda

While Jim Firestone doesn’t think we’ll see the advent of the paperless office in our working lives, the president of Xerox North America does see a more holistic approach to document management becoming a priority for the enterprise: If not less printing, then smarter printing, and more cheaply.

At a recent press and analyst briefing in New York, Firestone said the challenge for the IT department today is to manage its infrastructure more holistically. With the enterprise market moving increasingly, according to Firestone, to multifunction printers (MFPs) that combine printing, scanning, copying and faxing, he said that holistic approach is crucial if the enterprise is to leverage maximum value from the investment.

What has changed, said Firestone, is that printing is increasingly on the CIO’s radar. While five years ago CIOs were dealing with reducing budgets and struggling to make ERP implementations deliver, that phase is over. Now, he said, CIOs view their role as running a network and offering services off of it. And that includes printing.

“CIOs are now in a position where they can be tactical in how they add value, with a real focus on building new capabilities,” said Firestone. “Five years ago it wasn’t on the list of the CIO, but they’ve started to inherit it because all of these devices are network citizens. That forces the CIO to be involved.”

A first step for a company is to assess its printing infrastructure and figure out what it has. Then it can determine what it needs, and the best infrastructure to meet that need. That’s the important part, said Firestone. Too many companies just go out and replace 100 old printers with 100 new printers.

“The trouble is, that’s like weeding the garden,” said Firestone. “This is not about throwing away everything you have and bringing in a whole new fleet. You can evolve over time.”

Bradley Hughes, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said IT managers don’t necessarily want to reduce the amount of printing they do, but they do want to reduce the cost. He added that the market is moving to MFPs and when making the purchase decision, reliability and cost are by far the top considerations.

What has held back the document management evolution, said Hughes, is the large amount of printing infrastructure already entrenched at the enterprise level.

“The biggest inhibitor isn’t the price, but the very long lifecycle of the printers they already have,” said Hughes.

That evolution is underway at the University of Calgary (U of C), which signed a seven-year contract with Xerox in May, covering the range of the university’s document management needs. Harold Esche, the U of C’s CIO, said that, thanks to a booming oil industry, the university expects to grow by 25 per cent over those seven years. “We need to put processes in place to be able to manage that,” said Esche.

After completing an internal assessment of the U of C’s printing infrastructure, Esche said the results were mixed. The university was spending $8 million annually on printing and print-related areas; the internal print shop was efficient but in the office space there were hundreds of different brands and models of printers.

“We found a printer being used that was older than our incoming students,” said Esche. “As you can imagine, the cost per page was probably quite high.”

While he would like to put a dent in the 72 million pages printed at the U of C each year, Esche said his real goal is to change how documents are managed across the organization. The goal of the project is to not just look at fleet management but to approach document management more strategically.

“We’re trying to move forward with a cultural change at the university,” said Esche. “I look at paper as something that just passes through my hands, and I think most students are farther along than me.” The agreement with Xerox ranges from new multifunction devices to a new document records management system.

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