While Jim Firestone doesn't think technology watchers will see the advent of the paperless office in the near future, the president of Xerox North America does envision a more holistic approach to document management.
If not less printing then smarter printing, and more cheaply, will become a priority for the enterprise, according to Firestone.
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 to multifunction printers (MFPs) that combine printing, scanning, copying and faxing," he said, "that holistic approach is key if the enterprise is to leverage maximum value from the investment."
What has changed is that printing is increasingly on the CIO's agenda, said Firestone.
"Five years ago CIOs were dealing with reducing budgets and struggling to make ERP implementations deliver, that phase is over," he said. "Now CIOs view their role as running a network and offering services off it."
CIOs are now in a position where they can be tactical in how they add value, with a real focus on building new capabilities, according toFirestone.
"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," he said. "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," he said. "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.
The market is moving to MFPs and when making the purchase decision reliability and cost are by far the top considerations, he said.
"What has held back the document management evolution is the large amount of printing infrastructure already entrenched at the enterprise level," Hughes said. "The biggest inhibitor isn't the price, but the very long lifecycle of the printers they already have."
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.