Attitudes to print are changing, but paper remains king

Where does print fit in today’s digital world? Epson’s Adrian McLellan believes it remains at the very centre of organisations using digital to reimagine workflows and processes.

Attitudes to print are changing, but paper remains king

What is the role of print in the digital workplace? How are our needs for printing services changing as our behaviour in the office evolves?

These are questions on the minds of organisations in the midst of digital transformation, particularly those seeking a newfound competitive edge. How do they integrate print into new workflows that prioritise the delivery of digital services?

Those planning to introduce digitised workflows and processes would do well to remember the words of management guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. In other words, people tend to default to established norms of behaviour, regardless of how much you tell them to behave. People will print when they want to print. Change only happens when the emerging integrates coherently into established patterns of behaviour.

The modern office

This is not to say the office of the future will look the same as the office of today – far from it. Organisations are reimagining workflows and processes around digital, enhancing agility, collaboration and performance, not to mention becoming more customer-centric. But these faster, connected, and more flexible workflows haven’t led to a decline in print, as some have predicted. Quite the opposite.

In the same way streaming music has led to a vinyl revival, and e-books have encouraged more of us to buy traditional hard-copy books, digital’s ability to send information in a targeted way reminds us all of the underlying value of the paper document.

In the workplace, the vehicle is cloud, a technology that enables us to store, share and access documents from anywhere. The more we share, the more information we have, and ultimately there are more materials necessary to print. The modern workplace is increasingly document-centric, which is why printing continues to have an important role. 

Of course, there are a number of industries – legal, medical and financial services to name a few – in which paper records remain fundamental. In finance specifically, if a digital file becomes corrupted there is a threat of being non-compliant. Here, the immutable quality of paper work in its favour. At the same time, many banks are considering how digital-only technologies such as blockchain can work alongside existing processes. Equally, there are many legal practices that are ready to automate and fully digitise lower order tasks but choose to integrate new technology into more familiar, traditional workflows.

Print what matters most

Another consideration is the changing relationship between print volume and impact. Flexible working and the increasing influence of sustainability policies are changing the way we think about print’s value and role as well as the kind of printing technologies we choose to invest in.

In some cases the culture of ‘print everything’ is being replaced by a culture of ‘print what matters most.’ It is in this context that organisations are prioritising inkjet printing technology over laser as it is no longer about quantity, but rather quality with the added value of using less energy, reducing waste and being more sustainable for both the environment and bottom-line.

What’s more, in architecture, design, advertising and other creative services, digital workflows are allowing greater collaboration than ever and a reduced need for mass printing. Print is increasingly coming to represent the spikes in a project timeline, the milestone moments where quality matters above all else.

Technology should never be deployed as a change agent. It is at its most effective when designed to integrate with natural behaviours, as a problem solver and a facilitator. Research shows that Millennials (aged 28-35) use print more than any other adult. In an era where people have shorter attention spans and almost everything can be accessed online, Millennials not only understand that printed media stands out more and breaks through the noise – but it is most powerful when combined with digital media rather than used in isolation.

Documents at the centre of process

With mixed digital and print workflows becoming the norm, and with organisations looking at printers than can deliver both larger workloads and lighter workloads, focused on quality, it’s incumbent on the business to design processes that work for the next generation of employee, with the document – print and digital – in the centre. Because if they don’t, the next wave of talent might not be there.