What is a 'smart office' and how can it cut costs?

Businesses that fail to keep up with the latest ‘smart office’ technology are likely to fall behind in terms of productivity and competitiveness, and find it harder to attract top-performing talent.

Most businesses have wireless networks and want to let employees work from anywhere and be equally productive.

Collaboration is a key element of most knowledge workers’ roles, so enabling people to collaborate from anywhere is also critical.

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 technologies and processes to invest in, and then maximise their utilisation.

Smart solutions can deliver measurable benefits in four key areas:

1. Cost management

Smarter processes like pull printing can cut printing costs by an average of 30 per cent.

Users can print documents securely from anywhere, 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 print only 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 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 identify the departments that have the greatest need for printers.

Decision-makers can then determine 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 their printing, scanning and copying processes, and knowing who is printing what, businesses can identify inefficiencies and start changing employee habits.

Implementing a PIN or swipe card (usually your building access card) to access the printer can have a substantial impact, helping to enforcing simple rules like black-and-white printing and automatic duplex printing.

Businesses need to choose devices that offer the above range of cost-management features.

2. Efficiency

Data capture software with 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.

OCR technology converts complex documents quickly and accurately so users can search and edit them. It replaces inconvenient, time-consuming paper-based processes with streamlined 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.

ECM solutions allow users to establish workflows for documents that require approval, automating processes to save time. They also save space, reducing the number of physical filing cabinets required.

Automation is a key way to become more efficient and effective, and most businesses are embracing it wherever possible.

By adopting technology and software that automates previously manual processes, businesses can see significant savings in time and costs.

3. Mobility

As businesses embrace mobility, it is 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. This is ideal for employees who travel for business, don’t work on-site regularly, or work part-time from a home office.

The greatest value of mobility is the fact that it gives users access to all the information they need through a device no bigger than their hand.

Being able to print seamlessly from any device is the final piece of the mobility puzzle.

4. Security

Document security is paramount in many businesses.

It is important to rely on employees to keep documents secure, but this 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 it is en route to the printer, make 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.

Protecting confidential information is crucial for every business, so it’s important to choose technology that lets you secure your data. There is a broad variety of smart technology available to help make businesses more competitive and efficient.

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

Shane Blandford is the sales and marketing director at Konica Minolta Australia, which offers managed print services to businesses.

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