By Mark Duffelen, director and general manager, Channels Group, Xerox UK and Ireland

Today’s customers constantly demand innovation from technology vendors, to help provide them with the competitive edge they need in a tough business and economic climate. However, this innovation must be delivered within IT budgets that have not increased from year to year — and which may even have decreased. Hardly surprising then, that businesses are looking for more value from those technology investments they do make, and are also looking for ways to make the most of devices already available in the workplace.

The issue of printing costs and processes is easily overlooked, but businesses — especially SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) — are under enormous pressure to reduce or better manage their print costs. Multifunction Printers (MFPs) can help with cost control by providing one single printing solution for businesses. The initial expense of the MFP device is lower than having multiple single function devices (printers, copiers, faxes and scanners), as well as offering lower running costs. Additionally, the ease of maintaining one device versus multiple is much easier with fewer consumables to order, store and load, and of course the office space needed is much less.

MFPs are quickly gaining ground in business offices as a way to drive up productivity. These devices offer amazing versatility in an easy-to-use package, and today’s MFPs also offer great reliability and quality.

Over the last decade, vendors such as Xerox have made tremendous progress in developing MFPs that help customers meet their business objectives — from basic multifunction devices that scan, print and copy, to fully-integrated MFPs that are programmable and customisable for customers’ specific requirements. The latter is achieved by using software to allow features such as charge-back, automated workflow, and the ability to scan directly to locations such as folders, ERP systems, enterprise content management, email or fax servers at the touch of a button, or swipe of an ID card. These advanced multifunction devices belong to a new category of ‘Smart MFPs’.

When connected to an organisation’s network, Smart MFPs become the major business hubs, the ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps to getting work done, with the best devices being able to handle all the tasks at the same time, so no waiting around. Scan a document, send a fax and print a print job, all at the same time — a true multi-tasking device, rather than just a multi-function machine.

However, you don’t need to invest in a new smart MFP to improve productivity. Recent research reveals that an average user utilises only about 20-30 per cent of the features available in an MFP. In other words, today’s MFPs are bundled with so many features, that many users aren’t even aware of them. For example, simply setting the default to double sided can significantly reduce your paper cost.

With IT budgets being stretched tighter than ever, SMEs should select a printer supplier that not only focuses on selling the hardware and software, but also on educating its customers on how to get the most out of such devices by making them aware of all functionalities.

Xerox is a leading enterprise for business process and document management - www.xerox.co.uk

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