By Andrew Hall, marketing manager, Oki Systems UK Ltd

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon is sweeping over businesses large and small like a tidal wave. Recent data from market research provider, Vanson Bourne indicates that it is rapidly becoming the norm within businesses, with 84% of UK IT decision-makers reporting that employees are using their devices for work purposes.

The use of personal smartphones and tablets is helping drive the always on 24x7 digital environment and delivering enhanced productivity into the bargain. However, drawbacks can start to emerge when it comes to printing output.

Imagine someone working for a company with a BYOD policy. They can quite happily work on their iPad or tablet, especially when visiting clients. But when they are on their way to a meeting and want to print off a hard copy of their presentation, proposal or even artwork concepts to make a more dramatic impression at the meeting, they suddenly come up against barriers.

Or they only have their phone with them and they are finding the figures on a spreadsheet their colleagues have just emailed difficult to access. It would be ideal to have a hard copy so they can have the full story at their fingertips, but only authorised devices are allowed to log-on to their client’s networked printers.

It’s only then that they realise that printing has become a victim of the mobile revolution. Businesses have got used to working digitally, but there are still many occasions when only a hard copy will do. Rumours of the death of printing have been exaggerated; in a survey carried out by Oki Systems UK last year, 92% of those polled said that they still print documents every day, with 45% printing more than 10 pages daily.

The same survey also highlighted how employees are now also expecting to be able to connect to printers from their own smartphones and tablets. Of the 24% of respondents who brought their own phones and tablets into the office, a substantial 45% print from these devices from the office printer.

All of this research raises some interesting dilemmas. Not least, how can businesses accommodate the evolving needs of their workforce in this new BYOD environment while making sure they keep a lid on their printing costs?

Here’s my advice about specific steps you can take to help make this happen:
• Stop seeing printing merely as an add-on to the mainstream business processes but view it instead as a task that should be integrated into business workflows;

• Instead of ignoring printing costs, audit them. Or rather, record who is printing, when and where. Do you have disparate models from different suppliers with different support agreements, all with different terms and timescales? Do staff need to print from mobiles and tablets? Before you take control you need to know what you are dealing with.

• Small quick wins. There are numerous small steps that can be easily taken and won’t impact anything other than the bottom line. For example; make double-sided printing the default option – ditto mono printing except, of course, when colour is essential. Make sure printers are switched off at night.

• Consider new buying models – instead of purchasing new printers outright consider a managed services option. These enable businesses to buy printers, supplies, maintenance and support in one, all-inclusive ongoing contract. The best will also enable the business to optimise its printer fleet, consolidating with new multifunction, energy saving devices and advising on best practices. These services are often offered on an ongoing basis with continuous monitoring and strategic recommendations.

• Working in this way can lead to more sophisticated assessments of overall document workflow and security. New multifunction printers come with an open platform enabling the customisation of the user interface to integrate all document-related tasks into an organisation’s document workflow. This enables a move from a manual to an automated workflow, making it easier to track and reduce printer usage.

• Finally, don’t ignore the issue of mobile printing for too long. Many affordable printers are now cloud-connected which means users can wirelessly print documents form any mobile phone, laptop, tablet, PC or other web-connected device. The printers and mobile device find one another via a mobile app. For example, Google Cloud Print integrates with Chrome, Gmail for mobile and Google Docs for mobile and can also print to third-party native mobile apps on Android and iOS platforms. iPhone and iPad users can take advantage of Apple’s AirPrint as this is embedded natively in these devices.