Connecting a Post-COVID Distributed Workforce

Cloud migration offers tremendous opportunity for success in the “new business normal.” As vaccinations roll out and we return to a new business normal, what we previously thought of as “the office” will undoubtedly be different. The pandemic has changed the way businesses approach every decision — large or small — and the way we work day-to-day. 

Cloud computing concept.

Workers are more dispersed than ever. Some will continue to work remotely — Gartner estimates 48%1 — while those who return to headquarters or satellite offices will face new environments and new safety guidelines. All of this comes with increased complexities in communication, productivity and security. Some of those changes will be physical, such as socially distanced workstations and the integration of more touch-free technology. Others will be policy changes, such as limits to the number of people who share a conference room, quarantine rules for ill employees, and flexible scheduling.  

It’s this flexibility of where work happens and the high number of those who will continue to work remotely that will make remote collaboration software one of the biggest office technology trends this year. 

Team collaboration, content sharing, document management, and e-signature capabilities were among the most urgent office software needs that technology analyst firm IDC cited in a recent report.2 And with the increase in remote work, the need for remote employee monitoring, including health and safety data, will become a top priority as well. Gartner reports that a new era of employee monitoring is emerging, and this “additional data collection will necessitate better storage, management, and analysis.” 1  It’s more than a reaction in the post-pandemic new business normal; it’s a long-term trend accelerated by the increase in remote workers.1

Many organizations’ IT infrastructures lack the flexibility and scalability to meet post-Covid business needs. Companies that want to take advantage of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics will need to make significant changes. And a big opportunity for positive change lies in the cloud. 

The latest cloud technology empowers users and reduces the burden on IT staff — both highly valuable in a post-COVID workplace. 

Of course, the printed page remains a critical component of how we do business; it’s vital to how we share and communicate information. According to an IDC study, half of all back-office workflow processes have significant printing requirements. Now, more than ever, both small and large companies are focused on digital transformation, and cloud migration of print processes is a big part of that. 

Cloud migration provides important benefits that will enable greater productivity in a post-COVID office world, including integrating print with other strategic IT initiatives and a more efficient and productive way to connect a distributed workforce. 

Aside from integrating and streamlining workflows, the new business normal has put a spotlight on security, especially as it relates to the cloud. According to analyst firm Quocirca, 64% of IT decision-makers report having had a data loss due to print security failures in the past six months compared to 66% in the full 12 months preceding the onset of the pandemic.3

So while cloud-based print management can help organizations meet specific information management goals, it can also ensure secure print release across a dispersed office environment. A cloud-based infrastructure protects data from on-site printer risks. That means secure print release, document protection, confidentiality, and cost savings from reduced unclaimed prints from workers both inside and outside the office space. 

Of course, the transition to the cloud comes with its own challenges. Many companies have extensive existing IT infrastructure and legacy processes in place that complicate cloud migration. Their devices may include a large spread of printers, multifunction devices, scanners, servers and more from a wide range of manufacturers and of varying ages. 

For this reason, most offices have been working on completing their digital transformation and moving to an entirely cloud-based infrastructure in phases. In fact, right now, cloud migration is the number one investment priority for digital transformation. IDC predicted that by 2023, 60% of companies will adopt cloud print management across their organizations to drive operational benefits and accommodate the growing virtual workforce.4. 

Why move to the cloud?

  • Ease of deployment: Adding new users or printers is easy when you don’t have to worry about provisioning servers or configuring on-premise software. 
  • Streamlined maintenance: Cloud architecture means your devices get the latest firmware and apps, across locations, without stressing out your IT group.  Cloud services are always up to date with the latest features and security fixes. 
  • Funding flexibility: There’s no need for up-front capital outlays — as-a-service cloud services can be funded through standard operational expenditures. And you pay only for the resources you use, not a static on-site system overbuilt for peak requirements.
  • Scalability: As your business needs change, cloud services use proven, high-performance cloud technology to scale up (or down) to meet your needs. Adding new cloud services as they become available is easy, too.
  • Uptime: World-class cloud technology ensures greater continuity of service.

Cloud services provide a more efficient and affordable path to print management success. With its multi-tenant cloud architecture and ease of deployment, cloud services bring a full suite of print-optimizing capabilities to any print environment, from small companies to large enterprises. Companies can offload infrastructure, configure, manage and analyze their print environment for ease of use, consistency, security and cost control. 

You need tools and solutions at the forefront of today’s trends and business needs, and that’s especially true when it comes to cloud services. 

1. Gartner COVID-19 Crisis Benchmarking Against Your Peers Webinar Poll (n = 421 HR leaders, 2 April 2020), 2020 Gartner Cost Cutting and Employee Experience Survey (n = 4,535 employees), COVID-19: How Finance Leaders Are Responding to the Emerging Situation Webinar Poll (n = 317 finance leaders, 26 March 2020)

2. Print Market Recovery in the Aftermath of COVID-19 Survey 2020, IDC, December 2020 

3. Quocirca Print Security Landscape, 2020 (Dec 2020)

4. IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Imaging, Printing, and Document Solutions and 3D Printing 2021 Predictions

Clark Bugg is sales director for the North American copier channel, Lexmark.