Small and mid-sized businesses are a lifeblood of the economy, and an important focus for OEMs and the reseller community. In today’s business environment, SMBs need many of the same tools and services for Main Street as the largest corporations, and they need partners who will make this possible.

Forceful businessman boxing

One recent development that can assist with this is through the business model itself. The “subscription economy” has brought a wide array of benefits to many industries, ours included. Flat-fee subscription programs can remove capital investment hurdles for SMB customers and give them the flexibility they need to grow, even in the recent, tumultuous business environment. Well after the pandemic is behind us, expect continued interest from SMB customers in more flexible operating-expense models versus capital-expense models, which include high upfront acquisition costs that can be cost prohibitive assets on their financial books.  

More granularly, as SMB customers continue to seek increased mobility and flexibility through their print and scan solutions, doubly so after the pandemic, solutions for SMBs are increasingly converging with those for enterprises. Two areas from which SMBs can especially benefit and “punch above their weight” are cloud-enabled workflow tools and “balanced deployment.”  

Cloud-enabled workflows

Overall, the utilization of cloud technology has been the engine of the modern office, as the cloud has imbued knowledge management processes with enhanced mobility and efficiency. Workers can securely send and edit documents from their phones, laptops, MFPs and scanners. The success of remote working has reinforced the need for business knowledge management to be flexible and collaborative, enabling workforces to “work from anywhere.”  

More so than any other segment, SMBs should turn to cloud-based knowledge management automation because companies of any size can realize immediate return on investment by applying intelligent automation to content-centric processes, ranging from employee onboarding to sales order processing, customer correspondence, and much more. 

SMBs need to automate today while positioning themselves to scale tomorrow, and the automation of knowledge management allows for exactly that. As organizations grow, the ability to manage, govern, scale, and optimize becomes critical. Integrated, smarter knowledge platforms with process orchestration and system connectivity can provide a layer of governance across increasingly diverse and decentralized workforces.

Printing and scanning are perfect examples of routine yet vital workplace functions that knowledge management automation can help revolutionize. Automatically generating audit trails of printed or captured documents can help businesses comply with laws such as HIPAA and GDPR. This will allow SMBs that have long struggled to cope with burdensome regulatory requirements to be on more even footing with enterprises. In addition, automating restricting or preventing employees from printing or scanning sensitive or confidential information is another important benefit for SMBs, which lack the same level of staff resources devoted to risk and compliance as larger businesses.

Furthermore, automated knowledge-management tools can dramatically enhance productivity by assisting employees with rote, low-level and time-consuming tasks. In the case of printing and scanning, for instance, this entails activities like transferring data from a form (whether scanned or on paper), which can be an arduous and mistake-prone process. SMBs can realize the same efficiencies as companies with much greater staff resources.

Enterprises have been on an automation journey for years, but COVID has forced business leaders to accelerate their transformation to become more mobile, secure, and efficient.

Such automation tools meet the needs of an increasingly dynamic workforce and are a critical resource for firms endeavoring to overcome the challenges wrought by the “new normal.

Balanced deployment

The hybrid, post-pandemic working environment, in which employees are located at a centralized office on some days, and working remotely other days, makes it essential that everyone has the resources to be productive and secure whenever and wherever needed. SMBs must be able to adapt quickly to this new environment while maximizing the productivity of both remote and on-premises workers.

As to the latter, reconfiguring the office can lead to better health protocols, but also greater productivity. Distributing office equipment for maximized employee flexibility is called “balanced deployment.” It entails the assessment of knowledge management needs and then rightsizing the distribution of devices and employees throughout a workplace for maximum effectiveness. Previously, offices often had a centralized layout with a high employee-to-device ratio (particularly for printers and scanners). But the post-pandemic office necessitates a new trend towards decentralization, reduced device contact, and fewer users per device. Balanced deployment is one of several ways employers are expected to continue emphasizing social distancing without sacrificing business performance. With a properly balanced deployment plan, businesses can increase productivity, reduce costs, and help keep employees safe.

Clearly, there are many developments in document management that have allowed SMBs to go toe-to-toe with larger enterprises in the modern business environment with respect to productivity, flexibility, and mobility. Leveraging these latest developments will help mom-and-pop businesses reap a return on investment that is second to none. 

Shelly Radler
Shelly Radler, Brother International

Shelly Radler is Senior Product Marketing Manager at Brother International