With the third anniversary of Covid-19 coming and going, we continue to see the modern office rapidly evolve. What began with the need for remote and/or hybrid working conditions is morphing into more dramatic changes in how we conduct business.
Yes, remote and hybrid working still plays into this evolution, but the greater shift we’re seeing is the increasing collaboration among teams to drive more efficient business processes and behavior. This is where the increasing need for more advanced and secure business platforms originates.
What we’re seeing
The office technology industry is a perfect example of how recent technologies and services are impacting how business gets done. We were completely underutilizing Microsoft 365 when remote working swept through our company like a tidal wave in March 2020. Individual departments and groups were deploying a variety of disparate systems. While it was still possible to accomplish the tasks at hand, doing so was completely inefficient and presented a bottleneck, impeding the ability to complete any meaningful work during meetings. Considering more than half of my vendor and customer meetings revealed similar levels of confusion because of the many applications in use, we were certainly not alone.
Fast forward a year, and the shift in technology was accelerating. Internally, everyone began adopting Microsoft 365. This enabled a much simpler scheduling and meeting process while more importantly bolstering our collaborative efforts.
During conference calls before the transition, it was common to receive an email with attachments, which would be downloaded, reviewed and shared one screen at a time. Sounds painful, right? And it was!
Now add external attendees and the entire process of organizing a meeting became quite overwhelming. Shifting our way of working by using applications like Teams, Sharepoint and OneDrive has been effective in allowing us to operate with more consistency and efficiency.
As we began polling clients, we found an overwhelming majority utilizing Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. This is also where we’ve seen a greater shift in the big picture of IT infrastructure and tech.
Databases and core business solutions utilize single sign-on capabilities (SSO) with Microsoft and Google to manage authentication. This may not seem important at first glance, but having worked with our internal software development teams I can attest that it is. It’s allowing us to reduce development times as well as costs. We’re also tightening onsite server security while addressing application authentication with zero trust-centric architecture.
How does this relate to our industry and go-to-market strategies? Multifunction printers (MFPs) are an onramp to other systems and technology. Uploading data onto cloud repositories or back-end business applications is integral for today’s businesses. Extracting data from those systems directly from the MFP panel is an emerging trend that drives even further onsite collaboration.
Essentially, product development now revolves around the cloud and SSO with Microsoft or Google. On recent client visits across the country where we have discussed the latest tech our industry has to offer, people are surprised by how efficiently and affordably MFPs are able to fulfill these everyday tasks. The question I’m now receiving is, “why don’t we have this, and how fast can we get it?”
TCO and ROI
Throughout my career, I’ve made a point of shying away from cost and cost savings discussions during sales cycles, considering the shift to commoditization can happen really fast. Rather, as clients continue digitizing and modernizing their businesses, there is a much larger conversation around TCO (total cost of ownership) and ROI (return on investment). While once it may have been fine to discuss new tech that only checked a box or two while adding to the cost of the solution, that’s no longer the case.
Onsite tech hardware is rapidly becoming a costly relic that our clients are ditching for the cloud, thus making our solution an overall reduction in IT spending. I approach the conversation with these elements in mind:
- Servers are costly
- They require replacement
- Staff for management
- Real estate
- Security risk
This comes as no surprise in conversation, and chances are your clients and/or prospects are also concerning themselves with these expenses. I challenge you to call a current customer and ask them if they’ve explored cloud printing and its many benefits. You’d be surprised how these simple topics truly resonate with modern businesses.
Why is this important to understand and discuss? Relevancy and making sure you are the trusted partner in technology will serve you well in times of rapid change.
Budgets seem to matter more now with the overall economy becoming more of a point of emphasis in boardrooms. If you can eliminate old tech you didn’t provide that has zero financial attachment to you and increase your footprint in the account, it’s mutually beneficial
What is the next big thing?
I touched on SSO among business platforms and common user directories like Microsoft and Google. The concept is basic: user and IT simplicity. Increasing security, centralized management and continuity across applications present clients with still more perks.
Looking beyond, SSO is much more complex than a user logging into multiple applications using the same credentials. Bilateral communication between multiple platforms is where tech is heading, and why SSO is such a transformative concept.
Conducting business in our industry as it pertains to business applications and communicating with each other hasn’t always been easy. We have a software platform a customer needs/wants. An existing set of applications for day-to-day business functions need to communicate with our platform. Then, the real fun of integrating/outsourcing/professional services begins.
Sometimes there are available APIs (application programming interfaces) to simplify integrating multiple applications. But this isn’t always the case, which increasingly complicates sales cycles considering clients’ unwillingness to absorb such projects.
Queue drum roll, please! Integration platform as a service (IPaaS) is here, and it is changing how our clients and software partners can integrate multiple systems. This method is ideal for clients already transitioning to the cloud as well as those who are in the process. Consider the many hybrid and on-premises environments deploying a mix of cloud applications and hardware that can benefit from IPaaS. We leverage IPaaS today to connect document management technologies with a line of business applications to help customers get the most out of their workflows.
How does it work? Simply put, application servers commonly hosted by IPaaS providers, either on-premises or in the cloud, run the software and pre-configured middleware integrations to accomplish seamless communication. Since these servers and integrations are hosted, they no longer require complex custom integrations to manage.
How are you streamlining your office?