Increasing efficiency and mobility integration: Is there an MFP app for that?

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Feb 2, 2012

Apps have taken the IT industry by storm, quickly moving into businesses and onto MFPs. Many MFP apps are meant to save businesses time and money while improving efficiency. Although many of these apps allow users to scan documents to a cloud repository, send alerts to staff, or find cartridge refill stores with the touch of a button (or app?), there are many others that aren’t quite as efficient or economical.

For the most part, vendors have created printer apps to enhance office productivity. Some vendors even provide app categories tailored to certain verticals, like healthcare or legal. But even when looking at these types of apps, they all pretty much have one thing in common — printing. And in such an eco-friendly, “think-before-you-print” environment, are these apps truly meant to increase efficiency and save businesses money if it’s costing more in ink, toner, and paper? Instead, there are apps to print out stationary, Sudoku puzzles, news feeds, maps, and more. Now I see why there is a “cartridge finder” app.

Many app-enabled MFP devices also come with social networking connectivity, including Facebook and Twitter where users can browse through news feeds and view and print photos. While I can’t imagine many users browsing through social networks via a printer, I can imagine these apps producing more waste, costing SMBs more money and ultimately curtailing productivity, the same things that all businesses (and vendors!) try to eliminate.

MFP apps, while certainly innovative and provide a differentiator between vendor offerings, are something businesses need to remain wary of when it comes to reducing overhead. But vendors also need to be wary of how our industry is shifting more towards mobile-dependent routing and capture workflows.

InfoTrends recently completed the 2011 Solutions and Services Vertical Market Study and found that nearly 73% of employees use their smartphones for work related purposes (only third from laptops and flat screen monitors). The laser-based MFP came in fifth at about 63%.

While 63% isn’t too low, the possibility of that percentage increasing is slim. Over the next 12-24 months, viewing documents on an MFP is going to decrease by about 31% whereas viewing documents on smartphones and tablets will increase by almost 45% and 67% , respectively.

We also asked the outlook for future investments in hardware technology. The top responses? Tablets, smartphones, laptops and storage equipment. Meanwhile, MFP investments will only increase by 21%.

So why are vendors so focused on developing MFP apps and creating app marketplaces when it is mobile devices that are transforming the work environment and replacing traditional workflow processes? MFP apps help optimize workflows and productivity but so do mobile devices, which is where huge vendor opportunities exist. Right now, there is a major disparity between the business apps that are available for mobile knowledge workers and the ability to actually use them in the workplace. There are too many different platforms with too many different vendor offerings; creating confusion and compatibility issues between apps, software, and legacy devices, like MFPs.

Users are increasingly turning to mobile devices to capture, process, and store information (via the cloud), and the need for a holistic mobile solution that will integrate these capabilities into everyday business processes is crucial, yet there doesn’t seem to be a vendor stepping up to the plate to provide it. Currently, the MFP plays an important role in achieving business processes and printer apps provide added value for scanning, printing, and routing abilities. But what about the future? Mobile devices will revolutionize this space that was once dominated by the MFP (if they haven’t already), and vendors will need to adjust their offerings to reflect that. When 34% of organizations are looking to invest in mobile workflow computing solutions, organizations and employees need more mobility innovation and integration. Is there an MFP app for that?

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For more information about the 2011 Solutions and Services Vertical Market Study or InfoTrends’ business process solutions initiatives please contact Scott Phinney at scott_phinney@infotrends.com

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