Mobile Employees and Print: A Lesson on Adaptation

I had an interesting conversation while attending CompTIA’s ChannelCon event a few weeks ago regarding the mobile employee. The person with whom I had the conversation I shall identify only by saying he plays a mean harmonica and spends a good chunk of his time without a printer. We compared notes on how working outside of a corporate office changes your printing habits – a bit of an eye-opener for me. I’d never realized just how much of my workflow was dictated by the fact that I don’t have a fleet of corporate-owned laser printers at my disposal.

When I first left the safe confines of the Office Technology Group’s home office in Las Vegas to work from a home office all the way across the country in Florida, the term “mobile worker” didn’t exist. There were no tablets, no iPhones, no cloud and very few Wi-Fi hotspots. My first Blackberry was still a year away; my smartphone was a T-Mobile MDA on which I could occasionally access webmail. I was a remote employee, working from a home office and grateful for the corporate VPN.

The hardest part of the transition was recreating a workflow that had included a lot of paper. And I do mean a lot. Believe me when I say that magazine production was, and still is, doing its part to keep print alive. Back at the ranch, paper is still churning out of those devices. But was I going to continue to print out every page of every issue – two or three times – on my 20-ppm inkjet printer? And then find a way to dispose of those reams of paper that seem somehow much more looming, space-invading and just plain wrong than they do in an office? Instead, I found other ways to accomplish the same tasks. Print switched to PDF, editing happened on screen, and magazine production was actually streamlined through some of the innovations we came up with. Then a strange thing happened. I got used to not printing.

Six or seven years later, I’m hardly an anomaly, as this infographic from Photizo shows. However, I have to admit I’m in the minority when it comes to how I rank the importance of printing from a mobile device. It’s those years of training, I suppose, but I spent so much time finding workarounds for printing that it’s now ingrained in me not to print. When I put an offer on my house, I did so without ever printing a single piece of paper, and up through closing, I could count on one hand the number of documents I printed from my own printer. (The number of printed pages actually created by the mortgage company, title company and realtors for closing, of course, was enough to keep me feeling good about the health of the hard-copy industry.)

So back to this conversation at CompTIA, during which I discovered that I’m not alone – and that circumstance not only dictates workflow, but shapes and refines it until you can’t imagine doing things any other way. It’s adaptation, and it’s happening on every level. As businesses from small to enterprise-level look to streamline their own workflow, reduce costs and improve productivity, digitization, content management and business process optimization become key. And MPS providers are adapting as well, providing those services and solutions, creating an ecosystem in which needs continue to be met – whether print, digital or a hybrid of the two. It’s a much bigger scale than my own little office, but the principle is the same: Build it and they will come, but remove it and they will find another way to accomplish things.

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