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6 print and IT forecasts for 2021

6 print and IT forecasts for 2021

The Cannata Report recently posted an impressively detailed watchlist of 2021 trends and it got me thinking… What will I be keeping an eye on this year?

A word of caution before you dive in… 2021’s tech landscape is defined by the long-term impact of Covid-19. While we’re all keen to sweep the memory of 2020 under the rug, it’s pragmatic to acknowledge that its shadow is already looming over 2021. Last year saw many workplaces start seeking better ways to print touch-free, reduce costs, and support flexible hybrid working. All that’s already ramping up at the beginning of this year..

Covid-19 has accelerated the rapid acceleration of various business and IT trends i.e. enabling working from home, and ensuring business continuity. The focus on security and cloud technologies has enabled this momentum. Other business models that underwent huge transformation include Warner Brothers announcing the immediate streaming release of their major releases, and Twitter shifting to a permanent working from home model

While there are pros and cons to all of these long-term impacts of the pandemic, and it’s tempting to focus on the negatives of the year that was 2020, I’m going to try my darndest to focus on the positives. 

These are the opportunities for growth I’ll be watching during 2021…  

1. Hybrid/remote working office renovations

It’s not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll be working remotely for 2021 and beyond. A thought that businesses must be prepared for. 

I expect to see some big changes with office space. It’s likely we’ll see teams bouncing between working in their office and then, when a Covid-19 outbreak occurs, having to shift back to remote working for a period. This will likely have businesses thinking about reducing their office footprint on a more permanent basis. We’ll possibly see a push for permanent flexibility with rental terms. 

This may lead to a rise in the popularity of shared office spaces as businesses forgo having their own permanent workplaces (I’m talking about SMBs that have managed to operate successfully in a remote manner). I think we’ll become permanently hybrid in the future, and large shared working spaces will accelerate that shift. Perhaps not in 2021 though!

What about a business’s print environment, then? I get the feeling teams returning to the office will stay within their own team hubs to limit the risk of potential virus exposure. This will necessitate a redesign of the IT infrastructure. For example, I believe MFDs/MFPs will be allocated to each team hub, as opposed to being available for all employees to use. 

Customers may start consolidating some devices to A3 MFDs/MFPs, while in other cases putting smaller A4 devices closer to their user groups. Of course the success of print solutions such as Mobility Print (which now includes Cloud Print) enabling hybrid printing will continue to be popular — especially for companies looking for a Google Cloud Print alternative

2. Accelerated, accelerated cloud uptake

Print management in the cloud has been on the upward swing for a few years now, with 73% of organizations expected to transition to cloud print management by 2025 as reported in the Quocirca Global Print 2025 Report.  

I’m anticipating that the context of Covid-19 and hybrid working could very well expedite this transition process for some businesses. Our own Dave Farrell wrote last September on how the pandemic has changed the print world for the long term and I’d say that change will continue to be ongoing.

The timing of the pandemic has created an opportunity for cloud-native products to rapidly mature – which is certainly the case for our cloud-native solutions PaperCut Pocket and PaperCut Hive, which spent 2020 in accelerated beta programs. 

It’s the age-old adage of supply and demand and while cloud solutions were already the print industry’s leading trend, the pandemic is only heightening that demand.

3. Security, security, security!

Security remains a consistently evergreen trend in the world of print management. It’s certainly one of the key considerations around transitioning from on-premise infrastructure to managed cloud solutions – especially in healthcare, but more of that a little below… 

The recently released Quocirca Print Security Landscape report spoke about the acceleration to remote working and cloud computing as well as IT security as the top investment priority for this year. 

The expanded necessity of remote and hybrid working for industries like legal and healthcare could mean an increase in cybersecurity vulnerability for some workplaces. I expect 2021 to be defined by the implementation of print management solutions both on-premise and in the cloud with the highest security and compliance standards.

4. Edge Mesh and IoT reimagine print and the cloud

Yes, I’m going to use a buzzword. It IS a prediction post after all, and who doesn’t love buzzwords in their prediction posts!

In my defense, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is a big part of the techno-wizardry that drives our cloud-native platform-tools PaperCut Hive and PaperCut Pocket. 

I’m picking that our Edge Mesh IoT technology will be the key to opening up print management to a whole new SMB (small to medium business) audience in 2021. Why? Because businesses will be looking for cloud solutions (that is, solutions that won’t require hardware like servers) that:

  • Don’t slow down their printers
  • Are exceptionally safe
  • Help to reduce costs

And there’s really only one way to achieve that (HINT: it’s through using an Edge Mesh — read more here). 

Roll on to 2021 where we’ll talk about IoT without the cringe or irony!

5. Faxing to be bolstered for healthcare and beyond

“Hold on, this is a blog about the future and you’re talking about faxing?” There’s a good reason, I’m not a dinosaur, I promise! 

This is all about looking after our healthcare customers, who are overwhelmed day after day, even more so during the pandemic. In 2018 it was reported that 75% of all hospital communication was via fax. Today approximately 9 billion pages are faxed each year, and there’s no decline in sight. The facts are that fax is still a mainstay form of securing messaging for the healthcare industry. So we’re putting a lot of effort into ensuring PaperCut MF provides a standardised, secure, and simple experience for tracking and enabling secure messaging.

Not only is faxing one of the primary means of communication in healthcare, it’s also ruled by the demand for security and compliance. Healthcare’s heightened requirement for PHI security (protected health information) makes it the first question potential customers ask when seeking a print management solution – and faxing is a big part of their print environment.

Healthcare’s focus on security for any form of communication has only been heightened in 2021 due to Covid-19 – it is the top priority over functionality, and it’s only going to stay that way for the next five years.

During that time I’m also expecting to see healthcare continually move to the cloud, but on a case by case basis. Healthcare IT infrastructure is mainly on-premise but where possible organizations are transitioning what services they can to the cloud for external communication tools like secure messaging. 

This has seen emerging cloud fax vendors pop up in healthcare offering a secure, and simple experience for tracking and enabling faxing whilst also looking to create other means of securely sending messages and information. This combined with the current pandemic climate means 2021 is sure to be a paradigm shift for a focus on a standardised, secure, and consistent faxing experience for healthcare.

6. Much more touchless tech 

Perhaps the silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic is the improvements it has made to hygiene practices in both businesses and the broader community. Protective face screens at supermarkets, mask-wearing, hand sanitization stations, among other hygienic practices aren’t just combating the spread of Covid-19 but have also seen a reduction in worldwide flu cases

These practices aren’t just tools to fight this pandemic but are potentially a “new normal” that will stay for good. The same may be the case for touchless printing, as not just a necessity for reducing frequently used touch-points in workplaces but also creating an opportunity for quick and more convenient printing practices.

I’m anticipating many print management solutions to bake-in touch-free printing into their software, that’s certainly the case with our cloud-native platform products, PaperCut Pocket and PaperCut Hive.  

But I’m no Nostradamus…

(Did he even see 2020 happening?)

I suppose it’s a tad ambitious for my blog debut to be “This is what will happen in 2021!” Rest assured, I’m not so much in the “prediction” game as I am in the “giddily looking forward to what this year will bring”… game. 

Whatever the next 12 months deliver for the print and IT world, the one prediction I’m sure of is there’ll be plenty of lessons and reflections when we’re down to that last page on this year’s calendar.

If you’d like to read up more about how to support touch-free printing, flexible working, and cost reduction, check out our Better Ways hub.

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