Is software your key to business agility?

Steve Downes, solutions architect & support manager, Ricoh UK
Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The need to be able to adapt quickly has been clearly demonstrated in the past 18 months – so now is the perfect time to ensure your business has the flexibility it needs to thrive.

The pandemic accelerated trends that we were already happening
The pandemic accelerated trends that we were already happening

Agility – it’s a word that has been on many printers’ minds over the past 18 months. Events have shown, like never before, that you have to be ready for the unexpected as you plot your business’s path to success.

Many commercial print businesses have needed to pivot quickly as they pursue new directions and have looked to their software systems – both the functionalities of their applications and the ways these are deployed – to enable that agility.

Vendors like Ricoh, with applications such as Ricoh ProcessDirector workflow and Avanti Slingshot print MIS in its portfolio, have had to respond in kind, with agility built into our products, and into the ways we service our customers’ needs.

The pandemic has accelerated trends that we were already seeing in the market. Namely that print businesses were already moving away from inhibitive in-house systems that were costly to evolve and as a result they were already looking for software that gave them a proven framework upon which to build, that was flexible enough to meet their unique requirements, and scalable for business growth.

There has been a surge in that trend. Customers have been asking themselves a big question: how can we protect ourselves against events outside of our control? The answer has been seeking proven, off-the-shelf solutions that have the ability to adapt as required, sourced from service providers that are prepared to accommodate that need for agility, that can react quickly to meet unique needs, and that are steeped in the spirit of partnership.

Workflow and MIS software must be flexible, scalable and compliant in terms of security and data handling. It must be capable of running within the cloud or on premises, if that is the customer’s preference.

Customers often fear that requesting tailored adaptations to an off-the-shelf solution will mean long lead times before implementation. It need not be the case: in our experience of tailoring Ricoh ProcessDirector to customer needs, the implementation time should be no longer than six weeks from the start of the project. Speed of delivery, even for tailored solutions, should not be a problem.

Nor should cost. Out of the box, the Ricoh ProcessDirector software is a simplified PDF workflow, and is capable of meeting the needs of every organisation, from a small to medium sized print business, right up to corporate enterprises and retailers. It is modular and is deployed on a ‘pay for what you use’ basis.

ProcessDirector enables printers to add multi-channel comms to their offering

During the pandemic, we have seen Avanti MIS become increasingly important for smaller print companies in particular. In assessing their staffing needs during lockdown, they wanted to gain a better understanding of the length of time that jobs were being actively handled, and how long they were sitting on pallets awaiting the next stage of production or fulfilment. Then they wanted to optimise the operation around that. In these circumstances, our Avanti Slingshot MIS system helped them to get a clearer picture of what was happening.

Finding the right technology partner is a step that is loaded with benefits, both in the short and long term, and it goes much further than the product offering that the partner can initially put in place. Printers should aim to partner with a company that can take both a strategic and tactical view: the bigger picture of the company’s growth and development, and the more immediate day-to-day, month-to-month demands that enable a print firm to demonstrate that much-needed fleet of foot.

Ricoh's free, downloadable ebook covers the top ten time-consuming tasks you should automate

Beyond this, the ideal software partner will be open and honest, and capable of undertaking a more wide-ranging systems integrator role. They will recognise when a company already possesses high value systems and tools that can be built upon, and will be prepared to introduce and manage a third-party application integration if their own products do not solve the dilemma.

Being ready for the unknown has become as important as drafting a painstaking strategic plan. The shocks of the last year and a half have made this point forcefully, sparking many printers into bringing workflow and software plans forward. They have discovered that getting the right software application and the right software partner can make a profound difference to a business’s ability to quickly adapt to changing market demands and position itself for profitability and growth.

They need agility, and software can deliver it.

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