Businesses continue to explore opportunities to increase revenues, improve business operations and/or reduce cost to improve the bottom line. At the same time, businesses are modifying office environments to accommodate information technology transformation integrating mobility, social networks, cloud and data analytics (IDC refers to this transformation as Platform 3) in business processes, impacting employee's daily interaction. In this stage, we expect to see companies consolidate office space as employees expand their work environments, enabled by mobile technologies.

As interest in workflow automation migrates downstream from the enterprise segment to large, medium and small businesses, we initiated a number of studies to help both users and vendors understand the workflows that are being automated and optimized, the role of managed print services (MPS) and the benefits provided in regard to paper consumption.
"The top business processes that have been automated and optimized in the past 12 months are heavily focused on back-office workflows but also include front-office workflows."

IDC conducted an online survey in late 2013 focusing on efforts to automate document-intensive business processes. The survey was US-focused and respondent's criteria requirements were: individuals that were 18 years or older, employed full time and must have been involved in the company's decision to implement workflow automation and technology acquisition that enabled document workflow automation and optimization. This includes document-related software, document services, such as outsourced scanning/archiving, managed print/document services, external print purchasing from print service providers, consulting/implementation of professional services, printers/MFPs and related toner/ink supplies, break/fix maintenance, fax lines, web/video conferencing, document courier services and paper.

Results from the study shows that the top business processes that have been automated and optimized in the past 12 months, and planned automation for the next 12 months, are heavily focused on back-office workflows but also include front-office workflows, like sales and marketing.

Digging deeper into the research, we found that accounting, human resources and financial are the top three functional areas in which business processes were automated or optimized in the past 12 months, or are planned for automation in the next 12 months. Forms management and insurance workflows round out the top five workflows that were automated or optimized in the past 12 months. Regulatory compliance and marketing will displace forms management and insurance workflows in the next 12 months for the fifth and sixth spots.

Respondents that have a managed print services contract are far more likely to automate and/or optimize business processes than those that do not. In the past 12 months, respondents with MPS automated and optimized horizontal processes, such as accounting, human resources and financial. When asked what workflows they plan to automate and optimize in the next 12 months, respondents with MPS indicated that they plan to expand the effort to include nine of 13 business processes available in the survey; the exceptions were forms management, contracts, sales and manufacturing.

Respondents that indicated that their firm had deployed a print volume reduction initiative had high correlation with automating and/or optimizing document-intensive business processes. Those that had automated processes in the past 12 months focused on horizontal processes, particularly financial, insurance and forms management. Future automation augmented the list with regulatory/compliance and marketing processes.

Results from this study clearly identify a strong relationship between businesses that have taken advantage of managed print services and workflow automation and optimization. This correlates with IDC's managed print service maturity model, as this model clearly identifies the progression of businesses' document management initiatives achieved when managed by a third party that bring years of experience managing both paper and digital documents.


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