The more things change…
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
by Mark Brudnak
There is a quote commonly attributed to the American humorist Mark Twain that says, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” So it is with many things: news, politics, sports, and more.
It seems I’ve now lived long enough to see it happen in the field of print management.
Recently, a colleague shared some research on workplace health; specifically, the concept that people who work in offices generally sit down for too many hours without moving around. She referred to this as the “sitting disease,” and wondered if LRS software could help companies reduce the dangers of a sedentary work environment.
For example, she suggested that Follow Me printing solutions (also known as secure pull printing solutions) could give employees the opportunity to retrieve their documents from a remote printer while preventing co-workers from getting their hands on sensitive information. Instead of printing to a nearby personal or workgroup printer and sprinting to the device before someone else picks up your pay stub (for example), you could send the document to a secure Follow Me print queue. Your sensitive documents would be stored in a secure print queue and only printed when you have authenticated your identity at any nearby device (via a proximity card, PIN code, or other means).
This reminded me of a time when I worked in my university’s computing center in the area where our mainframe was located. Professors, students, and other users would initiate a print job with a banner page that showed the name of the person who submitted the job. My co-workers and I would separate the various reports and place them in alphabetically ordered slots until their owners came to retrieve them. Users would show their University IDs and we would hand over any documents that belonged to them.
The system was secure, but there was nothing “Follow Me” about it unless the user already happened to be in the basement of the engineering building that housed our data center. Some users would walk a half a mile or more to retrieve their output. It was "Find and Follow Your Print". Since our university was located in northern Michigan, frostbite was a far greater health risk than “sitting disease.”
The original LRS print management solution was designed to address this very problem. Instead of making the users walk to the printer, LRS software made it possible to put the printers where workers were and use the network to deliver the documents. With the arrival of inexpensive desktop laser printers, it was even possible for every user to have a printer at his or her own desk. Sort of a “Send to Me” document strategy instead of Follow Me printing solution.
This approach minimized the time employees spent chasing down their print jobs, which saved a lot of time. It also improved security by delivering documents directly to the authorized user. However, it increased the cost of hardware, toner, ink, paper, and other consumables. Larger printer fleets also meant greater complexity for IT departments that had to define, troubleshoot and support greater numbers of devices.
The shift to workgroup printers – especially those that support Follow Me printing solutions – provides a way to further reduce costs. These devices tend to support faster speeds and have a lower per-page cost than smaller desktop printers. They also offer functionality like color support and duplexing for added flexibility. LRS software lets you manage users’ access to these features to meet your organization’s objectives. For example, you can establish rules like “print all user emails in black & white and on both sides of the paper” to save money.
Having one advanced workgroup printer for every 10-20 employees can still be more cost-effective than providing a personal printer at every desk. And with support for Follow Me printing, it can be just as secure. The cost of employees having to walk to retrieve their documents is more than offset by the reduced cost per page, and this brief pause gets them up and moving around. Which may make my health-conscious co-worker happy.
In the end, IT organizations have to balance a lot of priorities, especially when it comes to the way they manage print. Regardless of your organizational goals – cost savings, personal data protection, employee efficiency, worker health, regulatory compliance – there is a way to use LRS software to address your challenges.