Tuesday, January 31, 2017

3 Disrupters* for the Copy/Print Industry

In the Harvard Business Review a few years ago I had written about how by focusing on down-stream disrupters and failing to recognize "platform disrupters" companies can miss the woods for the trees.
I see 3 such platform disrupters emerging in the Copy/Print Industry space:

#1: Robotic Process Automation

 In a widely noted study ("The Future of Employment") published in 2013, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne concluded that
“recent developments in machine learning will put a substantial share of employment, across a wide range of occupations, at risk in the near future.” 
That may be a pessimistic view, the optimistic being that technology always creates more jobs than what it takes away. But all agree that the nature of work as we know it today will definitely change. A more automated workplace with lesser number of employees could drive down the demand for traditional copy/print.

#2: Smart Contracts

From Harvard Business Review ("Truth about Blockchain")
“Smart contracts” may be the most transformative blockchain application at the moment. These automate payments and the transfer of currency or other assets as negotiated conditions are met. For example, a smart contract might send a payment to a supplier as soon as a shipment is delivered. A firm could signal via blockchain that a particular good has been received—or the product could have GPS functionality, which would automatically log a location update that, in turn, triggered a payment. We’ve already seen a few early experiments with such self-executing contracts in the areas of venture funding, banking, and digital rights management.
The implications are fascinating. Firms are built on contracts, from incorporation to buyer-supplier relationships to employee relations. If contracts are automated, then what will happen to traditional firm structures, processes, and intermediaries like lawyers and accountants? And what about managers? Their roles would all radically change...."
As contracts become smart the need for printing associated documentation will diminish.

#3: API Economy

Like Uber for taxi industry, AirBnb for hotel industry – Managed Print Services (MPS) offerings from the API Marketplaces can be a major disrupter for the organized MPS sector.
Came across some companies which are offering Printer Monitoring in the cloud. The features they tout are : 
-          A complete API Platform for Printer
-          Build your own MPS solution etc. 
They have scaled subscription based model with subscriptions including among other things : Unlimited data retention, Unlimited API calls, Unlimited access to all available API, Unlimited access to Cloud Web Portal, Unlimited Users, Customers, DCA downloads, Tech support via email, ticket, chat etc.
Currently, however these solutions while low cost and simple, have less functionality than other 3rd party tools like FM Audit and lack key features .
However, these players are only likely to get better and evolve very rapidly. They may not be perceived as competitors by the mainstream players right now but they can catch up fast. I can visualize them becoming major disrupters – either standalone or in the hand of aggregators who bundle these capabilities with some others which the mainstream players may not even be thinking about right now.
The mainstream players can react to these ins several ways
·        opportunities for them to make some of their own APIs or tool suite available on such marketplaces.
·        Or build such a marketplace for Print related APIs.
·        Or augment some of their own offerings with some other capabilities (which may be non-print related) sourced from the open marketplace.


Hopefully, the mainstream players see these disrupters approaching in their rear-view mirrors and will take steps to ensure that the impact for them is not a "Big Bang".
I would hypothesize that most Disruptions can be prevented from having a Big Bang effect by smart companies by:
- early identification of emerging trends
- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business
- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend
- get "co-opted" into the evolution process
- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.
Companies which do not do so will feel the impact of what was actually an evolutionary process as if it was a "Big Bang". Guys who see an oncoming bus and prepare for it can run alongside it a bit and then board it ; guys who are oblivious will be "hit by a bus".
So that’s why I view most disruptions as evolutionary rather than Big Bang and recommend that organizations prepare for them that way. For each of the companies that have been highlighted as being affected by the Big Bang disruption there will be countless others who would have thrived from the same disruption.
 * Disrupter or Disruptor: I have chosen to use Disrupter!

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