5 best practices for managing modern document workflow

We think we know all about printers, the office machines that put black text and colored images on paper. But many people haven't noticed how much modern printers have evolved over the past few years. And if you still think of printers as a personal device completely controlled by your computer, it's time you looked again.

The office machines that used to be “workgroup printers” have become intelligent, work-flow document management and security systems, remotely manageable, with possible more computing power than your desktop. They do more for less than ever before.

Here are several new “best practices” for managing modern printers.

First, as business gurus always say, you can't manage what you don't measure. For printers, that means management software monitoring every shared printer. Printers that are too old for such management should be put on the “to be replaced” list.

Second, make departments responsible for the printers they use. You can look at this as giving them a sense of ownership over their printer. Or you can stress that each department will be charged for printer usage, so they will be more likely to conserve printer resources.

Third, check regularly on the monitored printers. It does no good to set up printer monitoring but ignore information from the printer management system. This takes little work, actually, but it does take persistence. When an alert from a printer in the, say, accounting department reports unusually high volume, forward that alert to the person responsible for the printer in that area and ask for an explanation. It could be simple, like preparing quarterly reports, which makes sense. It could be printing brackets for March Madness, the college basketball tournament. That may make sense, but not be appreciated by IT.

Fourth, make sure users know your printer use policies, and remind them when they abuse the printers. For example, the accounting department may need to be reminded that printing March Madness brackets is slightly contradictory to the printer use policy. If necessary, adjust the department budget to cover the extra printing costs so IT doesn't have to cover it.

Finally, and this is tougher than all the others, remember that the more printer vendors involved, the messier and more expensive your printer management. No one expects you to dump perfectly good printers to standardize on one vendor. However, choosing a vendor that provides the type of printer quality, management, and reliability you need as your primary printer vendor, and using printer from only that vendor going forward, makes this goal reachable.

A printer is no longer a single office machine. Now a printer is one component in a managed, secure, collaborative workflow solution. If not, you have the wrong printer vendor.

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