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Traditional OA companies forced to transform

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Market uncertainty and the unsteady economic climate are causing customers to sweat their office automation assets beyond past thresholds, writes Jacques van Wyk, COO of Ricoh SA.
And now they have a slew of new needs to help them try to cope with that uncertainty, needs that are prompting businesses like ours to transform.
Longer term changes in the markets add to the transformation. Digitalisation and automation that realise swift business efficiencies are key strategic goals for many companies as they seek flexibility and agility that enable them to rapidly respond to fluid and dynamic conditions.
Companies in our sector can no longer just sell printers and scanners and multifunction devices. That kind of traditional approach falls well short of customer requirements and you lose any relevance to customers. Instead, customers need to digitalise those parts of their business that are analogue, and from our perspective that’s the paper that feeds and informs the operational layers, documents such as invoices and proofs of delivery.
But the new approach extends to the office as well in areas like finance and human resources (HR). A number of customers have modernised and automated administrative functions to minimise or eradicate paper for digitalised efficiencies and also to meet growing demand for regulatory compliance. The new approach also affects the ways in which people communicate and work together. And it’s also felt in the ways that business is conducted, the processes by which it runs.
Office workers must collaborate more today than at any previous time in history. We’re more mobile, generally, as people. We have smart phones and tablets and laptops and the question of why we’re tethered to desks crops up more and more often. So we spend more time away from our desks and our offices. And there’s more demand to spend our time with customers in a digitalised era where conversations are dominated by service delivery.
We can easily become disconnected and ineffective if we’re unable to collaborate effectively in this new environment.
Communication technologies such as smart boards, projectors, video conferencing tools, and the software that binds these as the common thread with our now traditional tablets, smartphones, and laptops are more important to keep businesses operating. They link back to the documents digitalised by our printers, scanners, and multifunction devices because we’re often collaborating around those documents, the processes, and workflows that they inhabit.
These tools empower people to take responsibility, to own their sectors, to be in control of their service delivery to their own customers. It’s part of the more informed modern HR lexicon that employees want to own their responsibility. Being able to provide it helps companies attract the rising talent they need to remain relevant now and competitive in future.
This essentially transforms what and how we offer solutions and services to customers today. And it sweats customer assets by extending the usefulness of those assets, not only to meet their original mandate, but in becoming more useful to meet the modern challenges that companies face. And they also inform new ways of working essential to being competitive in a disrupted world.