Analyst Report > SmartMFP

Sep 19, 2014Analyst Report written by IDC

"Smart" MFPs Take Conventional MFPs to a New Level of Capability and Performance as Intelligent Document Processing Machines

Sponsored by Kyocera Document Solutions Inc.-

By Keith Kmetz,
Program Vice President, IDC's Imaging,
Printing and Document Solutions Research Practice

While MFPs have been available in the market for many years, a new breed of MFP – the "smart" MFP – offers a new level of capability and performance. This new type of MFP presents an evolution from ordinary print/copy output devices to intelligent “smart” document processing machines that address each customer’s own unique document workflows. As such, the "smart" MFP value proposition is that of an enhanced document solution that is integral to many, if not all, paper and electronic document processes of the business.

The smart MFP continues to incorporate all the standard features of a conventional MFP (e.g., incorporating the print function along with one or more of the following document functions – copy, fax and scan) as well as the many value propositions of an MFP such as consolidating multiple machines (up to four) into one device; cost and space savings offered in this consolidation and better toner and maintenance management.

However, the "smart" MFP extends the established MFP value proposition into new levels of functionality. At the core of this new level of functionality is the "smart" MFP's increased focus on document software solutions and services. The "smart" MFP adds the following elements to its definition that distinguishes it from established, conventional MFPs.

  • It is network ready and/or Internet ready.
  • It incorporates a customizable graphical user interface (e.g., touchscreen) panel to enable a more user-friendly interface to increase access to key device features; and
  • Most importantly, it has an open embedded platform (architecture). This platform allows the "smart" MFP to be programmed to perform customizable functions (e.g., addressing specific customer workflows). These functions are driven by software that's either embedded or server-based (e.g., On-premise server or in the cloud).

As such, the "smart" MFP is capable of addressing both paper and digital document processing needs that include copying and printing, but expand to scanning, document management, security, cloud, output management and a host of all other common business information needs. Additionally, the "smart" MFP can be connected with an increasing base of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in use today. Mobile users can access the "smart" MFP's functions to perform a wide array of document processes. Specific solutions and "smart" MFPs can combine to address both horizontal processes that are common across all businesses (e.g., accounts payable, human resources) as well as meeting the unique workflow requirements of document-intensive industries such as health care, education, financial and legal. Finally, the "smart" MFP also provides the infrastructure so that software solutions to address these needs can be developed from a variety of sources including the MFP vendor, third-party software vendors or even the customer's own technical staff.

As companies start to think about their own document and business information environments, we believe the "smart" MFP plays an important role in driving new levels of cost and productivity efficiencies that evolve as the company's IT infrastructure evolves. IDC offers the following advice for company decision makers to consider when thinking about the adoption of "smart" MFPs for their workplace.

  • Have an understanding of your company's goals and objectives for implementing "smart" MFPs with document solutions and services as well as the scope of this plan (e.g., what is already in use and what is needed in the future)
  • To help determine your goals and objectives, you should have an assessment done of your print and document environment to help you gauge the potential benefits of the engagement. Ongoing assessments are important to ensure that the organization continues to gain from the "smart" MFP implementation. We strongly suggest that this assessment be done outside of the organization by an unbiased third party (e.g., vendor or channel supplier).
  • The plan needs to be "sold" internally. Executive buy-in is essential to overcome any employee objection. Communication to employees needs to incorporate an explanation that the "smart" MFP implementation plan solves a current problem (e.g., reduces costs, lessens waste) and/or provides employee benefit (e.g., new tools to help complete work more efficiently)
  • Make sure the total "smart" MFP solution (e.g., hardware, software and services) works within the current IT infrastructure
  • Training and educating company staff on new capabilities available to them from the "smart" MFP is crucial to gaining maximum benefit.


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