“On every level, in almost every part of the world, technology has made the human race faster, better, cheaper. Like railroads in the late 1800s, cars in the early 1900s, radio in the 1920s and television in the 1950s, information technology is changing the world economy in a way that analysts, investors, politicians, and policymakers are just beginning to understand.”
That is a quote from an article about information technology (IT) published in the 1990s, and it’s still true today as IT keeps racing along. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Centric Business Systems, and we thought we’d look back at some of the key IT developments in the office space since our founding in 1990.
The decade of the 1990s saw astronomical growth in PCs, as well as local and wide area networks (LAN/WAN). Virtually everyone ended up having a computer on their desk or in their lap and the network connected them all. The amount of information created and distributed mushroomed.
A large portion of that information was shared by copying computer printouts on analog (non-digital) copiers (some may remember the large fan-folded “green bar” printouts and the special document feeders some copiers had to handle them). “Document management” meant managing and filing the paper documents a firm received.
In the later years of the ’90s, HP introduced the LaserJet desktop laser printer, bringing document printing capability to a worker’s desktop. Copy machine manufacturers took up the move to digital and soon began producing digital, network-capable copiers. Multifunctionality was introduced so the machines could do more than copy and print. These office multifunction printing devices (MFD) could scan and fax documents as well.
The internet also came into its own during this decade. Expanding network connections around the world meant employees and organizations had access to even more resources and information faster and, as the years went on, brought the need to better secure and manage that information.
The digital office printing and document management revolution had begun.
In 1990, expectations of office equipment dealers like Copy World (Centric Business Systems’ original name) were centered around keeping the copy and fax machines running and supplied. By the end of the decade, it was expected that dealers not only provide digital copier/MFDs, but also know networking technology and how to effectively install and support that advanced equipment on the network.
Between 2000 and 2009, the office printing and document management landscape changed immensely. The declining cost of laser printers made it more affordable to provide workers desktop print capability. Color printing and copying became mainstream as color printers and MFDs became more available. Additionally, by using the scan function, workers began to capture image files of paper documents for storage in a network folder, to send as an attachment to an email, or increasingly as a part of a business process workflow.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many organizations recognized they had experienced an unmanaged and costly growth of network printer fleets that added print fleet management and support burdens to their IT departments. With increased document scanning, they also realized the need for efficient digital document management that allowed employees to store, find, and use information much more productively than in the past. Additionally, there was a growing awareness of information security to meet regulations covering the privacy of clients, maintain the confidentiality of important corporate information, and to protect the overall corporate network.
Office equipment dealers like Centric Business Systems understood they could not continue to just deliver and service equipment. They had to become more sophisticated solutions providers that solved both paper-based and digital document management problems faced by organizations. Clients now expected a document management solution provider to have comprehensive view of the document flows (whether paper or digital) used in the client’s business processes, have the skills to integrate both hardware and software to improve those workflows, and provide trusted consulting and advice on the next steps.
Programs such as managed print services (MPS), which allowed a business to significantly reduce office printing costs and IT’s print support burdens, were introduced so organizations could gain control of unmanaged print fleets and actively manage and control office printing more efficiently. Document management software began to be used to intelligently capture, index, secure, store, and archive digital documents. Centric began to integrate software such as this with scanning hardware (standalone scanners or MFDs), email, and shared network repositories. Using MPS and these types of integrations, Centric created, and continues to provide, holistic document management solutions that help their clients manage, secure, control, and account for a document in whatever form it is used.
The past 10 years have seen organizations take full advantage of digital technologies for the workplace and undergo digital transformations that make them more productive, competitive, and secure. The productivity and accuracy of business processes have been improved by automated workflows, and the emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning are making this automation even more efficient and freeing humans to be more productive. The internet of things (IoT) allows printers and MFDs to be managed from virtually anywhere and provide proactive (and in many cases predictive) analytics so that IT admins and device servicers can fix problems before they occur. The use of cloud services has reduced IT burdens such as print management and secure document storage by removing the need for on-premise servers.
Solution providers such as Centric Business Systems are much more innovative than they were 30 years ago. They are still expected to deliver and support equipment to print, copy, scan, or fax, as they were in the 90s. They are also expected to provide document management solutions that automate workflows and business operations; integrate hardware, software, and cloud services for efficient document management solutions; and provide and implement secure solutions. And along with all this, they are expected to deliver professional office equipment and technology consulting services, becoming a trusted partner with the customer’s business success as the priority.
A lot has changed in office equipment and document management technology over the past 30 years. Centric Business Systems has become an industry-leading document management solution provider by being a key part of those changes in the Mid-Atlantic region. Yet, the information technology revolution continues, and Centric remains committed to helping organizations select, implement, and use the best of that technology. If you’re looking to gain better control of your document management processes, from printing to automating workflows to regulatory compliance and information security, contact us and put our experience to work for you today.