To most business owners, the term ‘budget’ is something of a dirty word, as it is always difficult to balance it out so that a little more of it falls on the right side of the ledger. In order to achieve this, businesses need to seek out those opportunities where they can cut costs without sacrificing efficiency.

By Ronnie Oeschger, divisional director: Xerox indirect channels at Bytes Document Solutions

While it would appear that all the low-hanging fruit in this regard has been plucked ages ago, this is not actually the case. Smarter document management offers organisations a simple way to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, without the need to first invest in expensive new equipment.

It must be understood that an overwhelming majority of businesses today spend far more than they should on their print environments and document management costs. Despite the fact that print is often overlooked in the bigger financial picture, it typically represents around 15% of a small or medium organisation’s IT budget.

So how should you go about reducing this percentage to a more manageable level? The best place to start lies in optimising your company’s mix of printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines, as well as your document workflows.

Such an optimisation process will not only help you to maximise the value of your devices, it will simultaneously lower the amount of money you spend on managing printed documents and improve how employees use those documents. What could be more effective low-hanging fruit than an optimisation process that immediately sees costs falling and productivity soaring?

Of course, the key to succeeding with a process like this is to begin with a proper and thorough assessment of your current state. This means identifying areas of waste, along with opportunities to gain value. And to do this, you need to truly understand what an inefficient print environment actually looks like.

One of the easiest offenders to identify is also one of the biggest problems medium sized businesses often face – namely an overabundance of cheap printers. While this doesn’t seem to add up, you need to remember that having more cheap printers than you need ultimately results in additional expensive supplies being needed, more vendors to manage and, in the end, an increasing number of calls to IT. In other words, too many cheap printers actually adds up to wasted time and wasted money.

There are other danger signs that you have an inefficient print environment as well, so you should also keep an eye out for the following flashing warnings.

First up, walk around your office and count how many abandoned documents are left in print trays. This is a waste on multiple levels: it is a waste of toner and paper; it is a waste of someone’s time, when they have to clear the tray; and it is also a security risk. An amazing factoid is that some 90% of businesses have suffered a security breach due to unsecured printing.

A second sign of inefficiency is if you find you have supplies from multiple vendors clogging up the supply closet. Having multiple vendors and suppliers is obviously more inefficient than having a single point of contact with a single provider.

Colour is also a clear sign of waste taking place in your office environment. Colour should always be the exception, rather than the rule, so if you have reached the point where employees are even printing e-mails in colour (and why are they printing e-mails in the first place?), it is time to take stock of your print environment.

It should also be obvious that if employees are performing multiple manual steps where they could get by with a single digital one, your print environment is clearly inefficient. And finally, if your IT staff appear to be in the printer repair business rather than performing IT support, you have a clear opportunity to make improvements.

Ultimately, it needs to be understood that an inefficient print environment isn’t just about wasted paper and toner. There are numerous additional hard and soft costs that lead to lost revenue and wasted time. In fact it has been estimated that some 488 hours a year – or close to 41 days – are wasted by employees waiting for printers and supplies.

Therefore, when it comes to the desire amongst businesses to balance the budget by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies, a simple glance at what is generally an overlooked area of the business can set you up to achieve your goals. Once you have identified the areas of your printing environment where there is waste, it is a simple task to significantly improve on these and revolutionise the way you work. And this, in turn, will put more money back in your pocket and more hours in your day.