This blog post was originally published by Xenith Document Systems.
Businesses have been quick to jump on the Big Data bandwagon as a way to improve their sales and marketing services, but they can also be used for internal efficiencies like reducing printing costs. This guide shows you the four steps to using Big Data to improve internal operations.
Big Data is rapidly gaining currency as a way of gaining a better understanding of customers and their needs. But a focus on sales-related operations can miss the opportunities that Big Data offers for improving internal operations, even for mundane tasks such as reducing printing costs.
The reality is that every operation generates data – but most businesses choose to record only external transactions and communications. Companies can conduct time-and-motion studies as part of an efficiency drive. This will identify and prioritise processes that need to be tightened up. Operational efficiencies can boost profitability without having to make customers pay more for products or services.
Enabling two-way Big Data collection routines
Cloud-based services offer almost unlimited data collection and processing potential, helping to fuel the adoption of Big Data-like analytical operations for businesses of all sizes. Data scientists pore over website and CRM analytics trying to identify potential trends and common customer needs that can be exploited for profit.
1. Set up Big Data collection routines for internal operations
Every business has its own data stores, and Big Data provides a way to centralise this information and make it searchable in order to generate patterns and actionable insights. If your business is already making use of Big Data analytics, you may simply need to identify the right data sources and build analytical routines that can make sense of the available information around print and document workflows. In a print context, businesses should look at the analytical capabilities of business intelligence tools and print management solutions.
2. Mine the data
In many cases you’ve already identified priority areas, such as reducing printing costs, for targeted efficiency drives. Metrics can provide a base of evidence for intelligent, data-driven decision-making. Basic statistics that your existing print management solution should provide include page count and consumable consumption.
However Big Data allows you to look at a bigger picture, linking previously unrelated data elements to generate fresh insights:
- Spikes in demand for support based on monthly trends, that require printing of additional forms and paperwork
- Gaps in processes caused by employees waiting for printed paperwork to arrive from another department
- How marketing campaigns are affecting printing volumes
- How many print jobs are repeated for each customer contact
- Which devices are not being utilised to maximum efficiency?
- Are there too many or too few employees per multifunctional device?
- Which paper-heavy internal processes could be worth digitising?
- How much of your print volume is unnecessarily single-sided or colour?
It’s certainly worth taking the time to identify less obvious trends that can deliver real competitive advantage. You have the data available, so you can be creative with the factors you consider. Seemingly unrelated factors can have major implications – and Big Data should help reveal them.
3. Take the decisions
There is a downside to Big Data collection and analysis – gathering all the information and metrics available will be of no use at all in reducing printing costs if the insights gathered are not acted upon. Where you notice a potential saving or efficiency, make sure that they are implemented as soon as possible or your business is throwing money away.
The insights exposed through Big Data analytics provide an exceptional business case for adopting paperless management systems for instance. If you already have strategic plans that require board-level sign-off, Big Data could help obtain that agreement.
4. Monitor outcomes and measure success!
With metrics defined and new processes in place, you’ll need to monitor progress to ensure that expected outcomes are realised. The use of custom dashboards allows at-a-glance access to metrics, helping you to validate new efficiencies and projected savings in printing costs. And you’ll be able to report back to the board with clear metrics that demonstrate how much money, environmental footprint and time have been saved.
Maximising the savings
Although this article has focused on reducing printing costs as an example, the same techniques can be applied to any business operation. Once captured, the data can be mined again and again to reveal new insights ready to be actioned. Operational data provides a solid evidence base of user behaviour trends for considered decision-making.
- Big Data analytics are not just for improving sales and marketing operations.
- Big Data reveals seemingly unrelated trends that can be used to help reduce printing costs.
- Big Data insights must be actioned or the time and money invested in the technology is wasted.
If you liked this post, you might be interested in downloading a free e-guide: How to calculate the ROI of print services
Justin Milligan, MD of Xenith Document Systems, is a founding UK member of Xerox’s MPS Partner Council and a UK preferred Subject Matter Expert on MPS in the channel.
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