Partners in revolutionising print

In today’s digital age, information has become a source of competitive differentiation for both the public and private sectors. Consequently, the ability to digitise, store and access information has become a priority. However, says Rolf Wolhuter, MD of SBD Business Systems, the world of print has lagged in this area.

“Content related to the copy/print/fax environment has not become integrated into the overall business process flow, and remains a largely unmanaged body of content, with little or no security, despite the fact that much of it is sensitive,” he says. “SBD’s vision, in collaboration with HP, is to change this by integrating this environment into the digital environment in a way that supports the business strategy, and ensure its security.” Wolhuter argues that while for the last 15 years, copy/print/fax and scanner devices have become extremely sophisticated functionally, they continue to be used as `slave devices’, simply doing as instructed. Their potential for acting as content management hubs within the overall corporate content environment has largely been neglected— until now.

The reasons for this lack of innovation can be traced to the traditional channel model used by the large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Wolhuter believes. Typically, the OEMs deal through large, local listed distributors that, in turn, operate a complex web of resellers. The result: too much distance between the OEM and its end-clients, and a sales and service environment that prioritises sales and margins over innovation.

“SBD set out to change this dynamic and we were extremely fortunate to find an OEM partner in HP that bought into our vision. We are the only partner to have a direct relationship with HP, so there is minimal distance between the client and the OEM, which means that client needs are closely reflected in the solution,” he says. “Becoming an HP application developer was a milestone for the realisation of our vision to make the HP device a content-management hub.” Wolhuter also pays tribute to the support given by SBD’s logistics partner, Tarsus.

Creating solutions to solve client problems By investing in the R&D needed to develop a comprehensive content management platform that leverages all the potential of the HP devices, SBD is breaking with the box-dropping mentality so prevalent in the printing sector, and positioning itself as a provider of managed print services. It’s a profound shift, from a purely transactional relationship to a contractual one based on understanding client challenges and goals, and then crafting a solution.

“This box-dropping mentality has particularly affected government, which is a huge user of print. Most government entities don’t have any idea of how much they are actually spending on print, and how little value they are getting from that spend. We are changing that,” says Themba Ndhlovu, CEO of SBD. “By helping government manage this important area of content more intelligently, we are improving its capability to deliver services to citizens while also saving money.” A key foundation of SBD’s approach is the development in-house of applications based on an open architecture that can easily be customised for individual clients.

The applications are used to provide complete visibility of all the content that passes through the device, both outbound and inbound. The software is configured to align with the organisation’s print policies in order to manage budgets but also to allow managers to monitor how content is flowing, who is responsible for it and
whether it is business-related or not. SBD’s platform also provides an automated workflow and document
management capability. Thus, for example, an invoice is scanned. Using optical character recognition to pick up
designated key words, the system will pull up the original purchase order and route both documents to the relevant people in the finance department for approval, and then load the payment onto the banking system for release. Once the invoice is paid, the proof of payment will be filed with the invoice and purchase order.

“This is just one instance of the kind of intelligence we can build into the system to help a client streamline its business processes,” Wolhuter comments. “Because our application architecture is open-ended, we can customise the system to the client business processes rather than forcing the client to adapt to our software. Our strong consulting capability is another departure from the prevalent box-dropping mentality. “Our systems are highly manageable so they can be integrated into the corporate workflow, and provide complete visibility of the print environment through customised reporting.” Content security is a huge issue, and SBD ensures it by integrating access permissions into the system to ensure that information can be accessed only by the correct people. The system can be programmed to pick up key phrases identified by the client as pertaining to sensitive information, and trigger an alert when any unauthorised attempt is made to access such data.

A global first
In addition, the software enables SBD to manage the device remotely, providing support and even training via the device’s screen, direct from SBD’s call centre or technical department—even down to the supply of consumables. This is an important differentiator because, says Wolhuter, it means that the device does not become a burden to the client’s IT department. It’s also a global first. SBD’s mould-breaking approach not only transforms the way organisations handle and use information, it also reduces cost significantly — reductions of up to 40% are achievable. Ndhlovu says that the approach is being welcomed by the market: SBD grew by 500% over the past 24 months and it was honoured by HP as Managed Print Services Partner of the Year and Supplies Silver Partner of the Year for 2019.

“I prefer to describe what we are doing as a transformation in all senses of the word,” says Ndhlovu. “Not only are we changing the way the print industry goes to market, we are transforming the way that organisations in both the public and private sectors use their printing technology to achieve business goals.”

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