With all the talk about digital transformation and the need to drive innovation with third platform technologies such as cloud, mobility, social, and Big Data analytics, it is easy to overlook the role of imaging, printing, and document solutions (IPDS).

The printed page has long been the primary communication medium for information sharing, but the digitalisation of workplaces and workflows, the proliferation of smart mobile devices, and technology advancements around digital signatures are all driving an increased acceptance of electronic documents.

Indeed, governments, agencies, enterprises, and organisations around the world are either looking at or already embarking on digitalisation projects or paperless/less-paper initiatives in an attempt to cut costs, improve processes, maximise efficiencies, and make environmental and sustainability concessions.

The inevitable outcome is a steady decline in print volumes, which is why the major players in this space are busy reinventing both themselves and their core offerings to ensure that the IPDS market has an important role to play in the future of business.

With this in mind, IPDS vendors and channel partners are evolving their product offerings to meet the current and future customer requirements of their customers and align seamlessly with their digital transformation strategies.

For technology buyers, this means that their suppliers are providing new levels of capabilities in their product arsenal. The portfolio is changing to help meet at least two fundamental customer goals: lowering operational costs and boosting worker productivity.

The availability of new digital transformation technologies means that customers will be able to transform their businesses with the aid of their IPDS suppliers. And this benefit won’t be restricted just to the largest enterprise customers.

For years, large enterprises have been outsourcing the ongoing management of their print and document infrastructure to third-party service providers. But by contracting directly with equipment manufacturers for these services, they have realised significant cost and productivity advantages while advancing to higher levels of print and document maturity.

And this option will increasingly become available for smaller organisations too, with IPDS vendors now focused on extending cloud services offerings to simplify the deployment of managed print and document services for medium-sized businesses.

As a result, we can expect to see the adoption of contractual print and document services accelerate dramatically among mid-size companies over the next 12 to 24 months. Meanwhile, the rapid development of multitenant, cloud-based print management solutions will enable even greater adoption.

This rationalisation of cloud infrastructure combined with subscription-based service delivery models among mid-market service providers and their equipment suppliers will dramatically reduce the costs of deployment, ease the implementation process, and allow smaller businesses to achieve faster return on investment.

Besides proliferation of contractual print and document services, another major disruption — and opportunity — for IPDS vendors will be the increased adoption of digital signage, with one of the fastest-growing use cases being the enablement of real-time internal employee communications.

A number of industries are embracing digital signage systems for this purpose, including retail, logistics and transportation, hospitality, health care, and manufacturing, with the prime motivator being that many employees in these industries don’t have company email addresses or aren’t positioned in front of a computer that can facilitate communications at a personalised level.

As such, a growing number of digital signage systems are connecting third platform technologies to increase the effectiveness of internal employee communications. In particular, businesses will seek systems that communicate the most relevant and effective messages to their employees to drive higher sales volumes while reducing employee error and cycle times.

In retail, this includes providing localised product and sales campaign information on a real-time and personalised basis to drive sales of specific higher-margin products. In health care, digital signage systems can be programmed with best practices and health-and-safety information to reduce employee errors.

To meet these demands, new digital signage market entries, big software companies, and major screen manufacturers will increasingly invest in software and agency services that tie in with third platform technologies.

For digital signage adopters, this means there will be a much greater opportunity to impact employee performance by leveraging individualised communications in real-time.

These are just some of the possibilities, but it is clear that IPDS vendors and channel partner offerings will evolve over time and expand into new technology categories that may not even involve printing, thereby ensuring that IPDS continues to play a critical role in the future of business information solutions.

The columnist is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC). He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC. Content for this week’s feature leverages global, regional, and local research studies undertaken by IDC.