Special report: Tapping paperless opportunities

Document management solutions: where do opportunities lie for the channel to take advantage of and grow their business

Special Report, Document management, Digital transformation, Middle East

Document management solutions focus on the conversion of paper-based documents to electronic files. In the Middle East, there is a growing trend among government entities to establish paperless offices. This is especially true in the UAE, with initiatives like Dubai Paperless Strategy in place. The aim of this initiative is to build a perfectly integrated paperless government framework. The strategy will eliminate over one billion papers annually used today in Dubai government transactions. The emirate hopes to achieve full digitalisation by the end of 2021.

Because paper files are costly to process, duplicate, distribute and store, digitalising paper archives ultimately reduces operating expenses and overheads. Now, the trend towards establishing paperless offices is more in the government sector. Print still has a place in the non-government sectors in this region, with an inclination towards adopting more environment friendly and cost saving solutions. 

Digital transformation is driving a lot of firms to share information between departments, but this increases the complexity of shared documents. Increasingly vendors are offering integrated document solutions that manage both the physical hardcopy and digital documents and workflows.

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The region’s ICT spending is predicted to grow, resulting in more CIOs opting for digital transformation to increase productivity. This will result in a demand for document management solutions. According to a latest IDC report, more money is expected to pour into the sector in 2019 signalling a renewed push for digital transformation. As per the report, one of the key drivers for ICT spending in the region will be digital transformation initiatives to bring business and government initiatives online, with spending expected to surpass $25bn, up from nearly $20bn last year.

Saudi Arabia, for instance, will spend one per cent more reaching $34.5bn in 2019. Regardless of the digital initiatives deployed by companies and governments, paper reliance remains dominant in the Middle East. The potential of getting business decisions faster and cheaper is one of the main drivers as well.

Jeroen van Beem, director of sales, Epson MEA

Roberto Alunni, senior research manager - Middle East, Turkey and Africa at IDC says that the market across the Middle East varies in terms of adoption of document management solutions, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE being the most mature. This growth is driven by GCC governments that are keen on establishing paperless offices. The Dubai Smart Government initiative to become a fully paperless government, for example, will see 100 % of internal and customer transactions being digitised from 2021. That means government will no longer issue or ask for paper documents across all its operations. There is also a growing environmental awareness in the region, though this is still not on par with European markets. Since paperless offices are environment friendly, there are companies that are opting for greater digital transformation.

“We have led the switch from laser to inkjet in this region through awareness campaigns.  As per a survey we did in UAE among businesses, 60% of those surveyed said that they are willing to switch to inkjet. We experienced 8% growth in 2018 for our inkjet printers,” says Jeroen van Beem, director of sales, Epson MEA. 

IDC analysts add that, in general, there is a lack of end-to-end solutions being offered by any one vendor. This makes it challenging for the partner when it comes to implementing at the end users site. In Epson’s recent EMEA survey among businesses, 88% stated that printing is still important to their role. Many ‘considered printing vital in helping them work effectively’ and felt that ‘a paperless office was unrealistic despite increased digitisation’.

To that end, businesses would benefit from reviewing their printer fleets as these findings suggests that many do not have the best printing technologies or practices in place. Many are missing out on the significant improvements in productivity, reduced user interventions and energy reductions afforded by business inkjet technology. However, the growth driver for document management solutions is different in various sectors.

“In the government sector, the drive is part of the e-government initiatives while in the Oil & Gas sector or banking sector, the desire to go paperless is to achieve greater productivity, efficiency and cost saving,” adds Epson’s Jeroen van Beem.

Naji Kazak, general manager - META & Russia at Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business

“In the Middle East region, regulatory bodies will increasingly place pressure on businesses to maintain better records to ensure data privacy for individuals and businesses. This will be similar to the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which ensures that there is a legal framework to protect an individual’s personal data,” adds Alunni.

Historically, the public and banking sectors are the biggest users of document imaging solutions, but the market is witnessing growing interest from insurance companies, pharmaceutical and healthcare verticals, and educational institutions as well.

For Alaris, the growth comes from its investments in demand generation, and channel expansion and enablement. “Our partners are our strength. We are a channel centric company and will remain so. We are investing heavily in enabling partners to make sure they are capable of pitching and placing the right solution to the right client. We are also continuously engaging with clients, generating opportunities, and passing them on to our Elite partners,” adds Naji Kazak, general manager - META & Russia at Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business. 

Confidence in the digital economy is key at a time when business strategies in computer security are a primary concern. The digitalisation of document flows and processes has become a reality for many private and public companies. It extends to all documents and business processes. None of these digital economy-related applications can develop without establishing a genuine environment of trust, and this is the challenge that channel partners face. In this region, there is still scepticism about cloudbased technologies and digital files, so the channel partners need to debunk some of the myths and establish trust to be able to implement digital solutions.

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