PaperCut: Navigating Trends for Growth in a Changing Market

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Explore PaperCut's strong growth, sustainability focus, security measures, and future innovations in the print industry.
Explore PaperCut's strong growth, sustainability focus, security measures, and future innovations in the print industry.

PaperCut has experienced strong growth in the past year as the channel has started to recover from the ravages of the pandemic and supply chain issues. Now, the company is focused on growth, supporting its channel and staying on top – and ahead of – the trends in the market.

The word ‘unprecedented’ has been often used in the past three years – perhaps too often – to describe global events. It certainly has been a time of huge upheavals, many of which haven’t been seen in decades. 

Whether it is global events such as a pandemic, hostile invasion or supply chain issues, to more localised issues such as the return to the office (or not, as the case may be) businesses have had a lot to deal with that is out of their control.

With so much uncertainty PaperCut has focused on what it can control. “In this world of unknowns, we wanted to double down our focus on the things that we could control somewhat and drive outcomes,” says Steve Holmes, PaperCut’s global head of sales and channel and the EMEA GM. “We focused our energies on supporting our channels, especially when it came down to winning that shift to cloud and critical areas like learning and certification, increasing lead generation and supporting our ecosystem. We also further advanced our own position in cloud by continually developing and evolving features.

“This past year we have also made a large investment in continuing to build upon our own existing expertise, with new teams and industry experts that can help us along that journey.” 

This approach appears to have paid off: “We’ve seen a really strong market demand across all of our verticals, which has been great not only for us as an organisation, but for our entire ecosystem,” he says. “Outside of the financials, we hit some great milestones such as surpassing 150 million users globally. We don’t only focus on the financial metrics, we’re also focused on the impact that we’re making, whether that’s environmental or solving problems for our customers.

“We’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made this year. As a company we’re always looking to push the boundaries and drive greater impact for our customers and ecosystems, but broadly, it’s been a really good year; we’ve met and exceeded a number of expectations and are excited about building on all of this over the next year.” 

Building on trends

Part of this will be building on the trends in the market currently, such as infrastructure removal. “That comes with the transition to cloud, be that private, reseller hosted or public cloud,” says Stuart Brooks, PaperCut’s head of channel sales and alliances for EMEA region. “There is a trend to infrastructure removal and that’s not just limited to print servers, it’s removing onsite active directories and moving to Azure ID or Google Cloud Identity, removing local area networks and even wide area networks. We are hearing about the transition to 4G or WiFi only offices where organisations are getting rid of all their infrastructure. The internet is reliable and fast these days and companies can work purely on that if they’ve transitioned to using cloud only products.”

Stuart adds that there is also a growing trend for what he terms ‘print enablement’. “This is for organisations that want users to be able to walk into the building, connect their laptop or smart device they’re using and click ‘file’ and ‘print’ if they need to print in a self-service manner,” he explains. “The emergence of hybrid working means many organisations have outsourced or removed/reduced their IT teams as they move to cloud, and they just now want users to be in a self-service world. 

“We’ve seen a significant growth in the uptake of our print deploy feature. That’s the ability to push out print queues and manage print queues for users based on their location.”

Stuart adds there is also a trend towards digital transformation and increasing use of data analytics. “Again, hybrid working has grown the demand for it, with people needing to get access to data wherever they are,” he says. “Being able to put all your hard copy documents into soft copy is great, but then it’s about understanding how to extract the meaningful content from that data and information so that organisations can create value.

“That can be the capture and extraction of hard copy data, but it’s also the use of analytics such as repeated document names or print profiles and print trends. We’re certainly seeing an uptick in the whole digital transformation and analytics piece. 

“People are realising that print management products like PaperCut MF hold a lot of useful data, such as departmental data and chronological data, and people can read a lot into that data and are starting to understand it. Things like common document names, or the most prevalent time of the day that the volume is done, and if there is a process that drives that. People are now starting to take that print management data and pick out business processes that they can then go and improve.”

Sustainability

Another growing trend is for sustainability, with many more companies looking at their environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and bringing them into line with net zero carbon emissions goals, Steve adds.

“Sustainability is now at the forefront of customer needs,” he says. “What historically may have been a more of a tick box exercise is now one of the lead conversations that we’re having with customers. There’s been a big growth in sustainability, possibly down to a lot of younger individuals coming into organisations who have a keen envrionmental interest and its even resulted in new roles being created within our customers’ businesses.

“It’s not unusual now to have conversations around opportunities that historically may have been led by a procurement person and a technical person and maybe parts of the IT team but now those conversations are being led by chief sustainability officers and sustainability managers.

“While sustainability is linked to reducing costs, which our customers want to do, the big thing we’re seeing is that many are not leading with cost reduction but with that sustainability message; there has been a definite shift in the past three years and we’re trying to help our ecosystem along that journey as well. There has been a real change in all industries, and it’s growing, you can really feel the pace of it.”

Sustainability is part of PaperCut’s DNA, and over its 22 years in business it has helped save billions of sheets of paper from being wasted across the globe, and the company  proactively supports sustainability efforts through initiatives like PaperCut Grows. “This is where PaperCut plants trees on behalf of our customers based on their own print usage,” says Steve. “This is one of the many ways we’re trying to help and assist our ecosystem on that sustainable journey. We really want to enable the ecosystem to be able to lead with a Forest Positive message and a differentiated sustainability message as they go forward.

Security

Another growing trend in the sector has been security threats. “Unfortunately, the attention of bad actors is now being directed towards the print industry,” says Steve.

“We’ve always worked hard to protect against any vulnerability in our software and that’s through combination of external penetration testing and working closely with security organisations and security professionals. 

“PaperCut is entering an era of security focused releases to ensure we stay ahead of those bad actors looking for vulnerabilities within print IT environments. Whilst we’re actively addressing the reported CVEs that we get, we’re also fully committed to a proactive security approach and that includes more frequent and stringent penetration testing and audits on all our products.”

As an example of the threats facing all businesses in the print channel, PaperCut experienced two vulnerabilities earlier this year affecting two of its products. These were quickly patched and rectified, but there is a post-incident review ongoing now. “That’s in line with our security response process and we must learn from this incident and constantly evolve our own security processes and procedures to protect against this elevated threat that we see and the whole print industry sees as well,” says Steve.

“One good thing that’s come out of all of this is we’ve strengthened our relationships with several security organisations to improve our security response plans. Over the past month we’ve been working closely with agencies that I don’t think we’d ever think of working with before, like the FBI and the CISA. There are a lot of learnings, but it’s been good to work with like-minded organisations that are committed to improving security response plans. 

“Ultimately, it’s about ensuring our customers are up to date as well as safe and that’s where we’re fully focused.

“As cloud adoption accelerates there becomes less of an onus on customers and more of an onus on us as we seamlessly deploy security updates like any SaaS based software. But certainly, for customers it is ensuring they’re keeping up to date with new versions of software.”

Healthy channel

But while there are threats to the print channel, it is nevertheless in a healthier place than it has been for some time, with many of the post-pandemic problems with the global supply chain being ironed out, according to Stuart.

“The print channel has seen a good bump in sales in the last 12 months, or at least we have and that links back to the channel,” he says. “End users are looking to invest in and refresh their technology. There is increased availability of hardware to do that, and the channel has worked hard to capitalise on that.

“More than ever, we’re seeing customers keen to understand and control their costs. They want to provide a solution for their end users, be they office based, remote or hybrid. That’s created opportunities for resellers to think differently about the ever-changing workforce and that gives opportunities for products like PaperCut’s, be that on-premise or in the cloud.”

There is also an increase in short-term lease agreement extensions. “A lot of devices were sold in the run up to and during the early stages of the pandemic and those devices have still got a lot of mileage left in them,” says Stuart. “End user organisations realise that and now know they don’t need to churn and refresh hardware every three to five years, they can maximise the lifecycle of that with things like lease extensions and short-term maintenance and support extensions.

“That’s where it’s imperative PaperCut works with the channel to make sure that we’re all supporting those customers and they’re looked after. Just because they’re not looking to refresh hardware doesn’t mean there’s not an opportunity to provide value add, topics such as making sure that customers have got the latest version of the software they use or that they are using the full capability of the product to help maintain that customer relationship. 

“Hybrid working gives the industry its next challenge. It looks like it is here to stay and that will drive change. With less people in an office, less pages being printed, less need for devices, potentially need for less real estate as we move forward, so we all need to adapt. So how can you, as a reseller, provide value to that end user who might be sitting in their home office? And those end users that are still working in an office? The industry is getting its head around that and there are some organisations looking at devices or service options, more flexible MPS contracts, that sort of thing.

“Again, it’s just presenting an opportunity really. The industry has changed – and will continue to – and I think those that are able to differentiate and stand out from the crowd are going to continue to grow. But I think overall, the channel is in a healthier position, but that could very quickly change, so everybody needs to keep on their toes and ensure they’re providing value.”

Future plans

PaperCut will be looking to maintain its position at the forefront of this, and Stuart says that the remainder of 2023 and 2024 will be “exciting” at a product level, with numerous new products and product updates in the works.

“For instance, with PaperCut Hive, which is our multi-tenant public cloud product, that has been in a cycle of continual updates and new releases for 18 months now,” he explains. “Several key features were released in the past quarter that have helped us drive an increased market share and the success of that product. And looking at what we’re going to continue to do there in the next six to 12 months is really exciting. That product is getting good feedback and we’ll continue to drive it and make those behind the scenes changes to give greater stability and implement new features. There has been significant investment on that platform. Meanwhile, PaperCut MF continues to be our flagship product and there will be further developments coming this year.”

“We’re constantly understanding how we can improve stability; how can we increase scalability and develop our products to meet the end user’s evolving needs? 

“We also have PaperCut Multiverse, which has been embraced by the channel. This gives users the ability to manage all of their PaperCut customers from a single pane of glass. It has been a big help to resellers globally, helps reduce support, drive sales and increase visibility, and that product is going to get further development this year. 

“In the UK and the EMEA region, we’re always trying to keep an eye on the future and what we need to be doing and make sure we’re doing the right things in 18 months’ time. There are two key aspects to our approach. One is a broad and deep investment into our ecosystem and then the second is the products mentioned earlier.

“For our ecosystem in the UK and beyond we will continue to support and enable our resellers, which is paramount to our strategy. We’re looking to bring in a new lead management system to help create incremental sales opportunities for our channel and improve our marketing and sales. Qualified leads help the channel grow at all levels and we see a key role of PaperCut as a channel business to drive that market demand, but then also feed that market demand back into our channel. If we can increase the quality and the volume of the opportunities that we then feed into the channel, it continues to leverage and position us as a partner of choice and gives them the ability to lead with solutions like PaperCut, knowing that we are supporting them and driving their business.”