Going with the flow
With the rise of hybrid working, businesses are increasingly looking for cloud-based solutions for their printing, but also for wider workflow management, and this is where Canon uniFLOW Online comes in. The award-winning solution can provide customers with all they need for cloud-based workflow management.
With the rise in hybrid working since the pandemic, cloud and workflow management solutions have become increasingly important as home workers want the same experience as they have in the office – and business owners want their employees to be as productive wherever they’re working.
This is why solutions such as Canon’s uniFLOW Online are becoming increasingly popular – We’ve seen uniFLOW online becoming an increasingly popular choice with our customers and have seen strong growth in our market share over the past few years that has positioned us as a market leader in this space.
uniFLOW Online is an advanced secure print and scan solution allowing organisations to manage their entire print environment harnessed through the cloud.
“At home employees may not have the same hardware as they have in the office, so having their devices pointed to the cloud and having the cloud manage all the traffic, print queues and so on really simplifies the management and the reporting of your business’s print infrastructure, whether that’s people printing at home or from the office,” says Richard Stewart, workspace portfolio marketing manager at Canon UK & Ireland. “Whether you’re at home or in the office, you print in the same way: you send documents to the same print queue and the cloud manages where that document is printed.”
Richard adds that there has been a big shift from customers post-COVID to uniFLOW Online, reflecting the adoption of hybrid working by many businesses. “Demand continues to grow because lots of organisations are starting to understand what a post-pandemic working organisation might look like. But organisations are at different stages on their cloud journey, so it is likely demand for cloud-based solutions will continue to increase.
“Customers are also demanding flexibility because they need to have their employees working at the same level of productivity, whether that’s in the office or at home.”
Jamini Vekaria, Product Marketing Manager Canon UK & Ireland, adds that it’s not only about the device now, but also more about how businesses are working and supporting their business needs. “We’re supporting hybrid needs and remote ways of working for many different organisations all at different stages in their lifecycle.,” she says.
uniFLOW Online can be scaled for any size of business, Jamini adds. “We have subscription-based models, so a business can select the subscription model that is appropriate for them. If a business has only one device but with many users, the subscription will be just for the one device but unlimited users.
“Our subscription models are flexible. They enable those businesses that require basic printing and scanning to join, as well as those that are moving towards more workflow management and document management.
There have been concerns over the security of cloud printing solutions, but Richard says that uniFLOW Online is secur-by-design. “Customers are very much aware that these solutions must be secure,” says Richard. “Print is an endpoint and usually it’s the endpoints that are a way into a company and their network, but uniFLOW Online can deal with that.”
Jamini adds that security has been a focus and uniFLOW Online has adopted industry leading zero trust principles. “This might not be new to most organisations because everybody is trying to work towards a zero trust environment, but what is advantageous for uniFLOW Online is we can implement this environment whatever the journey that the business is on,” she says. “If the customer is at the early stages of a security goal or has a very high security remit, uniFLOW Online can support that. With the zero trust network that we provide, we can maintain complete control over the data and ensure that the customer has peace of mind when it comes to their print and scan environment.”
Jamini adds that print queues are secured too. “You wouldn’t just select print from your work station at home and it be printed out in the office and left on the print tray. The job would have to be released. So, whether that’s in your home environment, in a remote location or in the office, with ‘My Print Anywhere’ you need someone to release that print job ensuring that confidential documents stay within the confidential environment.”
As well as being secure, uniFLOW Online is flexible, and can support customers with multi-vendor sites. Jamini adds. “We have solutions that can ensure that if a customer wants a uniFLOW Online solution, but has a multi-vendor fleet alongside Canon devices, we can support their needs. This is important because customers are on different journeys of their devices, so if they do look to Canon devices and uniFLOW Online, but they have pre-existing non-Canon devices, that doesn’t mean that they can’t go ahead with uniFLOW Online.
We can support customers with a release station to make it work together so the customer doesn’t have to worry. Customers with a release station benefit from all the functionality that uniFLOW Online provides, such as usage data, reporting and cost tracking, allowing them to manage their printing environment efficiently. It also means that it doesn’t interfere when IT departments are thinking about what they want to do in the future in terms of device purchases.”
Jamini adds that a lot of customers use other cloud locations such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox, and the uniFLOW Online platform is advantageous because it links directly to these other cloud locations. “This means that wherever storage location the end user prefers, they can access those documents because everything is held in the cloud. They don’t have to worry about turning on VPN and connecting and then getting access to those documents.”
Users of uniFLOW Online benefit from it being a mature solution, which has been constantly evolving since it was launched. “It was launched in 2016 as a cloud solution with some subscription-based billing models and services and mobile printing and basic accounting for businesses to be able to understand the cost of print,” says Richard. “Since then, it’s grown and evolved year on year. It’s had the addition of cloud storage solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, Email, Evernote®, Box and various other types of integration with Microsoft, SharePoint and other third-party software. Now we have a much broader suite of reporting and print and device management capabilities.
“We also have a data centre in the UK, so organisations concerned about where their data is stored know that it never leaves the UK, giving data sovereignty and support.
“What we have now is a mature platform where we listen to customer needs and requirements and keep up-to-date with the latest trends, security capabilities and profiles and how businesses want to load and manage and account for their print jobs.”
uniFLOW Online has received industry recognition too. Earlier this year, in the Buyers Lab (BLI) Pick Awards from Keypoint Intelligence, uniFLOW Online scooped a 2023 Pick Award as an Outstanding Cloud Output Management Platform for the fifth year in a row.
Jamini puts this success down to it being one platform, whereas with some other solutions customers might have to purchase different elements of a platform. “uniFLOW Online provides everything that a business would need rather than having to piece different platforms together,” she says.
“One of our customers said that the cloud-based system eliminates the need for organisations to purchase, install and administer multiple solutions at once, which is beneficial to the teams trying to take on tasks as remote work is on the rise.
“That’s the way that businesses are moving in general. If you’re remote working, you want the ease of being able to print, scan, store and move documents around rather than having to keep on logging in and out of different solutions, which can take more time. Also, any connectivity issues are eliminated when using uniFLOW Online.”
Richard adds that uniFLOW Online can help businesses to automate to a certain level once they’ve scanned in a document, so that it can then extract information from that document and save it into predefined locations. “Over the years, we’ve enhanced and honed the capability of the uniFLOW Online platform, which I think gives us an edge over our competitors, which is why Keypoint has recognised that for the last five years, because from a capability point of view, the solution has really come a long way. Businesses are looking for that cloud strategy for their print and output management solution and uniFLOW Online is a mature solution for the market.”
uniFLOW Online can also help businesses to achieve their sustainability goals, Jamini adds. “uniFLOW Online is 100% cloud-based infrastructure, which means customers don’t require a server on-site and therefore, they don’t need a specific location for their servers or use resources such as air conditioning, lighting, electricity etc. that these all require,” she says. “A business saves a huge amount of upfront costs through this, as well as helping save carbon output from a sustainability perspective.”
In addition, uniFLOW Online can help businesses to save resources in other ways, such as by reducing waste. “uniFLOW Online can be used for batch document scanning or batch processing, which means that you can use the platform and you wouldn’t even need to have any print,” says Richard. “From a customer perspective they’re saving in many areas compared to a server-based platform.
“From a business perspective that means that they can focus on other areas for sustainability gains.”
Richard adds that there are other basics that businesses can apply once uniFLOW Online has been set up to help save waste. “The IT team can do simple things like setting up rules around enforcing or defaulting duplex printing, for instance, or enforcing mono printing,” he says. “Do you need to print in colour? If you don’t, print in mono as it will save both toner and resources.
“There is also job routing – organisations can set up certain jobs to go to more efficient devices depending on the job size. These are simple things to set up but can make a real difference in terms of the output of users using these devices. Because you have a printer, used by several people you can’t police everything those people are sending to the printer. But centrally, IT teams can set up simple policies to try to minimise the impact.
“Also, for an IT manager when they’re having to justify the investment in this technology, to be able to show how uniFLOW Online can help them and show how they can make savings, it gives them tangible examples to go back to the business with. Simple things like that can make a big financial difference over three to five years that they might have a contract for.”
uniFLOW Online can also help to save users time in other ways. For instance, it has a filing assist capability which helps those who are regularly scanning in certain types of documents such as invoices. “uniFLOW Online can learn the document structure and the information that’s on that document and extract information like dates, the invoice number, the supplier, the part numbers or codes, and so on and use that information to then index that document and save it into a specific location,” says Richard.
“That can be all predefined. Again, just helps simplify some of the repetitive manual processes that many organisations are trying to manage and helps them to be more productive. Being able to have a regular document you’re scanning all the time to know it’s being filed in whichever cloud solution you’re using, whether it’s SharePoint or Google Drive etc., indexed and saved based on supplier or date can save lots of time.”
With predictions that uptake of cloud services is only going to accelerate in the coming years, Richard and Jamini are confident about the future of uniFLOW Online.
“We still see customers that are on a cloud journey,” says Jamini. “Every customer we speak to is still moving functions across to the cloud, whether it be a print management solution or something else, so I only think that’s going to increase and it will be the customers taking this on that will drive the trends we will see in the marketplace.”
Jamini adds that integration will also be a big trend. “Moving over to the cloud is one thing, but can all of these cloud solutions talk to each other?” she says. “Cloud storage locations are in different areas, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, various Microsoft locations. So, integration is very big as well. And I see that evolving as other cloud solutions come on board.
“It’s an exciting time for OEMs like ourselves, because we have a real opportunity to speak to our customers about this platform and how it can help make their business more efficient as they make that move to the cloud. uniFLOW Online is an evolved platform, so when organisations
think about a cloud platform, we are well placed to support them as an established market leader.”