Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles with some voices rarely heard from on this Blog. In recent years, LRS has hired many new systems engineers and other technicians, including some alumni of our summer internship program. In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives on the topics of technology, business, and output management.
For a long time, LRS has been in the business of selling Enterprise Output Management software. But what does that really mean? To find out, we first need to answer the more basic question: What is an enterprise? PC Mag defines an enterprise as the following:
“The entire organization, including all of its subsidiaries. An enterprise implies a large corporation or government agency, but it may also refer to a company of any size with many systems and users to manage.”
So to boil that down, an enterprise spans the whole organization and includes the various systems and subsidiaries that make the organization run. An “Enterprise” solution must be able to account for all these disparate systems, subsidiaries, and workflows, bringing them into the IT fold. For example, an Enterprise Print solution should cover all aspects of print, including document workflows like mobile device printing, laptop printing, badge printing, label printing, and backend application print from external systems like SAP applications.
A lot of companies claim to offer an Enterprise solution but fall short of covering all of the workflows used across the enterprise. Solutions designed to solve one specific problem are called “point solutions.” An example of a point solution using the example above would be a solution that ONLY supports badge printing or ONLY supports label printing. These solve a specific problem, and definitely have a role to play, but they cannot be considered “Enterprise” solutions because they only address an isolated need, not the needs of the whole Enterprise.
Traditionally, most customers opt for less expensive point solutions to solve their immediate problems and kick the can down the line. As a result, you can end up spending 20% of your budget to fix 10% of your problems — and end up with a disparate environment that has multiple point solutions to implement, learn, and maintain.
The more point solutions in the environment, the more difficult the environment is to manage. Instead of learning just one Enterprise solution that covers all workflows, end users and IT staff are forced to learn several point solutions that could all behave differently. Each requires unique training and maintenance, and the complexity makes troubleshooting a challenge. In contrast, a comprehensive enterprise solution provides end users and IT administrators a single solution to master that covers all aspects of their job. Troubleshooting and training are greatly simplified, as users have only one solution to learn, maintain, and operate.
Point solutions also fall short in terms of availability and disaster recovery. Enterprise solutions cover the entire organization so they must always be available to keep critical business functions moving regardless of outside factors. They must be able to scale to the needs of the company at a moment’s notice. For example, consider two companies in the process of merging their environments. A flexible Enterprise print solution is sufficiently scalable to accommodate this influx in users, print traffic, roadblocks, etc. Whereas point solutions lack the scalability and flexibility to comfortably handle the volatile world of mergers and acquisitions, Enterprise solutions are architected with such scenarios in mind. Disaster recovery, high availability, and flexibility under pressure is where one notices the weakness of point solutions. While they may have been an inexpensive way to solve the immediate problems of the past, their flaws are revealed as your business grows over time.
Want another reason to look beyond point solutions? One word: Cloud. As customers transition to more flexible, highly available, enterprise solutions, most begin to examine the infrastructure itself to uncover further benefits. The “Cloud” discussion leads them to think about how the computing power and elasticity of this always-on platform can help solve their business needs. We’ll talk more about the relationship of Cloud and enterprise computing in the next installment of this series.