In April of this year, I am celebrating 30 years with LRS and almost 35 years in the output, print, and (more recently) scan management space. This is all in addition to 40+ years of involvement in Computer Science, starting with my “O” Level in CS back in the early 80’s. What a ride it’s been.
Over the last 35 years, myself, LRS, and the Enterprise* customers we support have all been on this technological journey together. It is a very exciting time. The partnership between LRS and our Enterprise customers has helped us create a solution able to meet all the formidable requirements and challenges that the new world has thrown at us.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I started this journey by selling highly-secure IBM mainframe software that managed the delivery of mainframe output across SNA (System Network Architecture) networks using VTAM (Virtual Telecommunications Access Method). My product was VPS, the market-leading solution used by more than 80% of the world’s top companies. As these mainframe installations moved towards using TCP/IP network connectivity, LRS released a product called VPS/TCPIP that supported IP attached printers. Soon thereafter came another product called VPS/PCL, which to allowed documents created in mainframe-centric AFP (Advanced Function Presentation) format to be printed on PCL (Printer Command Language) devices commonly found on office LANs.
In the late 90’s, I moved from a sales role to a European management position at Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc. The next step in LRS’s journey was the birth of our open systems VPSX solution. VPSX software delivered non-mainframe, business-critical output from ERP and medical applications like SAP, Cerner, and EPIC to support our existing customers’ push towards the open systems. These customers drove our steady development into this space, which was grounded in the core technological principles of VPS and its extension to VPSX.
As with our earlier products, our goal with VPSX was to provide highly scalable and secure software that centralises operation management of all Enterprise Output whilst improving business processes through assured document delivery. Assured delivery of customers’ business-critical output to Barcode, Thermal and Label printers was a key requirement; one that has only grown in importance due to widespread use of automation. LRS provides tight, non-application-dependant integration between critical applications and printers while eliminating the need for insecure print servers. Today, this is called an Agile IT solution.
Once again, in the first decade of the 21st Century, our existing customers drove our development into the Windows output space. We already managed backend application output in some of the world’s largest companies. Now they wanted to use LRS software to manage their front-end application push print output whilst replacing print servers in their HQ and remote locations. In short, our Enterprise customers wanted a reliable, non-siloed solution to manage both back-end and front-end output.
As we moved further into the 21st century (2010 onwards), the world of security really started to tighten things up. The next logical step was to provide a pull-print solution. Again, our customers were looking to LRS to provide a fully holistic solution to manage all output and print management requirements. In response, LRS added scanning integration to our solution set in 2019.
LRS has continued to market our products as a single holistic digital software backbone to manage all output, scan, and print within the Enterprises we target. However, we sometimes struggled to get this holistic message across at many of these complex organisations due to their continued siloed approach. Many organizations assumed that their existing managed print service handled all of these issues. As such, some continued with a heavily server-dependant, siloed, inflexible solution that increased operational overhead and infrastructure costs whilst reducing business process efficiency.
Then COVID arrived! The latest development in our (Myself/LRS/Customer) mutual journey is the aggressive push towards the cloud. Companies are under pressure to push as many applications as possible into the cloud, which is driving an aggressive standardization of processes. Large Enterprises are moving applications and devices off their corporate networks, causing security concerns around the Zero Trust topic. They are looking to offload standardised processes-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service. All of this whilst improving the end customers' experience from any location in the world.
How has this affected the Journey that the three of us are on? For one, it is causing me to reinvent and re-educate myself. My 12-year-old son helps me with this!
It has caused LRS to work hard to meet the new requirements of our Enterprise customers along with creating a hosted, managed service offering of our LRS products.
Likewise, the changing times have driven our customers to be brave about taking on new challenges as well as much more open to failure along the way. This is especially hard for LRS. We are a very cautious software company that is still owned by the original author of VPS, Dick Levi. At the same time, it is a very exciting era: the partnership between LRS, our Enterprise customers, and myself has created a solution able to meet every requirement and challenge that the new world has thrown at us.
Existing customers, for example, a global energy concern, have already signed up for our hosted managed service. We have many large customers accessing off-premise devices from back-end applications or off-prem applications. We have international manufacturing companies printing backend application output at outsourced affiliate logistics (off-prem) connected companies. All of these were daunting new challenges, and together we addressed every one.
Our user experience is second to none and our security and Zero-Trust story is very strong, especially when it comes to our end-to-end encryption of data while in motion or at rest. Many companies are investing in the LRS digital backbone prior to renewing their MPS service contracts. This helps them maximise economies of scale as well as future-proof their output, print, and scan requirements. All while providing a consistently good user experience regardless of which print hardware vendor they may choose in the future.
I have really enjoyed my 35 years in this space and my 30 years at LRS, making lifelong friends along the way. There has never been a better time to hand over your Enterprise-wide Output, Scan, and Print management requirements to LRS.
Here’s to another 10+ years in the business!!!
* Note - What is an Enterprise Account? Any organisation with 50+ locations, usually with a server in each location, looking to deliver business critical output back-end application to these locations.