Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Observations - A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Digitization

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Digitization
by Jim Lyons

I spent much of this summer pondering the question “What’s keeping the world from being 100 percent digitized?” I am not confident I am any closer to an answer, but I definitely have come up with some fine points on the question. For my September Observations, I’ll retrace at least a few of those mental steps.

Summer reading and the history of copying

A piece of my mental jigsaw puzzle is from a much-touted “summer read” of 2014. I refer to “Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street”, by John Brooks, acclaimed by both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

I had to get my nose into this book, which dates back to the 1960s but was out of print until this August (adding a bit of a “forbidden fruit” allure as well). However, little did I know it would provide a starting point for my “funny thing happened” quest.

One of those “Wall Street tales” is entitled “Xerox Xerox Xerox.” It relates the story of the rise of XRX stock — one of the biggest growth stocks of the 1960s and 1970s.  Brooks goes back to the (really) early days of document duplication (which eventually became known as “copying” and “printing”) and the rise of industry pioneer, the AB Dick Company. The following paragraph got me thinking we are on a 100-year-plus-long journey of going full circle with business documents and their security. (“Grandfather” in this passage is the company’s namesake, as it describes the challenge of selling their early duplicators.)

“By and large, the first users of the [AB Dick duplicator] were non-business organizations like churches, schools, and Boy Scout troops. To attract companies and professional men, Grandfather and his associates had to undertake an enormous missionary effort. Office duplicating by machine was a new and unsettling idea that upset long-established office patterns. In 1887, after all, the typewriter had been on the market only a little over a decade and wasn’t yet in widespread use, and neither was carbon paper. If a businessman or a lawyer wanted five copies of a document, he’d have a clerk make five copies — by hand. People would say to Grandfather, ‘Why should I want to have a lot of copies of this and that lying around? Nothing but clutter in the office, a temptation to prying eyes, and a waste of good paper.”

The quotation above, as it appears in the Kindle version of "Business Adventures". The ebook was available earlier in the summer, prior to the print version's release.
Of course those attitudes and practices would do a 180, but knowing it was over 100 years ago when paper documents began their path to entrenchment in those “long-established business patterns,” it makes sense that there is resistance to changing them again, in this case to digitization. It’s just not as simple as eliminating “a waste of good paper” and those other virtues (like security) associated with fewer paper documents cluttering up the office.

The celebrity iCloud hack

Another recent reference has been late summer’s well-covered “celebrity photo hack” that revealed (sorry for the pun — should I say exposed?) security issues with cloud storage. While photos are not business documents, the risks (and benefits) of cloud storage and access are no different. Is this just one more knock on digitization and the cloud, holding businesses back from a more far-reaching, universal digitizing of their documents?

The Great Digital Divide

A friend and fellow analyst Robert Palmer offered some of his thoughts in his recent Workflow magazine article, “The Great Digital Divide: Working Effectively in an Electronic Office.”

In his article, Palmer offers these cautionary thoughts:

“The rush to digitize content has led to several obstacles now facing many organizations. Maintaining document integrity and preventing data loss are two of the most significant concerns when pursuing a digital document strategy. These problems should not be underestimated, although many businesses fail to recognize the significance of the impact — especially as it relates to lost productivity.

“One such problem is the simple and pervasive nature of scanning. Scanning has become quite common in today’s office environment, and it is no longer a process that is limited to back-office applications. Employees want access to scanning, and with the proliferation of MFPs and network-enabled scanners in the office environment they now have it. Market research has shown that more than 70 percent of knowledge workers in the average office today have access to scanners and scanning functionality. Interestingly, that percentage holds fairly consistent regardless of the vertical market.”

Hiro Kataoka, industry entrepreneur

So is it “FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that is holding back a more universal adoption of electronic processes? It was conversations with industry expert and friend Hiro Kataoka, the founder and CEO of digital-rights-solution provider HoGo, that actually started me on this summer of preoccupation. Several more conversations along the way helped me fill in some additional pieces. With long-term resistance based on favoring paper, fears over security, and other points raised here, will digitization ever gain universal acceptance? Kataoka not only offers extensive experience and opinions, but has cast his lot in the digital world by forming a company to address this problem/opportunity. Additionally, his previous market focus was mobile printing, so I had to know, was the digitization play removed from this interest, or did he find an integration point in these market spaces?

A complete interview with Kataoka appears in the October issue of The Imaging Channel (online at
http://theimagingchannel.com/files/OCT14.pdf), but his key points are as follows:

1)    Lack of security/traceability and usability are barriers to adoption of digitization

2)    But, there is a new opportunity in scan to mobile

3)    We [HoGo] are going the direction of Box [the cloud company] + DRM [Digital Rights Management]

4)    DRM allows us to protect the content, not just the network 

5)    MFP's should be part of the “liquid computing” ecosystem

6)    The cloud is the glue that connects scanning, printing, desktop, and mobile

And finally, back to the celebrity cloud-security snafu of August 2014 - it is covered HoGo’s recent “tongue firmly in cheek” blog post here.

No comments: