When computers first started becoming popular, there was plenty of talk about the "paperless office" of the future, where everything would be done digitally. However, for years, the opposite actually happened. The paperless office was a myth
made even more laughable by the fact that all the additional content computers and the internet delivered actually increased the demand for paper and printing. This was great news for printer companies, which made billions by pumping up the cost of ink
for these printers. However, in recent years, a shift has begun. The paperless office started looking a lot less mythical
. It really isn't that surprising. Just like when computers were first introduced, the productivity gains weren't immediate. A large part of the problem was simply that processes were new and poorly implemented, leading to a backlash of people going in the opposite direction. But, over time, new systems and processes have been developed. People have become more used to dealing with information on a screen instead of paper. And, perhaps, most notably, a new generation has entered the workplace that has grown up digital and sees little need for paper
So what does that mean if your business is the printing business? It's time to start planning for the future. The NY Times has an interesting profile of Vyomesh Joshi, a senior exec and an HP lifer who is trying to prepare HP for a different kind of future
. While the NYT piece sums it up as convincing people to print more, mainly by making websites easier to print (and make them appear better when they do print), it seems like Joshi is actually going a step further. We've talked about the importance of redefining what market you're in
when new challenges come up, specifically noting that you should look to define the market not by the products you're selling, but the consumer benefit you're providing. Hidden at the end of the NYT piece is Joshi saying that the company really isn't in the printing business: "We are in the content consumption business." Who knows if he'll succeed in preparing HP for its next generation strategy, but it seems like he actually recognizes the real challenge he faces: not just trying to prop up an old business model, but recognizing the larger market the company is actually in.