Jaap van ’t Ooster, Managing Director Canon 4CE
Although Polish companies have reacted to the changes that are taking place, and while modern technologies make it possible to develop and operate efficiently in new models of work organisation, the digitalisation of Polish business is not yet commonplace or comprehensive. What trends shape its course and what do Polish businesses still need to work on?
In the face of the ongoing pandemic, companies have been forced to make changes to the organisation of work in the office. However, to enable employees to work individually from home, they needed to adjust document workflows, equip staff with the right equipment and implement new digital tools. When providing such office solutions to Polish companies, we have noticed certain trends indicating a disparity between large and medium-sized businesses in Poland and the region.
There is no doubt that the shift to a remote working model has been the prerogative of large companies. As we provide office services, we can see that smaller companies have much more often stayed with the current, traditional work model. We have noticed a similar trend as regards equipping employees with portable equipment for home office work. We saw at the beginning of the pandemic that larger companies equipped staff with printers, scanners, or multifunctional devices, while smaller organisations typically did not do so. We see similar disproportions in how Polish companies use imaging technology. Large Polish businesses decide more often to move from paper printouts to electronic documents. Security of digital documents is also the forte of the largest companies. Despite the fact that the number of digital security incidents is growing across the economy, cybersecurity measures are often underfinanced in small and medium enterprises. Therefore, we can clearly see a need for constant education and raising awareness in the field, as well as for implementation of tools allowing us to prevent and respond to such activity. In the long run, it benefits companies as well as individual users. These efforts for improved cybersecurity education and implementation must go on and we should under no circumstances consider the work done.
A general trend noted by office technology providers is a divergence between large and medium-sized enterprises in the course of digital transformation and their transition to new work organisation models.
The trends observed among Polish companies show that knowledge about the possibilities of digital transformation, including use of the achievements of imaging technology, should urgently reach medium-sized and smaller companies. The experience of the pandemic shows that large companies are better able to withstand crisis situations. Solutions, services and equipment enabling office transition must therefore be designed and promoted with a view to those companies which are not yet convinced about the benefits of the transition. Reaching out to this market segment and offering a service to smaller entities may represent a great opportunity for office technology providers.
What medium and large companies have in common is their approach to the cloud solutions (e.g. for printing) offered to them. Regardless of their size, businesses generally do not use cloud services to manage printing. However, the vast majority of companies which decided during the pandemic to implement such technologies were large companies. Our experience shows that Polish companies have a similar attitude to the digitisation of paper documents which their employees receive by post. Scanning and forwarding electronic versions of documents to people working remotely, either in a manual or automated way, is not a common practice in Polish companies. However, if it is implemented, it is far more frequent in large companies. These are the areas where we, digital tool providers, have an opportunity to significantly improve the degree of office transition.
There are many reasons for small and medium companies to take a cautious approach towards implementing a remote work model in the long run. Given their smaller financial and human resources, SMEs are often more focused on ongoing, day-to-day functioning rather than long-term investments and implementing novel work models. Moving smaller companies towards permanently implementing modern working-from-home solutions is challenging, as they are often considered mostly in terms of a risky investment, which might not only take up resources, but eventually fail, rather than in terms of the possibilities and efficiency boosts they provide. An approach oriented towards the future and possible benefits is characteristic of large enterprises, which have more resources at their disposal. However, while providing office technology to business, we can see that SMEs are looking up to the bigger players and the mentioned trends are slowly but surely reaching them as well. One can expect that in the coming years, the more mobile, versatile model of running an office will gain popularity among the smaller companies.
Being aware of the changes taking place in companies, we have decided to take a look at market trends. Following research carried out for Canon Poland in September 2021, we have produced a report entitled Research on changes in the functioning of companies and the use of office solutions, which is based on data collected from more than 200 Polish companies. Against a regional backdrop, Polish companies have taken active steps in response to the pandemic. If you look at our neighbours, moving away from the traditional office working model is not a common trend in the Czech Republic (data based on the similar research carried out in the Czech Republic this spring). Three quarters of Czech companies have no plans to allow their employees to work remotely once the pandemic is over and are looking to return to offices as soon as possible. Only one in ten Czech companies participating in the survey has moved most of its employees to the home office in a sustainable, forward-looking manner.
Despite the experience of the pandemic, there is a widespread belief among Polish companies that they have a sufficient quantity of remote working devices and modern office equipment. As we are in regular contact with companies, we understand that the implementation of digital solutions such as electronic forms, the automation of invoice registration processes, the digitalisation of company archives, and smart printing and scanning are not the priorities of local companies in the nearest future. It seems that Polish companies feel that they have already made the necessary effort in their digital transition and that they want to wait for events to unfold despite the existing availability of innovative solutions. Time will tell if they can afford to do so in the face of global advancements in digitalisation. Supporting these local companies in their work towards comprehensive digital transformation is where we can see the role of producers of advanced technologies. Access to innovative solutions must however go hand in hand with the proper education and awareness raising, since they are - as always - the key to progress and prosperity.
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