Facts you never thought you needed to know about printing – but you really should

I admit that printing and all things related are not topics that kept me awake, at night, or any other time of the day. Printers are necessary background worker bees, that should just work. And this is largely what happens. What also happens is that companies spend vast quantities of money on printers, paper, and ink cartridges. In the current climate of saving, the dull topic of printing takes on a brighter sheen – if only reflecting the glint on the dollars saved.

To understand the cost of printing, and the value of any saving, ponder for a moment on these facts, courtesy of the Economist:

  • A European worker prints an average of 31 pages day
  • Printing in the US equates to 68KG of paper per worker per year
  • Inkjet ink costs more than seven times as much millilitre for millilitre as 1985 Dom Perignon champagne
  • Duplex printing can cut costs by 38% over life of a printer

Our recent research into the willingness to outsource (to be published in Q4) shows that paper-related activity is not seen as a differentiator (65%), and is high on the list of processes to outsource. Almost 80% of respondents are completely willing to outsource printing and mailing. And it will come as no surprise that reducing costs/expenses is one of the chief reasons for this decision to outsource.

When we asked about what people thought of the vendor capabilities, 60% rated print/mail capabilities as strength on the outsourcing industry. This was 25 points higher than the second perceived strength in call centres.

Outsourcing is clearly one way of reducing costs in this area. Before looking to outsourcing, there are several cost reduction exercises worth undertaking including duplex printing, and encouraging a culture of not printing. Another clever tool is changing the font. Fonts such as Century Gothics (as the Economist notes) are thinner and require less ink. And one step further, there are new fonts from companies like Ecofont that literally have holes in the font which require less ink.

So I find myself thinking that printing and fonts are actually rather fun, and can contribute to real savings in the organisation. What’s not to like?

*Thanks to the Economist and it’s enlightening article on printing in 4th September edition.

Eco-centric insurers can cut costs

Our data is now in on greening IT in the insurer and the results will probably not surprise you. For more than half the respondents, green initiatives still poses some question mark and initiatives vary tremendously by company. Mostly, they appear ad-hoc and occur in small pockets in the organisation.

In this time a recession, one might ask why this topic is on anyone’s agenda. The point is that having eco-centric policies make financial sense. Especially in a turbulent economy, an insurance company doesn’t need to see the building of a green organization as counter to its mission of financial responsibility; rather, it is part of that mission.

Celent believes that it’s a convergence of several factors that will ensure interest in this topic in the coming months:

  • Increased customer awareness:– customers are becoming more aware at a local level (composting, recycling, food miles) of the impact of climate change, and this is changing their own perceptions. Customers are also employees of the insurance company, and so overtime, these increased expectations shift to companies they work at and from whom they buy.
  • Energy costs on the rise – watching the price of a barrel of oil is becoming a hobby… The sharp increases last year brought into focus our reliance on this fossil fuel, for both consumers and businesses.
  • Recession pressures have seen a real focus on reducing costs in the business. Initiatives such as reducing paper, reducing a data center’s carbon footprint through more modern, energy-efficient systems helps the environment and also saves money. Allowing more remote work to reduce commuting has a positive impact on the environment but also can increase morale.
  • Regulatory scrutiny – Governments are going to become increasingly focused on controlling water usage, carbon emissions as they strive to meet their national and electoral commitments to the environment.

So as all these factors converge, we believe we will see an increasing effort in the insurer to have clearer eco-centric policies across the organisation. These will impact both supply and demand of technology, and also show the role that technology can play in getting the organisation to be smarter about how they work – think shared services, remote labour force as examples.

For more detail, see our report published next month.

Green IT Virtual Roundtable at Insurance & Technology

I participated in a “virtual roundtable” at Insurance & Technology magazine on the topic of Green IT. If that interests you, check out my thoughts (and the thoughts of the other contributors) here: http://insurancetech.com/management-strategies/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=213300855 It seems like so much of the Green IT conversation is about hardware: lower-energy servers, computer recycling, increased virtualization, carbon-neutral data centers… While these topics are very important, I feel that the best Green IT results in the insurance industry come from software, with process efficiency and automation. If we reduce the number redundant processes, get rid of duplicate rating engines (one for the system of record, one for online quick quotes), and eliminate the need to print and re-enter data, we reduce the overall energy consumption. That helps regardless of how energy-efficient a data center is, plus it leads to a huge reduction on expenses. Because it’s an indirect way to reduce energy (aside from print-reduction, which is very direct and very key to the insurance industry) it doesn’t get as much focus. That being said, I’ll be writing more about the hardware solutions for Green IT in another publication at the end of March. I’ll be sure to post a link here when that’s released. Also, Cathering Stagg-Macey is currently working on a survey and report about Green IT in the insurance industry, so let Celent know if you have questions on the topic.

Can Green IT be more than a friendly carbon footprint?

Over coffee, a colleague, Miqdaad Versi, and I have been discussing green IT in the context of 2009. How can it remain a priority with the current crisis unfolding? We both agreed that green IT is more than feeling good about one’s carbon footprint — green IT is an approach to sourcing, utilising, and disposing that can reduce expenses. Now, tell me that isn’t compelling!

Here are Miqdaad’s thoughts on the topic:


After the new stimulus package in the USA, the green agenda is becoming a hotter topic [clearly, it’s not just the climate heating up(!)]. And technology can really make a real difference, whether through major initiatives such as relocating and improving cooling systems at data centres, or continuous, smaller projects such as instituting duplex printing.

The power of technology is that it’s effect is not only on the computing or technology industry itself, but also on the carbon footprint of entire companies. Let’s consider the simple case of switching lights off, or being more efficient with air conditioning systems. IT-led automation would cut a large slice off the energy usage. Or what about the carbon footprint left by those commuting to work, or air travel for meetings. Installing virtual systems, remote access and the latest HD video systems can entirely change the green credentials of your company.

But even all of these are still only a group of disparate ideas without any holistic plan. More and more consultant firms are getting in on the act and providing a complete green audit – starting with installing proactive systems to clearly identify green problems and monitor energy usage; followed by a systematic analysis of the results comparing them to well-known benchmarks, and using them to set ambitious improvement targets; and finally, finding a technological solution to radically and completely develop the green agenda.

The thing is that this green IT push will not only make the new green-friendly President happy but probably the CEO as well, with cost savings and efficiency improvements being reported throughout the industry – the cost of installing the latest HD video systems for conference calls is recouped after just two or three meetings! And it’s always good to be ahead of the upcoming regulation, with sustainability and improved publicity nice by-products.

So what are the big multi-national companies doing? Lots of green initiatives have started with technology firms banding together to make a difference. On the multinational and global scale, the Green Grid is focusing on data centre, as well as the promotion and adoption of best practice; the Climate Savers Computing Initiative has the aim of reducing IT’s share of carbon emissions – basically telling buyers about the most efficient desktops they can buy and how to use power saving schemes to keep electricity bills down. With Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, HP and Dell among the technology firms supporting these initiatives, there is clearly a real drive to move on this front.

Green IT is turning into a phenomenon pervading the whole of society. The Connected Urban Development aims to create replicable models for communications infrastructures for entire cities to reduce carbon emissions at every level of the community. Cisco is spearheading the IT side. The power of technology to make a real difference is being felt on a global scale.

So will green IT be the hot topic of 2009? Will it be seen as more important than Web 2.0 and other new, exciting ideas in the coming year? A few months ago, I’d have been sceptical…but with the green agenda being the focus of the most wealthy nation on the planet, only time will tell.


Celent is planning some research into attitudes and perceptions of insurers to green IT. Watch this space!