By Louella Fernandes, Quocirca
As the business world embraces new ways of working, Xerox is also evolving its breadth and depth of services and shifting legacy perceptions of its brand.
The print industry is challenged with remaining relevant in today’s era of mobility, the cloud and Big Data. Vendors are clamouring for higher ground, shifting from hardware to software and services with the goal of steady revenue, higher profits and deeper customer relationships.
Whilst many printer and copier vendors are pursuing a services led model (an approach successfully pioneered by IBM), the stakes have probably been the highest for Xerox which has been working hard to reinvent itself as a services company.
Xerox, founded in 1906, has a brand steeped in heritage, transforming the office environment with the first commercial copier machine in 1959. Xerox’s dominance of this market meant it reached the peak of brand presence, its name becoming a verb for photocopying. Today, the Xerox brand is under significant transformation as it shifts legacy perceptions, with hardware now representing less than half of its business. After acquiring Affiliated Computer Services in 2010, Xerox shifted from “the document company” to one that now generates more than half its revenue from business services, such as managed print services (MPS), operating call centres, processing insurance claims and handling automated toll payments. This has helped it expand its business process services (BPS) and IT services (ITS) footprint whilst reinforcing its leading presence in the MPS market.
Beyond the printed page
In a declining market, Xerox is focusing beyond the printed page. But the printed page is unlikely to disappear and we cannot ignore the fact that as a medium for communication paper has been around for over 1,000 years. Paper is inherently personal, portable, tangible and easy to annotate. It remains a powerful and compelling communications tool when many of us are inundated with a barrage of online communications. So, more realistic than the paperless office is the “less-paper” office. What businesses need is the technology to bridge both worlds as relevant to their business – eliminate wasteful printing, for instance through effective print management but also ensure printing remains part of the mix as needed in today’s multichannel world.
In order to address these needs, a view of print-related process across an enterprise is needed. This means having a single view beyond desktop/office printing to the print room and commercial print. Xerox is well positioned to address this through a broad range of products and services. What sets Xerox apart in particular, is its legacy of innovation.
A focus on innovation
Xerox has a strong innovation history, although not always with commercial success. Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is accredited with inventing many of the technologies we now rely on, not least developing in 1970 the first personal computer with a mouse and icon-based software at its Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox PARC. Steve Jobs’ legendary visit to the centre, where he saw the prototype of the experimental Alto workstation, is claimed to have given him the vision for the future of personal computing which he built on at Apple. Other inventions which had a large impact included a graphical user interface, Ethernet and laser printing.
Xerox continues to invest heavily in innovation, spread across areas that include analytics, business processes, data transformation, personalisation, and sustainability. When it comes to integrating the paper and digital worlds, this innovation will be critical to Xerox differentiating itself. A few capabilities particularly stand out:
Document workflow integration is particularly becoming key to the value proposition of many of its traditional competitors, such as Canon, HP, Lexmark and Ricoh. Quocirca was impressed with some forthcoming Xerox solutions to be announced in 2014, but probably one that will enable Xerox to bring paper and digital workflow optimisation to a wider audience is ConnectKey.
ConnectKey is a software ecosystem both embedded in Xerox MFPs and middleware to be used as secure document platforms. Documents can be shared directly to SharePoint, ERP systems, and the Cloud enabling paper documents to be integrated into digital document workflow. This approach to business process automation is particularly cost-effective as it enables businesses to leverage existing investments in MFPs, whilst also better utilising their sophisticated document processing functionality, beyond print and copy. MFPs are often not fully leveraged for their extended capabilities, and Quocirca believes that these devices will become a vital part of next generation MPS engagements that look to drive business process efficiency.
Xerox also has another string to its bow in this space – enterprise content management (ECM). At an enterprise level this will be the real opportunity of addressing the big data challenge, and turning the valuable information that resides in paper into business insight. Xerox has a mature offering through its DocuShare product, and Quocirca believes it must now raise its game, truly bringing this into its MPS fold. Lexmark is also pushing its ECM capabilities through Perceptive which it acquired in 2010. As many MPS engagements progress to the next phase, providers that can demonstrate and execute on a broader vision for print and ECM will set themselves apart.
Personalised communications through its XMPie product is probably one of Xerox’s best-kept secrets, yet has the potential for Xerox to further extend its traction beyond print. Xerox’s XMPie enables the composition and production of communications across diverse channels such as print, mobile and online. If Xerox can truly integrate its hardware, software and services strategy in this space it has the potential to drive further revenue opportunities in what is a very fragmented market.
Xerox is still a company in the midst of transformation, competing now in a much wider technology and services market space. Through innovation and acquisition, it has developed the breadth and depth of products and services to develop a compelling proposition around optimising business processes in a paper and digital world.
It is worth pondering that October 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of Xerography. Xerox is derived from the word Xerography, which means dry writing in Greek. This served to emphasise the difference between a new technique and an old one, which used liquid chemicals. Chester Carlson, the patent attorney who invented the first Xerox Model A photocopier, did so because he wanted to make the laborious task of manually copying from books easier – in many senses, Xerox is now again looking to simplify and automate, bridging the old paper and new digital worlds. Xerox laid the foundation for the transformation of the office workplace, and its challenge is now to deliver more than the sum of its parts and remain relevant in today’s ever changing workplace.