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Since taking charge at Xerox, Ursula Burns has gotten to know a lot of VARs. At the company’s recent Fusion conference, she let VARs get to know her. During her keynote, Burns spoke about being raised by a single mother in New York to graduating with an engineering degree because that field paid the most at the time. After her speech, Burns talked with CRN about Xerox’s strategy with her at the helm. The following are excerpts:
What skill sets do you think VARs will need going forward to be successful with Xerox?
If you were to ask me this question 10 years ago, I would say you’d have to be a master salesperson. Understand IT infrastructure in general and then our technology, our printing, copying, multifunction technology and then how it connects to the IT infrastructure. I think you still need to do that, but that’s not enough.
Today, we have to understand more and more, in the channel but also by Xerox employees, about customers’ business processes and what actually makes a company run. This is something when I was early in the company somebody said to me: You should always understand how a company makes money, how Xerox makes money and how the gap between your revenue line and your profit line is all about the cost in the company. If you can understand how your clients make money, you can understand how you can help them make more money. We call it business process understanding, but it’s also customer intimacy. That is as important today as understanding how solid ink technology works and where routers go.
A lot of your channel partners come from a technology background as opposed to a business background. Do you think that it’s going to be a difficult thing for them to move to?
I think it’s actually going to be easier for partners vs. someone who spent their life in an engineering lab. Channel partners have some deep intimacy into a business themselves. They’re running their own place and working in relatively small enterprises where they can see a lot of different processes in the business. That gives them a deeper and broader understanding of key pain points and what kind of work has to be done. I think they have a better start point. They’re also a little more entrepreneurial than not. With this whole idea of branching into new areas and not sticking with the status quo, particularly today when technology cycles are so fast and the pressures of cost are so significant, they have to continue to figure out every single day a way to serve their customers better and better, broader and broader in order to stay relevant.
How can Xerox help them make this transition? Are you going to be making investments to help them get there?
A big piece of the work we’re doing with channel partners is not only to give them things to sell, a mobile print solution or partnering with them to sell things. It is about teaching, educating on industry-specific verticals. So if you’re doing a lot of work with the government today, there are ways to apply the technology and solutions and services that we provide around a specific vertical. But it’s also around how do you take all this stuff and knit it together into a relevant set of offerings for your clients. Only a portion of the investment is the [products] that we give. It’s the part you see the most, but another piece of the investment is how we help them become more relevant by using their value-add, their intimacy into local geographies, to partner with a set of solutions that we have. We also help them communicate that to the marketplace.
Is Xerox looking for additional or new types of channel partners that maybe you didn’t touch before?
Absolutely. Xerox started out its go-to-market strategy [direct] when we started the company, and [that] lasted for 30 years. We had Xerox people employed by us literally carrying our technology to clients. That was a self-limiting value proposition. You could only grow as fast as you can hire and train. That takes forever to do that.
We expanded to have a wholly owned channel, what we called a mono-branded channel. We didn’t own them. We had a business arrangement with them. We gave them some of our technology and our infrastructure. Both of those things were limited as well. We found out through our maturing as a company that those value-added resellers that already have a position with clients in certain IT segments didn’t generally get involved with document technology. They didn’t generally get involved with copiers and printers and multifunction devices. Until recently, that was not considered part of the IT infrastructure.
So the next step was to partner with IT-relevant resellers and add to their portfolio, and they add to our coverage a set of technologies that are becoming more relevant and are required to be part of the IT infrastructure because they have the same security risks, the same bottlenecking processes, the same need for consistency across the enterprise.
And we realized that these guys are great, but we kept the offering [to VARs] pretty narrow: desktop devices, relatively small, no solutions, no services. They sell, they’re smart, they have relationships that we don’t have, particularly in the SMB market. Why not give them more and more to sell? And I don’t mean just to push [products] but to get Xerox value-added [solutions] in front of clients. Why wouldn’t you do that?
As partners get more and more engaged with us, solutions are something they want to add. Mobile print as a solution is a key one. Our PagePack expansion. EConcierge, how you get supplies ordered in a cost-effective way. And then opening up the fleet of offerings to not be just desktops, but essentially everything that we offer up to 60 pages per minute they can offer to their clients as well.
We’re focusing on expanding [direct] with large enterprises; that’s where the biggest need is for our services. But as we go forward we will absolutely have to consider and work with partners. We have them, they’re great, they already have relationships. How do we morph the services we have so that we may be able to partner some of these services out to [VARs].
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