CRN Exclusive: Xerox Launches MPS Accreditation Program With Eyes On 'Huge' SMB Growth

Xerox has unveiled an accreditation program that offers extensive support for the vendor's top managed print services (MPS) partners as it looks to bring more of that business to the channel.

Companies that join the Xerox MPS Accreditation Program gain access to enhanced sales and marketing support, specialized training and exclusive analytics tools designed to help partners penetrate the largely untapped, high-upside SMB market.

Jim Joyce, VP of MPS in Xerox's U.S. channels unit, said industry analysts had estimated a 24 percent MPS saturation level of MPS in the SMB market, while 60 to 75 percent of MPS clients in that space are projected to change vendors when their current print contracts expire. Given that data, Xerox sees a tremendous chance to expand its $3 billion MPS business.

[Related: Xerox to Move Tens of Thousands of Direct Accounts to Channel Partners]

Sponsored post

Before Xerox can really take a bite out of the market, however, the Norwalk, Conn.-based giant wants to ensure more partners fully grasp the nuances of MPS practice, such as industry-specific security requirements and environmental sustainability requirements, and understand how to apply best practices to the needs of a diverse client pool.

"Any time you look at a huge market with upwards of 80 percent market opportunity, that's the importance of bringing our leadership into the channel space and getting these partners properly accredited," said Joyce. "It's to really teach people so they can dominate in the market."

The MPS accreditation program stacks on top of Xerox's already-existing partner authorization program and features three levels of distinction: MPS Accredited, MPS Master Accredited and MPS Master Elite Accredited. Those tiers are determined not by revenue, but rather the scope and success of a particular partner's MPS practice – factors such as the number of projects and devices managed, maturity level and focus on specific vertical industries.

Xerox said that more than 100 of the 900-plus MPS-authorized partners had met requirements for the accreditation program, which launched earlier this year, and more than 300 more are "charging toward" accreditation. Only a small percentage of those 100 accredited partners have achieved Master Elite status.

"People would become authorized in MPS and go through some training. But it didn't require them to do any of the doing," Joyce said. "That's why I use the term best practice. You just get better and better when you're doing it."

As part of the accreditation program, partners are put through an intense week-long partner training session conducted by consulting experts, many of whom can claim more than a decade of MPS experience. Xerox also has a number of its business channel managers on hand for brainstorming sessions, with the goal of improving collaboration efforts and better identifying pipeline opportunities.

"A real hands-on, very valuable week. Very well-attended," said Ana Fernandez-Parmet, president of Parmetech (Havertown, Pa.), a Xerox partner. "We got a lot of value from it. Time well spent out of the office."

Parmetech reached the Master Elite accreditation level by establishing specialization in the healthcare space, providing managed print services to large East Coast hospital groups that own thousands of devices.

The 24-person company achieved that broad reach by taking a consultancy approach to the MPS practice, leveraging several analytics tools with the goal of reducing costs and optimizing a client's print environments. For Parmetech's healthcare clients, this also involves maintaining HIPAA security compliance.

"We find most clients are oversold by our competitors and they end up owning pieces of hardware that cost them way too much money," said Parmetech EVP Michael Parmet. "We try to drive some of their cost out by using the best-fit device for them, not what's best for our revenue stream."

As a Master Elite partner, Parmetech is granted additional high-powered Xerox benefits, such as Complete View Pro – a what-if analysis projection tool that can provide clients with a graphical representation of their environment under many different scenarios.

"We can show the data in a different way that clients or prospects can understand better," Fernandez-Parmet said.

Shifting business focus to MPS is not without its challenges for partners. Jeff Horn, president and CEO of Lubbock, Texas-based Benchmark Business Solutions, noted the relative complexity of MPS when it comes to features like printing controls, software solutions and automation apps.

Being able to synthesize all of those factors into a cohesive MPS solution that can function for an array of clients, in Horn's experience, requires a certain expertise. Cultivating that knowledge takes time, he said, and MPS sales cycles can also take longer.

"It's truly trying to be a more collaborative or consultative salesperson," Horn said. "Embracing that philosophy is probably the biggest change a partner has to take on. But the rewards can be much more rewarding."

For Horn and 71-person Benchmark, the payoff has included a compound growth rate of roughly 20 percent and a staff that has doubled over the last four and a half years.

"That's because of our commitment to change our philosophy and embrace a managed print culture," he said. "Our forward-looking strategy is one of the reasons why we're able to keep top talent and recruit top talent."

Historically a direct sales company, Xerox promised to transfer tens of thousands of its directly-served upper midmarket and smaller enterprise accounts to the channel during a December conversation with CRN. The MPS accreditation program marks another instance of the vendor pledging to drive more business through its partner ecosystem.

Should Xerox and its MPS partners make successful inroads into the SMB market, Joyce sees "explosive" expansion potential in a business that is already growing by double-digits.

"It gives these guys open territory not to compete with our direct people, but to be supported by consultants who supported Xerox in their success, and to be supported by the right program," Joyce said. "I think it's going to be a fun ride for them."