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Lexmark’s Greg Chavers On Driving Cloud Services As A ‘Major Differentiator’

The printer vendor offers partners a suite of cloud print management and fleet management services that represent a significant growth opportunity, said Chavers, vice president for North America channel sales at Lexmark.

Lexmark is standing out from competitors and creating new opportunities for partners with its growing suite of cloud services, including cloud print management and cloud fleet management, a Lexmark executive told CRN.

Greg Chavers, vice president for North America channel sales at Lexmark, said the printer vendor brings a “core competence” in cloud services that are enabling partners to remotely manage and support customers wherever their users might be located -- including in hybrid work and work-from-home scenarios.

[Related: 15 Cool Office And Home Printers To Know In 2021]

Lexmark’s cloud services were recently expanded to cover printer hardware from all manufacturers, not just Lexmark, with the Lexmark Cloud Bridge solution that launched in April.

Lexmark’s cloud service offering is “a native cloud platform -- so it’s built from the ground up with cloud users in mind,” Chavers said in an interview with CRN. “It’s not just infrastructure that you take from on-premise and move into the cloud. It’s much more than that. I would definitely contend that it is a major differentiator for Lexmark in the imaging industry.”

What follows is an edited portion of CRN’s interview with Chavers.

What do you want partners to know about Lexmark in 2021?

Lexmark continues to be committed to the channel and the partner ecosystem. Our business results are a clear indication of that commitment. Over 90 percent of our units go through the channel. It really just illustrates that point that we value partner collaboration much more than we do partner competition. In terms of results in general for Lexmark, we’ve had record unit growth since refreshing our product portfolio over the last couple of years. We’ve outpaced in this industry over the same time by addressing some new market opportunities with some A4 entry-level devices. That great performance has continued through the first half of this year. It’s been fairly balanced across most of our partner segments. I like to say, a rising tide of Lexmark demand has lifted all of our partner boats over the last two years--whether it’s the [national solution providers], the e-commerce e-tailers, the IT VARs, as well as the copier dealers.

Is work-from-home helping to drive these results?

Yes -- for home offices as an extension of the business office. We always make it pretty clear that our technologies are built for business -- intentionally engineered for business -- whether it’s the steel frames, the long-life components, the ability to easily add functionalities as end user needs change. But [at-home device usage] is definitely a big part of [the growth]. Another part is our Lexmark cloud services capability. We really were honing that core competence right about the time COVID started. One of the challenges with the hybrid workforce and this mobile workforce is that, now you’ve got these IT departments that are trying to manage not only their devices but other devices that the end users have -- personal devices. So [the cloud services] are about visibility to those devices and how they’re managing those devices, not to mention security. The adoption for those services through our partner community accelerated during the pandemic, because it offered our partners the ability to remotely manage and optimize devices, and give them line of sight--without having to risk their safety or the customer’s safety. They didn’t have to go inside and touch the device. They could sit there, diagnose the problem and for the most part, 70 or 80 percent of the time, you could actually resolve the problem without even having to touch the device.

You recently announced enhancements to your Cloud Print Management and Cloud Fleet Management solutions--how are partners using those to serve customers?

Cloud Fleet Management gives our partners the ability to remotely configure devices. But Cloud Print Management actually goes above and beyond that -- it gives our partners the opportunity to help optimize print, manage print, provide security functionality, as well as some job accounting functionality. And then just recently we also launched our Cloud Bridge suite. So that’s really going to open up a whole new world for our partner community. It’s going to allow our partners to actually connect multi branded devices to our Lexmark cloud services. It’s not going to be restricted to Lexmark branded devices. The Cloud Bridge suite gives partners the opportunity to connect these devices into the cloud services -- where before, they were limited to just Lexmark branded devices. Now you can connect all brands to Lexmark cloud services so that you can execute with Cloud Print Management and with Cloud Fleet Management. There’s also Cloud Connector, which gives customers access to cloud solutions that they already use on a day-to-day basis--like OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Docs.

Do these cloud services represent a major opportunity for partners to expand beyond hardware and traditional managed print services?

Forbes reports that something like 90 percent of CIOs are using a cloud solution in their business today. There was also some research by IDC that said that the amount of data that’s going to be created over the next three years, is going to surpass the amount of data that has been collected over the last 30 years. Where’s that data coming from? It’s coming from IoT-enabled devices like Lexmark printers. A lot of people don’t realize that it really starts at that box -- and the technology that’s within that box and the sensors within that technology, which is sending the information. At Lexmark, we have an industry-leading enterprise managed print services practice. That’s what we’re known for--that’s our core competency. We manage over 1 million IoT-enabled devices--printers and MFP. And those devices generate about a terabyte of data each week. So think about all of that information -- it’s useless, unless a customer’s partner has a vendor to help them consume that data, so that our partners and our customers can make better business decisions. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s why we’re so excited about these Lexmark cloud services, and the opportunities they’re going to provide for our partners to better service their customers.

Where are you going next with your services offerings?

We will have enhanced consumables management, as well as predictive service alerts that are going to be coming as new functionality to these partner tool sets, under our Lexmark cloud services. That’ll be coming fairly shortly, and it’s going to be another game changer for our partner community. I would just say that’s coming probably within the next six months. I think that is probably the most important technology innovations [coming up]. We continue to expand our portfolio and our addressable market. We had some additional devices that were launched earlier this year for our copier dealer community -- more entry-level type, IoT-enabled devices -- printers and MFPs both mono and color.

Why do you believe these forthcoming features will be such a game changer for partners?

Some of the features today are only available in enterprise-class type tool sets. We’ve had them for quite some time for managing an enterprise fleet in our managed print services practice. So either that, or you had to purchase additional software to get some of the capabilities. Some of this enhanced consumables management as well as predictive service alerts, we’re going to probably try to include those in some of these cloud service offerings -- which are going to be able to enhance the partners’ ability to manage their customers’ environments.

When you get to the consumables management console, it’s very important in the print industry. Because what we’re trying to do is give the partners the opportunities through the services to resolve problems before a customer even knows there is a problem. So it could be as simple as delivering a cartridge, knowing that the supplies capacity is about utilized in a particular device based on monitoring. So it shows up just in time when the customer needs it, and the customer didn’t even know they were going to need it. Or, we see a fuser element heating up, per one of the sensors in these IoT-enabled devices. And from our data analytics, and some of our algorithms in the background, we know that when it hits a particular temperature, within two weeks that part’s going to fail. So we actually go ahead and engage and create a service alert to take care of that, so that you’re never really down. That’s the beauty of some of this data that’s coming through these IoT devices -- it’s being able to respond before there’s actually an issue and maximizing uptime and the reliability of any of these devices on the network.

With the emphasis on cloud services that you have, do you feel like that’s a big differentiator from some of your competitors?

It’s a core competence of ours. It’s a native cloud platform -- so it’s built from the ground up with cloud users in mind. So it’s not just infrastructure that you take from on-premise and move into the cloud. It’s much more than that. I would definitely contend that it is a major differentiator for Lexmark in the imaging industry.

What can you say about any new investments in partners and your partner program that are coming in the near future?

From a programmatic perspective, Lexmark’s Global Connect program ensures that our partners have all the right tools, the training and the resources to get the job done and to win with Lexmark. This year we’re going to continue to invest. And we have been investing -- we’ve really been doubling down in our ABM efforts -- account-based marketing. So that’s lead generation efforts, in an effort to deliver more live opportunities to our partners. And then outside of that, we’re going to continue to increase our collaboration between Lexmark internal sales teams and partner sales teams. A couple of years back we had a pilot program, where we had an exclusive team that was focusing on accelerating and facilitating that collaboration. We’ve really taken it to another level or two higher, with the amount of resources that we’ve put behind that effort -- just because we’ve had so much success with it. And really primarily the differentiation there is being able to combine, look for synergies between the teams and the core competencies, and then work together to go attack what I call “big middle” opportunities as well as large account opportunities for growth for all of our businesses.

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