Xerox CEO Jacobson On Growing In The A4 Space, The Burgeoning App Ecosystem And Why You Need Some Channel Conflict

A New Look For A Renewed Company

Xerox is having an action-packed year, spinning off its business process services unit, carrying out the biggest product launch in its 109-year history, and launching a new brand campaign.

Jeff Jacobson, CEO of the Norwalk, Conn.-based company, spoke with CRN about why conflict is necessary to provide sufficient channel coverage, how the debut of 29 new ConnectKey devices will help capture managed document services opportunities, and how apps have converted multi-function printers into workplace assistants.

Jacobson also addressed why mono-branded agents are taking more control of billing, the importance of having an open interface environment, and how the new "Set the Page Free" campaign moves Xerox beyond documents.

Read on to learn what's next for Xerox in 2018.

What sales and technology investments are you making to support multi-brand dealers?

Everything from demand generation to training to helping them put more feet on the street. And again, it's co-existing because we love our mono-brand channel, too. One of the things I've always said is, 'If you don't have enough conflict, you don't have enough channel coverage.' We don't want to put people in each other's backyards. But we want to make sure we have all the coverage we need.

What's the thinking behind having agents take more control of billing rather than do referrals?

Well, they want to expand too. They want to be a full-service provider. And where we can do that and help them, we certainly want to do it. If they feel that's not the right model for them, we will work with them in the model they grew up with us [in].

What does the ConnectKey launch do for you in the A4 space?

It's fantastic. A4 was an area where we didn't have the same share or leadership position that we do in A3. And we're very excited now, because we're getting a lot of pull-through from it.

What has been the key focus of your go-to-market strategy around the new products?

It's all throughout. If you think about it, we're the leader in managed document services, so we get the pull-through with that. Bringing on new channel partners, we get that. If you look at A3, A4, new channel partners. In the enterprise, we still get a lot of benefits now. Because one of the disadvantages we had in the past, when we were doing a managed document services deal, we had to do the architecture primarily with A3. Now we can do A3 and A4 together.

What types of opportunities is that unlocking for you?

If you just think about managed print services in the SMB space, it's phenomenal. Managed print services is basically about a $13 billion market, and the SMB portion of it is now larger. Our shares there are not as great as they are in the enterprise, so it's a great growth opportunity for us there. Plus if you look at the multi-brand space, we're significantly underpenetrated there. It's a great opportunity for us there. And then our mono-branded channels just love it.

How are the new ConnectKey devices facilitating growth in managed print services?

It's phenomenal. The apps are the real differentiator, because we don't talk of them as multi-function devices anymore. We talk of them as workplace assistants. How do we help our customers connect and communicate to work more efficiently, to work more collaboratively? Almost as you would with your smartphone. And that's where it's been really embraced.

How has the SMB market received the new ConnectKey products?

It's been outstanding. It was introduced initially in February-March, but now it's come all of the way through, and we just finished introducing the final products in September. So we're really just starting now, and momentum is building. We're bringing on new channel partners, our mono-branded channels love it, the multi-branded channels love it, and there's a lot of excitement.

Which products so far seem to the getting the most traction?

We like them all (laughs). We're equal on all of them. Seriously, if you're in the low-end entry, certainly for some of our developing markets, or the SMBs, the A3 has been very successful. The beauty is our channel partners always wanted the A3 because that’s where we're the leader. And now it's about our A4 products [as well], especially with the apps. The beauty is our channel partners are developing their own apps. So right now we're up to over a half-a-million apps that have been downloaded from our studio.

How has the rollout of ConnectKey across all devices supported the app environment?

I'm knocking on wood right now, because it's been very good. It's just so creative now, when you look at our channel partners and what they build on their own. We're an open interface environment, which is really great.

What does being an open interface environment do for Xerox, as compared with your peers?

I think it gets us a lot more sales, which is what we love (laughs). We learn. It's an open community. All of our channel partners to all share, and they get together. And it's becoming our own little user interface community, which is wonderful.

What investments is Xerox making in terms of developing its own apps?

If you think about our studio and our gallery, basically it all starts with our apps. But we're now allowing our customers, and we want our channel partners to build on top of it.

What's next for the app practice heading into 2018?

We have over 50 apps now, and we're just going to continue to develop more and more. The fact that we have half a million downloads already – we're looking for the first million now, and we'll continue to build on that.

What do you think "Set the Page Free" will do for Xerox as a company?

We are no longer just the document company. We're no longer the color company. What this is all about is, 'How do we collaborate better? How do we bridge the physical and the digital? How do we help our customers connect, communicate, and work more efficiently?' And that's what 'Set the Page Free' is all about. It might start with a printed document or ink on paper, but the ignitor is, 'How can you communicate to seven continents? How can you personalize? How can you print on different objects and different substrates?' That's what 'Set the Page Free' is all about.

How will the channel will the community benefit from the "Set the Page Free" program?

It's been fantastic because, combined with the 29 new ConnectKey products we just introduced, the apps, interface with the cloud, benchmark security, [and] the coherency between A3 and A4, there's just such an excitement that's built up. And we're very excited too.

What should channel partners be watching for from Xerox in 2018?

We're continuing to keep them at the forefront of technology, continuing to innovate with and for them, and continuing great partnerships.

Is there anything else you would like the channel community to know?

We love them, we're here for them, we view them as valuable partners, but they're also valuable customers to us, and we are here for them.