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Apps: key part of Xerox’s growth strategy

At the end of last year, Xerox won the Keypoint Intelligence – Buyers Lab Document Imaging Software Line of the Year award for the fifth time, thanks in part to the strength of its app development programme and e-commerce enabled app marketplace. PrintIT Reseller finds out why the company’s expanding, e-commerce-enabled App Gallery is good news for the channel

With the Xerox App Gallery, Xerox is hoping to do for ConnectKeyenabled MFPs what the App Store did for smartphones, turning them into ‘workplace assistants’ in the same way that apps have turned smartphones into quasi ‘personal assistants’.

Today, there are 32 apps in the public gallery that users can install on Xerox devices, including workflow tools, connectors to popular cloud storage and enterprise applications and productivity aids like translation and text-to-audio conversion apps.

With a new tablet-like user experience, Xerox AltaLink Multifunction Printers make completing daily tasks faster and easier with a customizable home screen.
With a new tablet-like user experience, Xerox AltaLink Multifunction Printers make completing daily tasks faster and easier with a customizable home screen.

The partner gallery gives channel partners access to many more apps developed and marketed by Xerox and some of the 400 plus partners enrolled on the company’s Personal Application Builder (PAB) programme (PAB partners also develop customer-specific apps not for resale).

Xerox has made the PAB programme a key part of its growth strategy and is encouraging resellers to enrol in it and use associated tools like the Xerox Workflow Mapping tool to change their relationships with customers, differentiate themselves from competitors and generate additional revenue from software.

“When it came to solutions sales, we realised we had to change the paradigm,” explained Mark Boyt, Global Head of Solutions Marketing. “We had been launching a solution as if it was just another product – here’s the next thing, learn this, go and have this conversation with the customer. We decided we had to do a lot more to help partners sell software, to help them have the right conversations with customers in the first place. That’s how we came up with the Workflow Mapping Tool and the Easy Translator and Audio Documents apps.

“One of the things we have discovered is that you can try to have a conversation with a customer to identify a problem they need help with, but sometimes the customer is resistant and not ready to share. You have to build a relationship first before the conversation can get going. Things like Easy Translator can open doors and break down barriers, because the customer just goes ‘Wow’.”

Once a door has been opened in this way, says Boyt, organisations are more likely to talk about inefficiencies they might have in their processes. A reseller can then propose an app-based solution, mapped out using the Workflow Mapping Tool and built with PAB tools, a process Xerox sums up in the slogan ‘Find it, Map it, App it’.

Growing awareness
Boyt says that awareness of the Xerox app platform is growing. “We are not yet getting customers asking about the Workflow Mapping Tool and asking us to come in and optimise their processes – that’s one of the things we are looking to promote – but they are asking for apps. Everyone is used to putting apps onto their phone, which has become like their personal assistant, so the idea that your MFP can be your workplace assistant is resonating with customers,” he said.

In time, Boyt expects the Xerox App Gallery to become a significant revenue generator for many more partners, pointing out that if you sell a device for $500 but then produce 10 apps for which you charge $50 each per year, money from apps could soon overtake hardware revenue.

Perhaps more significantly, he suggests that Xerox’s ‘find it, map it, app it’ approach could lead to the development of solutions that have no link to MFPs, helping Xerox and its partners to evolve into broader-based app and solutions developers.

“The truth is that today the biggest reason for building apps and solutions is to have a differentiator that helps to sell the box, the clicks, the annuity. Even so, logic dictates that apps and solutions are going to grow to become of material value. What we also know is that printer volumes are declining, and the second benefit of these apps and solutions is that they provide a route to additional or alternative revenue streams.

“The interesting thing is that while the apps that make most sense to people initially are the ones closest to the box, the reality is that once you start finding problems and building apps to resolve them, you might find that a smartphone app is the right way to go. So, having the right mindset of ‘find it, map it, app it’ will help us move from a focus on building apps for MFPs to selling software and solutions whether they are connected to the box or not.”

The IT channel
To date, most of Xerox’s efforts have been focused on training its own salespeople and the copier channel. However, with the expansion of the Xerox App Gallery, Boyt argues that the model has evolved to the point where it starts to make sense for IT resellers too.

“The IT channel sells lots of printers on a fast turnover basis. Their ability, or willingness, to invest time to ‘find it, map it, app it’ is not there – they have 10 minutes to complete a transaction and then move on to the next one. Now that we’ve got the e-commerce platform, it’s no different to the logic of the smartphone.

“When you buy a phone from O2 or Vodafone, they don’t spend a huge amount of time telling you about this app or that app; what they sell you is access to the app gallery where you will find all these great things that are going to solve your problems. What’s interesting for the IT reseller channel is the model where the value is the gallery and what they sell is the platform that gives customers access to that. We fit that model of a fast transaction that also offers the benefit of apps and solutions,” he said.