"Xerox this" Takes On A New Meaning: Business Transformation

I attended a Xerox analyst event last week in Grenoble, France, and was very impressed with both the setting and what I heard. Xerox is much more than the verb it was once associated with, and office workers no longer set off to get something “xeroxed.” As the CEO said in a recent interview, the younger generation doesn’t know Xerox as a verb. I mentioned having read this to a fellow analyst at lunch the first day of the event, and she looked at me quizzically. She didn’t know what it meant to “xerox” something. Indeed, there is hope for Xerox to recast itself as much more than a copier. However, there remains work to be done. 

At the event, two presentation tracks were offered — Business Process and Information Technology Outsourcing (BPO/ITO) and Managed Print Services (MPS) — which itself suggests a strong legacy of printing. That legacy is apparently a double-edged sword for them. Xerox wants to move beyond printing, adding value-added services to their legacy services. Yet, those legacy services remain strongly associated with document printing and remain the foundation of their business. Half of all revenues are technology (think printers), with the other half services. Of the services revenue, a third is document management (think managed print services). And, a recent ad campaign shown at the event uses documents to illustrate all of the other things that Xerox does. As an Adweek review noted, “Xerox wants you to know it doesn't just create endless, clutter-causing replicas of documents. In fact, the company does everything from helping doctors virtually monitor patients to setting up call centers during natural disasters to making public transportation easier. To illustrate all these possibilities, the ad uses — what else? — hundreds of letter-size sheets of paper . . .” What? Why reinforce the printer legacy when trying so hard to move beyond it? 

Take their Communications and Marketing Services (CMS), which tries hard not to be about just paper. These services were presented as a BPO offering but are actually part of Document Outsourcing — along with MPS. The CMS offering includes services along the whole marketing value chain: strategy and planning, content creation and management, multichannel delivery, and response management. The goal is to be a more strategic partner in the marketing and communication function. But the reality is that the CMS business remains heavily in print and distribution. I’m not convinced that Xerox can differentiate as a provider of creative marketing services where most customers have strong relationships with marketing and PR agencies. A better bet is to focus on true areas of innovation.

And, Xerox does have an impressive range of new services combining innovations from their global research centers with their legacy services — both traditional Xerox services and the BPO and ITO services, which come from the 2010 acquisition of ACS. The acquisition was a breakout move for Xerox in its move beyond printing. (An aside, the integration of the two companies seems to be still a work in progress as frequent reference to “us” and “them” could be heard throughout the event.)

The solutions I was most interested are in public transportation and healthcare (likely not a surprise for those who know my research). 

  • Public transportation. Xerox enjoys a strong installed base in public transportation authorities, with more than 400 customers in 35 countries including Philadelphia and Toulouse; they process 37 billion fare transactions annually. Innovating on fare collection systems, Xerox evolved from supplying paper cards with magnetic strips to contactless (plastic) cards and soon to mobile phone applications. The new cards and applications can capture passenger data to better understand traffic patterns, facilitate resource allocation, and establish dynamic demand-based pricing models.  In Los Angeles, Xerox contributes intelligence to the LA Express Park pilot. Through LA Express Park, the 800 blocks in the pilot area are embedded with street-level sensors that detect occupancy and communicate parking availability. The system communicates both single space availability and block space occupancy in real-time, as well as historical occupancy with the ability to evaluate the evolution of occupancy over time. You can actually see the movement of people out of the city as more and more spaces become available in the evening. Very cool.  Information on occupancy reduces “cruising” as drivers look for available parking, and enables dynamic pricing to further encourage or discourage drivers from entering a specific area. Analytics tools, the pricing engine, and dashboards make public transportation — and the city leaders — smarter.
  • Healthcare. Xerox processes over 900 million healthcare claims annually with large customers like the UK NHS. But innovation from the labs will move Xerox out of the back office and into the hospital corridors where 70% of information is still collected in text format and where computer use among general practitioners varies significantly: 95% of GPs in the UK compared with only 11% in Poland. Xerox’s Digital Nurse provides a dashboard for nurses that presents aggregated data extracted from various medical records through data mining and analysis techniques. Those same techniques are used to reduce hospital acquired infections (HAI), enabling hospitals to extract patient health statistics from hospital records, determine leading indicators for HAI, identify at-risk groups, inform and train hospital staff, and monitor processes to reduce HIA rates.  Finally, innovation in video analysis has enabled non-contact monitoring of vital statistics for particularly vulnerable patients such as those in the neonatal unit. Doctors can monitor heart rate through video, temperature with a thermal camera on the forehead, and respiration by zooming in on the nostril. This one was really cool! 

The strength of their installed base in both healthcare and in the public sector puts Xerox squarely in the smart city space, although I’ve not seen them mentioned as a provider of “smart city” services. In the future, however — and in my upcoming report on smart city services providers — I will include them. They certainly do contribute to the discussion and to the execution of government transformation. But is that well known?

Xerox has reinvented themselves through acquisition and innovation. But they now need to capture mindshare as an innovative business process and advanced IT outsourcing partner. That requires a significant investment in marketing, perhaps on the scale of IBM’s marketing blitz around Smarter Planet. That outreach, however, must start with a compelling and well-communicated message about the Xerox strategy — which still seems a work in progress. Xerox should drop the paper imagery, embrace the message of business transformation as its legacy, and map out a clear strategy for global reach and vertical depth — neither of which were clearly articulated. Xerox can’t be everything for everyone, but they have clearly demonstrated that they are more than a copier.