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Find it, map it, app it

Xerox and its partners are changing the conversations they have with customers. James Goulding reports

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 online app marketplace.

With the Xerox App Gallery, Xerox is hoping to do for ConnectKey-enabled print devices 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 (see box) and productivity aids like translation and text-to-audio conversion apps.

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 and generate additional revenue from software.

“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,” explained Mark Boyt, Global Head of Solutions Marketing. “We decided we had to do a lot more to help partners sell software, to help them have the right conversations with customers. That’s how we came up with the Workflow Mapping Tool and the Easy Translator and Audio Documents apps,” he said.

“One of the things we have discovered is that you can have a conversation with a customer to identify a problem they need help with, but sometimes the customer is resistant and is 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, which a reseller can then propose an app-based solution for, mapped out using the Workflow Mapping Tool and built with PAB tools. A process Xerox encapsulates in the slogan ‘Find it, Map it, App it’.

Food for thought

For a real-world example of this approach, Boyt cites the case of EtiQube, a Xerox concessionnaire based in Milan that has developed more than 30 apps for customers.

One of these is Meal-IT, a food ordering app that CEO Alberto Raimondi created following an on-site MFP audit. His contact invited him to lunch in the staff canteen, but every dish Raimondi selected was unavailable because he hadn’t ordered it before the deadline of 10am. The next day, he was determined to put his lunch order in on time. Along with hundreds of others, he joined a long queue at the only terminal for this purpose – which promptly broke down. Seizing the initiative, Raimondo pitched the idea of a meal-ordering app that could be installed on 15 MFPs, saving employees queueing time and building resilience into the system.

“This example follows the ‘find it, map it, app it’ approach exactly,” explained Boyt. “Raimondi found the problem – people weren’t eating lunch because they hadn’t ordered their food by 10 o’clock; he understood how it needed to work; he mapped it; and he built it.”

End user value

The ability to solve customer problems in this way has become a key revenue generator for PAB partners. In the last four years, JustTech, the first certified PAB app developer in the US, has installed 40,000 apps on Xerox ConnectKey MFPs, bringing in more than $1.2 million in licensing fees from other partners, and much more from sales to its own customer base.

JustTech founder Joshua Justice adds that apps have also been instrumental in numerous contract wins, demonstrating their value to end user businesses.

“One example concerns a law firm that used to rotate contracts between Xerox and Konica Minolta. If a device needed service or supplies, paralegals would have to walk around with a notebook, write down the device location, write down the serial number, write down the fault code, go back to their desk, place the service call, and relay all that information. Now, with our Support Connect app, they just walk over to the device, press a button and all the service or supplies information is sent directly to the help desk. The firm sees such tremendous value in that efficiency that their last four contracts have not gone out to bid, but have come straight to us,” he said.

As awareness of the Xerox app platform grows, Boyt expects more customers to ask about app-based solutions.

“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.

Complementary apps

 Xerox VersaLink and  AltaLink devices can be enhanced with Xerox ConnectKey apps offering one-touch access to cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Box
Xerox VersaLink and AltaLink devices can be enhanced with Xerox ConnectKey apps offering one-touch access to cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Box

One process that comes up a lot is the submission of receipts into specific expenses management systems, which Xerox is addressing with the Xerox Connect App for QuickBooks Online and Xerox Connect App for Concur, both of which streamline expenses reimbursement by extracting relevant data from receipts scanned on an MFP.

These apps clearly address a customer pain point, but wouldn’t it be more efficient and easier to use a smartphone app instead? Yes and no, says Boyt.

“Not long ago, I asked a very large customer why his people didn’t just use their smartphone to capture expenses receipts and he pointed out that the biggest issue he has to deal with is that not everyone works the same way. He said: ‘Some absolutely swear by capturing it on the phone, but there’s another group of people that don’t. I can’t say you have to go this way and not that way. I have to enable both and let people work the way they want.’ So, these apps are complementary to, not in competition with, smartphone apps,” he said.

Boyt adds that in time Xerox’s ‘find it, map it, app it’ approach could lead to the development of solutions that have no link to MFPs whatsoever as Xerox and its partners evolve into broad-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. Printer volumes are declining, so he second benefit of these apps is that they provide a route to additional or alternative revenue streams,” he said.

“While the apps that make most sense to people initially are the ones closest to the box, 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 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.”