by Patricia Ames
Phil Boatman is an accomplished executive with extensive experience in the industry. Most people in the channel have had the pleasure of his company at one industry occasion or another. Boatman is currently the business alliance manager for Lexmark where he works to drive growth for the company’s largest dealer channel partners. After a recent analyst briefing by Lexmark, I had the opportunity to speak with him about channel programs at Lexmark, where he sees growth in the coming year, and what sets Lexmark apart from the competition.
According to what we learned in the briefing, Lexmark’s overall strategy focuses on three areas: Print, Secure and Manage. How does Lexmark help its customers get those three elements working together effectively?
Lexmark bridges the gap between hard copy and document management by providing what we consider the best A4 platform in the market. Because Lexmark owns its print technology, it allows for agility in the marketplace and the ability to respond to specific end-user requirements that give dealers an edge to win. The security aspect of Lexmark technology is woven into every fiber of our devices. Lexmark has always designed for meeting the most stringent security requirements related to document transmission; both to and from the printer or MFP. Document management continues to be a pivotal piece of the output puzzle and so Lexmark provides both simple scan and capture capabilities as well as more complex integrated content management. Lexmark leverages industry partnerships with some of the best third-party software providers to integrate at the edge of the customer environment.
Security is on everyone’s minds these days. What sets Lexmark apart when it comes to security?
Lexmark’s understanding of network environments and relevant security threats — particularly in relation to printing — gives us the know-how to create unique solutions that secure data in every way possible. This is a capability we’ve proven by overcoming security challenges in some of the most highly regulated organizations and industries on earth. Security is built into every Lexmark product with standard security features appropriate to each product’s intended use. Our comprehensive approach covers a full spectrum of security capabilities without additional cost to dealers or customers. From active directory integration and badge/role-based authentication, to device operating system security and hard-drive encryption and overwrite, Lexmark sets the pace for document imaging security.
You are in close communication with your dealer network. Is there an indication that MPS is still a large opportunity in the market? If so, why do you think that is so, and how is Lexmark moving to fill that opportunity?
Lexmark dealers continue to report a desire to win and grow with MPS. With more and more customers realizing there are four to six printers installed for every traditional copier, they are continuing to seek better fleet management and overall cost containment. Lexmark continues to work on best-in-class MPS tools, with the most recent offering for our channel partners being Lexmark Fleet Intelligence. This offering allows for smaller dealers to rely on the resource of Lexmark to provide a behind the scenes before/after fleet optimization summary and yet maintain the “face to the customer” position.
What is the strategy and end-goal behind your investments in nurturing your partner network?
Our strategy is simple: we believe relationships are the key to success for our dealers. With truly remarkable relationships, we come to understand what drives our dealers, what challenges they need help in overcoming, and how to best support their efforts. The Lexmark dealer program cannot be successful without our dealers being successful with our products and offerings.
How do you go about gaining insight into understanding customer needs so you can then provide the technology and services to your dealers in order to meet those needs?
Lexmark has invested significantly in our Customer Engagement Center at our headquarters in Lexington. This platform enables us to bring partners and customers alike into a setting where transparency, collaboration and continuous improvement happen. The DNA of our company relies on understanding specific end-user requirements within specific vertical markets and across horizontal applications. The customer-focused team that Lexmark assembled to support its customer needs allows for customization at an enterprise level that can be scaled down to the SMB segment. When we combine our 26 years of enterprise expertise along with our 10 years of dealer channel experience, we deliver true solutions that differentiate our dealers from their competition.
Your group recently separated from the Kofax/Perceptive/ReadSoft group that housed the bulk of the software solutions you had previously been selling. Can you talk to us a little about how that has affected your solutions sales and also discuss the new strategy – how are you selecting new solutions, what traction have you seen there, and are there any major issues you are willing to talk about?
Lexmark’s heritage and roots have always been solutions-oriented, since our early beginnings with IBM. Lexmark has always differentiated its hardware by delivering solutions to specific vertical markets, helping to solve customers’ needs in those markets with our industry expertise. Business processes are different from industry to industry and we have always been able to build and deliver solutions specific to those markets. So that strategy has never changed.
Through this journey, we also found that many of our customers have already invested heavily in their core systems. Rather than replace these systems with Lexmark software, they want Lexmark to help them find ways to better leverage their investment. With this goal in mind, we can focus on our core imaging business, and our current solutions are now designed to integrate at the edge of our customers’ print environments, helping our partners to be more flexible with customers that have a diverse set of requirements and environments.
You were recently acquired by a Chinese company. Can you talk a little about how that has impacted the U.S. operations – any cultural differences experienced? Changes in the way decisions are made? Other impacts?
Among other opportunities, the purchase of Lexmark by Ninestar provides us with access and insight into the Asian market, which is an important and certainly growing market for distributed output. We hope that over time our relationship will provide us with synergies in regard to supplies, solutions and devices.