The Imaging Channel’s October issue focuses on the SMB, and we had the chance to interview Jacques-Edouard Gueden, Senior Vice President, Channel Strategy & Operations, Channel Partner Operations, Xerox for this special online feature. Read the October issue of The Imaging Channel to find out how the industry is tackling this growing sector.


1.  What do you like/dislike about working with the SMB customer?

There is nothing as exciting as working with SMBs. First and foremost the market opportunity is massive. SMBs will spend more than $40 billion on technology and document-related services this year in North America and Western Europe and there are numerous pockets of growth areas – MPS, color MFPs and production color – that are attractive and impactful for channel partners.

SMBs are also agile and responsive. They move quickly and can make fast decisions to adjust to market trends and today’s increased pressure on productivity. Additionally they are looking for value from suppliers and vendors – making them a great segment to work with.

Conversely, they can be constrained by resources and pressured by short term business objectives. However, Xerox is well positioned to help partners take advantage of this opportunity. We believe that improving the flow of work is at the core of business performance and progress. We work with companies of all sizes, we have the broadest and best portfolio in our market segment, holding leadership position in technology and MPS, and a strong brand which helps partners open doors. Our amazing employees and partners enable SMBs to focus on their core business processes so they can grow faster.  

2.  What trends are you seeing with SMB customers as it relates to outsourcing and managed services?

The bottom line is that it’s all about improving the flow of work so that SMBs can work better. By helping SMBs unlock their hidden potential, they can grow their business.  Through customized apps and workflows to manage information and business processes effectively or/and by outsourcing back office, they can focus on their core competencies.

Partners are fundamental to delivering this promise. Partners bring a local, more personalized element to the business. Our partners are talking to their clients every day, either in person or over the phone and understand every customer’s unique needs so they can develop custom solutions for every business’s challenges.

In regards to the actual SMBs, they are more open to outsourcing and managed services than ever before. SMBs recognize that providing services and technology to free up employees from time-consuming back-office processes gives them a competitive advantage and allows a productive workforce to focus on innovation and development. One stat that speaks volumes to SMBs’ growing acceptance to outsourcing or managed services is the double-digit growth of our MPS business in the SMB market.

3.  Are there any unique challenges when it comes to selling to the SMB? 

A main challenge is reaching them. Partners need to be where the customers are and that is online a lot. I’m sure you’ve heard the CEB stat that two-thirds of the buying cycle is done online before a customer ever talks to a sales representative. Therefore, we know partners must complement their field presence with a reputable online footprint and that’s why we invest in ways to help our partners market themselves better.

Another very exciting challenge is to set up the right channel for the customers providing them with trusted advisors. Every partner has a different area of expertise and business model, it’s so important for vendors to become flexible and offer options to leverage partner capabilities (on-premise, remote and “as a service”) to meet customers’ expectations.

  Integrating and managing the printing device is just the beginning – not the end.

4.  When it comes to printing and print-related services, how are SMB customer needs different from those of larger enterprise accounts? 

Where managed services in the enterprise is often about reducing the complexity of a huge organization, managed services in SMB is about preserving the simplicity of a smaller business while helping it grow.

SMBs value process simplification and there are a ton of solutions for them to leverage to meet this desire. Managed print services is definitely one of them. Our view is that integrating and managing the printing device is just the beginning – not the end. The software on the devices opens up a whole new world of opportunity to improve process and productivity for individual lines of business and function to help companies scale the their business  including HR services such as onboarding (digital signature, employee portal, custom assigned form); talent acquisition (applicant tracking, recruitment management); online CRM (leads/pipeline management, calendar, contact lists, reporting, marketing campaigns); accounting (electronic bookkeeping, online invoicing, bank reconciliation, cash flow reporting, expense tracking, payment management) .

Moreover, SMBs are increasingly interested in bundled services and vendor simplification. Many want to further reduce complexity by doing business with fewer suppliers and bundled services are perceived as having a much higher value than discrete services.

Lastly, IT continues to be more relevant and the world of print and IT continue to converge and SMBs need to find a vendor that seamlessly integrates with their business processes and meets constantly changing security or mobility needs and regulations.

5.  What technologies are bringing the SMB and enterprise closer together?

Major changes are happening at the same time for large enterprises and SMBs. Delivery platforms are shifting to mobile, cloud and social channels; collaboration channels are being redefined (Web, mobile, social); the cloud is a viable technology and business model for delivering IT and services; data is exploding out of the proliferation of apps, devices and sensors that organizations are deploying or connecting to (but often, not engaging with or utilizing effectively).

When you start talking about workers, they are also changing. Employees are demanding many of these innovations and expect the organization to provide something close in capability to what they can get for little or free on their own devices and networks. Typically customers will be pushing for: 1) service delivery on mobile devices 2) easier to use IT solutions; and 3) access to better, more collaborative and useful intranet capabilities. Easy, highly mobile and “social” are all key words of this new generation and speed to market is what makes companies innovative and competitive.

6.  What would you say are the top five IT challenges facing the SMB customer?  

IT challenges are of course direct consequences of the business issues that SMBs are ruthlessly dealing with on a daily basis. Attracting and retaining new customers, increasing business growth, reducing operational costs, keeping pace with competition or improving workforce productivity are day-to-day reality for SMBs. When it comes to IT, it means social media, mobility solutions, business intelligence or coud computing. But it means also budget constraints, justification for IT investment, mobile fleet management, business continuity, and of course managed services, substantial risks and massive opportunities indeed.     

Two recently published long form content supporting the statements above:

1)  Growth CIO

2)  4 Smart moves to make growth work (for SMB CIO)

7.  Name three differences you encounter when working with the SMBs versus enterprise

1)  Speed of decision making – you get easy access to the decision maker, the person who also has a full responsibility of running the business.

2)  Attitude toward risk – following the rules or breaking the rules. Many SMBs like to be innovative because it’s the only way they can differentiate themselves and survive.

3)  Allocation of resources –SMBs have limited bandwidth, including IT. This is also an opportunity for partners to help.

8.  Have you seen any difference in technology adaptation between the SMB and enterprise (e.g. mobile, cloud, etc.)?

 A fundamental key to the success for SMBs is how to keep up with fast-paced innovation trends and improve core business capabilities. SMB companies with a growth mindset have a strong desire to leverage new technology without the burden of dealing with a heavy legacy infrastructure. They are looking to buy on real value – not just price. They are willing to pay a little more for superior reliability – and expect solutions that are easy and integrate with their existing systems.

Finding the right skills and the set of technologies/solutions/services to ultimately improve work is definitely a challenge for SMBs but we truly believe that the channel partners are the catalysts providing the thoughtful and purposeful resources the SMB are looking for.