June 8, 2013
Strange but true: In many countries across the world, and also in India — the word Xerox is synonymous to photocopying. This would be a marketing and branding coup for many product companies. But not for Xerox, because the startling fact is that Xerox does not make photocopiers any more. Not since 2004. The company now makes multi-function printers (MFDs), etc.
Even more telling is the fact that across the world 50 per cent of Xerox revenues now come from the services business. Xerox offers services for enterprises such across the world. Xerox is not a photocopier maker any more. It is not even a products company. It has transformed itself and today, Xerox is a technology led services company. So the ‘verbisation’ of the brand Xerox is not exactly something we espouse.
But this year is the 75 anniversary of the invention of Xerography, or the science of photocopying. Invented in 1938 by Chester Carlson, Xerography was developed by the Haloid Company, which went on to become Xerox in 1961. The first xerographic office copier was commercially unveiled in 1951 and the rest as they say, is history — a history Xerox is proud of. This single invention chan-ged the way the world thinks about documentation. It was about more than just making copies, and also made it easier for people to share information — which was also the company’s mission. Indeed 1938 was an iconic year.
But today, one can find Xerox in a host of unexpected places. For example, The company handles more than 1.6 million customer interactions daily, in 30 languages, in 175 global customer care centres. Further, Xerox Corporation serves 9 million student loan borrowers, and provides human resources services to 11 million empl-oyees and retirees. All this requires capabilities many companies don’t have and require the time most don’t want to invest. But Xerox does so, on their behalf.
So starting from an iconic game-changing life-simplifying invention, what has brought about this transformation in Xerox? What lessons are there to be learnt from this dynamic shift?
Lesson one: Change is imperative. Business dyna-mics are changing. Consu-mers want different things today than they did 75 years ago, and will want different things 75 years later.
Companies must recognise this change, and that it is happening at an astonishing pace, and adapt, or perish.
Lesson two: Change must be disruptive. For, to be impactful, change and innovation cannot be incremental, but must be the start of a whole new curve. For Xerox such transformational curves are not new. In the 1990s, Xerox underwent a major transformation to a digital printing company (from a photocopier company). In the 2000s, the acquisition of ACS brought about another major transformation to enable the company to focus on business process and IT outsourcing services.
It was a gargantuan effort. But it provided Xerox a host of new opportunities — to be more nimble, gain greater marketshare, better careers, beat competition Lesson three: Listen well and focus on the customer. For Xerox, the printer is an end to the means. For example, applying insights from customers led us to develop Managed Print Services. Today, Xerox is No. 1 worldwide by revenue market share (according to Gartner) and manages twice as many devices as competitors. But the important thing is customers didn’t ask for MPS; they asked for help keeping costs down, speed up work etc.
Lesson four: Start from what you are good at. For Xerox it was about helping customers focus on their real business, by helping them manage their documentation problems in new ways.
From the invention of Xerography to a services led technology company: Xerox has come a long way. But it continues to do one thing in the same way. Delight our consumers and provide them value in new ways never though possible.