Print services company Lexmark recently signalled a push into the software market thanks to recent acquisitions of software companies Perceptive Software and Pallas Athena. CRN spent a few minutes with Australia and New Zealand general manager Carmel Mosser to find out how the plan to build a software-focused solution provider channel in the US would be replicated locally.
What is Lexmark Australia’s channel strategy for 2012?
In 2012 what we’re focusing on is enabling our partners to sell more than just the box. While our core hardware business is very important to us, Lexmark, through a number of acquisitions over the last couple of months and through our own research and development, has come up with a number of tools to enable us help our channel partners go outside that normal channel sell. It’s very important for us as a print vendor to provide a compelling reason to partner with Lexmark, and we believe that we have some very relevant and exciting things that we can offer the channel that they in turn can use to build their own value proposition.
How has the shift in focus towards software, seen in Lexmark US, flowed through locally?
The focus on software is an add-on to hardware. We’re certainly not lessening our existing hardware focus. We own our own technology and we’re continuing to invest in research and development to build capable products, but solutions and services now add on to that. The software focus from our acquisitions just builds our capability to manage information and become a global information management organisation rather than just a hardware organisation. What channel partners are constantly faced with is how to address their customer base. They want to save costs and build efficiency and manage information better. There’s so much more information coming at us day in and day out, and the ability to manage that becomes critical for organisations.
We’re building a very focused team here, a Perceptive team, and we’re also introducing the concept to existing channel operations and looking for other channel partners to build that software capability. That may mean that we’ll look for only software partners to take on Perceptive and Pallas Athena software sets.
What new software products will be available to Australian partners?
There’s two arms. Perceptive Software has a product called Image Now, which we’re implementing both directly and through the channel, and that integrates seamlessly with legacy products in organisations like SharePoint and Google Docs. The other software capability we’re developing through the channel are our solutions that sit on our embedded framework as part of our MPS (managed print services) offering, and we have a number of tools we’ve introduced to partners that enable them to download access and enable on our MPS technology and that will help with the workflow and moving around of documents.
What is the ratio of direct to channel sales at Lexmark Australia currently?
With Perceptive, in the very short instance it will be about a 50/50 split, but it will gravitate more to the channel as time goes by. We’re looking to rely heavily on the right sort of channel partners to market it. There will be some organisations, some of our larger MPS organisations that may take advantage of our direct method but our preference is to go through the channel.
We have a philosophy of ‘select and not collect’. We look at the right sort of partners to come on board with us, and we do a significant level of investment in those partners to build capability and make print relevant. We have two types of partners, those that would be a traditional IT reseller or systems integrator reseller who have a number of strings to their bow, and then we have our print-centric partners which we call our value channel, which are very focused on print and implementation of print in organisations.
How many new and existing partners have signed on to the software program?
It’s in the double digits. And we’d be looking to keep it fairly tight, because we want to have a high touch with those partners, so it will be a reasonably exclusive club of around 20 resellers. At the moment it's predominantly current partners that are signing up. We are looking for partners that are new to us, but perhaps not new to the software arena.
To date, Lexmark hasn't had a channel strategy for New Zealand. Will this change over the coming year?
At the moment we’re looking at putting a lot more focus on New Zealand. It’s a very important territory for us. We’ve just implemented a good engagement with Sharp and we have a local presence, but we will be basically helping that local presence with some resources from Australia. We’ve amassed a NZ team, and we’re in the process of now pushing that strategy out into NZ both from an enterprise and channel perspective. But most importantly I think NZ is a very rich opportunity for us from a channel perspective, so our focus will be very high on the channel.
We have a presence in both Auckland and Wellington which is made up of technical and sales resources. It’s smaller but not less focused. We’re still formulating that strategy, we have a clear idea but want to make sure we’re on the right track.
What does the partnership with Sharp involve?
Sharp in New Zealand are a very entrenched partner with us, they have a great relationship with small to medium enterprises there, and we’re helping them with their A4 strategy, which is where we are strong. We also have good A3 devices but so do they, so we’re working with them to capture all the pages of organisations in New Zealand. It’s a natural coming together of two organisations that have different strengths.