Xerox Looks to Drive Channel Engagement With New MPS Tools Aimed at SMB

by Robert Palmer | 7/8/15

On July 6, Xerox unveiled several new solutions and services aimed at helping channel partners capitalize on the growing opportunity for MPS within the SMB sector. The suite of tools could be viewed as a combination of new solutions; enhancements to previously available solutions; and expanded availability of tools that previously were not open to the channel.

The SMB market is prime growth territory for MPS — both for OEMs and their channel partners. According to Xerox, nearly three-fourths of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) do not currently have a managed print service contract in place. But two key factors have inhibited growth of MPS beyond the enterprise space: tailoring a value proposition that resonates with small- to medium-size businesses, and providing the necessary tools, training, and resources to help channel partners engage in the MPS discussion. Xerox’s latest tools address both areas.

The new tools being rolled out as part of the Xerox Partner Print Services (XPPS) offering target three key areas: supplies fulfillment and management, infrastructure assessments, and workflow.

Supplies Fulfillment

Xerox’s Enhanced Managed Supplies Service provides a simple way for partners to provide proactive, automatic supplies replenishment for printers and multifunction devices that are not currently under a cost-per-page plan. Of course, Xerox has previously offered supplies fulfillment services through its PageConnect partner service. Even so, Xerox’s PageConnect service is a complete MPS solution that provides channel partners with the necessary tools to offer a bundled click contract that includes break/fix, parts, consumables, hardware — basically everything wrapped into a single managed print contract.

In contrast, the Enhanced Managed Supplies Service is not a click-based model. Instead, it offers channel partners a simple way to engage in supplies replenishment services, which is important for those providers who have not yet invested in the necessary infrastructure and resources to offer full-blown MPS. At the same time, many smaller businesses are not ready to make the leap to a fully managed contract but instead are more comfortable with the traditional transactional purchase model for supplies. The new Enhanced Managed Supplies Service is also different from Xerox’s eConcierge program, which is a customer-managed supplies reordering tool.

Because it is cartridge-based, customers can continue to purchase essentially any type or brand of cartridge that they are already getting through their current distributor. The partner can basically order any cartridge that is set up in the system directly through the distributor, which would then bill the provider directly. The Enhanced Managed Supplies Service is a new feature available through Xerox’s Partner Print Services toolkit. At the same time, it will be offered separately, so it becomes a very easy way for those providers that are not part of Partner Print Services to step into that program.

Complimenting the supplies replenishment program is a new version of Xerox’s NewField IT print assessment tool. Partners enrolled in the Xerox Partner Print Services program will now have access to a “more highly featured PRO version” of Xerox’s NewField IT print assessment tool, which Xerox says will be made available to partners at a significant discount versus the open market version. In addition, Xerox announced a NewField IT e-Commerce Storefront that will allow partners to order and renew assessment tools and services in a simplified manner.

Xerox also unveiled the its MPS Application Programming Interface (API), which it says plays a dual role for partners: improving the integration of Xerox MPS tools into partner systems, and enabling the partner to better integrate into client systems. The API allows partners to securely extract data from Xerox tools and plug it into their own help desk, service management, or billing applications.

Lastly, Xerox announced plans to make its Digital Alternatives solution available to channel partners. According to Xerox, the solution itself is identical to the on-premise version that was launched to Xerox’s direct and large enterprise customers last November. The structure and capabilities are the same, but the channel partner would conduct the implementation instead of Xerox. Xerox Digital Alternatives is a desktop and mobile assistant technology that automates paper-based workflows to allow customers to digitally sign, annotate, share, save, and read documents in one interface without the need to print or convert files.

Xerox says that its NewField IT e-Commerce Storefront, MPS API and Enhanced Managed Supplies Service are available to U.S. and European partners now. Xerox Digital Alternatives is subject to partner accreditation starting in July for European Concessionaires and later this year for U.S. partners. Enhanced Managed Supplies Service will be available to Canada later this year.

For more on Xerox’s latest announcement, see press release here.

Our Take

It is no secret that the SMB market has become the sweet spot for managed print services. In the enterprise segment, where MPS began, coverage for basic fleet management services is saturated. In large accounts, the focus for most vendors has shifted to high-value services, such as document workflow and BPO to gain additional wallet share and increase service margins. By comparison, the SMB space is relatively untapped when it comes to MPS, and most market research firms are projecting high-double digit growth rates.

Nevertheless, cracking the SMB market has proven quite difficult for vendors and channel partners alike. To effectively address smaller businesses, vendors need the support of the channel — and not just one particular channel. Indeed, success will require a range of partners that can address a wide set of customer needs at different levels of engagement.

The Enhanced Managed Supplies Service could be an important differentiator for Xerox because it allows channel providers to engage in basic supplies services with minimal investment. This is perfect for the IT VAR or MSP that is already managing IT devices for its customers but not interested in learning the click-based sales model. Once engaged, Xerox can help transition its channel partners up through an MPS continuum, which has always been its strategy.

At the same time, Xerox is clearly investing in new technology to bring platform-based MPS solutions and services to the channel—allowing new partners to engage in MPS with minimal investment in time, money, and resources. This is a trend that we expect will continue to gain momentum among all OEMs. 

Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). Contact him at robert@bpomedia.com.