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Interview With

Kevin O'Donnell

Jo Golding talks to Kevin O’Donnell, head of marketing, graphic communications business at Xerox, about why he loves to meet customers and understand what makes them tick

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Kevin O’Donnell started on the technical side of the business but quickly moved into sales operations, and is now the head of marketing for its graphic communications business

Pushing boundaries of productivity

What is your own history in the print industry?

Typically, the print industry is made up of two types of people: those who join because it is a family profession, and those who fall into it by accident—I certainly fit into the latter category. That said, both my father-in-law and brother-in-law are printers, they even have Xerox machines (on their own volition I should add).

I started my career at Thorn EMI, an IT business which has since demerged. I was assigned to a printing project and I have not looked back since. I have now been at Xerox for over 30 years. Whilst I started on the technical side of the business, I quickly moved into sales operations and am now the head of marketing for its graphic communications business.

My passion—outside of the actual products—has always been understanding what makes our customers tick, why they need the technology, and then coming together to help them make the most of it. I love meeting our customers, they are the real people at the coalface of this industry, producing business and communication-based innovation for their customers.

I love meeting our customers, they are the real people at the coalface of this industry

What is Xerox’s most exciting technology currently?

Tricky question. From my perspective, the Versant range really pushes the boundaries of productivity and capability in the entry-level production space, whilst the I Gen and Colour Press sit head and shoulders above anything else in the production colour market. It is fantastic, for example, to see new market opportunities open up for digital printers who can now use the I Gen’s additional colours. These now include white and the Colour Press to produce gold and silver.

Xerox’s white dry ink for the Xerox I Gen 5 press means products like this postcard can be created with textured details

We also have our family of inkjet printers, each of which offers something different—whether that is the cut-sheet Brenva or the Rialto’s ability to run small-format reel to cut-sheet. We are also particularly proud of the Xerox Trivor, which is transforming the high-end inkjet landscape with its high quality and ability to produce on coated or uncoated stock. This is really unique in the marketplace.

Saying that, the piece of technology that most excites me at the moment is workflow, specifically our Free Flow Core software. It is one of our smallest, and least expensive products, but it packs a real punch and customers get really bought into it once they understand how it could impact their operations. Xerox has a strong heritage in integrating automation technologies and workflows. We are really bringing this to the table with Free Flow Core, which allows printers to produce more in a timely manner, freeing them from repetitive tasks and enabling them to concentrate on running a successful business.

The largest Xerox reseller, Xeretec, exhibited at The Print Show. How was the exhibition?

It was great to be part of The Print Show in October and we were very pleased that Xeretec flew the Xerox flag so well. I spent some time at the show and saw good levels of interest, particularly around our Versant 3100 and 180 products, and the ability to wrap workflow around them. From my experience speaking to customers and other attendees, the event seemed to be a great success.

Xerox’s Versant 180 press saw good levels of interest at The Print Show this year, says O’Donnell

What avenues of growth are open to print-service-providers today and how can Xerox help?

The print market typically reflects the activity and movement within the general market, many people consider it to be a bellwether industry. We are certainly seeing opportunities for growth as businesses make the move from physical to digital. In my experience, printers which ensure they are at the centre of that conversation are gaining real traction in the UK marketplace.

We also encourage many of our customers to apply their expertise in different ways in order to drive growth. Take the packaging industry as an example—a digital printer can do a fantastic job of carton production, but the end-client is now looking for more. They want a print capability that integrates within their supply chain, that means shorter runs, faster turnarounds, and the ability to personalise the product. In the last couple of years, this has created a huge opportunity for open-minded and ambitious printers to expand their offering.

Xerox can help in lots of ways. I like to characterise it by the three ‘r’s’ of getting things right. The first ‘r’ is helping you identify the right business model and making sure that you are running a business which is tailored to your target market. The second ‘r’ is getting the right workflow in place, and integrating and automating in order to free up employee time for more skilled tasks.

The third ‘r’ is choosing the right technology and the breadth of the Xerox portfolio ensures that we can offer a scalable solution that suits your business needs today, as well as allowing for growth and expansion in the future. Whether you are a small-to-medium print-centric business looking to expand, or at the industrial end of the marketplace, our portfolio is tailored to both ends of the spectrum.

Can you explain how your Set the Page Free platform can benefit print-service-providers?

We introduced Set The Page Free at the very beginning of this year, when Xerox started its new chapter as a $11bn (£8.29bn) Fortune 500 company. It is based on the principle that Xerox is now purely focused on how we help the world communicate and enabling people to move between their physical and digital worlds with ease. It is an exciting opportunity when you consider that printing has historically been a ‘physical’ industry, and is now evolving to ensure customers can also enter their digital world and back again.

Set The Page Free really pays tribute to the value Xerox has created since the company was founded, which started with helping people work, communicate, and collaborate. Last month, we brought this concept to life by launching a free e-book entitled Speaking of Work: A Story of Love, Suspense, and Paperclips, which is a collaboration between 14 award-winning international writers and tells stories about the modern workplace. It is funny and heartwarming, and we have had a great response so far.

We hope it resonates with print-service-providers in the UK as it can facilitate the conversations they are having with their customers. If we accept that the modern workplace is not a physical location anymore—but the ability to communicate, connect, and work from anywhere—it opens up all sorts of discussions around modern technology. It might be how to manage documents electronically, print personalised messages, or streamline production workflows for example, all of which come back to the concept of setting the page free.

What are Xerox’s plans for future growth?

2017 has been a milestone year for us, from the separation into two independent publicly traded companies on January 1st through to the biggest product launch in the company’s history (Connect Key) just a few months later.

2017 has been a milestone year for us, from the separation into two independent publicly traded companies on January 1st through to the biggest product launch in the company’s history (Connect Key) just a few months later

For 2018, we are focused on investing in the industry’s high-growth areas, such as inkjet, packaging, and high-value application segments. Within these areas we are really looking for the next big innovation, to push boundaries of what is possible, similarly to what we did with the Trivor and its high fusion ink which has represented a sea change within inkjet. Our legacy for innovation is based on bringing real-life, tangible, and deliverable solutions to the benefit of our print customers. We are committed to continuing this tradition.

Key Company Stats

  • Xerox separated into 2 independent publicly traded companies
  • O’Donnell has been at Xerox for 30+ years
  • Xerox is now a Fortune 500 company
  • Versant 3100 and 180 popular at Print Show

For the full interview go to www.printmonthly.com and search ‘O’Donnell’

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