Lexmark Adds Corporate Problem Solving to Printer Business

Lexmark, once a printing company, has acquired eight software companies in three years, evolving into a big data solutions provider.

Lexmark is making a new name for itself.

Recognizing a need to evolve beyond its printing services business, it has purchased eight software companies since 2010 and is attacking the growing issue of "unstructured information"—digital content within an organization that's valuable when needed but doesn't otherwise have a clear home, like an ERP system. In these days of ongoing big-data conversations, Lexmark's combination of now hardware and software puts it in a unique position, but one that it says stays true to its heritage of solving problems.

"Even when we were selling printers ... our approach was very customers specific. But in the late 1990s, we began to notice that people were thinking differently about printing and wanted to buy output differently. They started asking questions like, 'Can you do that for me?'" Marty Canning, executive vice president of Imaging Solutions and Services, told eWEEK during a May 7 interview. "It became clear to us that there was an opportunity to ... evolve what we did."

With intelligent managed print services (MPS), Lexmark offered customers around the globe visibility and control where before they had none.

"We could tell customers, 'We can see what's happening in your environment. Here are the apps you're using, here's how many pages you're printing, here's how to do it more efficiently,'" Canning said.

The result was a 30 to 50 percent cost reduction for customers.

And still, Lexmark continued to look forward at what might be the next generation of services.

"We decided three-plus years ago that the solutions that stream out of our services can be stronger," said Canning, which led to the acquisitions—of Perceptive Software, Pallas Athena, Brainware, Isys, Nolij, Acuo, AccessVia and Twistage—and Lexmark's focus on solving not just printing problems but the core pain points of its customers.

Its software offerings complement each other, can reside in the cloud or at the customer's site, can scale dramatically and do everything from scan documents to make sure a form is filled out correctly or collect together relevant documents from around the Internet—a process known as vendor-neutral archiving, or VNA.

Canning offered the example of a bank that was losing potential loan clients due to inefficiencies on the front end of the process.

A multifunction printer (MFP) was put right at the front of the bank, where the customer walks in, said Canning. A loan officer pushes a button, and all of the appropriate forms for what the customers wants are produced. Once the customer fills them in, the loan officer scans them on the spot into the MFP, which can have the ability to scrutinize a document to make sure that everything is accounted for and filled out properly, eliminating one of the largest problem areas in the process.

From there, key data is extracted (this step comes courtesy of Lexmark's Brainware acquisition), classified and sent where it needs to go. If for some reason there's an issue, the document is emailed to a person to handle it.