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The right stuff

Kodak Alaris is attempting to make the transition from a hardware company to a software and services-led business. Technology Reseller finds out how from Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya, VP of Global Marketing for the Kodak Alaris Information Management division

Siddhartha Bhattacharya
Siddhartha Bhattacharya

As key enablers of digitisation, scanner manufacturers are agents of their own destruction. The more successful they are at facilitating the transition to paperless processes, the less the need for their products – or for their hardware, at least.

In this respect, companies like Kodak Alaris face many of the same challenges as printer manufacturers, with whom they are linked by a shared dependence on paper – for input in the case of scanners and for output in the case of printers.

It is fitting therefore that the man responsible for defining and implementing the company’s new marketing strategy, Siddhartha (Sid) Bhattacharya, VP of Global Marketing for the Kodak Alaris Information Management division, should have spent 14 years with Xerox, where he helped launch the company’s ConnectKey MFPs and solutions platform.

Currently, well over 80% of Kodak Alaris revenue comes from scanner hardware, including services relating to break-fix and maintenance. However, just like Xerox, it is attempting to evolve from a hardware-focused company into more of a software and services-led business.

To facilitate this transition, it has developed a new marketing approach, the Alaris IN2 Ecosystem, and is actively developing partnerships to increase revenue from an expanding portfolio of professional and managed services, like its new leasing solution that provides customers with an alternative to the outright purchase of scanners and services and the opportunity to upgrade equipment more frequently than they might have done in the past.

The launch of Kodak Alaris’s new scanners and improved software (see below) gave Technology Reseller the opportunity to find out more about this strategy from the man himself.

Data chaos
Sid Bhattacharya started by explaining that in an era of data chaos, with exponential growth of both structured and unstructured data, in which organisations use or analyse less than 0.5% of the data they hold, Kodak’s raison d’être is to solve the problem of big data. It is doing this by focusing on the notion of information capture, rather than just image capture, and its use in essential business processes through easy integration with other software solutions.

“The starting point for the ecosystem is the bigger narrative around data chaos; it’s all about turning that data chaos into business opportunity. The fact that data is growing exponentially, not just paper but digital documents, not just structured data but unstructured data, and the fact that it is coming from multiple and diverse sources – MFPs and scanners, tablets, mobile apps – mean that for many of our customers, the question is not whether they should make the journey to digital transformation but where and how to begin. That is the problem we are looking to alleviate with the launch of the eco-system,” he said.

The Alaris IN2 Ecosystem is built upon three of the company’s key strengths:

Science – its decades of R&D and IP in capture, recognition, extraction and integration;

Technology – Kodak Alaris has won the Buyers Lab Inc (BLI) Scanner Line of the Year for two years running (2016 and 2017) and has more BLI Picks (23) than any other scanner manufacturer; and

Partnerships – the development and delivery of new services through technology partners and system integrators.

Kodak Alaris is bringing all three to bear in the development of solutions for five horizontal applications common to businesses and organisations in all industry sectors – mailroom automation, records management, forms processing, on-boarding and accounts payable.

Turning data chaos into business opportunity
Turning data chaos into business opportunity

“We feel the expertise we have with our scanners and our software and our partners really helps us take our customers on the information capture journey. Our scanners, software and services work in an integrated way with our solution partners. Through our eco-system, we allow customers to deal with different documents and formats; to identify index information; to route documents to the business process; and to lower their costs and increase their ROI,” Bhattacharya explained.

By focusing on information and business processes, rather than scanning per se, the Alaris IN2 Ecosystem is extending the company’s reach in an attempt to future-proof Kodak Alaris and its partners.

“We understand the fact that paper-based workflows are declining, though they are still more than 50% of many of our customers’ business operations and processes. The eco-system and technology expertise we have to offer are as relevant and important to workflows that originate digitally as they are to workflows that originate with paper,” he said.

Getting it right
Bhattacharya adds that, taken together, the three elements of the ecosystem – Science, Technology and Partners – deliver three end-user benefits:

The Right Fit:
“We are able to offer information capture that is seamless to customer businesses. We have trusted partners to deliver the right solution; we have best-in-class scanners, ranging from desktop to high value production models; and we are able to work in the customer’s environment to optimise their overall investment,” he said.

The Right Experience:
“This is about ease of use, the user experience, everything we offer in terms of easy management and set-up and the fact that we can bring in a set of services that allows remote monitoring and inspection to make sure that our scanners are up and running and to handle preventative maintenance, as and when required.”

The Right Results:
“Through the eco-system we expect to be able to offer our customers a higher ROI and a lower cost and, at the same time, the highest quality of captured data. If that initial capture is not of the highest quality and reliability, anything that happens to the data in the rest of the workflow is going to be sub-par. Our imaging excellence and optimised scanning allows more accurate information capture and minimal rework.”

A new breed
The Kodak Alaris partner network clearly has a central role in delivering on the promise of greater productivity, reliability, efficiency, scalability and simplicity. While Kodak Alaris is investing in training and a plethora of sales tools to help existing resellers on what Bhattacharya calls ‘the journey of information capture’, it also aims to work with a new breed of partner.

“The partners we had in the past were more traditional Kodak hardware partners. We still trust them, we still rely on them, but as we make the shift to more of a software and services-led organisation, there needs to be a change in the types of partner we deal with. That’s a journey – it is not going to happen overnight – and to help with it we are investing a lot in portals, in sales training, in demo days, in making sure the partner understands the ecosystem and what role they might be able to play as they embark on this journey,” Bhattacharya explained.

“We are looking for partners who are selling more on value and less on process; partners who are looking not just to churn the business with existing customers who have scanners that they renew every two or three years. We are looking to own the business process, rather than just being the scanner in the business process. In order to own it, we are looking at a number of different elements beyond just capture – it’s about extraction; it’s about optimisation; it’s about analysis and insight.”

Bhattacharya added: “Our unique perspective on this is based on imaging science – that is our USP; that’s what makes us stand out from everyone else in the market place. We are taking the legacy of our expertise in imaging on the hardware side and applying it on the software and services side. That’s the key change we are trying to make as we embark on this ecosystem journey.”

Product announcements
Bhattacharya says the fruits of this new approach are evident in the company’s latest product announcements, which bring productivity features previously only available on high-end scanners to lower-end desktop devices.

Kodak Capture Pro (supplied with scanners in a light version with an upgrade path to standard and network versions) now features intelligent exception processing, which spots when a required element, such as a signature, is missing and automatically spits out the offending document at the scanning stage. Previously, this would not have been spotted until the validation process, after which the operator would have had to spend time finding the original document and removing the digital scan from the workflow.

Another useful enhancement is intelligent barcode reading , which, by managing scanner profiles and other tasks in the software rather than on the scanner hardware, extends barcode recognition to smaller desktop devices such as those you might find in a GP surgery reception. The ability to recognise a barcode and link it to a patient record in the EMIS system, say, cuts down on the amount of manual data entry required.

For batch scanning jobs, Kodak Capture Pro features Intelligent Job Select, which lets users employ programmable patch code separator sheets to separate jobs stacked in a feeder and automate the application of different scan settings for each one so that operators don’t have to change scanner profiles manually.

Info Input Express, which captures documents from multiple channels (e.g. local scanner, centralised scanner, MFP, smartphone, email attachment) for use in a workflow, is now HTML5 compatible. This gives users the ability to embed capture within an MFP with a web browser for scanning straight into a document workflow.

i4000 series scanners now feature metal detection to prevent staplers and paper clips damaging the scanner and the scanned document, which might be the only original. This helps maintain the highest image quality for downstream efficiency and improves productivity by reducing the likelihood of jams and the need to re-scan.

Applying our expertise on the hardware side and applying it on the software and service side.
Applying our expertise on the hardware side and applying it on the software and service side.

Future plans
Prospective and existing resellers will have the chance to find out more about the new ecosystem, what it means for them and how it is impacting product development at a series of roadshows Kodak Alaris is holding throughout EMEA later this year.

Meanwhile, Bhattacharya says that he is working fast and furious on the expansion of the eco-system.

“Early in the fall, you will likely see a new set of distributed capture scanner hardware; you will see some new software solutions being launched; potentially a couple of services that build on the new capabilities in our hardware, focusing on remote monitoring and remote maintenance; and new solutions from our partners.

“This time next year, there will be a bigger announcement, focusing more on the software platform we are trying to build and how we apply our Alaris image science optimisation across the process, from optimisation, classification, extraction and validation of information to its routing into business systems like CRM or ERP or into repositories, either in the cloud or on-premise. We are looking to offer a host of micro services with our service platform, which is going to help us stand out from the competition and really solve that bigger problem of data anarchy in the customer environment.”

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