By May Ponzo 

Founded in 1906 as “The Haloid Photographic Company” by Chester Carlson in New York, Xerox initially focused on photographic products. The true transformation of the company occurred in the 1950s when Carlson invented a revolutionary technology known as xerography, which allowed for the quick and easy reproduction of documents. Consequently, in 1959, the company changed its name to Xerox Corporation, and its first successful commercial product was the Xerox 914 photocopier, a milestone in the history of document reproduction. 

In recent years, Xerox has faced challenges in a changing business environment, especially with the transition to paperless office environments. In an exclusive interview with Xerox CEO Steve Bandrowczak for MIT Technology Review en español, conducted during the Executive Leadership Meeting of the Club Excelencia en Gestión, where Xerox is a Founding Partner, we explore how the printing and office solutions company has turned the challenge into an opportunity for reinvention.” 

As the CEO of Xerox, you have emphasized the importance of fostering a culture of innovation within the company. Could you give us some examples of how Xerox is bringing innovation into its internal workflows as well as consumer-facing products?   

Xerox has always been a standout company when it comes to driving innovation, but today it is doing so at a pace we haven’t seen before. A key initiative involves reinventing the service industry. Traditionally, addressing issues related to products meant calling a support service, setting up a ticket, and sending a technician, which posed challenges such as an aging workforce, delays, and environmental concerns. To overcome this, we embarked on a journey to innovate in this industry. 

Now, millions of connected devices transmit faults to a central data lake, where artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) analyze the information. Faults are then sent to our call center in Saint John’s, Canada. Technicians receive real-time error information, along with three suggested solutions based on historical data and R&D notes. Clients are provided with a link to an augmented and virtual reality session for self-service, resulting in a remarkable 50% of call center tickets being resolved remotely with a 95% success rate within 17 minutes. 

This revolutionary approach not only ensures faster client recovery but also positively impacts the environment by reducing vehicle mileage and emissions. Additionally, recorded self-service sessions enable technicians to receive guidance before arriving, minimizing diagnostic time. For more complex issues, technicians can engage in augmented virtual reality sessions for third and fourth level support, eliminating the need for repeat visits. Artificial intelligence further streamlines the process by suggesting the most probable parts for repair, reducing calls, improving availability, and addressing the challenge of an aging workforce. 

As we recruit new technicians, our focus is on creating digital natives proficient in augmented reality, AI, and machine learning, transforming our approach to workforce development. This innovative model exemplifies our commitment to driving change and efficiency within the technology industry. 

The changing working landscape, especially with the hybrid and digital workplace post pandemic, has offered Xerox an opportunity to reinvent itself from a paper-centric company to a software driven company based on data and AI. How is Xerox leveraging its expertise in office work solutions to guide businesses in their digital transformations and how do you balance the ongoing need for paper and printing with this transition to new business models?   

The first myth is that print is dead. But the truth is that there is still so much print, both in physical and digital formats, such as PDF documents. Each month, our infrastructure processes billions of pages, emphasizing that print is a significant source of data. Just like AI and ChatGPT depend on data, print holds immense value as it provides the foundation for these technologies. Xerox has long been involved in managing and securing data, ensuring it is correctly placed with the right attributes in various industries. 

Xerox has traditionally operated in the physical world, but the reality is that we are more than just a print company. With a chip, screen, and operating system embedded in every client’s environment, we have the capability to leverage technology in innovative ways. For instance, we can use RPA and AI to scan invoices and seamlessly integrate them into the accounts payable process. Similarly, we can streamline hiring processes by automatically processing resumes. In a legal setting, we can efficiently locate specific clauses in contracts and notify clients of legal or data privacy changes, saving countless manual hours. 

Our focus is on creating specific solutions tailored to different industries based on our deep understanding of their processes and pain points. Additionally, in the face of challenges like inflation, labor shortages, and the rising cost of capital, we aim to assist small businesses by offering RPA, security, and AI as services. This allows them to access advanced technologies without significant upfront investments, ultimately helping them navigate current industry headwinds and boost productivity. 

From the consumers perspective, how are you transforming the public perception of Xerox primarily known as a printing company to one recognized for its software solutions?    

Xerox is an incredible worldwide brand, and we are trusted. Our devices operate securely behind firewalls, a testament to our FedRAMP certification and the trust bestowed upon us by the U.S. government with sensitive data. This trust allows us to introduce cutting-edge technologies like AI, RPA, and IoT services to our clients who know we are committed to the long term. 

Our brand’s significance lies in our deep client relationships and the challenge of conveying our capabilities in RPA, AI, IoT, and digital services. We are already embedded in their environments, familiar with their processes, and now the focus is on effective communication. Beyond being a renowned print company, Xerox has a substantial IT services and digital services business. We actively support CMOs with marketing strategies, integrating physical and digital environments seamlessly. 

How does Xerox distinguish itself from competitors in the market undergoing similar changes and what key elements do you think contribute to Xerox’s unique value proposition?   

We boast an extraordinary legacy of innovation, resilience, and industry redefinition. My primary concern for Xerox lies in our execution and the ability to enhance speed. Rather than fixating on competition, my focus is on creating agile speedboats rather than battleships. The key question is, how can we deliver value to our clients swiftly and bring our partners, constituting 25% of our business, along this transformative journey? 

In this era of rapid technological evolution, my emphasis is on emulating the consumer world, observing the ease and speed prevalent in interactions with devices like iPhones and Galaxy devices. The absorption of technologies, including AI, is happening at an unprecedented pace. Having been a CIO for over 30 years, I’ve witnessed a remarkable acceleration in technology adoption. Previously, concerns about change management and absorption rates dominated discussions, but I advocate for pushing the pace of change even faster. 

The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a compelling example of our ability to absorb technology rapidly. Within days, global organizations shifted to remote work setups, deploying new network infrastructures and adopting video conferencing tools. The experience demonstrated that we can drive technology adoption at a pace previously deemed impossible. Even governments, traditionally slow to change, are now adapting swiftly, influenced by multimedia and public demands. 

In this dynamic landscape, the consumer plays a pivotal role in driving and absorbing technologies, shaping opinions on how we work. As we recruit early-career employees, we emphasize the digital technology and innovation at the core of our operations, inspiring them to join a dynamic technology powerhouse. 

In your latest third quarter results, the company announced a reinvention to drive sustainable profit improvement and revenue growth. Can you provide more details on the key components of this reinvention strategy and how Xerox plans to achieve the targeted improvement in adjusted operating income of at least $300 million by 2026?   

The reinvention of Xerox involves several key components. Initially, when I joined Xerox in June 2018, we aimed to consolidate and integrate with Hewlett, but external challenges like the impact of Covid and supply chain disruptions led us to focus on survival for about 30 months. Recently, we announced three pivotal changes. 

Firstly, a radical overhaul of end-to-end processes, aiming to simplify, eliminate waste, and automate extensively. This involves leveraging technology to accelerate recruiting, training, and service desk responsiveness. For instance, we’ve reduced the time to train someone on our service desk from seven months to five weeks, and we aspire to further compress it to five days. We’re embracing technology, adopting a ‘Career Augmented Virtual Reality’ product to streamline our internal processes and disrupt the service industry. 

Secondly, we’re strategically shifting our revenue streams beyond print by driving IT services and digital services. Our goal is to have approximately 30% of revenue outside of print within three years. This involves capitalizing on high-growth areas like IT services, security as a service, RPA, and AI. We aim to make these technologies easily accessible to our clients as services, sparing them from heavy capital investments and allowing them to benefit from Xerox’s innovation. 

Lastly, our focus on innovation extends beyond technology itself. We are keen on reinventing industries, such as healthcare and legal firms. We engage in meaningful conversations with clients, like law firms exploring the role of ChatGPT in creating opinions. For the government sector, we recognize concerns about AI but emphasize embedding, regulating, and delivering value to citizens. We must stop fearing technology and think about how it adds value to citizens.