Businesses Should Accelerate Their Digital Transformation Efforts
In an exclusive interview with Print Pack MEA, Mohammed Amer, the Vice President and Regional Manager at Xerox MEA, speaks about how the pandemic has affected businesses in general, the key learnings over the past few months, how businesses can hit the reset button to start over, diversification into other promising areas, upskilling of staff and more.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted how businesses worldwide function. At Xerox, while the bulk of our markets were fully or partially shut down during the second quarter of this year, our team’s financial discipline enabled us to deliver positive earnings per share and cash flow while continuing to invest in key areas of growth. We made sure to stand by our employees and customers, making sure we communicate with them and offer our support every step of the way.
Knowing that the pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on the workplace, we decided to act quickly be developing new technologies that help during such disrupted times. We made sure to have a futuristic approach, by commissioning the Future of Work survey and Make Now Work technologies that look to the future.
What were the key learnings from this pandemic?
We must always act fast, be prepared, resilient, and resourceful. Businesses who have quickly adapted to the pandemic since its onset in March are the ones who quickly bounced back up the curve. Moreover, communication, cooperation, and collaboration is key to moving forward. Forming solutions is certainly easier when working together with our teams and relevant organisations. Finally, the pandemic taught us that investing in remote work technology and digitization is not a choice but a must going forward.
Did you come across new and innovative opportunities for diversification and monetization?
Across Xerox, we used our heritage of innovation to contribute to the COVID-19 response and support. In the early days, we successfully worked with Voltran Medical to produce much-needed ventilators. We also developed and launched the Xerox Team Availability App to help customers better manage their staff dynamics. Xerox also pivoted on existing remote work and workflow solutions to help our customers change their work practices to support an agile work force.
Tell us about ways through which businesses can reshape or hit the restart button?
Businesses should be open to new and revolutionary ways of work. The future requires businesses to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and equip themselves with a progressive and innovative mindset. Cloud collaboration and automation software are fast-tracked tickets to succeeding in a COVID-impacted work environment.
What sort of dialogues have you had with your employees, partners, clients about the way forward?
First, the safety of our employees, partners, and customers is paramount, in the early days of the pandemic we worked quickly to follow local government advice to provide a safe engagement environment to operate in. Following this, we mobilized to talk to our customers to understand the changing environment by launching an international “Future of Work” survey. Through this, we have listened to our customer’s changes in work practices, key concerns, and plans for the future, and based on this we can make our discussions with them more accurate to their requirements and how we can support them.
Are there any new markets that have opened up with opportunities during the pandemic period?
The pandemic has created an opportunity for international investors and companies to invest in the infrastructure of emerging markets. Such developing markets were hit by a storm due to COVID-19 and are currently navigating through the consequences. It would be a good opportunity to explore such markets that offer a ripe environment for businesses to invest in them.
According to you, how can companies prepare themselves for a post COVID world?
The post-COVID world is unprecedented and challenging, and companies have a lot to prepare for. The pandemic has certainly stimulated digital transformation and innovation efforts and companies will have to rely on technological advancements to ensure employees’ productivity. Expanding tech budgets to include remote IT support, reliable cloud software and online collaboration tools is something companies need to prioritize moving forward. Businesses can also start prioritizing investments in technology that can draw data, automate workflows, personalize at scale, and powerup a flexible and adaptable workforce Ensuring that employees have all the resources required regardless of their physical location is crucial in a COVID-impacted world.
What sort of growth has the packaging industry seen, considering the growth of online deliveries and the e-commerce market over the past couple of months?
The packaging industry saw significant growth over the years, and we have also noticed a significant growth in online deliveries and the e-commerce market. Smart packaging, for example, is still at the beginning of its development but is expected to reach over $25 Billion by 2024 because of its immense potential. Consumers demand authentic, safe, and intelligent products; and brands are constantly looking for ways to protect themselves from the threats of counterfeiting. That is where smart packaging leverages both brand owners’ and consumers’ needs. Smart packaging that can store, sense, compute and wirelessly communicate information — acting as if the package has a mind of its own.
What is the present situation of the printing sector in the region? Have you seen any major diversifications in other areas by major players in the industry?
The printing industry currently revolves around helping Print Service Providers become more digitally competent, to enable them to provide new value to their customers and make print more relevant to the consumer, in all its forms, with an underlying goal of driving sustainable and relevant print. Today, digital printing is the direction that the industry is taking, providing a more green and sustainable form of printing since digital documents can be shared in numerous ways without the need to utilise actual paper material. The printing industry is also rapidly evolving in the workplace. Having thoughtful and user-friendly features in a printer are what the workforce is looking for now. We provide so much more than a machine – we provide a workplace assistant.
Tell us about how your products and solutions can help your customers diversify into new areas for business continuity?
The world around us is evolving fast, and for us slowing down is not an option. That is why we have a ‘Global Digital Support’ that assists our customers and partners around the world. With built-in, intuitive guidance, a robust online knowledge base, and experts on call, our customers can get fixes for mission-critical devices, fast.
Our vision is to leverage our heritage of embracing innovation to help our customers find better ways of working. We achieve this by investing and creating new document technologies, products and services that improve our customers’ work processes and business results. For example, our ConnectKey portfolio delivers smart, connected workplace assistants that reflect the evolving needs of today’s businesses.
Personalised workflows, one-touch access to the cloud and multi-layered security features are the new print, copy and fax. The Connectkey platform also allows for the bespoke development and use of apps which enable a new level of customisation to our customers, simplifying frequently used workflows and functions but is also able to be applied to more complex and extensive processes to help our customers become more efficient, productive and focus on their core businesses.
At Xerox, we actively work with our customers to help them transform their organisations. We understand that digital transformation is the application of new processes and workflows; however, fundamentally it needs to be treated methodically like any business transformation.
Do you believe the regional market still has potential and opportunities? With new markets opening like KSA and Israel, do you believe there are more opportunities popping up?
We believe the Middle East plays a significant role when it comes to digital transformation and developing innovative technologies. The United Arab Emirates is setting an example for other Arab countries to innovate while being eco-friendly. However, every market comes with its unique qualities and demands.
Will companies replace full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure?
The pandemic resulted in economic uncertainty, which disrupted careers and exposed us to different work models. With many jobs lost, people started looking towards nontraditional and flexible work models such as contingent work or freelancing. Many organizations have responded to the pandemic’s economic impact by reducing their budgets and maintaining more flexibility in the workforce. They seemed to be able to achieve this by relying on contingent workers. It is likely that we will see more disruptions in the way the workforce is built.
In a post-pandemic world do you believe companies should focus less on roles and more on skills?
If there is anything the pandemic taught us, it is that most organizations no longer measure productivity in terms of the number of hours employees spend at their desks, but by whether the tasks get done in an efficient and timely manner. Therefore, our focus should be on upskilling our staff and ensuring that we are improving them, building on their expertise, and honing them.