Printing as a service: Lexmark digitizes its future with Microsoft 365 cloud-connected business tools
Lexmark customers are about to experience a revolution in printing thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). With the introduction of its latest service offering, Lexmark Cloud Print Infrastructure as a Service (CPI), businesses no longer must manage any aspect of an onsite print infrastructure. Instead, Lexmark installs its own IoT-enabled devices and activates smart services, creating an always-on print environment. Print services, queue management, and user management all occur in the company’s cloud services environment. Customers simply buy reliable, scalable printing services from Lexmark and pay via flexible subscription models.
CPI offers a differentiating service to customers in the 170 countries/regions where Lexmark does business. It’s the next step in the company’s 10-year journey toward digitizing the world of printing and passing on the advantages to customers. Now Lexmark is taking advantage of the Microsoft cloud computing platform, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 to accelerate that transformation.
“Using Microsoft cloud offerings, we can deploy industry-leading offers that previously only large corporations could afford, and we can deploy them to a single individual using a single printer,” says Brad Clay, Senior Vice President, Chief Information and Compliance Officer at Lexmark. “I call it ‘mass customization,’ and today it’s key to responding to customers who are asking for complex capabilities pushed down to a unit of one, in a way that’s more secure, easy, and cost-effective. That’s why we turned to Microsoft cloud computing.”
Taking the next step in digital print services with the Microsoft cloud ecosystem
It was only a year ago in 2018 that Lexmark began its journey with Microsoft, transitioning from a best-in-class IT acquisition strategy to standardizing on a Microsoft cloud platform under a global optimization initiative branded Global Optimization 365 (GO365). In the process, Lexmark retired 13 legacy solutions that covered collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), identity, and security management solutions. Today, the company uses Microsoft 365 to power a modern workplace where employees connect with each other intelligently and in highly secure, mobile work environments. “Microsoft 365 is the foundation for a digitized workplace where employees can work together in highly secure digital environments with the speed and agility we need to harness the power of the cloud for our customers,” says Clay. “Thanks to cloud computing, we’ve reduced our IT spend year over year by 25 percent, and we credit much of that to our move to Microsoft.”
The Azure cloud computing platform plays a pivotal role in the company’s goal to digitize the world of printing. Lexmark is taking advantage of Azure Machine Learning, Azure Data Lake Store, and Azure Analysis Services to gain insights into the data it collects from millions of IoT-enabled printers—an average Lexmark printer has 120 sensors—to store in its proprietary Lexmark IoT Hub. “In R&D, we’re taking information from our connected printers and using it to streamline how we design and build printers by building virtual models of the physical device,” says Clay. “This significantly reduces the time-to-market for a new printer—we’re looking at transformative reductions of 50 percent.”
And now that Lexmark replaced CRM solutions from Salesforce, FinancialForce, and Oracle with Dynamics 365 for Sales, it can feed data from the Lexmark IoT Hub into its new CRM platform to offer predictive support services for its customers. “Dynamics 365 for Sales is a very capable platform for us to build differentiation in how we attract and service customers,” says Clay.
Data flowing from connected printers to the Lexmark IoT Hub and on to Dynamics 365 for Field Service empowers an intelligent customer-support offering called Microsoft Connected Field Service. Scheduled to launch in the summer of 2019, Connected Field Service will offer predictive support so that Lexmark can correctly diagnose and deliver the right parts to the right technician, who can then create an accurate invoice—every time.
For example, when a printer at a high school indicates that toner is running low, it calculates that based on a percentage left in the cartridge. However, the information that the printer sends back to the Lexmark IoT Hub provides more useful information: time, location, usage rates, and seasonality—for example, that the notification came up one day before the end of the school year when there’s a spike in jobs processed for many take-home forms. Lexmark IT staff can then take this information and use the visual modeling capabilities in Azure Machine Learning to create an algorithm that calculates how many days to toner depletion. “Then we can determine the exact day when the toner should be delivered to the high school,” says Clay. “The customer replaces the toner just before it’s empty, so none is wasted, and we have provided a great customer experience.”
This is possible because of what Clay calls the “digital thread,” a seamless flow of data that is facilitated by Lexmark IoT capabilities and the Microsoft cloud stack. “We can track data from our printers that influences the entire product and service lifecycle, through design, manufacturing, distribution, and out to the customer for ongoing support,” says Clay. “And when we can use our data to that level, we can deliver a new level of predictable, quality service at price points that are unmatched.”
Clay envisions that future projects will use the Lexmark IoT Hub in other ways; for example, using Azure Cognitive Services to add image-quality testing as part of the company’s manufacturing processes. “We’re looking at a lot of Microsoft cloud services to enhance that digital thread, which connects our strategies as we think about new capabilities that we can deliver to our customers,” he says.
Providing connected experiences to improve global productivity
As Lexmark shifts to an IoT-driven company, its customers will recognize the benefits of cloud-based services that deliver the agility, scalability, and reliability they need to simplify their business environments. And for employees to innovate new products and services that are designed to harness cloud computing, it’s imperative that they work in a similarly streamlined modern environment. According to Sven Dellagnolo, Director of Global Sales Enablement at Lexmark, standardizing on Microsoft 365, which brings together Microsoft Office 365, Windows 10, and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security, does just that. “As we experience the benefits of a modern workplace, we see our employees are better equipped to innovate new products and services designed to leverage IoT and the cloud,” he says.
Today, all Lexmark employees use Microsoft Teams as their corporate collaboration and communication platform, fostering a more inclusive, open culture where persistent chat, video calls, and coauthoring on Microsoft Office documents occurs naturally. “At Lexmark, collaboration is a requirement for every single function—and we deployed Microsoft Teams for that reason,” says Clay. “Ubiquitous, contextual collaboration drives agility and accelerates the business. It was a major driver behind adopting Teams and the move to Microsoft. Today, software architects in North America; support staff in Hungary, providing service to globally distributed R&D; sales, finance, and supply chain constituents; regression and deployment testers in the Philippines; and developers in India—everyone uses Teams for video calls and meetings to work together around the world.”
The value of Teams as a hub for virtual teamwork is evident in the complex project management that is required to launch products on a global stage. Here, the primary role that Teams plays for sales enablement, given the scale of Lexmark operations and the variety of its customers, is boosting efficiency. It was only two years ago, in 2017, that Lexmark had standalone sales and marketing organizations in locales around the world. Today, it’s a single global function that is supported by the cooperation of diverse groups inside Teams workspaces.
“When we switched to Microsoft 365, Teams quickly and very organically became the right tool to facilitate global product launches by streamlining connections between distributed local teams and a matrixed set of global stakeholders,” says Dellagnolo. “For everything from communications with our legal department and supply chain, to training, co-creating marketing content, and conducting and recording video calls, Teams is a great platform to boost project efficiency because we can make virtual collaboration seamless. And once the launch is complete, we have a record of everything that happened around the world.”
Lexmark employees who work at the central sales enablement group at the company’s headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, also use Teams to connect with and manage remote field marketing groups. In this case, Teams acts as a persistent record of communications that flow back and forth from the field. “We see Teams as a valuable communication channel that keeps bi-directional lines of discourse open so everyone is on the same page with corporate strategies,” says Dellagnolo. “Feedback from the field about the efficacy of corporate strategies is invaluable in helping us refine how we go to market and support our customers.”
According to Julie Knight, Director, Sales Enablement Operations at Lexmark, organizing the successful delivery of a customer briefing is also more efficient thanks to Teams. “Any given briefing in our customer engagement center could involve 20 or 30 folks from all over the world: subject matter experts from R&D, sales, and marketing. We pull these folks together for short-term projects that are organized in Teams,” she explains. “And the great thing is that when we are done, we have a single place for all the feedback from the customer. The account teams access detailed information in Teams to create action plans and solidify the relationship.”
Harnessing intelligent security without hindering efficiency
With its wholesale migration to a Microsoft cloud-based productivity solution, the company has also enhanced its security posture—with less work from IT. Lexmark takes advantage of Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection to help protect data across endpoints, and the company uses Information Rights Management and Office 365 data loss prevention to boost security in mobile and agile digital workspaces.
“It’s exciting for us to see how well Microsoft 365 security capabilities interoperate within the business productivity platform,” says Clay. “With these tools generating events and alerts behind the scenes, we have a consistent, intelligent solution that drives efficiency. Taking advantage of these capabilities is a quantum step forward in terms of our ability to understand and manage the business environment. And IT staff saves time so we can focus more on the core business.”
In just over a year, Lexmark has successfully created a blueprint for a modern way of working, delivering services and satisfying customers around the world with the latest in IoT-enabled printing. In the process, the company has demonstrated the benefits of agility in an increasingly digital world.
“Today, we purchase technology to translate directly into how we solve our customers’ problems,” concludes Dellagnolo. “When looking at cloud computing platforms, we’ve found that aligning with Microsoft will deliver a tool set that gives you superpowers in solving your customers’ problems and enhancing your own value.”
Also, read the Cloud Luminaries blog post from Lexmark Sr. VP, Chief Information and Compliance Officer, Brad Clay.
Microsoft 365 is the foundation for a digitized workplace where employees can work together in highly secure digital environments with the speed and agility we need to harness the power of the cloud for our customers.