Helping Customers Accelerate Digital Transformation is Top Priority for Kodak Alaris

Channel Post speaks to David Whitton, the Regional Sales Director for Middle East and Africa at Kodak Alaris about the IT trends in the region, the digital transformation strategies for companies and the company’s channel strategies in place

David Whitton, the Regional Sales Director for Middle East and Africa at Kodak Alaris
David Whitton, the Regional Sales Director for Middle East and Africa at Kodak Alaris

What kind of IT trends do you expect to have an impact on the regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry over the next 12-18 months?
Ninety percent of the world’s data has been produced in the last two years. In fact, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced every day. This is equivalent to 10 million blue ray discs stacked on top of each other, equaling the height of four Eiffel Towers. So it’s critical to gain control of how digital information is captured and managed.

Kodak Alaris exists to help customers accelerate digital transformation, remove complexity and unlock the power of information. The world is moving quickly. Those that navigate the challenges of digital transformation with precision and agility will gain valuable insight, get closer to their customers and truly become knowledge-based organizations that deliver on all of their business objectives.

One of the other big challenges for businesses is how to channel information. And I am not referring merely to direct information such as letters, emails and documents that pass directly to and through a business or government agency. I mean unstructured information that, in this Age of Information, and in a hyper-connected world, comes from multiple sources.

We all see the pervasiveness of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms every day. Information can go viral literally in the blink of an eye! So not only do businesses need to be part of these conversations, but they need to achieve a measure of control over them to remain reputable in a time when one negative comment about a company can snowball and catch a business off guard.

This applies to governments, which need to protect their citizens and maintain national security and healthcare providers that need to improve patient care. These are pressing issues which need solutions. All of this information needs to be gathered and harnessed. There are phenomenal technologies out there and people are pioneering this field like never before. Kodak Alaris is well-positioned to take part and make a major impact on the way people work and manage information in their everyday lives.

In September 2013, Kodak Alaris spun off from Eastman Kodak Company. How is the business progressing in the Middle East at present?
Our Middle East Information Management (IM) business has more than doubled in size since September 2013. This is the fastest growing region in the world for Kodak Alaris’ IM business and we will continue to expand in order to provide the best service to our customers and partners.

Kodak Alaris has been investing considerably in the Gulf region, opening dedicated service centres in Dubai, Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Khamis Mushait, providing fast local support for organizations that use both Kodak Alaris and third party scanners. Because Arabic is widely spoken across the region, Kodak Alaris launched both Arabic Interface and Arabic TWAIN drivers to its scanners capable of displaying Arabic text in its LCD Panels, unlocking new opportunities for Arabic speakers.

The launch of the Arabic interface followed the opening of the service centre in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia mid of last year demonstrates Kodak Alaris’ commitment to offer the best possible service to the region and its growing demand by offering tailored solutions for the Arabic speaking world. We have plans to expand further in the MENA region, continuing to help make our customers and partners more competitive through our innovative solutions.

What is the size of Kodak Alaris’ business in the Middle East?
Kodak Alaris is a $1.2 billion company globally and as mentioned, in the Middle East the business has more than doubled in the past 2 years. We have a 20% unit share of the Distributed Capture and 38% of Production Capture markets.  We are poised for accelerated growth in the next few years.

Our differentiation centres around three areas. The first being our innovative solutions and products. We have an incredible amount of intellectual property that translates to exceptional value for customers. As a proof point, Buyers Laboratory presented Kodak Alaris with the Winter 2016 Scanner Line of the Year award for superior performances across our scanner portfolio. In addition, Kodak Alaris also won three “Pick” awards for scanners tested this past year, and we also won four Pick awards in 2014. Kodak Alaris holds the most Pick award wins out of any scanner manufacturer tested by BLI.

The second is our commitment to the region. We are not interested in investing at a surface level, but are fully committed and have invested in sales, marketing, channel, service centres as well as product localization. So we have a mature business model. And the third area is the breadth of our solutions: we play in hardware, software as well as services.

What is Kodak Alaris’ channel strategy in the Middle East? Does the company have a two-tier (distributors and resellers) channel model for this region?
Kodak Alaris has a two tier (distributor and reseller) model on the hardware side. However, for the software and solutions side of things, the company is moving to a one tier model where we sell directly to resellers without the involvement of distributors.

Which countries have you prioritized in Middle East to ensure maximum coverage, growth and adoption of Kodak Alaris’ solutions?
Within the Middle East, the GCC countries are our priority markets and again, within this territory we are focusing our efforts on the Saudi market. Saudi Arabia represents the largest market for ICT sector in the Middle East in terms of capital and volume of spending, representing 50 percent of the total sector in the GCC. We find that with the Kingdom’s smart government initiatives and focus on digital transformation, Kodak Alaris’ solutions become increasingly relevant.

What percentage of your business goes through the channel and direct?
Our company’s go-to-market model is indirect and partner focused. Over 90 percent of our business in the Middle East goes through channel partners.

What investments is Kodak Alaris making to develop its channel business in the Middle East?
Channel management is a very important aspect of our overall strategy as the efforts of our channel reflect directly on our bottom line. Our top two focused initiatives are ‘Channel Coverage’ and ‘Channel Enablement’. Partnerships are formed with channel partners who understand our vision and then the right tools and programs are developed to support the channel. The end result is that the channel functions effectively and effortlessly as an extended arm of Kodak Alaris.

Through specific training and technical programs, we are equipping our partners with the skills needed to leverage market opportunities. As we launch products, we work with our partners to ensure they are highly skilled and have the right capabilities and this in turn helps them to act as key advisors to help end customers choose solutions that fit their business needs. As part of channel enablement, we give our partners Marketing Development Funds (MDF) and also carry out lead generation efforts which ultimately benefit our partners by giving them qualified leads.

How forward-thinking are you encouraging your distributors to be to tighten up on stock management, logistics handling, stock forecasting and cash flow management?
Information Management is a project based business that is difficult to forecast, so having stock in the channel is key. Needless to say, we encourage our partners to have prudent stock management procedures in place.

What is Kodak Alaris’ margin policy for channel?
We focus on giving the reseller a margin differential on deals rather than post-dated rebates. We try to put the margin at the point of value creation.

On the product and technology front, what products from Kodak Alaris do you think will be most exciting for channel partners?
Mobile devices continue to change the way organizations conduct business – including how we capture and share critical business information. Kodak Alaris’ Info Input Solution that was announced at GITEX TechnologyWeek is a revolutionary product that has created a lot of excitement within our channel community.

The Info Input Solution is a web-based document capture application that provides an efficient way to integrate capture into existing enterprise content management (ECM) and line of business applications. Organizations that implement Info Input can be more responsive to customers, while driving down costs and enjoying the efficiencies of web-based business applications. The solution helps eliminate costs associated with thick client software by allowing IT departments to centrally manage the deployment and support of Info Input on desktops and mobile capture devices. It also eliminates per-user licenses and volume-based click charges.

Other recent product launches include the Kodak i3300 Scanner, a new addition to the i3000 family from Kodak Alaris. The i3300 Scanner is ideal for general office settings in a wide range of industries and vertical markets, including government, banking, insurance, healthcare, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

We also launched the Kodak i1190 and i1190E Scanners, which enable more efficient document capture at the point of transaction, helping businesses accelerate transactions with web-based technologies. The 40 page-per-minute i1190 and i1190E Scanners deliver superior data capture accuracy for multiple document types, making it an excellent solution for loan origination, case management, HR onboarding, accounts payable/receivable, and records management, among other applications.

Our breadth of solutions is clearly one of our greatest strengths. We look forward to continuing to deliver the hardware, software and services that our global customers demand.