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Jessica Schiffenhaus

Lexmark Virtual Solutions Center Is Like iTunes for MFP Apps

May 24, 2012 12:22:28 PM

Although it launched in 2009, Lexmark’s Virtual Solutions Center (VSC) is hardly old news—especially not to the authorized Lexmark resellers who frequent the VSC for updates and new solutions. Lexmark’s Virtual Solutions Center is an online repository of the company’s embedded solutions, accessible to Lexmark channel partners, allowing them to deliver solutions to their customers quickly and easily. The Virtual Solutions Center is akin to Apple iTunes in that the solutions are purchased by the reseller and pushed to customers’ MFPs, just as apps would be delivered to an iPhone or iPad. All that is required is login credentials and an Internet connection. Solutions can be loaded at the reseller’s office before a new device is delivered, or at the customer’s office while the technician is deploying the MFP.

When a reseller selects a solution in the Virtual Solutions Center (categorized by type), they see a summary of what it does, how it works and how it can benefit the end user. There’s also a list of the devices the application is compatible with—at this point, the list includes Lexmark devices with an e-Task touch screen interface—and the recommended firmware level. Resellers can even configure the solution before it’s deployed, which is especially helpful if it’s being loaded on multiple devices.

Since its inception, the solution center’s offerings have grown by more than 50 percent, estimated Sean Endicott, manager, North American Channel Business Development. With 70 to 80 different types of solutions, the company sees the most downloads in the categories of document capture/routing solutions, vertical solutions such as Lexmark Hosted Testing & Grading, and anything regarding forms.

“Partners are looking for those solutions that can provide a high impact quickly,” said Phil Boatman, manager, business development, dealer program/MPS, North American business channels. This is especially true if these solutions don’t require a lot of maintenance or upkeep on the end user’s part. Boatman noted a few examples, including a solution that enables simple messaging at the device via the background/idle screen. So, for instance, an HR department can send out a bulletin to employees that runs as a presentation on the device’s screen. Another example is the remote copy application, which lets a user scan a color document on a monochrome device (with color scanning capabilities) and send it to a color printer.

The Virtual Solutions Center helps channel partners leverage sales by offering quickly implemented solutions that cost less than competitive solutions, according to the company. “We really consider this to be a true value-add for our partners and a key differentiator for Lexmark,” added Endicott.

All of the applications are embedded directly on e-Task–enabled devices, without any additional software. Whether they’re preloaded on the device before it goes to the customer, or installed on a return visit, the ease of deployment is a crucial advantage to the reseller. “Its easy-to-use interface saves the partner time, which ultimately saves the end user time,” said Endicott. “It strengthens the relationship in a way that goes beyond the device itself, enabling the customer and the partner to be linked a lot stronger.”

Access to Lexmark’s Virtual Solution Center not only provides resellers with an abundance of solutions to sell, but it also unlocks a host of training services on both the sales and technical sides.

“It’s one thing to provide the vehicle, which is a great vehicle,” said Boatman. “But we want to make sure our partner feels confident that they can go out and sell the solutions that are in the solutions center and we try to make sure we provide them all the tools and training necessary to do that.”

Lexmark has received an outpouring of positive feedback and the site has seen a tremendous amount of activity, according to both Endicott and Boatman. Confident of the Virtual Solutions Center’s success, the company is constantly working on ways to develop the site and drive more solutions. “We’re announcing things quarterly,” said Endicott. “There will certainly be more coming this year.”