The evolution of the species

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 05-2018 Views: 1,052 Tags: Document, Scanning, Hardware, Software, Strategy, Alaris, Kodak Alaris, Kodak, IN2 Ecosystem PDF Version:
As was picked up in our recent review of the company's S2080w scanner, the document imaging business of Kodak Alaris is changing, and will soon be known simply as Alaris. DM magazine editor David Tyler caught up with Chris Van Zandt, Vice President, Product Management, Alaris during a recent round of partner events to publicise the change
David Tyler: What exactly is changing within your business, and how much difference will it make to end users and channel partners?
Chris Van Zandt: We're in the process of meeting with our partners right now at a number of events around the world, taking them through this same messaging that we're discussing today - it's a pretty exciting time for us and for them. This divisional name change project has been getting busier over the last couple of months. So why would a company go through a transition like this? It's useful to look at exactly how Alaris as a company came into being. We are now four-plus years out of Eastman Kodak since its Chapter 11 restructuring.

In 2013 three business units were spun out of Eastman Kodak: the consumer print business (under the Kodak Moments brand), the traditional photographic chemistry, film and paper business, and the information management business - that is to say, us - focused on document imaging. A fourth business unit which was created over the last 3 or 4 years is AI Foundry, which as your readers may know has focused more on the software solutions side for business processes.

All four units were operating under the Kodak Alaris umbrella, and there was some desire to hold on to the heritage of the Kodak identity. But from a customer standpoint they all had very different markets and messaging requirements: the Kodak Moments business for instance was almost exclusively targeting consumer markets in terms of demand generation.

With four very different business models, we came to realise over time that there had to be a more effective way of communicating than by accommodating all these different messages under a single web domain and a single brand identity in the marketplace. It's been an evolutionary change, and what we're now trying to do is focus within our business unit on how we drive solutions into the information/document management and scanning space. As a legal entity, we still maintain the position of being 'a company of Kodak Alaris', of course. Our focus now is to continue to communicate the Alaris proposition directly to our customers and end users, in a precise and targeted way.

DT: Of the four business units, it seems to me that there would be some overlap in messaging and maybe even in target markets between the newly-named Alaris and AI Foundry. Is there potential for market confusion there?
CVZ: There is certainly a 'seam' between the two business units that we have to manage: as we move forward Alaris will continue to be primarily capture-focused, as you'd expect, and we will lean on our ability to capture and prepare image files into business process systems, so there will certainly be some software component to that as there has for some time. What we're not doing though is the kind of 'narrow focus' end-to-end vertical solution; AI Foundry's emphasis is very much on loan and mortgage origination processes, for instance.

Certainly there will be cases where they as a business have to specify scanning hardware and they would use our products to do that - so we might see the too businesses as adjacent in some ways but hopefully not overlapping. Our capture portfolio - software and hardware - is much more broad in its reach in terms of the types of applications and processes for which we can act as an on-ramp.

DT: From a channel or end user perspective then, there is no need to fear major changes to how you or they operate: what we are talking about essentially at this point is a rebranding exercise to streamline areas like website naming?
CVZ: Essentially Alaris is still what we always were as a company: a leading provider of information capture solutions that simplify business processes. As a corporate entity we continue to be headquartered in Hemel Hempstead, with the Alaris business unit based in Rochester, New York, and manufacturing sites in the US, Brazil and China. We still have legal entities in 23-plus countries worldwide. Operating under the Kodak Alaris umbrella offers us some economies of scale as you would expect from being part of a multinational organisation.

Our business unit has been delivering digital innovation for almost three decades now, in terms of hardware, then software, and increasingly now with the notion of connectors and APIs and the establishment of a true developers' community. All of this helps us to make our hardware offerings the best fit for a variety of business use cases that we are developing alongside our partner channel.

There is no question that the company has evolved from what was initially a pure hardware play, to the point where we are now a business that truly understands how to deliver wider value and how to solve some pretty challenging problems for our partners and end users alike. We spent much of last year trying to articulate what we saw as the larger information management challenges being faced in the marketplace, and this introduced the concept of our IN2 Ecosystem.

With the Alaris name change now we see this as the beginning of a next phase where we offer genuine solutions to some of those challenges in a specific and targeted way. DT: How would you summarise where Alaris is now, and how it plans to move forward - building on the strong Kodak legacy at the same time as establishing a whole new brand?
CVZ: Our focus is on information capture 'at the very edge of' the business process, and then pushing it in the most appropriate format: so it's hardware and capture first, then integration into the business process. This brings value through faster, more accurate and therefore more useful information. We want Alaris to be perceived across the market as a nimble, agile partner that can move with both speed and focus to help users address their business challenges.

The Kodak name hasn't disappeared entirely, we are still 'a Kodak Alaris company', and so we are still leveraging that continuity in terms of the brand. The Kodak brand represents quality, reliability, consistency across many markets - all hallmarks of how any business would want to be perceived, of course. Many of our products continue to bear the Kodak name: we are certainly not about to walk away from the value of that brand.

At the same time we are keen to make it clear to our market that we are continuing to evolve as a company; it is something we are being very careful to manage properly. As time goes by of course it then becomes more incumbent on us to deliver - under the Alaris umbrella - with some of the new products that we've launched and will be developing, so that we can earn a similar reputation across the board.
More info: www.alarisworld.com

"Our focus is on information capture 'at the very edge of' the business process, and then pushing it in the most appropriate format: so it's hardware and capture first, then integration into the business process. This brings value through faster, more accurate and therefore more useful information. We want Alaris to be perceived across the market as a nimble, agile partner that can move with both speed and focus to help users address their business challenges."