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By Steven Schnoll
Wilde, Testa, Sweeney, and Rees: While this collection of last names has the ring of a distinguished Wall Street law firm, in actuality it denotes just a few of the insightful minds that are blazing new technology paths for the graphic communications industry. The names belong to a formidable quartet of female senior executives at Xerox Corp., a company that has publicly staked its future on the successful introduction of a suite of high technology print products.

Much has been written about Anne Mulcahy, the company’s newly elected chairman and CEO, whom Fortune magazine recently ranked as the sixth most powerful woman in American business. Ursula Burns, recently appointed president of the Xerox Document Systems and Solutions Group, and one of the leading African-American women in industry, also has attracted attention, as evidenced by her recent appointment to the board of directors of Banta Corp. But the spotlight has yet to fall on a number of female executives with direct responsibility for Xerox’s performance in the graphic arts marketplace. THERE’S MORE THAN MULCAHY IN XEROX’S LIST OF WOMEN LEADERS

At the Xerox International Women’s Conference, held late last year in Rochester, N.Y., Mulcahy told an enthusiastic audience that “it takes more than just one person to execute a vision and strategy.” Of Xerox’s total U.S. workforce of 39,000, better than 38%, or 15,000, are women. Elaine Wilde, Regina Testa, Shelley Sweeney, and Nancy Rees are in the vanguard of that contingent.

No more ‘toner head’

A distinguishing characteristic of the individuals in this group appears to be an ability to listen. Says Elaine Wilde, senior vice president and general manager, Xerox Worldwide Graphic Arts Business, “Xerox has gone to great lengths to understand market conditions in the graphic arts industry. If we listen and understand, we will provide technology that makes sense for the commercial printer.”

Since 1976, when she first joined Xerox as a sales representative, Wilde says she has developed tremendous respect for the customer. She points out that because the current economic climate is problematic, Xerox wants to provide clear-cut, “quantitative analysis for printers [that will enable them] to understand the break-even points for digital versus conventional offset and to prove that its products are reliable and robust.” With that in mind, she adds, the “go to” market strategy Xerox is developing for the digital market will be flexible and dynamic.

Accordingly, Wilde is traveling across the country, and speaking personally with as many printers as she can to build the knowledge base she feels is required to sell effectively into this very competitive space. Not surprisingly, she believes that “building the relationship and demonstrating the knowledge to potential customers” is critical to Xerox’s future success.

As a good example of how Xerox is listening, Wilde cites the “meter clicks” pricing policy currently formulated for a number of Xerox products. Commercial printers, she says, do not want a levy on their high-volume printing presses. Thus, when the final pricing is released for the company’s DocuColor iGen3 (FutureColor), it most likely will not reflect a click charge, she says.

Wilde adds that “we can only be successful when our customers are successful.” Her personal goal is to make sure the Xerox name is just as “recognizable and relevant” at Print 05 as those of other major graphic arts vendors. Xerox wants to shed the “toner head” moniker, she declares.

Solutions oriented

Regina Testa, vice president/general manger, Quick and Franchise Print Worldwide Graphic Arts, started her career in restaurant management before joining Xerox as a summer intern more than 20 years ago. She says she has learned that to manage people effectively, one must adjust one’s style to meet their needs, and has held to that philosophy throughout her long tenure at Xerox.

As an advocate for quick and franchise printers across the country, Testa not only clearly understands their business, but wants to share her knowledge in a bid to enhance the relationships these printers have with their customers. Her goal, she says, is to reorient the “firehouse mentality” of many in the graphics business toward solutions that incorporate not only Xerox products but also common sense service offerings and process improvements.

Testa, whose professional accolades include the prestigious Xerox President’s Award, says her job is “first and foremost to make money for the customer.” As the document world shifts toward the utilization of more color, Testa says she wants quick and franchise printers to know how Xerox products like the DC 12, 2045, 2060 and iGen3 can help them to be more productive and more successful.

‘Overcome all barriers’

Shelley Sweeney is the vice president/general manager for the Service Bureau Sector of the Graphic Arts Industry for Xerox. A 15-year Xerox veteran, she exemplifies the new Xerox leadership, having served in such engineering, sales, operations, and marketing roles. The strategic Service Bureau Sector encompasses the company’s direct mail, database management, and laser printing organizations, and incorporates technology with which she says Xerox “can overcome all barriers” and “effectively deal with the many different issues a diverse customer base demands.”

“If we can effectively tie solutions to the problems our customers and noncustomers are experiencing,” she continues, “we will be successful.”

There is no question, declares Sweeney, that Xerox successfully created both the market for photocopying and, by introducing the DocuTech, the document management sector.

As for the well-established world of commercial color printing, however, Xerox is entering a mature and highly competitive market. For example, she observes in recent months the market for color variable data printing (VDP) has witnessed not only the purchase of Indigo by Hewlett-Packard and the well-publicized financial troubles of Xeikon, but the introduction of the NexPress 2100 by Heidelberg.

It will take more than technology for the VDP market to break out, she believes. In addition, it will require a commitment to educate end users about the value proposition of one-to-one marketing and database management. Sweeney’s message of partnership is designed to show “value to the printer’s end user with perfect applications and case studies.”

Productivity is king

Nancy Rees, vice president and chief engineer of Xerox, looks at the whole plan scientifically. She joined Xerox in 1980 as an operating systems and advanced product architecture software engineer and worked her way through the company in a series of key positions. As vice president of the company’s Office Digital Product Unit, Rees was responsible for the development and marketing of both monochrome and color digital multifunction office systems.

Most recently, she applied her considerable knowledge base to development of the DocuColor iGen3. In response to feedback from the field, Rees explains, the internal diagnostics of the iGen3 emphasize reliability, predictability, user friendliness, and above all productivity, a priority for most printers, who want a press “to minimize downtime.” According to Rees, the iGen3’s “closed-loop image control makes sheet one and sheet 500 exactly the same.”

In most pressrooms, she adds, the central figure in color reproduction is the press operator and not the printing press. According to Rees, the Xerox DocuColor 12, 2045, 2060, and iGen3 are different, in that in the design of these machines, Xerox has successfully reduced training time and mistakes caused by human error, making the equipment “as goof-proof as possible.”

Simplicity itself

Impressive as Xerox’s technological advances are, it is the climate and context for development provided by company leaders like Elaine Wilde, Regina Testa, Nancy Rees, and Shelley Sweeney that drives the company’s disarmingly simple, yet effective, engineering and marketing strategy: Listen intelligently to what the marketplace is saying. Develop customer relationships built on trust and product integrity. Make a commitment to educate users about new concepts in print. Recognize that digital press technology is a logical extension of the digital work flows being adopted by many printing companies. In the battle for market share, clearly demonstrate the value proposition for variable data printing. Provide a better way to make money and make the printer your friend. P&G

Steven Schnoll is the principal of Schnoll Media Consulting, a technology and strategy consulting firm specializing in the graphic communications industry. He can be reached at steven@schnollconsult.com or at (908) 522-3190.