“Wait! Are you seriously going to fax me that request?” It’s a question echoing across workplaces in industries like healthcare, financial services, and law, especially as Gen Z employees join the ranks. After more than a century of service, many IT professionals wish they could retire the old faithful fax. But there are reasons why it persists – and why it would be short-sighted to put fax out to pasture.
The problem is that when you say fax, what comes to mind is dusty fax machines, analog phone lines and thermal paper. The new standard is secure, API-to-API communication. I caught up with Phil Vera, Senior Director of Partner Account Management at OpenText to discuss why fax continues to be the bedrock of mission-critical communications, what’s happening in the partner ecosystem and where he sees it going.
What’s your professional background? How did you come to work at OpenText?
I have a background in the document technology software and telecommunications business that spans the past 34 years. I worked for XMedius and came to OpenTextTM as part of that acquisition. I spent half of my career as an entrepreneur – I’ve owned a Xerox dealership and consulting company. I helped develop the document management markets division that’s still active today and focused on the multi-function printer (MFP) business. Our goal is to have contractual relationships with every major multi-function manufacturer out there. We are almost there as we have established relationships with Ricoh, Toshiba, Konica Minolta, Canon, Xerox, Kyocera and we’re in discussions with Lexmark, Sharp and HP. This year, I’ve taken on some increased responsibilities – I now handle all of the XM Fax and CX-E Voice partners for Digital Experience.
What changes in the industry have you seen over the span of your career?
I was selling stand-alone fax machines and typewriters when I first started at Xerox Corporation in 1989. I experienced the full disappearance of the typewriter which had been around for the prior 120 years. In a matter of 18 months, Xerox and IBM were out of the typewriter business as laptops and desktop PCs took over. I worked through the first digital transformation in the copier business as the 30-year-old analog copier moved to an all-digital multi-function device in the 90’s. Today feels like the movie Groundhog Day as I watch analog fax technology and off-cloud fax solutions move to the cloud. I’ve personally seen paradigm shift changes over the past 30 years from a technological perspective in multiple industries that have changed the way we work.
The information management business is like a race without a finish line and those that thrive on the journey, embrace change with open arms.
Being an entrepreneur half of my career, I have learned to love the challenge that change brings. At the end of the day, software is software but the way it is consumed now that it has moved to the cloud has changed the way we conduct business and present our value proposition to our partners. Savvy partners are now looking for reoccurring revenue streams as part of their business model. This changes the types of conversations we’re having. We used to talk about product features and benefits along with software discounts. Today we talk about reoccurring revenue models, subscription billing API’s and sales rep compensation plans for subscription models.
The other big change is on the people side. I’ve seen a shift in thinking when it comes to the next generation. Serving shareholders can no longer be the main purpose of a corporation. Making a big paycheck is no longer enough to attract young workers. It’s very important for us as company and when we’re talking to partners that we understand that a new generation of businesspeople are starting to run and sell for the organizations that we partner with. The mindset of the current generation is about serving society, through innovation, commitment to a healthy environment, and economic opportunity for all in addition to creating long-term shareholder value. The selling community that resells our products and services are not only motivated by a big paycheck like years past. They want to work for companies that care about social impact, environmental consciousness, pro diversity, ethical work, and have a customized approach to human resources.
How has your role changed and how has your relationship with the partners changed?
Our role has changed – traditionally it was all about providing the best fax server software with the latest features, or the most robust unified communication messaging platform. It’s changed to be more about a reoccurring revenue model and being a true partner for the long term. Technology advancements are exponential these days and competition can catch up real quick and take the competitive advantage you once had away in a single new release. The only real sustainable competitive advantage of a business today is its people. I had the luxury to build my own team and program from the ground up. The OpenText partner account management team is the best-of-the-best. They have business acumen; industry experience, embrace The OpenText Way, believe that every day is always day one when it comes to working with partners.
What’s happening in the fax partner ecosystem? Where do you see it going?
For 10 years, the rumor has been that fax is dead or that it’s going away. What’s exciting is that it has been the exact opposite. Fax has remained in growth mode due to digital transformation and the move to cloud. The amount of faxing has increased due to enhanced workflows and integrations with back-end systems like (EMR) Electronic Medical Records in healthcare. And the growth is not traditional fax – walking up to a fax machine and putting paper into it. Digital transformation in the last three to five years has companies moving away from analog fax lines to digital faxing and the move to the cloud. We’re seeing some decrease in the on-premise software business as people are more interested in private and public cloud services. We have every flavor that partners want from off-cloud, cloud or hybrid offerings. We have a model that allows partners to go as fast as they want. We preach the crawl, walk, run approach and execute a startup, ramp, and grow model with our partners, but if you want to run fast right out of the gates we can accommodate.
Regulatory changes from the FCC have caused price increases on lines from large carriers. Customers are looking for alternatives to fax lines and we are the solution with digital fax. Fax is going to keep growing and growing for as long as it remains the de facto, secure, compliant and legal method of information exchange. Managed fax as a service is where the business is going. OpenText just needs to continue to offer innovative ways to offer programs that align with the ways customers want to buy, and the future will remain bright!