Has Lexmark Found Formula for Software Success?

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Lexmark announced its second quarter 2013 earnings (click on Q2 2013 Earnings) yesterday, with both revenue and income exceeding analyst guidance.This is certainly good news for Lexmark and its shareholders, who saw their stock jump approximately 5% in yesterday’s trading. However, the most interesting thing from our perspective was how much credit Perceptive Software is being given for the strong quarter.

Perceptive is a suite of ECM software products that Lexmark began acquiring back in 2010 when it bought Kansas City-based Perceptive Software. At the time, Perceptive was a traditional document imaging/workflow ISV with about $85 million in annual revenue. Since then, Lexmark has rolled up several other ECM-related software companies under the Perceptive umbrella, including advanced document capture specialist Brainware. In Lexmark’s latest quarter, Perceptive generated approximately $60 million in revenue, including 34% growth. It also achieved “a modest operating profit for the quarter.”

This last point is significant because in previous quarters, while Lexmark had reported some strong growth for Perceptive, it was losing several million dollars per quarter. Here’s an explanation of the Perceptive turnaround from Paul Rooke, Chairman and CEO of Lexmark, as quoted from the Seeking Alpha transcript of today’s investor call. “We delivered improved Perceptive Software profitability this quarter, up $10 million sequentially and up $4 million year-to-year, driven by two factors. First, we delivered record Perceptive Software revenue, growing more than expected, driven by record licensing revenues as we closed several large enterprise customer licensing deals during the quarter. Second, this increased licensing revenue contributed to a larger gross profit margin increase than expected.

“We also stated last quarter that we were taking additional actions to further reduce Perceptive Software’s cost and expense growth to improve profitability without negatively impacting revenue growth.We started to execute that in the second quarter, and we’ll begin to see the benefits of these actions starting in the second half. Going forward, we expect to continue driving double-digit software revenue growth and remain committed to delivering a positive software operating margin in 2013.”

That’s encouraging sign number one for Perceptive.

The second positive sign are synergies that Rooke discussed, which are being developed between Lexmark’s Imaging Solutions/hardware business unit and Perceptive. From the Seeking Alpha transcript: “As proof of these synergies, we’re beginning to win software solution deals in ISS accounts across a range of industry segments. In fact, over the last two quarters, we’ve won over 20 new capture, content and process software deals across a range of ISS banking, retail, manufacturing, government and healthcare accounts, and our sales funnel continues to strengthen. We’re also beginning to see the reverse happen as well, where ISS is capturing MPS deals in Perceptive Software healthcare accounts.”

Basically, this was always the vision – that ISS’ large global presence would be able to turn what was essentially a North American SMB-focused ISV like Perceptive, which strengths in a few vertical markets, into a worldwide, cross-industry ECM power. What’s neat is that if the Perceptive success continues, the Lexmark blueprint could provide a plan that will be copied (no pub intended) by other printing hardware vendors – all of whom have at least been dipping their toes in the water regarding an increased software focus. If Lexmark can jump all in and succeed (it really has invested a ton of money and resources in Perceptive – and made more of a commitment to software than any of the other hardware vendors), perhaps the other vendors will follow.

What will this mean? It could mean acquisition/buying sprees by hardware print vendors of ECM and capture ISVs. Hyland, DocuWare, Open Text, Kofax? Could they all and more be swept off the table by hungry hardware vendors in the next couple years? If Lexmark’s Perceptive plan continues to pay dividends (and admittedly, one quarter does not a successful business make, but Rooke is projecting the success to continue), then why wouldn’t the other hardware vendors follow suit?

One more thing, I thought was interested that came out of the Rooke’s call with financial analysts. I thought he did a very good job expressing exactly that the big vision is for a combined print/MFP/ECM conglomerate like Lexmark is evolving into. Here’s a quote from the Seeking Alpha transcript:

“Lexmark is rapidly moving its value proposition from a provider of only printing solutions, a partial response to the unstructured information challenge that all of our customers’ face, to a provider of unstructured information solutions, a more holistic response to this challenge, encompassing: output management, to optimize paper output, a big part of the unstruct
ured information challenge for the time and place it’s needed; content management, to make unstructured content, both paper and digital, available at the time and place it’s needed; and process management, to automate and integrate those manual, often paper-based disconnected process challenges to improve workflow efficiency.”  – I think that makes a lot of sense and does a good job explaining the synergies, from a technology and marketing standpoint, between print and ECM technologies.

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