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I had the pleasure of sitting down with John Milazzo from Kodak Alaris and a few thousand of our closest friends at Convergence EMEA 2014. The Kodak Alaris team blogged about Convergence here. Kodak Alaris are a fascinating company with an interesting origin story. They are both a customer and partner of Microsoft. John joined me to discuss Kodak Alaris’ decisions around the cloud, business transformation and Microsoft Dynamics AX.

As a partner, one of Kodak Alaris’ software solutions can be used as an onramp to Microsoft SharePoint. It’s called the Kodak Info Activate Solution (KIAS), a tremendous way for businesses to get critical data off of paper, into SharePoint and then routed into a business process or workflow (see it in action) – “You’re more than just an IT guy, you’re the person everyone counts on to make things happen quickly.”

That’s enough about IT, let’s get back to business…

A Fascinating Company

Kodak Alaris are on a unique journey. Their business is sometimes referred to as “The $1.2B Startup”, consisting of two business units, formerly of Eastman Kodak, creating their own company. It wasn’t a traditional divestiture by any means. According to the Turnaround Management Association (TMA), a global non-profit organization comprised of turnaround and corporate renewal professionals, the creation of Kodak Alaris is “one of the most innovative in the history of cross-border restructurings.” Their parent company is a UK based pension fund for existing and former Eastman Kodak employees in the United Kingdom. The fund saw great value in the capabilities of what was to become “Kodak Alaris” and opted to take these as payment for the debt.

Building a billion dollar company from the ground up

Unlike most divestitures who have some formal structure and process in place, for Kodak Alaris it’s all brand new: from CEO and board of directors to software, networking and computer systems. This has enabled Kodak Alaris to design their business with best of breed, from the ground up. Kodak Alaris has an inbuilt focus on delivering the best products, service and strongest possible relationships with their customers.

“The corner stone of our IT environment revolves around our chosen ERP solution,” says John Milazzo, CIO, Kodak Alaris. After a robust selection approach which involved close consideration of Gartner’s research, Kodak Alaris chose Microsoft Dynamics AX for their ERP needs, Office 365 for productivity and is excited for what the Azure cloud platform offering brings to the business.

Putting together an A-Team

John heads up an amazing team and applies that people passion outside of work as an educator; he spends evenings and weekends teaching Computer Science at his local community college. In this challenge he sees opportunity– not just in technology one-up-man-ship but also the career and personal growth of his team. And it’s paying dividends. The board is pleased with what John and team have been landing. “When I deliver a message to the board and they are happy with it, that it aligns to what they want the company to be, that tells me we are on the right track”.

Simplicity and Business Value

John works with and coaches all of his people to seek out and understand in detail what their business partners are trying to achieve. He then encourages everyone to pursue simplicity. “Do we have to do this in a unique way or can we do it in a way which the technology can provide out of the box?” When differentiation and competitive advantage can be gained by customization that’s OK, but equally don’t rewrite how a PO is processed just because “this is how we have done it in the past.” Simplify and add value using technology to help business partners create the best possible customer experiences. Set up the company to be able to benefit when vendors such as Microsoft bring out improvements in the technology.

At the end of the day, for Kodak Alaris it’s all about helping customers unlock the power of images and information.

In the past, heavy customization of the company’s SAP implementation meant taking advantage of upgrades became challenging. Upgrading would require going back and modifying prior customization. A cost prohibitive exercise.

With Microsoft Dynamics, John’s plans for Kodak Alaris are for the organization to be able to benefit from what is offered in software and to be able to customize business processes without customizing code or implementations. Predictability and repeatability are critical for the company’s long term goals. As a part of this, Kodak Alaris are planning on utilizing Lifecycle Services to manage both the life cycle of their deployment and their business process which make Kodak Alaris unique.

Combining Business Productivity (with Dynamics), individual productivity (with Office) with the power of the cloud (Azure) Kodak Alaris are on track to leverage the key pillars of the Microsoft Cloud for Business. “The scalability and flexibility of Azure are really exciting. Previously if we needed more computer power for any reason we’d have to go through a complex internal process to make the request. Being able to scale up and down as needed based on capacity is a big deal for us being able to support the business with agility,” says John.

It’s all about the business

At the end of the day, for Kodak Alaris it’s all about helping customers unlock the power of images and information. “We believe we can always find a better way,” says Milazzo. “We strive to be customer centric and to be trusted, nimble, creative and driven in everything that we do.” To achieve this Kodak Alaris needs the tools they select to be customer centric as well. This in turn enables Kodak Alaris to do the best possible job providing the solutions their customers’ needs. This shared perspective with Microsoft on customer centricity is a common ground that has helped fuel the partnership between the two companies and resulted in Microsoft being chosen as the technology foundation.

If you missed the Dynamics AX General session from Convergence Europe 2014 you can watch it here.

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