How the cloud is changing - not killing - the printing business

HP's Richard Bailey talks about how the printing business is adjusting to the new IT trends

Naysayers be gone, the printing business is alive and well, says Richard Bailey, HP’s vice president of Imaging and Print for the South Pacific region.

Yes, we have all become more environmentally conscious over the years and a lot of us have the “please consider the environment before printing this message” sentence added to the bottom of our email signatures. But we also have a lot more content being produced and, of that content, Bailey says, one third is printable.

“Printing as a result of word processing is not in decline but the rate of its growth is declining. It’s not surprising,” says Bailey. “We’re eliminating waste and digitising our workflow so that all has an impact. But there is a growth in document workflow. That transition is on,” he adds. “Growth of content is increasing very fast. Of that, about one third is printable. People are more careful about what they print but there is more content.”

Bailey says HP has identified the change in trends and is positioning itself to leverage them by “becoming a more solutions focused business”. Cloud printing solutions are a reality, he says - all HP printers are web enabled, meaning there is no need for any other hardware to be connected to them. “The business model is evolving very rapidly,” he says. “There is also a lot going on in terms of photo printing, both online, in stores and at home.”

Bailey has spent the past five and a half years working for HP, having been appointed to his current role in November 2008, after two years as VP and managing director Asia Pacific and Japan of HP Financial Services.

With a strong financial background, Bailey found himself being immersed in an industry he did not know much about. However, he says, the principles were the same. “At the end of the day, whether you’re in the finance or the IT or the manufacturing business, the fundamentals of leadership don’t change,” he says. “You need to have clear objectives, that doesn’t really change. Of course you also need domain expertise,” adds Bailey. That expertise can be learned with the help of mentors. “The first couple of years at HP allowed me to immerse myself in the industry. On day one, I asked the company for a couple of mentors who understood the technology,” he recalls. He started meeting with those mentors on a weekly basis at first, and then the meetings became monthly occurrences. “That’s a process that you need to put in place,” advises the VP. “You have to have business acumen, that’s never going to hurt you.”

The people that he has come across have been vital for his career progression, a career which started at GE Commercial Finance, as managing director of Equipment Finance for the Australia and New Zealand region. “I think it is extremely important to form key relationships (your personal Board so to speak) that can give input, act as a sounding board and help create connections for you within their network. Someone I admire professionally is Jeff Immelt. He took over GE from a legendary predecessor, entered a very tough period, stayed the course and has repositioned GE successfully all the while maintaining GE’s brand, values and reputation,” says Bailey.

In the past few years, Bailey has shifted from his career in financial services, going through a period as the major shareholder of a finance and corporate advisory firm acquired by GE, before the opportunity to join HP came along. He oversees business in the entire South Pacific area and, as such, in spite of its Melbourne base, he often travels across the Tasman to visit the team and partners in New Zealand.

It is a very different life from the one Bailey once thought he would have, growing up in a farming family. He attended university in Perth and eventually joined the finance department of a rural business. He admits his love for gadgets is part of what makes the IT world such an attractive one but also names the “pace of change” and the benefits it brings to “customers and the communities that we live in” as other reasons. He believes “new frontiers (ie cloud and big data) are opening up very exciting opportunities in IT”.

Q+A

Where do you live now, where did you grow up or have lived before?

I was born in Perth, Western Australia and moved to Melbourne. In my previous role at HP I lived in Sydney for work and travelled back to Melbourne for the weekends. However Melbourne is my home.

Are you married? Kids?

Yes, and we have two children. Michael and Jacqui, both living at home and graduating from university this year.

What are you currently reading?

Steve Jobs – An Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson.

What would be the best advice you could give to someone in the same business as you?

Focus business execution on the two or three most important business imperatives.

Do you have any favourite sports?

I am a keen (but not very good) golfer. When I visit NZ I like to stay the weekend and play a round with our NZ leader Hamish Alexander and channel partners if they are available. I recently played with Hamish at Akarana and have played in Queenstown and at Jacks Point and Millbrook.

What's your favourite gadget?

My Touchpad. We (HP) have open sourced Web OS . I still think it is a great platform.

What's your drink of choice?

An Australian Shiraz or a New Zealand Pinot Noir.

What do you love the most about your job?

The opportunity to help customers and partners grow their businesses.

How do you assess the state of business in New Zealand? Is it picking up or do we have more troubled times ahead?

We have a great business in New Zealand and I am very confident in our opportunity to add value to our customers and partners and continue to grow.

How do you keep the work/leisure balance?

My family keep me grounded.

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