Ursula M. Burns is both the chief executive officer (CEO) and chairwoman of Xerox. According to Byrnes and Crockett (2009), Burns is the first woman CEO of African American descent to ‘head a Fortune 500 company’ (Byrnes & Crockett, 2009). Incidentally, Burns also succeeded a woman at the helm of Xerox (Anne Mulcahy), in 2009 (Morris, 2007).
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Born in 1958 to Panamanian immigrants Ursula Burns was raised in a housing project in New York City. After high school, Burns joined the NYU Polytechnic Institute for her mechanical engineering degree. A year later, she obtained her master degree in the same field at Columbia University. Her first stint at Xerox was as an intern in the summer of 1980 (BlackEntrepreneurProfile.com, n. d.) and after completing her masters degree, she was involved in several planning and products development roles.
In 1990, Wayland Hicks, a senior executive at Xerox, appointed Ms. Burns as his executive secretary. Her dedication and hard work saw her rise through the ranks to the position of vice-president in-charge of global manufacturing in 1999. A year later, Burns was appointed senior vice president of the company. Nine years later, she became the first-ever woman CEO of African American Descent to head Xerox.
Xerox Corporation is a document management company with operations in 160 countries across the globe. The company was founded in 1906 and is one of the Fortune 500 companies. It has also been listed on the New York Stock Exchange (Ellis, 2006). The company is involved in the production and sale of a wide range of black-and-white as well as color printers, photo copiers, multifunction systems, supplies, consulting services, and digital production printing presses, among other products.
Although Xerox still remains a global brand, it has entered into strategic joint ventures with a number of companies to better serve its target market (Ellis, 2006). For example, in Japan, the company has entered into a joint venture with Fuji Photo Film Co., a photo graphic firm. This joint venture allows Fuji Film to both manufacture and sell Xerox’s products in the Asia-Pacific region. Xerox also runs a subsidiary in India, Xerox India. Today, Xerox is a global enterprise worth $ 22 billion (Mattioli, 2011).
Xerox Corporation is characterized by a tall organizational structure. Under this structure, managers at Xerox enjoy a narrow span of control. This allows for close supervision of the employees as each manager has a few numbers of employees to watch over.
Responsibility of Ursula Burns as CEO of Xerox
Since taking over as CEO at Xerox, Ms. Burns has been actively involved in the transformation of the company into a service-oriented organization, against a backdrop of increasing digital technology that has slowly eaten into Xerox’s conventional hardware line (Mattioli, 2011).
Ms. Burns anticipates that within a period of three years, Xerox Corporation will most likely realize two-thirds of its revenue from “services”. In addition, Ms. Burns anticipates Xerox to win contracts to manage the back office operations of other companies. Such operations include human resources and printing, among others.
One of the greatest achievements of Ms. Burns as the CEO of Xerox was in 2010, when Xerox acquired Affiliated Computer Services, a services company based in Dallas, for $ 6.4 billion. Initially, industry observers and shareholders criticized the acquisition, terming it as too large and costly. This was at a time when the economy was faced with a recession. However, the acquisition now accounts for almost half of Xerox’s revenues.
As CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns is charged with the responsibility of turning around the company. For example, the 2000 bursting of the technology bubble left the company vulnerable to rising debt. That same year, Xerox posted an annual loss in revenue. It was the first loss in five years (Shambora, 2009).
As a result, the company’s stock witnessed a 60% loss compared to the previous year. The choice of Ms. Burns as CEO to replace Ms. Mulcahly was therefore intended to turn around Xerox in the face of a looming crisis. As CEO, Ms. Burns acts as a source of inspiration especially to black women for she has broken the glass ceiling to head a Fortune 500 company, coming from a minority race.
What plans does Ursula Burn have for Xerox?
Ms. Burns plans to transform Xerox into a leading enterprise in document management and business process in the world. As a first and bold step to help Xerox realize this dream, Ms. Burns successfully saw the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) by Xerox Corporation. This has helped Xerox tap into its new acquisition’s expertise in IT outsourcing and business process (Mattioli, 2011).
Through ACS, Ms. Burns envisions Xerox as a global leader in handling paper-intensive and documentation work in such areas as claims reimbursement, health care record keeping, and processing of loans. Ms. Burns has continued to build on Xerox’s innovative heritage but she has also been instrumental in broadening the organization to take into account the services business need.
How has Ursula Burns managed change and innovation?
As the CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns has brought about a lot of change in the organization. Her intention is to see Xerox transformed into a diversified organization in the provision of IT services, as opposed to just a toner/printer manufacturer.
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She is confident that Xerox has in place the right strategy to realize this transformation, a disciplined focus on realizing the implementation, and a competitive advantage as well (Mattioli, 2011). Over the years, Xerox has been faced with a real problem in as far as the utilization of the partner channel is concerned and for this reason, the company has had to make do with stiff competition with such companies as Lexmark and HP.
However, now that the company is dedicated to better transparency, not to mention the release of additional products, under Ms. Burns, Xerox has witnessed real transformation and in the process, won the accolades of a number of organizations involved in IT (Bryant, 2010). These companies claim that Xerox has provided them with the rare opportunity to reach out to new and a wider customer base.
In addition, Ms. Burns has been instrumental in ensuring the acquisition of a new portfolio by Xerox which has in turn provided partners with the much needed tools to not only expanding their territories, but also the ability to generate new ideas for expanding their businesses. Four years ago, when Xerox relied on its old model, such a feat was unattainable. For example, eConcirge, a new program rolled out by Xerox, now allows customers to accesses products offered by Xerox via their preferred MSP.
Black Entrepreneur Profile. Ursula M. Burns. Web.
Bryant, A. (2010). Xerox’s new chief tries to redefine its culture. The New York Times. Web.
Byrnes, N., & Crockett, R. O. (2009). An historic succession at Xerox. Business Week. Web.
Ellis, C. D. (2006). Joe Wilson and the creation of Xerox. London: Wiley.
Mattioli, D. (2011). Xerox Chief Looks Beyond Photocopiers Toward Services. Web.
Morris, B. (2007). Xerox dynamic due. CNN. Web.
Shambora, J. (2009). Xerox’s next CEO: Ursula Burns. Web.