Interview with Ben Sullivan, new Business Area Director for Axiell ALM

As Business Area Director for ALM, what are you responsible for?

I am ultimately responsible for the success of Axiell within the museums and archives space, how well we serve our customers and how well we serve the needs of the market.

I manage the team leaders for our different regions, and drive changes within the business globally. Basically, my job is listening to, learning from and empowering Axiell’s regional teams. We have a fantastic global customer base, very experienced staff and really innovative products. I need to keep the balance right between making global improvements for the business, whilst ensuring the local teams can serve specific local needs.

What’s your background and what experience will you be bringing to the role?

I completed a Business Degree in IT and worked for KE Software in Australia and the UK before joining Axiell with the acquisition. Over the past 20 years within the museum sector, I have done a range of jobs including web development, graphic design, programming, technical customer support, training, project management and more recently sales and business development, so I have a good general understanding of many different roles in the business.

For the last 3 years I have been responsible for managing the EMEA region as Head of Operations, including the Middle East, UK & Ireland, France, Benelux, DACH, Nordics as well as other areas of mainland Europe. Leading such a geographically diverse team has been eye opening in understanding how drastically the needs of customers can vary between regions; there are different regulations and standards, different priorities, different products and different cultures.

It’s cemented in my mind how important it is to have a local presence, local language skills and staff who really understand and can interact with the local customers.

But it’s also shown me how much all our customers and local teams have in common with each other, and how much could be gained if we could harness knowledge and best practice from around the world to improve everyone’s products and services. As I take responsibility for both North America and APAC also, that’s something that I’m keen to drive forward.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Working out what works well in one place and seeing if it can be scaled or replicated elsewhere. This could be a product, a process or a skill. I see and hear of so many fantastic things that our customers or staff are doing so I am looking forward to trying to connect some of these things together.

What are your main priorities for 2018?

Scalable, Fast and Easy is my mantra.

I moderated a strategy session in the Netherlands last year with some of our global managers, we were looking at where we see the business and the needs of our customers in 3-5 years.

After a couple of hours we had created a framework of priorities. We “dueled” them against each other gladiator style, winner take all. The winner of the Products & Processes battle was the phrase: Scalable (to deploy), Fast (to market), Easy (to use).

I am on a mission in 2018 to prioritise our processes and measure many of the things we do against this mantra.

Where do you see the industry going and how will this affect the business?

These days there is a need to justify the value and costs in maintaining historical processes and procedures in collections management against the need to digitise and promote the collections to existing or new audiences. As a company, we need to be able to offer a range of solutions depending on whether you are looking for just a documentation system or a full public web strategy.

There’s also a drive towards cultural institutions with similar goals working more closely together. Libraries, schools, museums, archives and universities are sharing knowledge and data to ensure the public has access to as much useful content as possible from a wide range of sources.

As a business that serves the whole cultural sector, we recognize we have a part to play here. Not just in terms of ensuring our technology supports the goals of integration between different institution types, but also in using our networks to create connections within the sector. We’re in a privileged position to have a global customer base of cultural institutions and part of our role has to be helping our customers form connections and communities with each other and facilitating conversations about how to best protect and share knowledge for the future.

Where do you get your inspiration from for new ideas and initiatives?

Ideas come from many places, but one of the most important is customers themselves. It doesn’t matter how high up in the organisation I move, I don’t want to ever reach a point where I don’t speak directly to customers. I have implemented an objective for all managers (including myself) to have a minimum number of customer visits per month. As a member of the Product Board I am meeting customers to discuss roadmap direction, strategic planning and new products not yet announced. These customer interactions are imperative to my job.

Some of my favourite times of the year are the user conferences, which give me a chance to hear directly form the customers on how they’re using their systems, what they want next, what we’re doing well and where we need to improve – I always leave with a huge amount of both new ideas, and ideas to ways to refine what we’re already doing.

What skills do you think are important in a leader?

I enjoy working in teams within Axiell and often reflect on the similarities to rowing where I have competed as an athlete and coach. Teamwork, competition, dedication, skill, communication, simplicity, pressure, friendship, trust, success and failure are as relevant in business as they are in a rowing boat.

However, I think the most important skill I bring is an ability to listen, learn and build successful teams. This is essential going forward as we deliver scalable, easy to use products that reach our customers faster.

By |2018-02-20T11:12:13+00:0015 februari 2018|Blog, Interview|