So, Adolfo, welcome to SDL! How did you find your way to our door?
When I was looking at coming back to work, after successfully selling a business at the end of last year, I looked for a few things that were important to me. I wanted to work in a market that needed to go through a lot of transformation, a market that was growing and a market that offered a lot of opportunities.
I’ve spent half of my career in software and the other half in services – so ideally was looking for a company where both backgrounds could offer value to a business. Though I’ve held roles as CEO of a start-up and a private equity-backed firm, I hadn’t yet been a CEO of a public company so felt it was a great fit.
What was it about SDL that specifically attracted you?
Firstly, SDL is one of the market leaders. It has tremendous people and technology assets, with great opportunity to build on these assets. It has a fantastic customer franchise, both on the language side, and on the content and knowledge side. So it really did tick all the boxes.
Secondly, as the CEO it’s very important to see what kind of board you’re going to work with. I had the opportunity to meet David Clayton, the Chairman, as well as every single board member and was really impressed with the level of capability, engagement and support for the company going forward. So, overall, feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to join SDL as CEO.
What do you think you bring to SDL as CEO?
I bring what I believe any good CEO should bring to the table. First and foremost, clarity. It’s very important that everyone in the organization understands what is it that we’re trying to do, why are we trying to do it, how are we going to do it, when are we going to do it by and who’s in charge of each of the priorities. So I think clarity around that is the CEO’s most important obligation.
The second thing that makes a good CEO is outward customer market orientation – to learn what’s happening in market – where the value is being sought – and use that knowledge to offer the best to our customers.
Thirdly, a good CEO has to foster and attract great talent, bringing it together in a high-performance team that delivers on the vision and serve the company’s customers.
Ultimately the CEO is measured by results. But I believe a CEO who does well gives clarity around the strategy and the execution, gets the company focused on understanding and delivering to customers, and builds a great team to achieve those results.
Put yourself five years into the future. What does success look like?
Success will be measured by two things: number one, the results we’ve achieved and, number two, the transformation we’ve been through.
How we took SDL, a very successful company, built on what it has done for nearly 25 years and the transformation we’ve delivered to build a company that is going to be successful for the next 10. Moving from a traditional business model to an innovative business model with more technology at its core, with people really connecting the value between software and services and creating a new valuable position that customers love. If we have achieved those two things, I will be very happy.
What will you be doing over the next few weeks?
I’ll be travelling, talking to employees, analysts, partners and customers, and listening. I want to hear about what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing so well, what we should be doing more of, what we should be doing less of.
I am going to work with the executive team and our senior leaders to distil that into not just a vision, which of course has got to be there, but a very concise and clear strategy of how we’re going to execute on that vision. And when we’ve got that, I’m going to get out again and I’m going to communicate that vision, strategy and execution plan so everybody in the company knows what part they play in that bigger picture, and customers and external stakeholders get a good understanding of what the new SDL is going to look like and what we’re going to try to build over quarters and years to come.
SDL obviously has both software and services. How do you think these can work together?
I firmly believe that software technologies and services are extremely synergistic. I spent 12 years of my career managing software, and 13 years of my career in services. I have managed multi-billion-dollar software businesses and a multi-billion-dollar services business. I have learned from both. There are customer problems that are best solved through software automation and repeatability. And there are problems that are best solved by having a professional services-led approach. However, the challenges that customers have and that will need to be solved in the future will be the problems that are solved by a synergetic solution that has both software assets and services capabilities, so what we like to call, technology-enabled services.
Our customers do not only have a translation problem, or only have a content management problem; they have a globalization problem: “a go global problem”. They want to grow and they want to move into different countries and that creates a problem if you want to keep your content consistent, current, across every device and in the right format, language and style. So there’s a lot of issues to solve and you want to do that with simple context, with rich media, with sound, and with structured content. We can solve these problems with both software and services.
Is SDL still committed to customer experience?
I know there is a lot of noise about whether we are committed to customer experience. I don’t know of any successful business that can be successful, that is successful, or that remains successful, without a commitment to customer experience. Am I someone who believes that we have to delight customers? Absolutely. Am I someone who believes SDL has to be totally focused on delighting our customers and helping them offer a customer rich experience to the users downstream? Absolutely. Now do I believe that in order to do that we have to build a software suite that covers every single angle and enables a holistic solution to customer experience? No, I don’t. I believe that there are different companies and different people that solve isolated angles of the customer experience problem. I have been responsible for customer experience software in a previous life, and we focused on one angle. What I think is really powerful from the SDL story going forward is that we understand very well how to create, manage, translate and publish a lot of content, as I said simple content, structured content, rich content, and deliver it anywhere in any language, in any style, on any device. All of these factors are critical to customer experience.
Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given was to try harder. You only fail because you don’t try hard enough. I was told this in my mid 20s by my mentor. I thought he was harsh! It was only a few years later that advice really found a place in my brain and I hear that voice daily, “Try harder, try harder”, and it was the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.