“Innovation and technology, key to customer growth” — Interview with XTM’s new CEO Ian Evans
“Innovation and technology, key to customer growth” — Interview with XTM’s new CEO Ian Evans illustration
Aleix Gwilliam
AuthorAleix Gwilliam

Last week we announced the appointment of Ian Evans as the new CEO of XTM International. Ian takes over from Bob Willans, the retiring co-founder of the company and the driver of the company’s growth over the past 20 years. Evans brings more than 30 years of leadership experience in the software industry, and is looking forward to driving XTM’s next phase of growth.

We sat down with Ian to get his thoughts on the state of the technology industry and trends such as digital transformation and their impact on localization and its technology. 

Ian, you have extensive experience in the technology and software industries, so what challenges do you expect they will face in the next few years and what is the best way to overcome them?

There are a few challenges that we are all going to see over at least the next six to 12 months, such as the macroeconomic climate that’s mostly coming from the United States, the impact on supply chains caused by the Russia-Ukraine War, the energy crisis, rising inflation rates… All of these things are going to be a challenge not just to ours but to all industries.

XTM helps companies manage their localization efforts in one place and ensure they have an accurate global presence, in the fastest time possible; this is key for all organizations in driving their business efficiently. After 30 years in the IT industry and 20 years running companies, I can say that localization has always been a persistent challenge, and together with technology it’s been a key factor in all of my companies’ revenues. If we add other challenges to that such as recessions and the Covid-19 pandemic, in each of those downturns or depressed states of economy the way forward has always been to outperform your peers—it’s about being better than everybody else. 

We need to make sure we are focused on driving our business and not on what is going on around us. We can’t change what’s out of our control, but we can change how we deliver to our customers.

Investment in technology is a big part of what is going to take us and other companies to the next business level.”

We have seen a huge rise in digital transformation in the past few years. What role do you expect localization to play for companies who are undergoing this process?

To be a global company, you need to have an effective global presence. Typically, organizations set up offices around the world and that’s how they become a global organization. The pandemic taught us that we don’t all need to be in offices around the world to be global–it also enforced the fact that actually we can become global much more quickly. When you look at some organizations who have positive global traction, you realize that they’re not necessarily big organizations but rather they have a very, very good digital global presence.

Digital transformations are led by many things, for instance go-to-market strategies, market share or market-acquisition strategies. Size is not a factor either—even if you are a relatively small organization with a couple of offices, you can still have a multinational-style presence or a global reach. To achieve that, localization plays a key role, and to do it successfully, organizations need to invest in technology, because it’s the technological solutions that enable the rest of the localization ecosystem to operate efficiently. Without that technology acting as a hub around which everything revolves, the process becomes deeply inefficient. With this inefficiency in place, global expansion and, ultimately, digital transformation makes little sense. That is where solutions like XTM Cloud come in as a key part of the content technology stack, and that’s why we must continue to be a key factor in digital transformation and evolution.

How do you see the role of enterprise SaaS evolving in the next few years and what are your plans for XTM during that period?

Throughout my career I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of SaaS. The past four organizations that I’ve run for approximately the past 15 years of my life were all SaaS-based platforms. One thing I’ve learned is that concerns from customers and potential customers that come with using SaaS platforms can be eased if we have all the security and compliance measures in place. This means that, from a tech stack perspective, we need to choose the best technology to be efficient and the best technology for our customers to feel safe.

XTM already supports the latest TMS technology, which is what will allow us to continue to scale and ensure customer trust and satisfaction. This is not something that can be said for everyone, since providing the latest industry technology to our customers represents a sizable investment, but we’re confident that this is the only way and a big part of what’s going to take us and our customers to the next business level.

In summary, I think our long-term vision is aligned with the evolution of SaaS, and that means to have the best technology available, and also to drive efficiencies by deploying groundbreaking technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies will enable our customers to make their processes more efficient with human-quality translations. Our vision is to continue to be the enterprise translation management system of choice and to make sure that we are always at the forefront of driving innovation in this space. This is key to our growth and exactly what we will be aiming for and doing as we move forward.

We’re not going to use the recession as an excuse—we’re going to be driving growth in our business.”

As you move into the role of CEO, what would you say are your biggest strengths and how do you plan on implementing them at XTM?

I’ve always been very focused on sales and marketing in my previous companies, and in many respects this has helped me to deal with the economic pressures that come when driving an organization through times of change and uncertainty. Part of that is making sure that we have clearly stated goals. I learned very early in my career that ambiguity doesn’t do anything other than create chaos. So my style is based on crystal-clear communication, transparent goals and an open-door policy with everyone. Ultimately, my job is to be the “Chief Vision Officer”. 

We want to be a customer-driven and customer-first company, so we will look at making sure our rally cry addresses what our customers need. Ultimately, the more successful our customers are, the more our company can grow. In this time of economic uncertainty, I see a lot more scrutiny on how people spend their money and the justifications of how they spend it. This means we need to be even better at what we do, and with the XTM team being ready for this, my leadership will consist in helping the organization get there, achieve those goals, and grow. We’re not going to use the recession as an excuse—we’re going to be driving growth in our business and within our customers’ businesses.

What drew you to XTM and what have your impressions been so far?

What I really liked about XTM is that it’s a company that provides a solution to a challenge that I’ve had throughout my career. The quality of a poor translation, or no translation at all, is reflective of you as a company, and as a brand. I feel that there is a huge market opportunity for translation management systems as we’re seeing an increase in globalization and companies’ digital online presence. This is a great opportunity and an honor to grow and drive forward the business from the excellent place where (former CEO) Bob Willans has left it after being at its forefront for over the past 20 years.

I also have to say that I’ve been really impressed with everybody that I’ve come across so far in the transition process. I see XTM as a great organization with highly knowledgeable people on all levels, and I’m looking forward to tapping into its potential and taking it to the next level.

On a more personal note, tell us a bit more about what you like doing during your free time. What do you enjoy doing on a day off?

I have two children who keep me busy, as well as our dog Archie who also keeps me active and plays a big part in my life. I also love to travel, because it gives me time to pause and read up on some of the latest trends that are happening around the world. I’m also a tennis and rugby fan, but I have to say cooking is one of my biggest passions. I make sure that every couple of years, I go back to chef school and learn some new techniques to keep my culinary skills fresh. 

My go-to dish? I’m a big fan of high-quality beef, so I love having barbecues in summer with some really great meats, everyone sitting around in the garden and enjoying a nice dinner outdoors. I also enjoy learning about foreign cuisines and cooking their traditional food, imagining how these recipes came about thousands of years ago and trying to recreate them in an English-home setting—which is never easy!

Do you have a favorite motto that you live by?

I’m a firm believer that you have one life and that you need to live without regret. We can’t be looking over our shoulders, we can’t be looking backwards. I look forward to every opportunity and to take the good from everything. This attitude is what drives me forward.

I intend to accelerate our and our customers’ growth and really start to show the world how we can continue to be and improve as a global leader in our industry.”

Lastly, what are your plans for the first 100 days in the job and what do you expect we’ll see in 2023?

I intend to get to know everybody in the organization and let them get to know me so I can earn their respect and trust. I’m also going to get to know our customers and partners, and soak in the XTM culture. With XTM Live coming up in less than 100 days (April 19-20), it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to meet our customers and partners, as well as localization leaders from around the world, so I’m really excited and looking forward to it.

I’ve already started working with the sales team to sharpen up some of the processes, and I’m keen to work with our marketing department to see how we can get the best returns. I want to ensure that our engineering teams are 100% customer focused and that we deliver everything that we can in the most efficient way. 

But more importantly, I feel my mission here is to learn the XTM ways. I intend to embrace them rather than try to change them. All in all, I will spend the first 100 days learning how XTM has achieved what it has achieved and then work out how we can further accelerate our growth and really start to show the world how we’ll continue to be and improve as a global leader in our industry.

Do you have a question for Ian or would like to get in touch with him? Drop him an email here!