with Ashley Keil, VP sales EMEA at IBML, the high volume document capture vendor
What’s currently having the greatest impact on your business?
The shift from paper to digital. Clearly a lot of firms now capture or enter information digitally at source. Take, for example, the census. Historically, a form would have been posted, you’d have filled it in and then an IBML scanner would have been used to digitise your responses. This is still likely to be the process for the next census in 2021, but the situation is evolving and form submission is increasingly going online, with e-forms now commonplace in areas such as mortgage, insurance and bank account applications. There has also been an evolution from purely structured data – information held in relational databases – to non-structured information, raising the question of how you extract meaningful data from a Tweet, multimedia content or humble email? As a traditional ultra-high volume scanner and capture vendor, we are evolving our product offering to address these challenges.
Where do you see the next big opportunity?
Today, all firms operate in a multi-channel environment and there are many ways to exchange data – paper, mobile, electronic data interchange (EDI), email web browser, social media feeds. There is an opportunity for us to be a central capture provider handling all these multiple sources transparently, regardless of where information is coming from or in what volumes, and generating clean, qualified data to feed into line of business applications. IT vendors that do this effectively will be commercially successful.
What would make your day job easier?
I am a bit old school and each morning write a ‘to do‘ list. I always used to scribble it down on paper – ironic, I know, given I’m in the digital capture business – but recently changed to Microsoft OneNote to schedule and plan my work.
What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?
Too many organisations wait for everything to be perfect before cracking on in terms of sales. An old boss once said: “Get on with things, as time is your enemy”. That has stuck with me. When your sales targets – and OTE – is based on quarterly performance, you’ve got to motor on.
If you had had a crystal ball, would you have done anything differently?
Over the years I have seen a number of software vendors enter our market; some have succeeded and some have inevitably failed; some have been in competition with us and some have been complementary. Professionally, it would have been great to have acquired these companies when they were affordable and, personally, where the option existed, it would have been great to have invested in some stock.
Describe your most embarrassing moment.
As a young scanner salesman in the 1990s, I was sent to Turkey for the first time and ended up going to a restaurant to meet a client. Everyone was drinking what I thought was water. I poured a full glass, gulped it down and instantly coughed it up over everyone. It was raki. The Turks found it hilarious. It really broke the ice and helped me to secure an order for several hundred scanners.
What was your first job?
In 1985, I was an in-house COBOL programmer for scanner vendor Bell & Howell, writing code for an application called ComQuest, a capture technology developed by 3M to convert tape into microfilm. It paid just £1.50 per hour.
What would be your dream job?
I’d love to set up my own windsurfing school somewhere super-hot with palm trees where people could come and stay, with me as their instructor. I’ve got four surf boards – one for waves, another for light winds, a third for really windy days and a specialist freestyle JP board for tricks and jumps.
Fine dining and good wine, or curry and a pint?
I travel a lot and probably take 60 flights a year to meet existing and new customers, so fine dining feels a lot like work. I’d choose a curry and a beer with friends to escape from the 9-5.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
As teenager I grew up in Wales, so it’s fun to hike in places like Snowdonia, but my main passion is water sports. We’ve got a small beach house on Thorney Island near Chichester where we sail and windsurf.
Favourite holiday destination?
It has to be Hawaii, specifically Maui, where I proposed to my wife. It is the most relaxed, beautiful place, with rugged scenery, volcanos and jungle. And the beaches are ace.
Money’s not an issue, what’s your perfect car… and where would you drive it?
That’s an easy answer. I’d have a 460 Bhp Maserati Grand Turismo Sport – all £94,000 of it – and drive down the Amalfi Coast in Italy, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.