In our “Thought Leader Interviews” series iwmsnews.com interviews all important Thought Leaders from the IWMS industry. In our second interview we have interviewed Pierre Guelen, CEO and Founder of the European market leader Planon.
1. Please introduce yourself to our readers
|My name is Pierre Guelen. I am founder / CEO of the Planon Group, a global leader in Integrated Workplace Management Software. Planon is headquartered in the Netherlands, with offices around the globe.|
2. Can you explain a bit about your background and your career?
In the early 1980’s I graduated with a degree in structural engineering and industrial business management, In 1983 I started an independent building consultancy company. Initially the company did general consultancy work but by the mid-1980’s the company began to specialize in maintenance consultancy to real estate managers. In 1988, the company developed the first version of a maintenance planning software.
In the early 1990s, we expanded our suite of software solutions to become a complete facility management solution. About the same time I repositioned the company. Planon was no longer a consultancy firm with a software package, but a software company that also offered its customers maintenance, facility management and business management consultancy. This new approach led to rapid growth and an increasing number of customers.
Today Planon has more than 1,300 customers in 22 countries. Planon has a global workforce of over 320 professionals, with offices in seven countries in Europe, Asia and North America. We have been positioned in Gartner’s leadership quadrant and we are the largest Integrated Workplace Management Solution (IWMS) vendor in Europe. At Planon, our clear ambition is to become the world market leader in the IWMS market .
3. Can you elaborate a bit more about your company? What makes your company unique?
As a leading Integrated WorkplaceManagement Software provider. Planon is committed to delivering the best possible software solution for managing facilities, real estate and IT-related processes. In order to do that, we must be and remain highly innovative. For that reason we invest heavily in product development.
Planon develops according to the SCRUM Agile software development standard. This enables us to react quickly to market demand and innovate at a record pace. In the market, Planon is seen as the front runner in the Agile software development area and has been profiled more than once as a best practice for large software companies.
What makes us also unique is the absence of venture capital in our company. This enables us to define our long term strategy aimed at long term customer relations. Planon has been growing at a rate of 20% per year on average for more than 15 consecutive years now. Especially during these times of economic downturn, we value our financial strength and independence.
And last but not least, Planon has a culture of personal responsibility and involvement that is respected and highly appreciated by our customers and employees. We pay a lot of personal attention to the people that make up the Planon team. Passion, ambition and cooperation play a central role in our organization. Our customers feel this commitment every day.
4. What motivates you as a person?
The rapid developments in the international IWMS market have always inspired me to lead my company to the forefront of this industry. In today’s economic environment, there is a needed emphasis on cost-cutting and creating value. My goal is to help facility decision makers solve the challenges of today with solutions designed to best meet their needs. Creating solutions that help organizations cut cost and run more efficiently is highly motivating to me.
5. How do you want to be seen by your employees, the competition and independent business analysts?
At the highest level, Planon is the leading global provider of real estate and facility management software. We are an innovative, lean, organized and well-established international company with the potential and plans for exponential growth.
At Planon, we believe our employees are our greatest asset., We offer an environment that cultivates individual development and personal growth. Personal development is critical to our organization and we believe it is one of the key components that helps us create the most innovative solutions on the market today. Secondly, our goal is to ensure employees are challenged every day. There is no better motivator than a challenge and motivated people deliver the best results. Our extremely low turnover rate bears testament to our success in this area. By investing in our employees’ personal growth, we are able to attract and retain top talent and build a wealth of industry knowledge to help us continue to innovate the most premiere solutions on the market today.
The IWMS market is maturing at a fast pace. The vendors in this space are maturing as well. Planon is the leading European-based provider and one of the few true global providers in this space which sets us apart from our competitors. Our solutions are built to address the specific challenges faced by real estate and facilities professionals today. They are well-engineered and easy to implement. When our competitors consider us the ‘SAP – alike’ for the IWMS space, I would be satisfied.
We strive to maintain our position as the IWMS industry thought leader. To that end, Planon is heavily involved in Facilities Management and Real Estate associations and groups across the globe. We work closely with these groups to get our message out. In addition, we continue to actively search for contacts with business analysts to help shape our positioning and ensure the solutions we are developing truly meet the needs of the marketplace. We value their opinions highly and work with them closely to assess our own opinions and the validity of our strategy.
6. What does the term Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) mean to you?
At Planon, we are focused on providing our customers with a complete, integrated Workplace Management Solution. We firmly believe that IWMS will gain broader interest in businesses and the software market in the years to come. Regardless of industry, most companies are feeling the pinch from the economy and are looking for ways to cut costs and create value. The workplace is the second highest P&L expense, yet it is often the last place companies look to save money. Real Estate, Asset and Facilities Management can dramatically decrease operating expense and meet the challenges of the down economy by implementing an Integrated Workplace Management System. This is beginning to register with the top management of organizations who are intent on getting initiatives underway.
7. What do you think of the Credit Crunch? What impact does it have on FM and RE?
The credit crunch has impacted all economies in the world and the speed at which it happened has shown that the world stage is becoming smaller and increasingly interdependent. Many of our customers operate on a global level. This implies that IWMS solutions will have to support organizations in their multi-location and multi-region housing strategies. Companies will look for housing and FM solutions to cut costs and thereby reduce the need to put up investment capital in the short term.
We also see a growing number of our customers shifting from fixed workspaces where a desk is assigned to one employee towards flexible office concepts in which employees share areas of workspaces amongst them (hot-desking). The savings potential both in terms of money and in terms of ecological-footprint is enormous. We think that even in the current economic situation, organizations will still invest in these new concepts. They will tend to do so in ‘green field’ situations. The business case is too good to pass by. Both the project management aspects and the operational management of this kind of working environment are, in our view, centric to IWMS solutions in this field.
8. What is your opinion about Sustainability and IWMS?
Even in the current economic climate, sustainability initiatives remain a top level priority. In past years, we noticed a reluctance amongst business management towards taking on sustainability initiatives. It was common to hear from business management objections like, “I would like to improve our sustainability, but it will cost too much and weaken our competitiveness.” We think that the approach towards this issue should be turned around. At Planon, we focus on identifying projects that combine sustainability improvements with cost reduction.
This objective forms the basis for our ‘Green Workplace Economics’ initiative. There is a huge potential to improve sustainability and save on operational costs at the same time. The development of our products and our business consultancy is focused on helping our customers find sustainability improvements in real estate and space management, maintenance and facility services that also benefit the bottom line.
In the US, we are seeing a growing interest in sustainable (‘Green’) operations. In Europe, we saw this development already a few years ago. We have helped a number of companies achieve sustainability objectives that also have had a positive economic impact.
9. How do you see IWMS in the year 2015?
IWMS solutions will be regarded as the ‘secondary ERP’ for organizations. It will take care of employee service and housing logistics: Critical components an organization needs to manage its business in the most optimal way. In the future, I believe there will only be a place for IWMS software platforms which allow for tight and well-managed integration in the organizations IT landscape.
We expect that in 2009 and 2010 a number of IWMS vendors will disappear, either by merger or bankruptcy. When evaluating an IWMS solution, customers should evaulate not only the software solution, but also examine the financial strength of the vendors offering them.
IWMS activities will be regarded as critical to the organization. The economic crisis of today will pass. The drive for ‘Green Workplace Economics’ will intensify because prices of energy and raw materials will skyrocket once again, due to worldwide rise in demand. The threat of limited natural resource availability will fuel an even intensified search for economical/environmental ‘sweet spots’.
The battle for employee talent will be fierce again. This will require fine-tuned workplace-related services, because talented workers will look for well organized organizations that offer a good working environment.
10. What would be your Million Dollar Tip for our readers?
Look at our customers and see what they achieved by using Planon.
In our “Thought Leader Interviews” Michael Schley, CEO and Founder of FM:Systems will be interviewed next week.