Alan Neilson: The Architect behind the Company’s Triumph

Alan Neilson | Founder and Executive Chairman | VerseOneGroup Ltd | Business Magazine | CIOLook
Alan Neilson | Founder and Executive Chairman | VerseOneGroup Ltd | Business Magazine | CIOLook

The wave of digitalization struck hard in early 90s, playing an essential role in evolving the then-customary business methods. In an attempt to deliver outstanding customer engagement, many organizations have shifted their interests toward implementing digital transformation. As various business owners are relying on advanced services providers, VerseOne Group is leading in delivering best cutting-edge inventive solutions in the market.

Meet Alan Neilson, the Founder and Executive Chairman of VerseOne Group. A leader and prolific philanthropist, his ideology on surpassing obstacles through customer-centric strategies has enabled his organization to achieve its present stature.

In an interview conducted by CIO Look, Alan shared his vision and tireless efforts required in establishing his business venture. Below are its highlights:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a leader. 

Growing up I had aspirations to be a medic, and this is what I was studying at college in my late teens. In addition to Biology and Chemistry, it was mandatory to study Mathematics—rather lucky as I always enjoyed that subject. Access to computing power was expensive at that time, and was only available to large Fortune500-type organizations. As part of the course, we had limited access to an IBM Mainframe computer on a timeshare basis, which I found really intriguing and fascinating to program for simple computations. Then, by chance, I read an article about Bill Gates and Microsoft’s endeavors on bringing computing power to a much broader audience. I started reading more about the company as well as computing power, and was hooked from that point onward. I abandoned the idea of being a medic and went to university to study computing; the rest is history!

How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience? 

VerseOne provides web technology platforms, digital, and creative services to the social housing, healthcare, local government, and broader commercial markets. Our mission is to deliver highly-personalized, functional and beautifully-crafted digital transformation solutions that offer the best engagement and experience for anyone accessing our customers’ most valuable asset: their business content. We put our customers’ requirements at the heart of what we do by helping them cut through the online noise to deliver their content and messages to their target audience on any device and in an intelligent, personalized and effective way.

At VerseOne, we believe that effective and intelligent managing and sharing of business content creates unique competitive advantages with real return on investment. This founding principle, that content is a valuable business asset, is at the heart of our proven approach to providing the best digital solutions for our customers. Our history of organic and profitable growth over the past 14 years, combined with the independent recognitions for innovation, quality, and corporate culture, shows that our strategy of focusing on our customers’ needs and working in partnership with them to deliver a complete and best value solution is the right approach.

What are the crucial traits which every CEO must possess? 

I believe successful CEOs should have strong entrepreneurial traits, with the ability to see the bigger picture whilst at the same time having attention to detail too. Furthermore, any good CEO should always view his business from the end customer’s perspective, and be agile and flexible in the execution of the business’ vision, especially based on how the broader market is behaving and what the customers are saying. As I often say, a business idea looking for a solution is much less likely to succeed than a business idea that is either addressing an existing need or improving on how it’s being addressed (a disruptive approach). Finally, CEOs should be charismatic and good at listening and communicating.

What are your intakes on roles of CEO transformational leadership and organizational factors on product innovation performance? 

Innovation is having a fundamental impact across all businesses, and this is particularly the case within the broader technology sector. CEOs constantly need to keep an eye on such cases and assess their impact on the market’s behavior and how their business could successfully adapt in an agile fashion to maintain and gain competitive advantage. Businesses that don’t will eventually fail or become takeover victims. In addition to the need for this vigilance, successful CEOs must have the right processes and team composition within their organization in order quickly to evolve and adapt. As Sir Winston Churchill best put it “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often”.

How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market? 

The desire to make a difference and tenacity! As mentioned above, always looking at situations through the other party’s point of view even if I don’t always quite agree with it, is how I tackle the competition. This is as relevant to my customers as it is to my competitors or the team within the organization. I have a ‘can-do’ attitude and as JFK famously put it, always asking why not as opposed to why.

During early founding days of our first embryonic business providing software for large financial institutions, through sheer determination, raw ambition, and desperation to establish the business, I managed to get an opportunity to bid alongside the blue chip organizations of that time. We did a great job of convincing them that we had the talent, the knowledge, and the desire to deliver the solution they were looking for and at a more commercially attractive rate.

As a cutting-edge digital transformation solutions provider, what is your vital contribution in the sectors involving digitalization? 

VerseOne’s digital services and technology platforms power over 200 websites, intranets, secure portals, and stakeholder management solutions.

For such reasons, VerseOne has been recognized three times by Red Herring as one of the top 100 technology companies in Europe and by CIO as one of the global top 20 CMS providers, as well as shortlisted for the Technology Company of the Year 2017 by the UK National Technology Awards. VerseOne has held ISO 9001 accreditation since 2012 and Investors in People since 2015, testimony to our commitment to well defined and rigorous processes and methodologies in everything we do, and the high value placed on, and the quality of, the people working within the company.

Though all these means, VerseOne not only builds effective web solutions that are value-for-money, but ones that our customers are delighted with and we are proud of that.

What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future? 

The commitment to the customer experience by everyone at VerseOne also enables the company to take a long view. We are always evaluating the latest products, best practice methods, and design trends, and how best to incorporate these into our offerings. By taking this view, VerseOne ensures its solutions are extensible and future-proofed, developed using open standards to provide robust integration with our customer’s existing business technology platforms. It is also the source of our commitment to security and data protection, with all of our hosted solutions located in ISO 27001 data centres within the United Kingdom.

Glimpse on the Leader 
Alan Neilson is the founder of VerseOne Group. In addition to his involvement with VerseOne, Alan acts a director, adviser and investor for a number of other early-stage IT and technology companies. Alan was the CEO and one of the founding directors of royalblue technologies plc—a wholly owned subsidiary of royalblue group plc (now Fidessa Group plc, FDSA.L). He was involved in all aspects of growing that company from a small start-up in 1991 to a highly successful and dominant software and services organization, where he sat on the main board. During his 15 years at royalblue, he gained experience of corporate finance, due diligence and acquisitions as part of the company’s growth—which culminated in the IPO on the London Stock Exchange in 1997.

As Executive Chairman, Alan is responsible for the formulation of VerseOne’s current and long range strategies and how best to execute these to maximise the group’s success through delivering innovative and value for money solutions to the customers. He has a passion for Web Accessibility, and his championing of this cause has been a major driver in making it a particular focus of VerseOne’s web products and free events.