Wardell moves to BSL as CEO

As Business Systems’ (BSL) new CEO former Giacom Chief Exec Mike Wardell has embraced a fresh set of opportunities and shares insights into his strategy and long-term vision.

When Wardell led Giacom as Chief Exec he masterminded the firm’s evolution into a thriving cloud marketplace, growing recurring revenues more than tenfold to over £100 million while orchestrating multiple transactions culminating in its acquisition by DWS (which rebranded as Giacom).

London-based Business Systems currently generates over £20 million revenue with a circa 100 headcount. The company mainly supports financial institutions, utilities, insurers, public sector, retail and BPO organisations. In recent years, Business Systems has established itself as a front runner in communications solutions, helping organisations transform their CX strategies.

Why did you take the role of Business Systems CEO?
I was attracted by a great business, an experienced team and a product that meets true market need. It felt like a great opportunity to scale and bring the Wordwatch call recording solution to a broader market. Wordwatch ingests, manages and delivers legacy and live interaction recordings from any platform. Consolidating this data into a centralised single pane of glass enables businesses to generate more value from their communications data while maintaining compliance.
How will your prior experience come into play?
My experience in transforming a business to fit with market changes will help me guide the team through the evolving IT industry. Previously leading a technology company through various stages of growth has given me exposure to many relevant opportunities. This should help us to fast track our way to executing on our vision.

What was your first priority on joining the company?
My priority was to meet the entire team within the first month. I believe a business shouldn’t operate as command and control nor rely on hierarchy, therefore knowing the full team as best I can is the right thing to do. It’s also a good way to get to know the organisation and identify areas for improvement.
What changes do you have in mind? And ultimately, in what ways will you make your mark and how quickly?
I’m under two months in, so I aim to understand how things work before jumping in with both feet to make wholesale changes. My focus is on using the collective experience and expertise of our team to build a coherent executable plan. From a personal perspective, I can make an immediate impact with tangible results following shortly after. I am fortunate to join a business with strong foundations and multiple opportunities. Business Systems ended 2023 with good sales momentum and initiated key initiatives for a solid start this year. Q1 is progressing as planned, setting a positive tone for the year. But we have been quietly going about our business and I want us to be more visible.

What is Business Systems most famous for?
Business Systems is the combination of several businesses and for over 35 years has provided compliance solutions to top tier banks and financial organisations. Today, 30 per cent of the City’s institutions rely on us for their trading operations. Our cloud contact centre solutions have been deployed in some of the largest contact centres in the UK, contributing to the reduction of operating costs and enhancing operational efficiencies. Our goal is to streamline their processes through the application of the right technology, providing ongoing support throughout the solution’s lifecycle.

Which new technology areas are on your radar screen?
We track all trends and have a keen interest in AI’s impact on the customer experience, particularly around Large Language Models (LLMs). From a customer experience standpoint, LLMs play a pivotal role in reducing non-contact time by partially or fully automating administrative and back office tasks such as writing call notes, conducting Quality Assurance/Quality Management, or managing staff performance. Looking ahead, the implementation of Generative AI and LLMs is expected to progress further with solutions emerging to effectively apply guardrails around generated content.                                                                                          
While not a new technology, transcription is continually advancing in accuracy by applying AI. As the costs associated with transcribing audio decrease the application of this information and analytics can become more widespread. In a similar way to transcription I would expect biometrics use cases to come into scope due to reductions in processing costs. Meanwhile, we are expanding our portfolio into enterprise grade communications surveillance, incorporating significant elements of AI into compliance. This allows for the flagging of non-compliance and understanding trends, providing clients with the ability to proactively mitigate past, current and future risks, including predicting potential compliance mishaps.
What is your biggest career achievement?
I’ve built a £100 million revenue company from £6 million in six years, which wouldn’t have been possible without a great team. Witnessing this team develop, grow into their roles and, in many cases, continue onto bigger things is my biggest achievement. When you realise what impact you can have on people – both positive and negative – it’s a real eye opener. Focusing on helping people is far more rewarding than purely the numbers outcome. Although by developing and building a great team you hopefully get great results!

In your career what would you have done differently?
I entered the world of work with a blinkered view. I didn’t have a concept of the different jobs or careers that were available and spent much of my career in a job role that wasn’t right for me. It didn’t align with what I enjoyed or my skill set, but I thought it was my only option based on what I was good at when at school. I had to learn and make mistakes to progress into more suitable roles. A wider view of the possibilities would have led to different choices sooner. I encourage trying different roles, be seconded, ask questions and see what’s out there. Life is too short – you should do a job you love.

In your view, what are the main areas of transformation in the ICT industry?
Dealing with the digital divide and sustainable AI development are key areas of transformation, along with how we limit environmental impacts by developing more energy efficient data centres and using renewable energy – particularly as consumption continues to grow. Customers and potential recruits increasingly choose companies with sustainable practices. Therefore, leaders should focus on eco-friendly solutions, responsible waste management and promoting diversity and inclusion.
What are today’s other top priorities for ICT channel companies?
For all businesses, adapting to evolving work dynamics, especially with the increased digital connectivity between teams and customers as many adopt a hybrid approach, is a priority. Technology plays a key role here, emphasising the importance for ICT businesses not only to sell but also to adopt these changes while recognising the evolving nature of cyber threats that can have a catastrophic impact on organisations.

It is also important to embrace the recurring revenue model given the shift away from traditional one-off revenue streams towards cloud-based services. This all means developing the right skills for the future, therefore effective reskilling of the workforce to meet the evolving landscape is key.

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