Tech Leadership and Innovation

1E’s new CEO battles giants to gain in experience

Mark Banfield, chief exec of 1E, is taking the experience management fight to massive rivals.


Tech Leadership and Innovation

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Mark Banfield meets me for coffee in a bar in Richmond, southwest London, just a few miles where he was brought up in Teddington. Born in once gutsy, working-class Shepherd’s Bush, his family were said to have “moved to the country”, he says, after leaving for the leafier part of town when Banfield was just two years old.

His parents saw education and labour as their way to a better future and his father, who had been a bus conductor, would rise before dawn to take his son to indulge his passion for swimming before spending the rest of the day at a City desk from 7.30am  then travelling home, eating supper, going to bed and starting the whole daily cycle again.

A bright kid, Banfield didn’t feel like he fitted in at the prestigious King’s College London and quit for a local alternative in Kingston. But that turned out to be a positive change as he became one of a small intake studying geographical information systems (GIS) in the mid-1990s. From there he arrived at digital mapping pioneer MapInfo, kickstarting his career in the IT sector.

Banfield’s upbringing helped make him what former colleagues say he is: a genial, hard-working, self-deprecating “London boy” who is now CEO at 1E, a company that is trying to be leader of the pack in the crowded experience management field.

Are you experienced?

Experience management is changing so fast that it doesn’t even have a clear TLA: you might have seen it referred to as DXM, UXM, DEM or some other acronym or abbreviation. That frenetic sort of marketing activity and attempts at pinning a name on a discipline is the sign of an area that is hot and there is a mad rush to be associated with delivering compelling experiences to customers and employers. London, England-headquartered 1E prefers DEM (for Digital Experience Management) or DEX (for Digital Employee Experience) and has pivoted from its background in green IT and software configuration management in pursuit of the opportunity.

That opportunity is vast but experience management covers a lot of subsets. 1E’s focus is on automating service-desk tasks and creating better experiences for employees. It says its Tachyon technology is used to manage over 11 million endpoints, enhancing the digital experiences of employees across companies via analytics, sentiment analysis and real-time automation. That in turn makes staff happy and saves costs incurred by the ever-spinning trouble-ticket hamster-wheel.

Despite its British roots, more than half of 1E’s sales are to the US – largely to large enterprises – and its 500-plus customer roster includes he likes of Schneider Electric, Bacardi Martini, Air France, H&M, Rolls-Royce, Sony Pictures and Société Générale. Banfield wants to make a truly global business and sees the bulk of the job in professionalising the company further, creating the proven sales engines, customer success insights and feedback loops characteristic of modern tech companies.

Banfield had a crash course in this when, in 2014, Vista Equity Partners bought his previous employer Autotask, a company that sold operations management software to IT service providers. There, as GM and SVP, he saw at first hand the US blueprint for modern tech success and he wants to take lessons from Vista and another investment giant The Carlyle Group, which bought 1E last year, into his new company.

In the land of the giants

Too many companies remain technology-led rather than being guided by customer needs, he believes.

“A lot of them are still based on ‘we think this would be a good idea’,” he says, but there is an established playbook for scaling businesses, developing product engineering and building a sales machine. And unlike the case with Autotask say, the ceiling on the opportunity here is high indeed.

After spells working in the US as chief revenue officer for systems management firm LogicMonitor, he’s delighted to be back home, a short drive from where he was brought up. The mission he has set himself is to “speed up and simplify digital delivery and reduce cost to serve” and he’s confident in 1E’s USP.  

“The ability to remediate issues is lacking,” he says. “Companies spend a fortune on service-desks but it’s a one-to-one situation and if there are 100,000 other people with the same issue, how do resolve that? The bit we’re really good at is automation and remediation.”

And hence cutting through the thickets of trouble tickets… but the company is also building a Machine Learning library and Banfield says its core is becoming yet more autonomic and self-healing.

1E is a close partner of ServiceNow as well as Microsoft and often goes to market with blue-chip consultants and SIs such as DXC, Unisys and NTT. Banfield says 1E has about 300 staff and is on track to get to $100m in annual revenues quickly, thanks in part to an ongoing stream from its green and configuration businesses. It is growing at about 25 per cent per year, which he believes can accelerate to 50 per cent. And, unusually in the growth-is-everything world of tech, Banfield adds 1E has been profitable for some time.

But the road ahead won’t be easy in a sector where the stakes are getting very serious indeed. SAP spent $8bn to buy Qualtrics three years ago, spun it out and now its value has tripled. Closer to home, DEM companies that focus on the IT experience are also gaining traction with Switzerland-rooted Nexthink valued at $1.1bn: “not much bigger than us and we’ve cracked the US”, Banfield notes.

What’s the endgame? Banfield says there’s an opportunity to take 1E to IPO, particularly as customers deal with the thorny issue of supporting the emerging hybrid working model where the needs of employees must be accommodated across homes, offices and elsewhere.

The “London boy” did alright… and the London company may have the legs to go further.