Exclusive interview: The dawn of a new era
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In his first interview since accepting the role, new CEO of Milestone Systems, Thomas Jensen discusses his immediate aims and objectives.
It was announced in March 2020 that Lars Thinggaard was leaving the role of CEO at Milestone Systems after 17 years in the position. It had been a tremendously successful period for the company which had come to a natural conclusion. The question being asked by onlookers was, who would be the replacement?
The new incumbent would be taking the position at a time of significant change throughout the industry. The most obvious development being the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it was causing for every organisation, including Milestone Systems.
Also high on the new CEO’s agenda would be to keep Milestone at the forefront of innovation within the rapidly developing video surveillance industry as well as find ways to continuously strengthen and expand the Milestone community.
After an extensive search for the right candidate, Milestone Systems confirmed Thomas Jensen as the company’s new CEO in August 2020.
In a world-first exclusive interview, International Security Journal sat down with Jensen to find out about his leadership style, his immediate objectives and why he views video technology as absolutely crucial in the current environment.
A brief glimpse at Jensen’s CV and you immediately realise that Milestone has made a very fine choice. Jensen joins the company from Bechtle, Europe’s largest B2B IT service provider, where he was Executive Vice President and member of the Management Board.
Before this, he was Head of Worldwide Channel Sales Strategy for HP Inc. in Palo Alto, California, United States, where he drove the global channel development. During the separation of Hewlett-Packard into HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Jensen led the channel separation and was responsible for preparing the new strategy and organisation for the indirect revenue of HP Inc. Before moving to the United States, he was General Manager for Hewlett-Packard’s PC & Print Division in Denmark.
Jensen has also held leadership positions in Vestas Wind Systems and Maersk Line. He holds a Master of Science in International Business Administration from the University of Aalborg and has completed the Executive Board Program at INSEAD in France.
When asked about his leadership style, Jensen explained that people are very much at the core of his philosophy. He said: “For me, management is very much a top-down idea so I do prefer the term leadership. A strong leader has to be able to manoeuvre between management and leadership as and when it’s required.
“My leadership style could be described as typically Danish. I will be very direct but also very inclusive, the responsibility will be on the employees to ensure they deliver what they say they are going to.”
Jensen has had a successful and varied career so far with roles all over the world and he revealed that it was the strong culture that is synonymous with Milestone Systems which proved to be one of the main factors that encouraged him to begin his next chapter there.
“One of the things I’ve learnt in my career is that you meet a lot of CEOs with a very cynical mindset, they are more concerned about themselves than the company they represent. I’ve always thought that if I’m going to take a CEO position then it has to be in a setting where I can be myself and be true to my own values.”
He continued: “Milestone has a strong “People First” culture which is very appealing to me. No matter how a company does from a profitability perspective or a technology perspective, it is all driven by people one way or another. To find a company with the right culture and the right long-term perspective based around the essence of future technology is just a fantastic match.”
More of the same
Jensen is taking over at what is a time of staggering success for Milestone Systems. With an annual growth rate of 14% over the last five years, Milestone’s net revenue increased to DKK 1.03 billion in 2019. The operating income was DKK 124 million compared with DKK 194 million the previous year, a planned consequence of increased investments in innovation and development.
The positive revenue development primarily derived from an increase in license and Care sales. Moreover, Milestone Systems continued to increase sales in all its markets. In the past five years, the company has nearly doubled the number of employees to more than 900 people.
The past year increased investments have been made in research and development capacity, expanded engineering teams in Copenhagen and Sofia and the establishment of a new engineering hub in Barcelona. There has also been a new state-of-the-art Experience Centre opened in Dubai, UAE.
Jensen stated: “My immediate aims and objectives are driven by the fact that Milestone is doing very well, I’m not being asked to come in and do a quick turnaround. I want to get acquainted with our technology and get acquainted with our team, become an integrated part of our culture.
“Along the way I may see opportunities for tweaks, and we may discover opportunities to expand our business but the immediate aim is to continue the track record we have and to enforce our market position, both through our partners and our state-of-the-art technology.”
The current COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the benefits of video technology into sharp focus. A fact that hasn’t been lost on Jensen: “When I first started conversations with Milestone, I saw video technology as a huge growth area and that will only accelerate now.
“I believe that with COVID-19, the benefits of video technology will become even more apparent. It will support the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation, technologies that have been discussed a lot but haven’t taken off as yet.”
He added: “I also think that the eyes of the wider world will now be on the video technology industry. This will be in terms of how we ensure that we deliver technology that is safe and secure for individuals and for societies and how do we make sure that we take a stand as an industry when it comes to sustainable technology?
“With new technological advancements there will be expectations of higher standards from manufacturers and we want to be at the forefront of this, working with our peers to build the future of video management.”
Working in partnerships
The culture of partnerships and community can be seen in everything Milestone does. The company recently announced the launch of a Technology Partner area, focused on how to identify, partner, develop and manage this co-created innovation capacity to create the greatest value for Milestone Systems’ community partners and end customers.
Jensen believes that this set of values is crucial to Milestone’s success and will be looking to continue the company’s work in this area.
“Our technology partners and our general partner community is a very strong part of our offering, and integrators and security resellers can rest assured that our status will remain. Channel is in my DNA, I spent five years building a channel strategy in the US and I bring that experience to Milestone and our community.
“Our partners can also be reassured that they will continue to be part of the future of the industry. Our open platform is not going to change, their ability to create add-ons to our platform is crucial for the rapid development of the industry. Once COVID-19 allows, I look forward to meeting as many of our partners and customers as possible to really understand how we can continue to deliver what they need to succeed in their businesses.”
Looking ahead, there will certainly be challenges for Jensen and his team to overcome, namely around the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and how video technology can be used to mitigate the risk it causes.
However, it is obvious that in Thomas Jensen, Milestone Systems has selected a professional with extensive leadership experience who truly cares about his company, his staff and the products. The organisation is in a fantastic position to solve any issues that come its way. The new era starts now.
This article was originally published in the October 2020 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy here