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by | Feb 4, 2020

‘Director’s Questions’ with Global CEO, George Lightfoot on 25 Years in the Asset Management business

As BPD Zenith celebrated its 25th year as global asset management specialists in 2019, the directors asked Global CEO George Lightfoot their burning questions. This is part 2 of a blog series, read George’s full interview here.

Sam Firth, Global Director

“What part of George Lightfoot has had the most influence on the company ethos?”

“So, I like being right. And I think I try to be right all the time. My wife will tell you that she didn’t realize his first name when she married Mr Right was ‘Always’! But the reality is that if you try and be right all the time, people have to deal with it when you’re wrong. About 80% of the time I would say I’m right, so the 20%, the 2 out of 10, when I’m wrong, people have to pick up those pieces and actually deal with that mistake.

I’d quite like to think that there was a part of me that can accept being wrong, but that ethos; if you believe in yourself – and the company does believe in itself – that is where that comes from. If you start out saying ‘maybe’, there’s no taking responsibility for what we’re actually doing which is being asked by our clients to implement their solutions. So, we should take that responsibility, which is: we know about that product, we’ll tell you what the best way of doing that is, and if you start by saying ‘I’m not too sure’, that isn’t going to end up with a good result.

In the Journey of implementing the product, as long as you get 8 out of 10 things right, 80% of that solution is going to be bang on and 20% is going to be close. People would say that 20% is really important, but we don’t just leave the 20%. As I said, part of the ethos is being able to accept that you are wrong some of the time and therefore you put your mistakes right, and learning from your mistakes is probably one of the biggest things I ask all the people in BPD to do. Make a mistake, I’ll back you… Make it twice and I’ll sack you! Because if you don’t learn from your mistakes then why are we here? What are we doing this for?”

Graeme Sharp, CE0 Asia Pacific

“Right now, the global economies appear to be slowing, interest rates are near, record lows, Brexit is only a month or so away, the US/China trade war is ongoing, the oil price has flat lined… With these challenges in mind, what does BPD Zenith have to do to keep growing the business over the next few years, and where do you see that growth coming from?”

“He’s a bit of a Worry Wart isn’t he – ‘Our Graeme’!  I don’t think the world has ever not changed – you’re just picking out this moment in time the things that are actually prevalent in the marketplace. But you’ve always had issues in different parts of the world. So, for me the global growth plan that BPD has already put forward is the smart way to go.

We had great success with merging with SBS Global (which was Graeme’s company) and we actually adopted some of their technology at the same time as taking BPD tech across to Australia/New Zealand. We then took some of the Australian/New Zealand tech into Canada and the US. So, as we build up this profile of mergers and acquisitions, we always find little gems – things we’ve never thought about and never done before – which are then perfectly sellable in a ‘cross-sell’, across the rest of our globe. This acquisition merger strategy is the future for the growth of the company.”

Richard Donaldson, CEO UK/Europe

“Why do you think Maximo has helped BPD Zenith become so successful over the last 25 years, and what do you think are its key strengths and differentiators moving forward?”

“Maximo has been a fantastic product for us, and we’ve been really lucky that it has remained pretty much number 1 for the vast majority of the time that we’ve been we’ve been working with the product as BPD Zenith.

Maximo was an ‘Early Runner’ when I worked for MRO / PSDI before IBM bought them, but the actual product has matured in those years. It remains still to this day an easy to implement product. It is easily configurable, and it never allows you to get caught as an organization. It’s designed to do ‘out-of-the-box’ 80% of what you actually need to do, be that from a maintenance or supply chain perspective, whatever the add-on pieces, and then it allows you to mould the other 20% without having to get Software Engineers. The clients can do it and do do it! Having said that, you don’t want to be spending all your time configuring something. You just want to configure the bits that it needs to do, but the toolsets aren’t costly to actually use to do your configuration.

The other beautiful thing about the product is it has an integration framework.  This means it’s totally accessible to any other system and allows data from those systems in and out from Maximo very easily.

So, things that used to cost 80-100 days to build, back in the ‘noughties’, is like hours and days rather than hundreds of days to actually configure integration, workflow and security in every module. This means that you could build anything you want, and it doesn’t have to be anything to do with Maximo, but it will actually still allow you to manage any part of your business.

The product itself has remained an enigma because it never says, ‘I’m a closed box’. The toolsets that say,‘change your business process to work the way my tool works’, are the ones where they say, ‘I’ve decided what the world has to be.’  BPD does a bit of that; we do a bit of modelling. But one of the things that we actually do with our Maximo Accelerator models is use those as the starting point and allow you to expand and continuously improve your journey along the Maintenance/Asset Management curve with introduction of IoT, Real-Time Data Sensing, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Engines. The likelihood is that the journey will last and continue for the next 25 years!

I don’t see why you will ever get caught with your Maximo product and therefore that’s why it’s been such a great choice for people to take on board and no doubt the reason why IBM bought that product. It was a quality product that is now owned by a quality organization with a huge amount of resources behind it. So, it should actually just continue to go from strength to strength…”

Simon Nicholson, CEO North America

“BPD Zenith has seen much success over its 25-year history, much of this outside of the UK and Europe, across many industry sectors. I’m sure there are many differentiators, but if there was one that really stood out, that could be thought of as a keystone of BPD success, what would that be?”       

“I touched on it before in the ethos. You have to remember who pays the bills. For us, our clients give us the money so that we can do what we do. They allow us to develop young minds into implementers of our products, and they give us the profits for us to be able to do everything in terms of our growth strategy. The clients themselves, invest essentially in us as a company, and if we forget that, then we are lost! So we owe all our success to the fact that our clients have stood by us! And they stood by us because we’ve remembered to do the right thing which is to actually do the job that we said we were going to do for them and do it well or to the best of our abilities. So that’s the key part of our success.

The other bit that we’ve been very fortunate in is with working with some great clients who have given us the insight into business and industry sectors where they’ve been able to explain to us how the business process works. Most people just accept the process that we’ve actually built inside Maximo because that’s just what they think is the norm. Other Maximo implementers just do a technologically led ‘I’ll install the product… I’ll put it in… I’ll change it… whichever way you want’, but they fail to grasp that the underlying principle of asset management is all about a business process which says you don’t really want to fix things, you actually don’t want to put fires out, you actually want to stop the fires from occurring in the first place! If you stop the fires from occurring, you might not get as many pats on the back, but you will actually keep the plant running for longer and more efficiently!

What I’ve seen in lots of companies when we come across them after we can implement for them, is a poor business process because nobody’s actually helped them roll out a standard Asset Management business process and that is a hugely important thing. If you haven’t got that underlying piece of the puzzle (which should be in the company), then you can’t build or solve the rest of the puzzle because the building block of their business process is wrong.

We wouldn’t like to say that we knew how maintenance works in every industry sector, but we certainly do in certain sectors, and we could advise on what they should be doing. If you haven’t got your starting point correct, anything that you put on top of it, won’t work. For example with IoT sensors, you might find out when things are going to break, but you won’t actually stop them from breaking because underneath all of that process is something that we should have maintained then, in a way to eventually stop them from getting to the point where they would break. Therefore, you’ll find out when something breaks, but you won’t actually solve the underlying issue which is – we should have been maintaining it on a regular basis, and we haven’t actually got that in our business process because we cut some corner. That whole building block is essential to making sure that you actually get to the next level of your Asset Management Journey… As you can see, Process for me has become one those things for me!

Training has also been a huge differentiator for our solutions to stick. We use a training partner called Electra learning in the UK and in North America, and they’ve made a massive difference for the ‘stickability’ of our solutions. It’s no good building a great solution and having a great process, if you don’t actually train the individuals in your organization how to use the system for that business process! But being able to do that effectively means that your implementation is much better in terms of staying around for a long time.”

Mark Michael, CEO Asia Pacific

“BPD Zenith is often years ahead of IBM and other business partners in innovation around the Maximo product. George, can you provide some insights into why BPD does what it does?”

“‘The Bleeding Edge’ is where the technological line is for us and we’ve tried to stay as close to that edge as we can!

So, we have a number of things that have succeeded. We’ve also got a number of failures that were ahead of the curve – so it comes at a price. But at the time we did it because we believed in it and whenever we believe in something, we actually try and do it to the best of our abilities with the resources that we’ve got available to us. We don’t do things because we can make a quick buck. We don’t do things because we have to. We do them because we believe that they’re the right things to do!

I encourage everybody in the company to actually put ideas forward and we have some great minds that work for BPD supporting and stimulating ideas so that we actually do things better every time that we go out and do them! If we keep doing that, I don’t think any company will ever have a problem because there’s so many companies that things really badly and for the wrong reasons.

What we do do – we do it well! We’re always trying to improve life – not for ourselves (and this is what I like about Mark’s question – ‘what do we do that keeps us good?’) – we do it for the clients; and the clients will look after us, because we’ve looked after them!”

Thanks from BPD Zenith

BPD Zenith would like to thank its Directors for their questions and for all the support over the years. Congratulations on such an amazing achievement, here’s to the next 25!

We look forward to sharing the rest of the journey with you…

Watch the full video interview with George Lightfoot below:


George Lightfoot

George Lightfoot

George is the CEO for EMEA and North America and a director on the Global Board. As a 30-year veteran of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), George is one of the world’s leading champions of the Maximo product. George’s leadership style has instilled a focus on delivery and client satisfaction at BPD. George enjoys wining and dining, long haul flights, and a good philosophical debate.


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