The Big Interview: Axelos Chief Executive Mark Basham

In a PM Today exclusive, Axelos’ new Chief Executive Mark Basham tells us his plans to move the organisation forward, protecting the its heritage while refreshing and expanding its widely-adopted product portfolio.

Tell us about your background

The first 15 years of my career were in the Tech sector working with Xerox, Dell and Fujitsu. Having initially been in sales and sales leadership positions, I moved into General Management with an increasing international focus.

In 2008 I was recruited into BSI to join their Executive Committee where I first led their businesses across the Asia Pacific region before returning to the UK to lead EMEA. I also had global responsibility for their Cyber Security business as well as Product Certification and Testing – so, quite an exciting mix.

My roles have always involved extensive global travel but have also enabled me to live overseas both in Europe (I was General Manager Benelux for Dell) and in the Far East with BSI where I was based in Singapore.


What interested you in the CEO role at AXELOS?

AXELOS is at a point where there are huge opportunities for the business, and this was one of the big attractions for me when I joined in November 2018.

One big opportunity for us is the topic of agile. This is becoming increasingly essential for a wider audience and we have already started to extend our portfolio with PRINCE2 Agile and AgileSHIFT, which we launched last year.

As many organizations are struggling with the disruptions that come with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Project and Programme Management (PPM) as well as Service Management are becoming an even more important and recognized business function. And our best practice certifications support professionals in these areas by enhancing their skill set and helping them to stay relevant.

Because of this need for lifelong learning and Continuing Professional Development (CPD), our online content subscription My AXELOS is also adding particular value to our community. I think we can extend this service even more – and this was again something that attracted me to the CEO role.


What do you think are the strengths of AXELOS and what opportunities lie ahead?

Our biggest strengths are of course our best practice frameworks and methodologies. AXELOS’ products have underpinned most of the world’s major transformation projects. And they will continue to play an important part in the future success of businesses and individuals.

That said it is our heritage and consequent standing in the ecosystem that gives us an unrivalled credibility within the industry and the opportunity to work with an extended network of brilliant subject matter experts. This allows us to make use of their knowledge and expertise to create new products and refresh existing ones, which ensures our portfolio’s ongoing relevance and effectiveness.

What is exciting about the short- and long-term future of Axelos (campaigns, projects, products etc)?

We’ve started to embrace the agile world with our PRINCE2 Agile qualification, which combines the flexibility of agile with the established PRINCE2 best practice framework. And our latest product AgileSHIFT helps prepare organizations for transformational change.

As agile is going to be an increasingly important concept in all areas including PPM, we will build on this platform even further in the short and long-term future.

Having said that, we are fully aware that agile isn’t the magic solution. It’s not suitable for all project applications and there is an enduring relevance of PRINCE2. With over 1 million certifications worldwide to date it still is and will be a world-leading product used in over 150 countries.

We will also be focusing on our broader PPM portfolio, in particular MSP (Managing Successful Programmes). We know that many senior project managers transition into programme management and transformational change requires a specific set of skills and knowledge. MSP can support professionals with this next step in their career and also enhance the value that they offer organizations in their transformation efforts.


Is this a good time to be running the organisation – if so why?

Yes, it’s a wonderful time. AXELOS is now in a new stage of development and a new phase of investment.

This summer, we’ll celebrate our sixth anniversary and since our start, we have matured considerably. We will now focus even more on investing into the business and our products including our PPM methodologies. We are doing a lot of research at the moment to find out what the market wants and needs.

ITIL is a good example for that. The product has been a huge success so far, but the update, ITIL 4, moves us into a completely different place. It uses the best elements that have already been part of the methodology, but at the same time we have invested huge amounts of research to design a product that is based on what the market requires.

All in all, I can honestly say that I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to run the business at this time of change and opportunity.


What are the big themes affecting project management currently?

There’s definitely the need for organizations to support their project managers more and at the same time create a culture of project management excellence. And this is also big on our agenda because we want our PPM community to receive the attention they deserve.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Closely linked to that is the importance of certification especially concerning individuals’ roles and career progression. This is really at the heart of what we are doing, and it is also becoming more and more important for project management.

One of the big themes is definitely agility – and this is also one of the reasons why agile will be even more important for us in the future. On the one hand, there’s the adoption of agile frameworks and behaviours. But on the other hand, there’s also the topic of enterprise agility for the whole business.

And then, of course, the big question for the industry is “what methods to use to deliver more with less?”. But this one will probably always be on the mind of project managers.


What challenges are project managers facing – economic uncertainty, pace of change, technological advances, increased customer demands, resources (clients wanting more for less)

We now live in a world that is full of disruption and this also means that business environments are far more challenging than in the past – also for project managers. Advances in technology have their benefits but they are also making projects more difficult to deliver.

One thing is that customers very often have unrealistic timescales and expectations and project managers are expected to do more with less.

But I would say the biggest challenge on a larger scale is that organizations must transform or simply change faster than ever before to stay ahead of the competition and survive and project managers can and have to play an important part in this.


What are your priorities for Axelos?

I’ve got three priority areas. Firstly, I want to focus on attracting, retaining and developing the very best talent at AXELOS. It’s absolutely essential these days to ensure that businesses stay attractive as employers, partners and experts. I think AXELOS is already in a great position when it comes to that but there’s always room for improvement.

Companies should never underestimate the gap between where they are and where they could be. Because if this gap is growing, they can find themselves very quickly behind the competition.

Secondly, I want us to build closer relationships with our successful candidates to find out what they want and need and how we can support them in their professional journey. We’ve got a tremendous talent pool out there and we need to make sure that we add value on a continuous basis to their jobs now and in the future.

We already offer an amazing online content subscription service called My AXELOS, which helps Project Managers with their professional development. I really want My AXELOS to become a key interface for us and the community.

And then my third priority is the most obvious one: Ensuring that our products remain second to none. But with our great network of experts out there I have absolute faith in this.


What is your message to people wishing to engage with Axelos?

Just do it. Engage with us. Be open, we are always looking forward to hearing from you. It is really important for us to understand how we can add value to your professional lives.

If you see us at a conference, do come over and have a chat. Follow us on social media and share and like our content.

And my very own tip, go to My AXELOS and make sure your membership is up to date and use it as a way to feed back to us.

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