Steve Odart, CEO of Ixxus: “[Home to some of the world’s largest publishers, Spain is a thriving publishing hub with a growing focus on digital and it will be a springboard to other Spanish speaking countries in the future.] As a rapidly growing company working with clients from across the globe, including many in Europe, setting up another regional EMEA office seemed like a logical next step for us”.

About Ixxus as a global company

Ixxus is an IT firm that creates publishing solutions and specializes in handling large quantities of data from some of the largest publishers in the world. They created a branch in Sevilla by acquiring a pre existing tech company led by Fran Alvarez. The company has 56 partners around the world including global enterprises such as Pearson, Morgan Stanley and NHS. The company is 10 years old with its headquarters in the UK close to the financial district of the city of London. It consists of a workforce of 180 people spread throughout four international branches, including the Sevilla division. In May of last year the company was acquired by CCC, Copyright Clearance Center, which provides collective copyright licensing services for users of copyrighted materials, both corporate and academic.

Ixxus manages 40% of the world’s largest publishers and aids them through their transition into the digital era. Ixxus allows companies to utilize and maximize new and developing resources, making content globally accessible and enabling a more agile product assembly which in turn allows products to go faster to market. Apart from being a global leader in its industry, Ixxus is a useful tool to more than just their clients. The company also publishes a free blog on their site and their educational Whitepapers through a subscription platform.

The director at Ixxus Sevilla, Fran Alvarez, is quite an impressive man. Alvarez graduated from the University of Sevilla with a Bachelors in Computer Engineering and Masters in Business Administration. He created his own company 7 years ago and has been the director of Ixxus Sevilla for two years since the branches debut. Even as the director  he still does work in several other positions when need be, in fact the day before the interview he had been working on a project as a technical architect.  He wears many hats at the company. “This week I have been very involved with technical architect work because that needed my attention, some days I will be doing different work then the last, but my main job here is director. I do whatever I need to do… I like it, i don’t like to keep disconnected from technology because technology moves forward so fast.” Being versatile allows him to be dynamic and therefore flexible to a client’s needs.

Fran Álvarez, Software Architect for Ixxus from Sevilla.

Create his own company

Alvarez was born and raised in Sevilla.. As a child he had an interest in computers, with a proclivity towards gaming, He did not start coding until he was in University. He realized in his studies that in Sevilla most of the business opportunities for a computer engineer were in Research & Development and began shifting his focus towards that.

He mentioned how he had been tempted to move and work in other countries, but staying close to his family and friends was too important to him so he decided to create his own company here in Sevilla that would attract the outside clients that he wanted to work with. After graduating from University he got a job at an IT firm that dealt primarily in the public sector, but there the employees were treated as commodities instead of people. In order to sustain his business he was going to need people and money to pay them. His company Zaizi soon was working under another company based in the UK which gave him a steady inflow of clients. At first this proved to be a beneficial relationship, but after four years of success the UK office opened another branch.

Fran Alvarez speaking on an Alfresco conference.

The people on Fran’s team were no longer doing the work they were supposed to be doing, but instead simply monitoring and correcting the work at the new branch. Once time showed this was not a temporary setback Fran decided to sever his ties and start fresh. When telling me this story Alvarez mentioned “This profession gives you the chance to start over”. Shortly after, Ixxus found them.

The two companies were very compatible. However, at first, the team was a little weary to join forces with another UK company.  Both worked with the same Enterprise Content Management System, Alfresco which made it for an easy transition because there was no long training period usually needed to adapt to changes in these types of systems after an acquisition. Fran said that the true decision maker was about the culture of Ixxus, “when I looked into their eyes and saw how they worked it was obvious they were different.”

«The devil in is in the details…»

Alvarez spoke about the beginning of the transition, “we were learning to work in a different way but the transition was not hard because Ixxus was very supportive and patient…We are all highly driven people who were used to a higher workload. [Though] the UK office did not want to give us too much work and scare us, so people in the Sevilla office would be on the phone with headquarters asking for more work to do”.

When discussing challenges there was always a solution mentioned afterwards which spoke to the leadership skills of Alvarez and the adaptability of his team.  He explained to me how one of the challenges the team faced after the transition was the language difference. “We have our offices in Spain but all of our customers speak english and sometimes the accents are a challenge. You may think, ‘ok, I got the basics,’ but the devil is in the details and if you don’t catch something apparently small it can completely change the approach that you need to use with them.” To solve this issue Fran brought in an English coach for the office who he says has made a huge difference.

«Two years ago we had 7 people and now we have 30»

The new branch also experiences growing pains from it’s success, not a bad challenge to have though still important to address. “With both our merger and the CCC’s acquisition of Ixxus comes the need to scale up the company. Two years ago we had 7 people and now we have 30 this is a significant increase of people.” That is an impressive nearly 400% increase in the branch’s workforce. “The challenge is that we need to expand and bring in new people without changing the culture at the company. Sometimes it is difficult to keep the balance between needing to bring more people in and waiting for the right person to arrive».

The table football also lack in the office of Ixxus in Seville.

«Our biggest added value with publishers»

Three years ago Ixxus was in systems integration but now they are solely focused on the publishing sector. That is what the company is best at and now having a niche in the publishing world for large scale corporations gives them a competitive advantage. At the moment the company is working on a large project with one of the top 20 publishing companies in the world based in the UK.

When asked about projects specific to the Sevilla branch it was learned that, “everyone works on everything. For every client there are people all over the world working on the same project from different points of view in every office. The good thing about working here is that we only need wifi and computers so we work collaboratively across different offices to optimize delivery. Ixxus is able to work with publishers in all aspects of the process and deliver genuinely ‘smart content’ for their clients». Alvarez goes on to explain, “Our biggest added value is that we know what publishers need. I can sit with a publisher and say ‘this is your problem, even if you don’t know this is your problem”, that is what allows us to create a very close bond with them and work together. They end up seeing us like their partners. It is a journey that we do with together, marketing wise this is our digital transformation”.

Not only is this good for the client but it creates stimulating work for the company as well. “I love to be challenged…to be involved and engaged with customers to understand their needs and to be able to extract their needs to turn them into deliverables that can be leveraged.”

The first year after the merger everything was business as usual in the Sevilla office, but since May the branch has been more collaborative with CCC and would like to hire more people and dedicate specific teams for the CCC products. Optimistically Alvarez wants to see 70 people working for Sevilla office within the next two years.

Success and growth

Though the company has many nondisclosure agreements and can’t share the details of their accounts. For Fran Alvarez, his biggest success is coming into the office and seeing how his company and his people have progressed. Before Ixxus his team used to be in a small office and were unsure about partnering with Ixxus because of their past experience. Now it is clear that he made the correct choice.

Walking into the office, one senses the hustle and bustle of the workers, people are motivated and moving fast. At the same time there is a supportive and friendly vibe in the room that allows people to feel happy and excited about coming to work. Everyone there seemed to love what they were doing. Not only have they achieved success, but they have also achieved a wonderful company culture. The office even has a separate area with a yoga studio, foosball, ping pong, and a little kitchen area to socialize and bond with coworkers. Seeing everyone come into work happy and enjoy what they are doing is the biggest success.