A personal note of thanks to a true friend to the industry

It was my honour to host the inaugural European Field Service Awards recently. This was an event that was hosted, to a degree, because we knew we had to bring the industry together again in person – to trade stories from the last two years of how we all adapted during these challenging times.


It was an opportunity to celebrate the excellence of an industry that stood so tall in the face of adversity.


It was a fantastic event that saw solution providers and industry leaders come together. We all focused on the excellence and innovation that had been on show in our sector, both in terms of technology and strategic service thinking.


As host, I also took the opportunity to say farewell to a good friend to many in that room and someone who was universally respected by all those in attendance. Sadly, Kieran Notter of ServiceMax and, prior to that, Pitney Bowes, unexpectedly passed away earlier this year.


It took me, as it did all of us, by complete surprise. It was a tragic accident that robbed the world of bright light at a time when we were just moving out of the darkness. I’ve been trying to write this article pretty much ever since, but the words never quite felt right. To a degree, I, as are many are still in shock at Kieran’s passing.


However, given the platform of the Awards, I was able to ask those in attendance to share a moment of reflection for Kieran. As I think Kieran would have preferred, I asked for a moment of applause rather than silence. I wanted to celebrate his life rather than mourn our loss. It is a fitting tribute to how well-liked and respected Kieran was that the whole room, colleagues, peers and competitors alike stood proudly to join me in this fairly impromptu request. Those who knew him well and had the privilege of working alongside him stood shoulder to shoulder with those who often been on the other side of the debate stage working in competition to Kieran – and all had nothing but warmth, respect and admiration in their faces.


For me, I had the opportunity to interview Kieran on several occasions, both in a closed-door environment for various productions we had worked together on across the years and in public on stage at various events across the world.


From a professional perspective, Kieran had two distinguishing facets that came to the fore in such situations. Firstly, his wealth of experience prior to joining ServiceMax allowed him to speak not only with authority but with an earnestness that was deeply grounded in having experienced the role of the service leader hands on.


In short, there was a deep well of experience that Kieran drew on from his career that he continually supplemented with further learning and reading.


This is perhaps the other thing that always leapt out to me about Kieran; for him, the ideas of continuous improvement weren’t just a concept to be applied in the operations environment. It was something you could see he applied to his own development and expected of those around him. Kieran was never afraid to push past the status quo in search of a better version of the truth, yet he was also a massive advocate of ensuring that each layer of a problem is fully understood before moving on.


Indeed, the most recent work Kieran and I worked together on is soon to be published – a research study that is the exact epitome of what it is like to work alongside him. During the planning stage, Kieran, Sumair Dutta and I worked closely together to define the shape of the study, the parameters and outline the questions. The process had more friction than is often the case in these situations, as one might expect, with three of the world’s most recognised industry commentators and leaders all having a distinct vision of where the study should go.


The planning process was longer than usual; there were more iterations of the framework, but to be clear, none of us saw that friction as a negative process. We all had the respect and trust in each other to test our respective positions, and only the most robust ideas remained within the final study. The result is one of the most comprehensive research projects we have completed to date. With the initial paper almost ready for release, I think it will be a fitting testament to Kieran and his input to the industry.


However, Kieran was about far more than just his job, and during our many joint appearances at various events, I also had the pleasure of getting to know him personally. I remember Kieran giving me a lift across Sweden one time because we had both booked our return flights from the wrong airport, which was hours away from where we were.


The prospect of hours alone with anyone in a car can be daunting, but such was the depth of Kieran’s various interests and his ability to speak passionately about them that the time flew by.


We talked rugby – Kieran was a hugely important part of Cobham RFC and chairman of their minis – I occasionally coach and volunteer with Ealing minis for whom my son plays.


We talked Land Rovers – my dream has always been to own an early 90s Defender; Kieran was a passionate Defender expert, having owned a number over the years (hence the image for this article – I like to think he would approve) 


And most importantly, and for the greatest amount of time, we talked family.


With about a decade and a bit between us, mine is a younger family than Kieran’s (my wife and I had our third child only a few weeks ago). However, if I can speak with half the joy, pride and satisfaction that Kieran continuously had in his voice when he talked about his own family, I will be immeasurably happy.


His family meant the world to him, and my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies go out to them on their loss.