There are “clouds” of a very different kind “on the horizon” for Steven Polmans (SP), former Director Cargo & Logistics at Brussels Airport, and current TIACA Chairman. Far from the idiom’s usual meaning of impending problems, the move here promises to be a very positive one. Today, 18JAN21, is the day that he officially joins cloud community specialist Nallian as its first ever Chief Customer Officer (CCO). CargoForwarder Global spoke to Steven Polmans about his new function and how it ties in with his responsibilities over at TIACA.
Steven Polmans, as “the founding father of BRUcloud” (Brussels Airport’s Cargo Cloud) is no stranger to Belgium-headquartered Nallian, having spearheaded a number of digital and cargo
initiatives, some of which have gone on to win awards and be adopted by other airports. For over two decades, he has largely shaped the Brussels cargo scene, founding Air Cargo Belgium in 2016
and, more recently, has been devoting his efforts to bringing TIACA into the future as a more proactive and supporting air cargo industry organization.
“When I decided to leave Brussels Airport, it was always my intention to stay in the sector and build further on what I have created together with my cargo colleagues and peers. I now look forward to assisting other cargo actors - airports, ground handlers, freight forwarders, trucking companies, shippers, … - with their digital cargo transformation and their journey to connected, collaborative work.”
CFG: Why did you choose Nallian?
SP: “It was great discussing with many companies in the past months, and to see how many interesting jobs there are in this industry. Digitization is, for our industry, still a hot topic with huge potential. In the past years, I worked together with Nallian on the BRUcloud project and got to know them as a solid company, great people, and with a solution that really can make a change. We share the ambition to drive efficiency and transparency in the air cargo industry by making cargo communities operate in a connected, collaborative way. So sometimes you do not need to look too far to find something interesting.”
CFG: What exactly will your responsibilities as ‘Chief Customer Officer’ be?
SP: “As Chief Customer Officer, I will be responsible for accelerating the expansion of Nallian’s global network of cargo communities that operate the Nallian Cargo Cloud. Nallian’s Cargo Cloud is focused on enabling connected, collaborative work for our customers, and I will be responsible for helping more companies achieve this. My focus areas will be Business Development, Sales & Marketing, and Account Management - always in a collaborative mode with each customer. I will work with them to provide the framework that maximizes the impact of Nallian’s solution for their business, to stimulate collaboration between cargo communities, and to expand Nallian’s open ecosystem of collaborative apps.”
CFG: How will your new position tie in with TIACA, time-wise? Also, what about those who fear a TIACA bias towards Belgium?
SP: “The first thing Nallian did when we started exploring a possible collaboration, was indeed to review the situation with TIACA, direct and indirect, to make sure that there is not even a hint of a conflict of interest and that we fully respect the code of conduct. It is good to see that the company I am joining has ethics placed high on its agenda. This is how I want to work and how I want to build this legacy for the industry. Nallian is giving me the opportunity to be very much involved in all details of the company and help it grow, while at the same time continuing as chair of TIACA. With Glyn Hughes coming on board of the association, I am sure TIACA has some good times ahead, but I also want to take responsibility for the results and the outcome of the changes initiated by me as chair in the past 12 months.”
“As far as TIACA is concerned, there is no contract with any Belgian company - only a collaboration with a project manager for a limited period of time. All decisions at TIACA are taken in a very open and transparent way. In the past 12 months, I have been pushing a very clear and extensive governance structure and code of conduct for TIACA.”
CFG: Jean Verheyen, CEO of Nallian, had the following to say about your appointment to CCO: “Following the signing of several new contracts in 2020, and the recent
opening of our office in Singapore, having Steven on board is yet again another important step for Nallian. We have worked closely together in the past and are fully aligned on our vision for the
cargo industry. Steven brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the team, which together with his drive and collaborative mindset will help us accelerate and support more airports better on
their journey to connected, collaborative work. We are very excited to shape the future of air cargo together.”
He refers to "several new contracts" - has the pandemic accelerated the interest in cloud communities?
SP: “Covid caused a delay in several new projects in our industry, as many airports focused on their day-to-day operations and short-term cost savings. But, in the meantime, airports have seen the importance of cargo as well as the need for further digitization as an integral part of a solution during the pandemic. So, we see again a growing interest and a restart of several projects.”
Nallian’s motto is "to make the world operate as one" - What "clouds" are there on the horizon?
SP: “What we offer to the market is data sharing in the cloud. This can be done for a single enterprise, e.g. a ground handler, or a network of enterprises, such as a cargo community– with anything from a single application up to a full-fledged cargo community system. The community systems such as BRUcloud at Brussels Airport, and the ones signed this past year with lux-Airport, Dallas Fort Worth, and a leading airport in Asia, are of course the most visible ones. But, also on a smaller scale, we can help to solve operational and communication issues companies or communities may have. Nallian has a healthy pipeline, and I look forward to further building and strengthening the customer portfolio.”
CFG: What is the biggest challenge ahead in your new function?
SP: “Challenges give me energy, so I do not see them as an issue. A new environment in a smaller, but fast-growing company with a more hands-on mentality… There will be some changes to get used to, but it’s in an industry I know well, and a project that has been close to my heart since several years. Let’s talk again in 6 months from now!”
Alex Driesen, Co-Entrepreneur, who is moving on from Nallian, certainly confirms your statement regarding challenges not being an issue. His statement regarding your appointment was: “Getting Steven on board is a major leap for Nallian. In my career, I have not often met people with the same combination of vision, energy, and empathy. I look very much forward to seeing Steven write the next chapter of Nallian’s journey to make the world operate as one.” Alex Driesen’s title is Co-Entrepreneur. You are coming in as the first CCO for Nallian alongside CEO Jean Verheyen. What decision led to the forming of a CCO? And how do your responsibilities differ to Driesen's?
SP: “Alex joined the company in a much earlier stage when it was still in its early phases. The company has been growing fast, and the organizational structure is evolving continuously to best serve our clients. We have been looking at what makes sense for today and the future, so it is not a 1 on 1 replacement as far as function is concerned - nor as individuals. With Alex leaving, I will take over some of the responsibilities and others will be taken by other people in the company, present or to be hired in future.”
CFG: Do you know where Alex Driesen is going?
“Alex’ new position will be announced in April. Whilst he will no longer be operationally involved in Nallian, Alex will remain linked to the company as a shareholder and an active supporter. In the meantime, I am very much looking forward to working with him for the rest of this quarter.”
CFG: Finally, one pressing question many in the air cargo industry who have seen you on various webinars over the past months, want to know the answer to: Will the beard be coming off for the new job?
“Unlikely! I checked my contract again, and it is not part of the requirements. So other factors will determine if it stays or has to go at some point…”
Thank you for your insights, Steven. We wish you an excellent start in your new position and look forward to following Nallian’s continued success!
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