Sqills pushes new boundaries as unit of Siemens Mobility
A little over one year ago, Siemens Mobility wrapped up the acquisition of Dutch company Sqills, a provider of SaaS inventory, reservation and ticketing software solutions. Company CEO and co-founder Bart van Munster looks back at the past year and the integration process. He shares his experiences and delves into the new-found opportunities for Sqills.
On the surface, very little has changed for Sqills. The company is still based in the town of Enschede in the east of the Netherlands, where the core management team has its roots. “We’re very fond of our base here”, Van Munster says. “We are a large employer for the region and still maintain close ties to the nearby technical University of Twente”.
Over the past few years, Sqills has of course branched out. It has a small but important development unit in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as an office in Paris. “SNCF is a major client of ours, so we want to be at close proximity. Other clients in southern Europe appreciate us being close as well”.
Sqills is widely known for its S3 Passenger inventory, reservation and ticketing software, which is currently being used by 36 operators worldwide, including SNCF. The French giant also uses it for its Ouigo and Eurostar entities. By the end of next year, TGV, TGV Lyria, Alleo, SNCF Voyages Italia and the Intercités trains will have switched over to S3 Passenger. Last September, Sqills also announced the implementation of S3 Passenger by Iryo, the new player in the Spanish high-speed market.
The success of S3 Passenger, especially in Europe, meant that before long Sqills arrived at a crossroads. The company could either continue on the beaten path, try and expand through private equity or team up with a partner. “We chose the latter and it is fair to say that we found the perfect partner in Siemens Mobility”, Van Munster notes. “They are a global player and this means that in many cases they already have ties with a host of potential customers”.
The acquisition by Siemens Mobility was followed by a so-called light-touch integration, Van Munster explains. “We agreed that Sqills should keep doing what it is doing. For this reason, the company is an independent unit within the larger organisation, even though we are 100-percent owned by Siemens Mobility. Having this independence also means that we as management can take the decisions that we feel are in the best interest of Sqills.”
As a result, day-to-day operations for Sqills staff has not changed, despite now being part of a multi-billion global corporation. The only real change is that the company now has the support of a variety of teams, ranging from legal for finance.
According to Van Munster, support from Siemens Mobility is what stands out. “We are really in their slip stream and we find that doors are being opened in places where would likely have struggled a bit on our own. This helps putting Sqills on the global map, which was an important target of ours leading up to the acquisition. Siemens is a real support when it comes to sales and implementation and scaling up”, says Van Munster, who points to the example of the Egypt high-speed rail project as one of the endeavours that the company now has an involvement in through Siemens. “We are now taking on bigger projects in different countries than before”.
That – of course – also presents a challenge. Because whereas clients in Europe are familiar with Sqills and S3 Passenger – what it does and does not do – those elsewhere might still have different expectations from a company that is part of Siemens Mobility. “In Egypt we are dealing with a situation where S3 will become the engine of the ticketing machines at stations. We then have to stress that we will not be the responsible party for the hardware, which is Siemens Mobility turnkey as executing entity”, Van Munster explains.
While Siemens Mobility has its roots in rolling stock and tracks, the company is investing heavily the in software side of the business through the Xcelerator programma, amongst others. Sqills is an important entity within that programme, as the strategy going forward will be to find connections between systems.
“If we feed the Hafas planning system of sister company Hacon with information regarding availability from S3 Passenger, this will aid travellers in that they can then choose take a different train that is less crowded. Similarly, we can use the Hacon train planning system TPS as input for S3 Passenger. The bottom line is that when clients are interested in one system or another, then it needs to be clear that there are connections with possible with other systems.”
Evaluating the past year, Van Munster is particularly pleased with all the support from the parent company. “There has been and still is a great willingness to help out. Siemens Mobility is a giant corporation, but you don’t experience it as such as a result. We are now nearing deals in countries where we would have struggled on our own. However, with the support of local Siemens staff, we are taking these steps with greater ease.”
This piece was first published by Dutch sister publication SpoorPro.
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