Barrie Hadfield likes agile development, human rights and the Raspberry Pi
In the last 20 years Barrie Hadfield has founded four companies, including Skydox and now Workshare, a file sharing and collaboration firm that claims 168,000 enterprise customers in 70 countries. Hadfield is CTO there.
Among the things he likes are agile development, human rights and the Raspberry Pi.
What has been your favourite project so far?
My favourite project has been building a search platform for the European Court of Human Rights. Not only did we provide support on the search functionality, but we also helped them modernise the system. It is now connected to Twitter, has eight million users and allows the Court to have a bigger platform to engage with the public.
Supporting human rights
It has been such an interesting project for me personally as the whole ethos of the Court, to ensure that Human Rights exist in Europe, is incredibly important. The people we have worked with are extremely passionate and so engaged with what they are trying to achieve. To be able to provide them with the technology to allow them to work more efficiently, is hugely satisfying and something I am very proud of.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
10 years ago I was working in SQL data synchronisation software. At the time I had a successful company called SQL Development Ltd, which produced software for more than 300 enterprise customers in the United Kingdom and North America.
What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
Technology is getting smaller, faster and more intuitive so I’m confident that the tech I’ll be using in 10 years’ time will be carried in my pocket! Technology is also becoming much more personal and mobile – it isn’t about carrying around a big laptop, and I look forward to the day when that doesn’t have to be the case. With regards to enterprise file share and sync applications, the consumerisation of IT is creating a workforce that is more mobile than ever, the idea of being tied to your desk is archaic now, let alone in a decade. For professionals today, and the increasingly agile workforce of the future, mobile file sharing and document collaboration will be an intrinsic requirement for every company.
Who’s your tech hero?
Kent Beck – the original father of agile software development. He wrote a book called Extreme Programming Explained in 1999, which described how he thought that people and businesses could and should work in an agile way. At the time it was published, it was hailed as heresy by many and threw out the rule book that was developed by the big tech giants of the time. Now everyone works or strives to work in an agile way and it is because of visionaries like Kent Beck. Whilst there are other thought leaders in this space that I respect, like Martin Fowler, it is Kent who really blazed the trail, and he is someone whom I admire greatly.
Who’s your tech villain?
My tech villain isn’t a person or a company per se but rather software that is bought and never used, or under-utilised. As the CTO of a fast moving company, there is always so much to do with so little time – I have no tolerance for shelf-ware that is only updated once a year and never used to maximise business efficiently or help achieve business goals.
Raspberry Pi fan
What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
This is a tough question for a tech geek! I would have to say that my favourite technology of the moment is accessible technology, like the Raspberry Pi. Developed in response to a deficit of computer literacy in the young, and to facilitate making computing more widespread in classrooms and the third world, these £20 computers open up a world of possibilities.
Workshare is working with Raspberry Pis in association with BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT and Tower Hamlets Integrated Youth and Community Services (IYCS), to teach coding skills and build awareness about IT careers among young people. They are engaging with this technology and building applications, learning invaluable skills whilst doing so. When I was a kid growing up, I would have loved an opportunity like this to learn about coding on these revolutionary devices.
What is your budget outlook going forward? Flat? Growing?
It’s growing. We are seeing fantastic uptake in our services, with more than 1.8 million professionals in 70 countries currently using Workshare’s applications. Our industry as a whole is also seeing huge growth and development as today’s increasingly agile workforce regard the ability to share files and collaborate on the move as an essential requirement for everyday work practices. We have invested significantly in building a world class team and will continue to do so, in order to lead the way in innovation, developing technology that helps people reinvent the way they work.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
The company I admire greatly is Airbnb – not only have they created a fantastic new community marketplace but they also have brilliant service to match. What’s particularly interesting is that the entire company is driven by metrics and analytics. They realised there was a direct correlation between taking professional photos of people’s a apartments and increased enquiries, which generated higher rental fees and therefore more commission for the company. They worked out which metric mattered the most to them and put all of their effort into that one aspect to make the business a success. It had a direct effect on its top line revenue and simple logical thinking and business acumen like that is something to be admired.
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
The key challenge for IT departments today is protecting the businesses’ intellectual property and ensuring that employees act responsibly when sharing sensitive information. This is increasingly difficult considering the amount of information that businesses develop, store, and share, on a daily basis, from a multitude of devices. Moving away from corporate-owned devices with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes, means users often download the productivity and file sharing applications they know and use in their personal lives, for work, which could leave corporate documents open to compromise.
IT departments, especially those in regulated industries, need to strike a balance between users’ desire for ease-of-use and IT’s requirements for security, in order to regain control over corporate documents.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
The cloud has been used for a number of services, notably for email over the last 20 years, people just haven’t realised it! The discussion is now moving on to how much of our services and infrastructure it makes sense to move over to the cloud. The highest profile issue for many is security and what type of control you have over your data in that cloud environment. With most of our customers, the majority of whom work in highly regulated industries, we’re finding that with a hybrid cloud deployment model, they can retain the all-important control and security associated with the private cloud, whilst still taking advantage of the elasticity of the public cloud.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Believe it or not, I always wanted to be a computer programmer! I started programming at a young age and just fell in love with it. I’m one of those lucky people who loves what they do and always have. If I had to be anything else, it would have been a skipper, sailing is also one of my great passions.