Barrie Hadfield, SkyDox CTO and founder, has spent his 20-year career developing award-winning software. Barrie has founded four companies since 1990, becoming an innovative pioneer in the software industry. Most recently, he co-founded SkyDox after gleaning from his industry insight that workflow and collaboration solutions only complicated team work, rather than streamlining it. SkyDox was then built on Barrie’s vision to remedy this.
SkyDox is a cloud-enabled file sharing, file synchronization, file storage, and collaboration tools platform that enables real-time, simultaneous document-centric collaboration. SkyDox allows users to review, comment on, search, store, deliver, manage, and collaborate on over 200 file formats on a single cloud-based platform that is intuitive and easy to use.
MO: You’re a serial entrepreneur. Where does your passion for entrepreneurism come from? What has influenced you to choose the path less travelled?
Barrie: My driving philosophy has always been to identify a business problem, then solve it. Because of this, my mind is always teeming with ideas. After letting these thoughts stew for awhile, if I realize an idea genuinely solves problems and makes life easier, it generates its own momentum that helps carry it forward. Of course, I could do this within the structure of an existing organization, but as an entrepreneur, I can select the best people to work with and bring them in as partners to help bring my vision to fruition. I truly believe that people are the most important part of any business and that’s what I really love about being an entrepreneur. Everyday, I go to work with some of the smartest people I know who, all of whom I’ve personally chosen to work with.
MO: Can you talk about the process behind developing SkyDox?
Barrie: The idea for SkyDox came from my background working with many of the leading vendors in the ECM and productivity space. Time and again, I’d speak to customers who were dismayed that there wasn’t a solid SaaS-based collaboration application available that was easy to work with. Based on this, my vision was simply to develop a platform that’s easy for companies to use, no matter what native applications they had deployed. In the real world this means, whether you’re using Microsoft Office or Adobe, you can access, collaborate on and share your files, without being penalized with expensive licensing costs or violating company security or compliance mandates.
We spent more than two years in development to strike that perfect balance between building a platform that’s easy to use, but also has the highest security protocols. It worries me that so many organizations recklessly put their intellectual property into the cloud without fully understanding whether their storage or collaboration platform of choice has adequate security to protect their organizational assets.
MO: How does SkyDox work and what are the advantages of using it?
Barrie: The way people work has changed. Now more than ever, companies are working with teams not just spread across departments, but offices, regionally and globally, as well as partners, consultants and customers. Unlike other collaboration platforms, SkyDox enables companies to work with these distributed networks to be as productive and collaborative as possible – without abandoning the business applications they have invested so much money and time into, like Microsoft Word and SharePoint, to name a few.
The advantage of using SkyDox is that we enable companies to leverage the benefits of the cloud to deliver a collaboration platform that can integrate seamlessly into legacy ECM systems and deliver an additional layer of collaborative functionality to into their existing business apps. This allows for secure, easy collaboration with internal teams, suppliers, partners and customers. There’s really no other collaboration provider, other than SkyDox, that works with companies and offers them the flexibility to benefit from social business and Web 2.0 technology, without giving up the rich content and applications their workforce is used to.
MO: Why do you think that this is an ideal time to enter the market with SkyDox?
Barrie: First, let’s look at how the larger workflow process is changing. All the major analyst firms – Forrester, IDC, Gartner – are predicting a major uptick in the number of employees working remotely or from multiple locations. A consequence of this mobility is the need for tools that enable individual productivity and team collaboration. Unfortunately, this trend snuck up on the enterprise, so employees took matters in their own hands and brought consumer-grade tools into the enterprise, undermining existing IT and corporate protocols. Now the enterprise is waking up to how much this invasion of consumer-tools has weakened existing investments and put corporate assets at risk. There’s significant momentum for enterprise-grade tools that meet – and exceed – the functionality of their consumer-grade counterparts, while still adhering to corporate policies and protocols. Because SkyDox was built from the ground-up as an enterprise-grade platform, it fulfills this specific market void.
MO: Learning from mistakes is critical for entrepreneurs. Can you share some lessons learned from your past or how you would have approached things differently?
Barrie: It might sound cliché, but the biggest lesson I learned was very early in my career is to follow your instincts. In the late 1980s I worked as a salesperson for a major UK-based hardware supplier. Each month, the top salesperson was given the opportunity to arrive to work in helicopter that landed on the roof. I realized the helicopter ride was not an incentive for me; my passion lay in the art of solving a problem efficiently and intelligently. After that, I decided it was better to work for myself — and I’ve done so ever since.
MO: What inspires you both personally and professionally? As an innovator, how do you bring your ideas to life?
Barrie: Inspiration is best when it’s unexpected, so I always keep myself open to surprising moments of creativity. For instance, I read the manuals of all my new gadgets from cover-to-cover before switching on the device for the first time. This exercise has resulted in a good many “aha” moments for all areas of my life. At other times, just sailing my boat gives me a certain tranquility that lets my mind wander and the ideas will start to come. You have to be open to inspiration no matter what you’re doing.
Once these ideas emerge, they have a way of simmering in the background. For product ideas, I like to try things out in discussion groups, as an informal sounding board. If the idea seems to have merit, I’ll pull in our user-interface team and start experimenting with screen shots that bring to life how the user would interact with the idea. I believe that software has to be seen to be understood. This is why I like focusing on the user-interface first. It forces me to think through a lot of the details. The next step is bringing in a range of our customers and development partners for feedback. After this, it’s a matter of integrating this idea into the development schedule, keeping in mind customer demand. Then, it’s show time.
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