Barrie Hadfield – Co-founder and CTO of SkyDox

Barrie Hadfield has spent his 20-year career developing award-winning software. Most recently, he co-founded SkyDox after hearing that workflow and collaboration solutions only complicated team work. Barrie also co-founded Workshare, which won numerous industry awards, including the prized “Microsoft Global Independent Software Vendor of the Year.” For every business Barrie has launched, his driving philosophy has been: identify a business problem, then solve it.

Barrie Hadfield has also worked as a consultant to early and later stage tech companies. He specializes in helping people identify the cost and value equation for the business problem they are solving.

[quote]Find the best people to work with you and bring them in as partners. People are the most important part of any business. Also, choose your investors carefully.[/quote]

What are you working on right now?

At the moment, I am completely focused on building out SkyDox. I’m in the process of planning our short and long-term product strategy and roadmap, which is both exhilarating and challenging. Having been in the enterprise content management (ECM) space for the last two decades, I can honestly say this sector has never been more exciting. In particular, cloud computing is driving massive innovation and calling for a complete rethink about what delivers business value and what does not. Gone are the days where IT groups ordained what everyone uses — and gone are the days where you can buy everything from one legacy vendor.

So my job right now ultimately boils down to building an innovative product footprint that brings the power of collaboration and the cloud to individual’s and teams’ desktops. In my mind, this is what will drive future and sustained adoption of cloud and cloud-based productivity applications.

Where did the idea for SkyDox come from?

The idea for SkyDox came from my background working with many of the leading vendors in the ECM and productivity space. There wasn’t a solid SaaS-based collaboration application that people were totally happy with. My vision was simply to develop an open 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.

What does your typical day look like?

I like getting up early, around 4 a.m. This is my favorite time, as the world is quiet and I get to read or work before anyone else is awake. Once I’m in the office, I work very closely with the development group as I like to be involved with all of our projects so I continuously keep up with all the technologies we are working on or with. This means I also spend quite a bit of time each day reading and learning.

Most days, I also see or speak to customers, as well. I actually get very frustrated when I don’t get a chance to do this.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas have a way of simmering in the background. I like to focus on ideas for a while, and generally, only start speaking about them when I have them pretty well-formed. 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 (UI) 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. Once the user-interface is done, I bring in a range of our customers and development partners to collect feedback and make changes. After this, it’s a matter of integrating this idea into the development schedule, keeping in mind customer demand. Then, it’s show time.

3 trends that excite you?

Simple intuitive UI – We have a lot to thank Apple for.
Open source – This is where passion lies and we get to ride on the shoulders of giants.
Location-based services – We are at the very beginning of this development and I suspect that “time” will soon be added as a fourth dimension of the geo-location sphere.

What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

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. Yes, it’s true. After that, I decided that since I’m motivated by innovation and vision, it was better to work for myself — and I’ve done so ever since.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Interesting one! I would have been an architect – one who builds buildings. Software architecture, by its nature, is very different, as there’s never an end to the project. While it’s certainly invigorating to always be anticipating the next “evolve” of a project, occasionally I’d appreciate a job where I could see an end result, without feeling the need to keep tinkering with the latest iteration. But in actuality, I can’t imagine working in any other space than cloud collaboration. Eventually, this will become so pervasive and embedded in the way we live – and I’m so proud to be on the cusp of this, shaping how this trend takes hold.

What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?

Find the best people to work with you and bring them in as partners. People are the most important part of any business. Also, choose your investors carefully.

Tell us a secret…

I read the manuals of all my new gadgets from cover-to-cover before switching on the gadget for the first time. Sad in a way, but also, surprisingly informative.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The online boat charter industry needs a shakeup. Old fashioned websites charge 30 percent of the booking fee, for really no service at all. This industry is ripe for a social approach that charges less, bearing in mind the needs of supplies and consumers. This could ultimately have a global impact on this industry.

If you weren’t working on SkyDox, what would you be doing?

I would be sailing my boat!

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

This is showing my British sense-of-humor, but every time I watch “Bruno” – the Sasha Cohen film.

What makes SkyDox so unique?

We are living in a time where more and more companies are working with teams not just spread across departments, but offices, region and globally. We’re finding that while these companies want these distributed networks to be as productive and collaborative as possible, they also don’t want to abandon the business applications they have invested so much money and time  into, like Microsoft Word and SharePoint, to name a few — or indeed,  expose their organizations to risk.

The opportunity we see for SkyDox is that we work with companies to enable them to leverage the benefits of 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 enables secure 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.


Barrie Hadfield on LinkedIn: