This week we are delighted to welcome tech industry veteran John Cotterell to the CloudFactory Board of Directors. John is CEO of Endava, a U.K.-based consultancy software development company, where he has worked with the world’s leading companies to help them build a wide range of technology solutions.

I grabbed a virtual coffee with John to talk about his new leadership role. This article shares highlights from that conversation.

Mark Sears: What interests you most about CloudFactory?

John Cotterell: I love what CloudFactory is doing - the vision to create a million jobs in developing economies - and the way CloudFactory invests in the people in those jobs. I've always believed the best way to make a positive impact in the wider world is to bring jobs, training opportunities, and skills to people so those uplifting effects can cascade through broader communities. I grew up in Kenya, so I love that your work started in Nepal and Kenya.

Add to those things the business engine and the market opportunity that you have around AI and digital transformation, and CloudFactory has a great opportunity to grow a sustainable business model. You've got a big vision for making an impact and doing it in a sustainable way. For me, that was the hook, along with meeting some of the people at CloudFactory.

That’s great to hear. Yes; creating work and opportunity are at the heart of what we're doing. What are some of the strengths you know about yourself, and how do you hope your expertise will help guide CloudFactory?

So, the core experience I've had over the last 20 years has been building a business. The business that I run at the moment, Endava, is based on similar principles and operates in an adjacent market. We're developing technology and re-imagining how it can transform business for our clients.

We started our work in Moldova, which is the poorest country in Europe, with the intention of making a positive impact on that society. There, we found great people who developed great software for our clients. Now, we have teams from South America as well. So our business model, which was based on doing a great job for our clients and developing great people with skills to do the work, came together. I hope the insights we've gathered over the last 20 years building that business will be helpful to CloudFactory as we plan for the future.

So true. It’s a virtuous cycle, to attract good people and build an environment where they can thrive and create value. Part of that includes remote work. So as we look at COVID-19 and how it has changed the world, how do you see that playing out, with both the near-term and long-term acceleration of a remote workforce? And how does it affect CloudFactory?

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. There are some positive learnings we can take from what’s happening. We’ve learned that organizations that are designed to be flexible and distributed are able to perform work from anywhere. And I don't mean working from home, although that's a big part of it. The whole architecture of an organization - from the culture, to the way people work, to how leadership manages people - determines success. So even if an organization has the technology to enable people to work from home, it may not have the management style and culture to support remote work.

So we’re seeing leaders and companies looking for organizations who know how to operate that way, and they want to work or partner with them. They want to learn from them. At Endava, our clients are investing in making that change. And there’s going to need partners to show them how to do it. That’s the sort of organization CloudFactory is. And it’s in your DNA; it has been that way from the start.

Yes, it’s amazing how quickly the world has changed. Where the work gets done is much less important than finding great people and partners. Similarly, what trends are you seeing in artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and digital transformation? And how do you see CloudFactory being helpful as those trends continue?

AI is one of the defining trends of our time. It is transforming the way we communicate, consume data, and interact with the world. We’re seeing it as businesses create technology for financial services, healthcare, and transportation. Of course, that is one of the key markets CloudFactory serves.

And those businesses that, today, are getting their data together for the digital transformation, they will need that data to drive AI and automation in the future. Of course, CloudFactory provides solutions for organizations on both sides of those trends. At Endava, we’re more in the digital transformation space, but the AI side of our business is growing.

At Endava, you’ve worked with organizations building a wide range of technology enabled solutions - from platforms that process e-commerce payments to others that assist people living with cancer. What trends are you most excited about right now and why?

Technology is changing how we do things in so many ways. At one time, retail payments were explicit transactions at a terminal inside a retail shop: you would use cash or a credit card. Today, you can walk into a shop, select a product, walk out, and you have paid automatically. It will probably be another 10 or 15 years before most payments are transacted that way.

Think about all of the technology required to make that possible, just to recognize the product and the shopper. It must handle all of the exceptions that could happen, such as someone picking up a product, putting it down, and leaving the shop without it.

And, all of this works only when we, as consumers, trust the technology. The moment we don’t trust it, people won’t use it. The U.S. had that problem with contactless payments, tapping your card to process a payment. The technology came to the U.S. a bit ahead of the rest of the world, and the U.S. consumer turned away from it. So contactless payments waited 10 years to come back to the U.S., whereas the rest of the world got on with it.

Slowly, everything in our world is being transformed by lots of different kinds of technology - virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, IoT (Internet of things) and others - all of these technologies must work together to make that possible. They each contribute in different ways to drive innovation, and they are developing over time. That’s exciting.

I like how you described that, John. Developing technology requires trust and understanding of people and societies. And that's the fun part of what we do, right? Thanks, John, and welcome to the team. We're excited for what's ahead.

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