Scott Findlater - CIO - Anord Mardix

Tony McCandless

CTO
BLUE PRISM

Tony McCandless – CTO Interview Series

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself

Remote based but covering EMEA as CTO. The role consists of acting as Exec Sponsor for our customers, connecting client needs with our product portfolio, being an industry presence around Intelligent Automation and aligning with our go to market partners.

    What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?

    Hard to believe but I have spent 3 decades in technology as a professional. Ending up as a CIO / CTO was never designed into a plan but was potentially down to my taking on challenges that were in front of me and – in the main – delivering the targeted outcomes.

    Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?

    As stated previously there was in fact no plan. I just did the things that came my way and continued to progress and grow.

    I think though a pivotal point may have been around about 2000 when I took on my first Ops Director role and was the beneficiary of some professional coaching.

    This led to my attending a Dale Carnegie course for 4 months that half way through delivered a real breakthrough experience for me around my drivers and potentially some of my less positive behaviours.

    I truly believe that experience meant I then put those in my teams front and centre of what I do as the ethos of treating people fairly and respectfully whilst helping them realise their potential. This I found comes back to the organisation in terms of motivated people who want to deliver for the customer.

    Another upside of Dale Carnegie was that I met my wife who is an amazing person and is now one of 600 Master Certified ICF coaches in the world.

    Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?

    I spent 3 tough years at a company learning to be a CIO. Looking back I think I could have done so much better but it was a learning experience, those in my team remain friends and I think I helped deliver some good outcomes.

    Throughout that our global CIO, Ido Gileadi, was an example of insight, technical capability, determination and intelligence. I still ping him now and then to say “look what you helped create”.

    How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?

    I am hopeful technology leadership develops to become more of a true partner with the business. I believe in the strap-line of “customer focused, business led and technology enabled” as the target for any business.

    It is hard though as the CIO / CTO needs to be all things at all times. Keep the systems running to keep the business running, cut costs continually, be good people leaders and help innovate with the business so as not to lose competitive edge or efficiency.

    We have got to learn to stop being order takers and instead work out how to be at-one with our business teams to examine business problems and opportunities and then co-create solutions.

    In terms of topics I think cyber-security is going to continue to be a huge challenge and that Intelligent Automation needs to be taken seriously and move beyond the pilot stage it is in within many organisations.

    The latter is very much in response to societal need driven by the pandemic and a different attitude to work emerging. I don’t believe Intelligent Automation is anymore the bogey man it was made out to be and instead it has the ability to truly help people do their job by removing the menial and allowing them to focus on interaction with customers.

    That’s part of why I joined the organisation I am with now.

    What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?

    I believe that technology leaders must be more commercial and appreciate their business and the roles with in. When you walk a day in the shoes of others you can at least get a feel for the pressures they are under.

    I also believe we need to think more about our social skills. That may be a strange topic in a technology discussion but human beings are social animals whose very survival depends on us being able to be effective members of groups and teams.

    I believe we put too little emphasis on social interaction and our real understanding of those in our teams, our businesses and our customers.

    We don’t understand either the satisfaction human beings obtain from being able to help others – it is a huge factor and as such as a leader you should be asking “what am I doing to help those in my business be able to do their jobs more easily ?, what tools and skills am I able to give them ?”. Give good people the tools and skills and you will be able to watch as incredible things happen.

    So my summation here would be that no amount or mix of intellect, experience or determination can be as effective as when it is paired with social intelligence.

    How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?

    A great question. I have been lucky to have both long term experiences of 7-10 years and shorter terms with different companies.

    This has given me exposure to different industries and consequently satisfied a curiosity I have for new things. I seriously could not ever have suspected how complex and fascinating a water company is for example.

    Beyond this experience exposure I also try to listen to those around me about what they believe could make a difference in technologically enabling our organisation.

    I think this is because the array of technology solutions and capabilities is so much wider than when I entered the industry 32 years ago. As such I am not convinced many can be knowledgeable about everything so having access to people with a passion across disciplines to me is a way of gaining insight.

    A final point though is learning as a person and human being. I am not sure we put enough store by the experiences we have as people and how they shape and grow us. How many times have you heard people say “things changed when I had a child”.

    I truly believe each and every experience we have as parents, grandparents, partners, friends and members of groups is worth thinking through and ascertaining how that has changed us and what we might do differently in the future.

    What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?

    I truly believe Intelligent Automation is just scratching the surface today. Pragmatism and experience shows me that the big-bang new system that costs £xxxm to implement and will solve all the ills of the world is in fact a myth.

    Yes you can and do attain some great improvements when you successfully deliver new systems & capabilities but in the real world most technology landscapes are a mix of systems both old and new.

    I believe that by applying Intelligent Automation combined with integrated process & task mining we could seriously help those who have to use systems to remove a lot of low level work and also in some cases take that work on to be delivered by a Digital Worker.

    Will this lead to mass unemployment and dumbing down of humanity ? Not at all – I think the hyperbole around that has been inflated.

    As we look around us in 2021 and see the impacts of “the Great Resignation” and difficulties in getting workers as well as those entering the workplace quite rightly wanting to feel satisfaction from the work they do not just the pay cheque they get then it is foolish not to look at the application of IA seriously.

    If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?

    Understanding technology is a great skill but what will help you be successful is to truly understand people.

    Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?

    I smiled when I read this. At 56 I am still not planned in terms of what may or may not happen next beyond the role I am currently filling.

    Should I be part of the great resignation and go cycle, walk the dogs and spend time in my beautiful country ?

    Should I aim for another CxO role ?

    Should I construct a portfolio of NED / advisory roles ?

    I truly do not know but I do know that whatever it is it will be fine and I will take pleasure in family, friends, my environment and social interaction as well as whatever roles I may be doing.

    If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

    The eradication of poverty and social deprivation. I hate that so few have so much whilst so many have so little – it is patently unfair, unjust and bad for us as a species.

    I believe the more you have the greater your duty to society to give back.

    Fun facts about Tony…

    Husband to Kay, father to 5, grandad to 10, 2 dogs, 1 cat. Past times include cycling both road and mountain, snowboarding, wine and politics.

    Privileged to live in Perthshire, Scotland.

    A big thank you to Tony McCandless from Blue Prism for sharing his journey to date.

    www.blueprism.com

     

    If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.

     

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