The Carden clan. Duffy the Westie, Gavin, Francis, Denise, Grant
and Alexis (Daughter-in-law)
It’s with real pleasure I can unveil the inimitable Francis Carden as HFS’ first Chief Technology Evangelist. Francis brings four decades of invaluable experience in the realm of software automation, having co-founded successful companies such as Pixel Innovations and OpenSpan. In 2016, Pega acquired OpenSpan to launch its RPA capabilities, and Francis led Pega’s digital automation and robotics business. Having worked with Francis for over 10 years, I am thrilled to welcome him to our team.
We have frequently debated critical industry topics (often publicly) and I’ve personally learned a lot from his wealth of hands-on experience and his courage to voice uncomfortable truths. So let’s find out a bit more about what we can expect from the British implant split between Peachtree Corners City (Atlanta, Georgia) and Panama City Beach, Florida…
What’s defined your career so far, Francis? What have been your greatest achievements… and how did you achieve them?
Wow, lets start with the small questions first Phil. OK, let’s try to summarize. My accidental landing into the tech world started when I was 17 by landing a job in the training room of a hardware and software company. For the next 7 years, working my way up, building applications and introducing new operating systems and hardware. Through many late nights of trialing, optimizing, and benchmarking, I became the central point of contact for making all of these internal and customer “things” better and faster. Back then, we needed to squeeze everything we could out of machines with extremely limited memory and performance. This continued through my co-founding of two successful software companies (in 1988 and then again in 2005), optimizing user software through any means possible – including the UI that became known as RPA! Building, running and ultimately selling these two software companies, as you can imagine, taught me just about every aspect of our industry. I feel proud to have worked with and become friends with some of the most fantastic people all over the globe. That has to be one of my greatest achievements.
What do you do first when you get up in the morning?
Grab a cup of hot tea with milk, no sugar! I drink a lot of tea Phil. And then, as usual, I check my phone for anything urgent, catch up on the overnight news, and plan out my day. Oh, and feed my dog (Duffy is a Westie) and take him for a walk.
So, what have you learned most to date about working in the technology industry that you can share?
That the most successful tech companies are ones that place bets on innovation and don’t get bogged down with the as-is. Enterprise leaders seem reluctant, for whatever reason, to place multiple bets on the art-of-the-possible and then wonder why competitors overtake them. It’s frustrating but real – and I hope to help drive this change. Enterprises lack a start-up mentality, yet this is where innovation comes in – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth or create any risks.
What would you change most about enterprise technology behavior… if you had one wish?
The need to stop with the fear of what stands before us. With so many choices in tech, there’s a constant fear from many executives that being too innovative and/or taking risks isn’t worth it. So they end up just sticking with what they know. Don’t get me wrong, most will happily engage vendors and see a world of opportunity to improve their organization in many ways. But when it comes to turning people into committed buyers or having them put their stamp firmly on key (not piecemeal) projects, the procrastination can become stifling. We are now standing on the precipice of the next digital revolution, so what needs to change is the leadership, from the board on down, who need to get closer to their teams to encourage the move from fear of change to being proud executors of change.
So you’ve been absorbed in the world of code, scaling, automation, process improvement, and now AI all your career… what do you think happens next in our world? Are we really changing old habits to move to a codeless (or even app-less) future?
I would go further now and say these old habits need quite literally to be buried deep underground forever. We need to get past the BS that is out there that gets in the way of the possibilities we have for real game-changing innovation. Most legacy software is already well past its sell-by date, but we keep putting band-aids on it. Integration and unification of systems and processes is no longer hard just because we keep saying it is. This BS must stop as the future of all software development, and all it touches does not and must not use historic computing techniques that were fine in their day. Thanks to the cloud and near-unlimited computing power, we have achieved this already with the hardware. This is the era where we rewrite history on how the enterprise manages software versus how software manages the business.
As a brand new analyst with HFS, what do you hope to achieve with us?
I feel that at this stage of my already long career, I can bring a compelling set of perspectives to generate constructive and lively debate around what matters most across the rapid spectrum of technology. I have worked with 10’s 1000 people across the entire ecosystem in just about every industry: systems integrators, consulting firms, analysts, software and hardware vendors, developers, sales and marketing, buyers, sellers, board members, C-suite, Venture Capital firms, and so forth. I have strong opinions but am always open to being swayed. If you have a strong counter argument, I will listen. I believe two or more strong differing opinions ALWAYS flush out the best position. Convince me, and you will have the best seller you could wish for. So, I hope to achieve doing what I love and having fun doing it.
What would you like to change most about the analyst industry?
I have worked on the vendor side for decades and made a lot of analyst friends (and maybe one or two enemies), but this has given me insights into what’s right and wrong in the analyst world. I hate bias in the form of analysts who don’t want to listen to a vendor/provider or even just shut them down (it’s happened to me). It’s not about fighting to force a change of mind, but rather, I want to see the analyst industry have compassion and understand that there is always more than one point of view – and sometimes, we are all wrong! Selective hearing is what I want to change. Eliminate selective hearing!
Well, it’s terrific to have you on the analyst side of the fence, Francis! Welcome to HFS