Jamie Duffield has recently been appointed as CEO of Revolution IT, a successful company which he and two other ambitious partners started over 12 years ago. We took some time to sit down with Jamie and ask him some questions about the company, its beginnings, future, and a few other tid bits. Here’s what happened:
Q) Jamie, thanks for taking the time for this interview, Let’s get started and go back to the beginning. It was 12 years ago that you and the company Directors (Hamish Leighton and Michael Quill) met while working in the UK, right? What was the initial idea and driving force that started Revolution IT?
A) Yes we met in London over 12 years ago and formed a good friendship. We were all in a similar situation where we were working just enough so we could earn money to go traveling. At the start of 2003 we were all starting to think about returning back to Australia after nearly 5 years abroad. I remember meeting Mike and Hamish at a pub where we basically agreed to go travelling for 8 months and then all meet in Melbourne to start up a business. After 6 or more beers the idea started forming around starting a consulting firm that specialises in helping deliver IT projects and provides independent quality assurance. We thought there was an opportunity to leverage off our experience and knowledge learnt in the UK and believed that Australia may be a less mature market. We also realised that we had a window of opportunity in terms of our personal and financial situations to have a go at turning this idea into a reality.
Q) 8 years on, are you happy with where the company has gotten to? Can you think back and share any thoughts on how it has been different to what you originally envisaged?
A) I am happy with what we have achieved and have enjoyed being involved in the growth that Revolution IT has experienced. I am fortunate to have a unique partnership with Mike and Hamish that is very rare. We work well together and have managed to stay the best of friends over the years. We have great people on board, a strong client base and a good reputation in the industry. It has been a fun journey so far.
When we started the business I did have expectations that this would be a lot easier than what it turned out to be. I expected to hit Australia and start selling immediately. What we experienced was a real immaturity in the market around software testing and the need for quality assurance consulting which meant we spent a lot of time convincing and educating clients on why they should get us involved. This included justifying why spending money on independent testing and quality assurance consulting would help them with dealing with external/offshore vendors, ensure a quality outcome and ultimately deliver a successful project.
Q) You were recently announced as the first CEO of Revolution IT; congratulations on that achievement. Do you foresee any issues in the CEO not being based in the Company Head Office of Melbourne? If so, what measures will you employ to counter these issues?
A) Thank you. I am excited about the CEO role and am grateful for the opportunity. I believe that I will be very effective based out of the Brisbane office. It will definitely mean a lot more travelling and the Virgin frequent flyer points will start ramping up I’m sure. You cannot beat a face to face conversation however I will have regular meetings with my direct reports also via telephone and Skype and will implement the necessary governance and reporting to ensure I am effective.
Q) What happens on a typical day in the life of a CEO?
A) I signed up to long lunches and lots of golf. I think I didn’t read the fine print! Seriously though, my role is to provide leadership and direction for the business, oversee operations and to execute on strategies to achieve the Company Vision. A typical day right now is very busy however I am hoping that with the right supporting team things will settle down.
Q) What accomplishment in the history of Revolution IT are you the most proud of?
A) That’s a tough question. I would have to say that out of all of the awards we have won, that being recognised in the BRW top 50 Best Places to Work in Australia would top the list.
Q) So, what are the next priorities and steps for the “evolution” of Revolution IT?
A) The focus for next year at Revolution IT is to complete our internal “Transformation” project. This project is a year long initiative to help bolster and improve the foundations of the business so we can support growth in future years. It will review all aspects of our business to ensure we are well positioned to attract the best people and to deliver value add solutions to our clients.
Q) The industry seems to be going though another off-shoring phase for testing services. How do you intend to weather the storm (if you see it as a storm)?
A) What we have seen during our time in London and now over the 8 years in Australia is that offshoring testing services is still hit and miss. We see companies chasing cost savings and embark on offshoring without understanding the effort, governance and time required to make this work. They experience frustration with the poor quality of work, project overruns and cost blowouts which ultimately damages their delivery, market share and reputation.
I believe there is a place for off-shoring for testing services and Revolution IT currently offers this solution through our Singapore operations. Our approach is to never sacrifice on quality and have implemented the necessary governance controls to make this a viable solution. So I wouldn’t say our approach is to “weather” the storm. It is focused on doing it right.
Q) What is the biggest issue you currently see that will challenge testing in the next few years?
A) I still see cost cutting and reduced project budgets being the biggest issue impacting testing. When times are tough, testing is an easy target to reduce and this mindset needs to change.
Q) Not necessarily related to the previous question; given the opportunity, what is the one thing that you would change within the testing community?
A) A nice change would be to have a National body that actually elevates testing as a profession and provides a community that allows people to network, develop and grow. I realise a few attempts have been made over the years however if I could make one change this would be it.
Q) If you had the opportunity to go back in time and talk with yourself and the other directors 12 years back, right when the idea of Revolution IT was born, what advice would you give yourself and the other directors?
A) My advice would be to balance the raw passion and belief in how we can help clients deliver successful projects with commercial reality. Sometimes clients don’t want to buy what you are selling and you need to start small and hopefully educate them and grow.
Q) Now, you have your crystal ball in hand. Where do you think the company (and the testing community in general) will be in 3-5 years?
A) I believe that Revolution IT will be the best Application Lifecycle Management consulting firm in Asia Pacific. I believe we will have a strong reputation and be known as the company that clients use when their project simply has to succeed. We will be a business that attracts and retains the best people who genuinely love working at Revolution IT.
The testing community in general will be more technically focused and better equipped to accelerate and optimise testing phases. Areas like test automation, security and performance testing will be mainstream testing phases that are mandatory in every project. Wouldn’t this be nice?
Q) For anyone thinking of applying for a job at Revolution IT, what are the most important things that you look for in new recruits?
A) We look for people that can, and want to, share our passion in achieving the company vision. These are high performing people that want to get involved and help grow the business as well as their own careers.
Get a tick in that box then we ensure that these individuals can work and behave based on our 4 core values;
We work together in a group effort to produce exceptional outcomes
We all deliver excellence
We do what we say we are going to do in an honest, ethical and trusted manner
We love what we do
Breeze through that and you are most likely the person we are looking for. Does anyone want to join the Revolution?