Globoforce’s Jonathan Hyland: ‘We’re transforming the way humans work’

2 Nov 2018

Globoforce CTO Jonathan Hyland. Image: Globoforce

Globoforce CTO Jonathan Hyland reveals the ethos behind one of the most successful tech companies to emerge out of Ireland.

Jonathan Hyland directs all of Globoforce’s IT architecture, systems and client implementation initiatives, and leads a dynamic and innovative technical team in Dublin.

Prior to Globoforce, he had amassed more than a decade of international experience in IT management, and held consulting roles for technology companies such as Versatel (Netherlands) and Esat Telecom (now BT).

‘Digital transformation is a big term that gets thrown around a lot. I prefer to think about constant innovation and agility in the face of change. Companies who don’t think this way will stagnate’

Hyland holds an MSc and BSc in electronics, computers and telecoms engineering from Trinity College Dublin. He is also an associate member of the IEEE.

Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

I am the chief technology officer (CTO) with Globoforce. We are the world’s fastest-growing social recognition and performance management platform. With annual billings of around $500m, we are Ireland’s best-kept secret.

We like to say that our solutions ‘make work more human’, which means we deliver massive business value to our customers by helping them create a culture of positivity that makes their employees ultimately feel valued for their contributions.

I lead the technology and product organisations. When I joined Globoforce in 2001, I was the 10th employee, and we now total almost 500 employees globally. While I’m based in the Dublin office, I also spend a lot of time in our offices in Boston. I have the pleasure of leading one of the most innovative and dynamic development groups in the industry. Our teams work closely together across our global footprint, to design, develop and deliver innovative solutions for our customers.

Our Dublin office is at the heart of our product development. That means the team here in Ireland is literally working at the forefront of cloud software creation, which is really exciting. As the CTO, it’s my role to inspire my team, to constantly push them to deliver bigger and better results for our customers, and to create an environment where innovation is our priority.

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

This year, we launched an entirely new category of software, called Human Applications. Unlike other HR software solutions that manage data, governance and bureaucratic tasks, the Human Applications in our WorkHuman Cloud build on the demonstrated business value of recognition, by helping organisations recognise and celebrate the whole employee, as well as solutions to better connect them with their peers and managers.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

We have a product and technology team of almost 200 people, which includes a typical mix of software engineering disciplines. We have most of our talent in-house, as it’s our philosophy to build and develop a group of skilled individuals that will keep pace with our business. Historically (and you’ll see this start to change as we share our story more widely), we’ve been a well-kept secret, but we’re literally the most successful technology company in Ireland. On top of that, we’ve hit a growth curve that is substantial. Our high-performing technology team is key to driving that and helping us scale globally.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation? How are you addressing it?

Digital transformation is a big term that gets thrown around a lot. I prefer to think about constant innovation and agility in the face of change. Companies who don’t think this way will stagnate.

I’ll give you an example of how agility and innovation comes to life at Globoforce. We have been looking at ways to make our development process more efficient, agile and innovative. To do this, we have structured our delivery teams as self-contained units with a start-up ethos. They are inspired to exhibit extreme ownership for their product areas. As a result of making this change, we are able to release code much more rapidly. The business benefits are so clear that we got buy-in almost immediately, which has allowed us to roll out this way of working right across the organisation. It’s been enormously successful, as we now release software hundreds of times per year.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Let’s just set technology aside for a moment and talk about the human aspect of work. Today, more than ever, employees want to work for an organisation that has a purpose. Our vision, to make work more human, is one that is incredibly positive and a key differentiator from anything that you see anywhere else. We literally make life better for millions of people all over the world, and in the process deliver massive business value to our customers. We are transforming the way humans work.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

With some of the world’s largest, most sophisticated companies as our customers, Globoforce places immense importance on the security of our SaaS solutions and our customers’ data. This requires significant focus on implementing a state-of-the-art security stance within the company. Doing this in a way that doesn’t stymie agility and innovation is the secret sauce, and we work very hard at it. Unfortunately, this is now what is required of all organisations, given the increased prevalence of cyberattacks and data breaches.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years