Andy Dancer is one of a new breed of CTO. In the past, the role was often internally focused: setting a technology strategy and delegating its implementation to a team.
However, Dancer describes his role at software security firm Trend Micro as being much closer to market.
“It’s an EMEA-focused role which is about filling in the gap between technology and the marketplace. It’s about taking subjects that can be very complicated and bringing them to the market in terms it can understand,” he says.
He adds that it’s also about bringing understanding from the marketplace back into the organisation – not just in the threat space, but from a wider computing space.
“It’s about what’s happening across mobile, cloud and all the latest topics of the day that our customers want to know – what we think and how we can help them,” he explains.
Before joining Trend, Dancer founded a series of successful technology start-ups.
As an entrepreneur, he is keen to pass on his advice to the leaders of today’s start-ups.
“From an entrepreneur’s perspective, you’ve probably missed the opportunity by the time the journalists and analysts are talking about it. It’s about spotting it and going ahead, even if everyone else thinks you’re mad,” he says.
Each of Dancer’s start-ups was sold, but it wasn’t until the fourth company sale that Dancer decided to move into the purchasing organisation along with his firm.
Dancer saw Trend as a start-up, despite its size, which was a key reason for joining.
“Selling Identum to Trend was the fourth sale I’d done, and it was the first time I found a company where I could see myself staying,” he recalls.
“The reason is that Trend is maybe the world’s largest start-up. It’s run by the founders, even though it’s 22 years old and turns over £0.7bn per year. The CEO and chairman are both original founders.”
Identum was bought by Trend in 2008 for its email encryption technology. Dancer worked on integrating the technology into Trend’s portfolio, then moved into new technology development. He says this worked much like launching an independent start-up, using Trend’s Secure Cloud technology, which uses encryption to create virtual segmentation to create a private area in the public cloud, as an example.
“We took Secure Cloud from whiteboard concept to market launch in about nine months. That’s very unusual,” he says.
“It happens because we have a flat structure. You can whiteboard with the CEO and get the go-ahead to do it, which makes it a very exciting place to be.”
However, he admits that the experience is different for longer-running products.
“It’s different if you look at a long-running core product. You have a millions of users, so you have to do a lot of quality control,” explains Dancer.
But expectations for new products are much more forgiving.
“Firms will accept it as long as you’re open with early adopter technology programmes, and they understand you’re not guaranteeing it’s going to be perfect,” he claims.
Although he is a CTO at a major security vendor, Dancer is frank about an enterprise’s chances of ever being impervious to cyber criminals.
“We have to recognise that if somebody wants to get into your network, and they’ve got enough money to spend on getting in, they will,” says Dancer.
“We’ve seen some very big corporate names, who’ve spent money on doing things the right way, suffering breaches.”
He advises enterprises to prepare for such a scenario.
“Companies are still surprised when it happens to them, and they often take a long while to react and notify customers,” he says.
“From a corporate perspective, it’s not just about getting the best defences; it’s also about planning for what to do when things do go wrong.”