Leadership Interviews: Hugh Douglas Smith
“What Joomla needs now is a strategy for the future which gives us the ability to survive and grow.” That is what Hugh Douglas-Smith stated in his manifesto when he ran for Legal & Finance Department Coordinator on the OSM Board. Hugh has been on the board as Operations DC for the last two years.
Hugh has a lot of professional experience in technology, sales and marketing, serving in various senior and board-level positions. He is looking forward to working in this new role: “The Forum for the Future has given me confidence that there is the clear will and enthusiasm within the community to drive Joomla forward, make it more relevant and give it a more professional outlook that is presented to the marketplace in a very positive light.”
Hugh, congratulations on your move from Operations to Legal & Finance! Why the change, especially as Legal & Finance is a totally different type of department?
“I have spent two years as the Operations DC and have thoroughly enjoyed the role and working with some great teams and people. In my career, I have worked across a number of departments including sitting on the board of international software companies in roles like sales & marketing but also funding, budgeting and software licencing. Change is something I enjoy and from my previous experiences, I decided that Legal & Finance had been vacant for a while and it was an area I believed I could bring some benefit to. As a board member though, we work very cohesively as a team, over the past 2 years there has been a really cooperative approach which I am confident will continue, I will always be available to add input to Operations should it be requested.”
Could you tell us how you see your new role as Legal & Finance?
“My view of the Legal and Finance role like Operations covers a number of teams and areas. Perhaps one of the most vital to the project as a whole is the area of Finance and bringing in the sponsorship and other income streams which support the project. We are not starting from the best position this year, the corona virus has impacted many organisations around the globe who are struggling for their own survival and sponsorship is one of the first budget items to get cut, add to that the cancellation of the main conferences and events where we would normally meet sponsors makes this a challenging role in the current circumstances. Thankfully, I have never shied away from a challenge.”
In your manifesto, you state that we need to professionalise. Why? What needs to be professionalised? And how are we going to do this?
“At Joomla’s Forum for the Future (FftF) in January 2020, I co-led the Professionalism stream with Ian MacMillan. My idea of professionalism is to work towards matching our software and organisation to the role that we play within the industry, by the industry I mean the market share that we have across the internet. If you think about it, even though our market share is reducing, we still occupy a huge space and reach around the globe with many significant users. We, therefore, have a duty to them as well as to ourselves to ensure that we continue to act and deliver in the way one would expect of any supplier in such a position. To that end - and I know this will be controversial - we need to think, behave and deliver like a business. Yes, we have a community and that is hugely important, but it is our delivery of a world-leading product which supports the community.
We need a roadmap which maps our solution to the needs of our users (customers) and we need to be professional about how we deliver against it. This may mean, at times, that we need to pay for tasks to be done, this already happens within the organisation and we should be open to that reach extending where it is necessary. It is incredible how far we have come and the efforts of all those involved deserve a huge debt of gratitude and respect, but we have to realise our position in the market requires that we now start to define our strategy and deliver against it.
From my background within the corporate world of software, we would always try and put ourselves in the position of our customers and ask the question: “would you risk your organisation on this piece of software?” We need to be proud that many large organisations have answered yes to that question. Now we need to move forward with pride, not only in what we have done but also in what we are going to continue to do.
If we are able to drive ourselves in this way, then the opportunity for sponsorship expands, the more developers see opportunities for their businesses on the back of Joomla and so the community benefits. So, in summary, we need to be professional and present a professional image. The parallel I would draw: look at where Linux was 20 years ago and compare it to where it is today, then look to organisations like RedHat with a professional and corporate image which in turn supports the hugely active CentOS community. I see Joomla as the RedHat equivalent in the web world, or at least I believe that is where we need to be.”
Could you tell us a little about the teams in the Legal & Finance department? And which teams need new volunteers?
“I am in the process of getting to grips with each of the teams, it would be fair to say that each team is currently understaffed so all need help and new volunteers. Each has strengths and the individuals within them all deserve medals for their continued support, but we need to encourage new members with new ideas and most importantly, new energy.”
Is there anything we forgot to ask but should have asked you?
“I am a huge believer in the strength and power of Open Source, I truly believe Joomla has a future and will continue to thrive, but to do so, we need to step back and realise who we are and who we provide for. Then we need to understand the needs of the market and how we can best support our customers. I deliberately refer to them as customers rather than users, because I believe that as a customer, you have someone who is invested in the product, rather than a user who may not have had a choice.
The FftF showed just how much energy there is within the community to revitalise the organisation and product and to get things done, let’s go out and make it happen.
At the time of this interview, in the UK we have just entered our second week of lockdown and self-isolation. If you listen to the news it seems every business is shutting down and wondering how to survive. Then I heard of a number of businesses who have had to temporarily close their e-commerce sites because they can’t cope with the increase in orders. This has to be an opportunity for us, the world’s businesses are now more reliant on their online presence than ever before. Here is an opportunity as developers, integrators and facilitators to reach out and extend the reach of Joomla to those who need it most.”