A recent report from Forrester Research is trumpeting the need for IT providers to move away from technology for its own sake to something called “business technology” where IT justifies itself in terms of the impact it makes on a business' bottom line. It's the kind of shift in thinking necessary for a business function that, when it's working well, is practically invisible and therefore potentially undervalued. In the modern enterprise IT is often the lynchpin of day-to-day business and Ottawa-based N-Able Technologies makes sure the customers of its clients know it. The privately-held IT management software company for the first time made the 2007 PROFIT 100 list of Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. Leading the ship is president, CEO and co-founder Gavin Garbutt, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur: In the past he has founded such concerns as Buystream (software analytics), U.K.-based Dynex (industrial semiconductor manufacture), The Business Planning Group (financial services), and KPI Ventures (venture capital). We asked him six questions.
• What is the greatest challenge currently facing N-Able Technologies and what are you doing about it?
The current greatest challenge for N-Able is to manage its growth. N-Able is going through a very significant growth trajectory as far as new customers and revenues and our biggest challenge is to make sure we've nailed down the right people and processes in order to manage that growth. It's still a challenge to continue to manage the growth but we have the people and the processes and the infrastructure in place to be able to bring on our new customers and make sure they're properly trained and serviced going forward.
• Who else ? person or company ? do you feel is doing innovative work and in what way?
I would have to go with Google because they're bringing applications to small and medium enterprise markets in a whole new way.
• How would you describe your leadership approach/style?
My role is very much to lead the company and the corporate management team's role is to run the company. So this is very much about leading through example and helping the corporate management team execute on the business strategy and the business plan.
• N-Able recently made PROFIT magazine's 2007 PROFIT 100 list at No. 24. What accounts for your massive five-year revenue growth between 2001-06 of 2,411%?
It's really about bringing an innovative business and technology solution to the market. We're a technology company and we deliver a software product but what we've done is wrap the business solution around the technology so the people who are buying our technology are not just buying it for technology purposes. They're buying it in order to improve their business as far as profitability and valuation.
• To what extent are you finding that clients are moving from a model where the IT department is the primary solutions buyer to a so-called “business technology” model where business departments and objectives are the deciding factors?
The future of IT is aligning IT with the business goals and objectives. So IT has to support the business' goals and objectives and in order to do that the management has to provide the IT department with the proper mandates to ensure they understand how they can fulfill that. And in the growing complexity of the IT environment it's often not possible for an internal IT department to be able to do this. This is where outsourcing becomes very interesting where you can go to a professional organization that is used to delivering IT in order to ensure that it aligns with the business' goals and objectives. And [that professional organization] has the proper technical expertise in all the areas and also the business expertise to understand how it applies to the business.
• Among your hobbies are fishing and yatching. If you had to choose between spending a year travelling to all the world's top fishing lodges and racing in the America's Cup regatta, which would you choose and why?
I would have to go with the America's Cup and it's a tough one because I'm a very keen fly fisherman. But I also just got back from two weeks sailing in Greece and I would say that a competitive race of that nature – the stimulating aspect of the competition and the desire to excel and do the absolute best that you can – is going to push me toward that opportunity.