Despite his low profile among ASX-listed company executives, Ed Chung is looking to make a big impact as the new leader of Australia’s largest cloud-based enterprise software company, TechnologyOne. After three decades as captain of the ship, last year, founder Adrian Di Marco stepped down as CEO – but not before four years of succession planning identified Ed, an executive with 10 loyal years of service behind him, as the next CEO.
Nothing is impossible
“I come from a mixed background: I started out in the public sector working for the Queensland Audit Office in the 90s before I made the jump to Queensland Rail (QR). I was hungry to run the business and so I moved up the ranks fast,” explains Ed. “I had an amazing mentor in John Prescott, chairman of QR, who taught me how to surround myself with the best, how to give the right, consistent message, and what commercial toughness is all about.
I was CFO by the age of 29 and, looking back, maybe I wasn’t ready for that. But I’ve always grown up in the school of hard knocks – being thrown into the deep end and learning as much as I can. When I realised the organisation was going to list Aurizon (formerly QR), I knew I wasn’t going to be CFO, so I needed a new organisation to grow in.”
In a bold transition to the private sector, Ed joined TechnologyOne in 2007 as CFO and Operating Officer of Corporate Services, earning the position of COO in 2016 and CEO of the A$1.6 billion company in 2017. “I didn’t know a lot about the company in the beginning, but it’s by far one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made,” he says.
“TechnologyOne has that ‘never say die’ spirit – nothing is impossible. There aren’t many companies that have that grit and tenacity and that entrepreneurial spirit. Now, it’s my job to impart that to the next generation.”
Vision and growth
With 14 offices around the world, TechnologyOne provides more than 1,000 leading corporations, governments and universities with the software needed to run their operations – from performance management to enterprise resource planning. This year, the company announced its eighth consecutive year of record revenues, record licence fees and record profits.
“We’re really proud of this and we hope to continue that growth for years to come. TechnologyOne has had absolute clarity of vision or many years. We stick to that vision like you wouldn’t believe, and we execute on it,” says Ed.
That vision is to build and deliver significant products and services that transform businesses and make life simpler for their customers. “We are always innovating and keeping abreast of the bigger IT revolution, where everything is mobile, through our latest software technology, ‘Ci Anywhere’,” says Ed.
“If we keep our clarity of vision, if we keep executing well and keep bringing in new staff to push us forward, then I think our customers will respond, our prospects will respond, and our growth will continue.”
In January this year, TechnologyOne announced a A$49.9 million investment – approximately 18% of its annual revenue – in research and development in FY2017, alongside significant investments in its company culture and employee engagement. “We invest in the next generation of technology so that our customers are never left behind, and we have 99% customer retention to show for it,” Ed remarks.
Pushing the boundaries
“We’ve rewritten our software four times in our 30-year existence. I don’t think you’ll find another software company that’s rewritten theirs even once. We don’t just convert old software – we take the opportunity to re-imagine it and inject new concepts and ideas.”
Ed’s 11 years in the IT industry have taught him to never sit still. “It’s important for me in my role – and for most CEOs – to keep pushing the boundaries and never accept anything but the best. I think if you ever become too comfortable it’s time to move on or take a good look at yourself,” he says.
A paradigm shift and plans for further expansions
“The industry has experienced a massive shift in a short amount of time, and if you don’t adapt to new technologies like machine learning, voice recognition and artificial intelligence, you’ll be dead in the water.
We have some exciting and mind-boggling plans for the next few months, our C4 series, on our way to becoming a software company with no external software – everything will be invisible or built-in.”
We don’t just convert old software – we take the opportunity to reimagine it and inject new concepts and ideas.
According to Ed, international expansion is just around the corner. “We’re already gaining traction in the UK by selling our ‘enterprise vision’. We have 14 products and, although no-one ever buys the whole lot, what they are buying is the relationship with TechnologyOne because they know that we have the best integrated software system.
Right now, we are focused on expanding within Australia, and after we break even in the UK we’ll be on to the US and beyond.”