IT Life: Mark Corley, CTO at Avanade UK

Mark Corley, chief technology officer at Avanade UK, discusses IoT, AI, and doggedly sticking with the Windows Phone

How long have you been in IT?

Mark Corley chief technology officer at Avanade UK portraitProfessionally (some of my colleagues might say never) since 1993, but I have been writing software since 1980. The first book I ever remember reading was Atari BASIC.

What is your most interesting project to date?

 I almost hate to say it, but it’s usually whatever project I’m currently working on. The reason I stopped developing packaged software and went into consultancy is to be able to work in different fields, on different projects, for different clients, with different technologies, instead of in the same area on a daily basis. What drives me is the next challenge, and getting fully absorbed in the work at hand.

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

The last few years we have started doing more outcome-based work, with commercials tied to outcomes. It’s a challenge, for sure – but its how our industry ought to be focused.

What technology were you working with ten years ago?

About 10 years ago, I did a proof-of-concept to move a website for a UK Government organisation onto Amazon Web Services (AWS). It was only a scrape but it was >1000 pages and it was ready overnight. The client was blown away. Obviously, we couldn’t go live with the site as only in the last couple of years have cloud technologies been readily adopted but the speed at which we stood up an environment and could scale that environment was clear to see.

What is your favourite technology of all time?

Truthfully, my favourite technology is the Internet. It’s the foundation for almost everything we do in the world today. I remember working in the early days of dial-up, when the Internet was not much more than bulletin boards. If I needed to fix a server, or perform some other tech task, I had to go to an actual library of big books, and hunt through them for answers. Today, all knowledge is at our fingertips, and I think we all take this far too much for granted.

How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation?

 While the Internet of Things isn’t particularly relevant to our own operations – not yet, at least – pretty much all of our customers are using connected devices.

For Avanade, this creates a massive business opportunity from helping our customers to manage the huge volumes of data that flow from the IoT, and to analyse and interpret it so that businesses can wring real value and adapt their organisation and operations to the best effect.

What smartphone do you use?

Microsoft Lumia 950. I have been a faithful Windows Phone user, you get a lot of phone for your money, but in the last year the ‘app gap’ has started to bite. If the (rumour of a) Surface Phone this year doesn’t have a good answer, I will be going to Android.

What three apps could you not live without?

Probably my three most-used apps are Uber, Trainline and Spotify. I think it’s going a bit far to say that I couldn’t live without them – no app is going to make a real difference if I’m stuck on a remote mountainside or desert island.

What new technology are you most excited for a) your business and b) yourself?

I am most excited about a future of AI and machine learning for both my business and myself. Machine learning is changing the customer experience as we know it. In the future, the way we interact with technology won’t just feel like personalised service. It will be distinctly human, and almost always “invisible”.

If you weren’t doing the job you do now, what would you be doing?

I’d love to think I’d be an architect, and in a way I already am. I’ve got quite a bit of experience writing CAD packages, and one of the ways I’ve used it is to design and then build a two-bedroom “granny flat” for my parents-in-law, built in the same manor house style as our main building. Using the software, I could show my family models of what the finished project would look like; interestingly, my elder daughter found it easy to visualise the building in 2D, while my parents could only really understand the 3D representation.

Put your knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the test. Try our quiz!