In this interview, we delve into the journey of Erik Nicolai, Workspace 365 CEO, exploring what initially piqued their interest in the industry and his experience of software evolving over the years. We discuss their work at Workspace 365, and what excites them about the future of their role. Additionally, we explore the impact of AI on the industry and discuss the idea of industry heroes, or the lack thereof.
Join us as we learn from an expert in the field.
Let’s start from the beginning. What got you into the world of software?
My route into software didn’t start with a passion for technology – that came later. I was studying marketing and communication and looking for a job in that field. In 2005, I was browsing the local newspaper, checking the job ads, and spotted an opportunity in the marketing function of a software company. I got the job, but it wasn’t long before I found myself drawn to the tech side of the business and changed my focus.
How different was software back then from how it is now?
In 2005, all software was sold as a licence rather than on the monthly subscription model that predominates now. This has been a huge turning point in the software industry for two reasons.
The first is the predictability of the income stream. Customers don’t pay an amount upfront, but only a percentage each month.
This leads to the second reason: because selling software is no longer a one-off event, you need to continue proving the value of your product to your customers over time. If your product stops delivering, customers stop subscribing and revenue dries up. The model keeps software companies on their toes.
What excites you the most about your work?
Two things: Connection and the accessibility of information. Let me explain that a little more.
Software and apps have changed how we connect with other people, and information has become accessible for everyone, but it can become complex and confusing. At Workspace 365, we unite all the apps and information used by an organisation, allow access from any location or device and ensure everything is simple for the user.
We’re improving the working lives and productivity of so many people, all around the world. I find that super exciting.
What technologies can we look forward to in your profession?
We have become very familiar with search features which help us to find information that has been created. The next big thing will be AI bots helping us to create content and do our job.
Robots are now used in many industries, outperforming humans in almost every repetitive task, but up until now, we have always relied on human IQ. The AI revolution will change this. We need to have a thorough understanding of the possibilities and the implications. With AI it becomes critical to look at the bigger picture. While detail is always important, with AI we cannot just focus on the dots – we have to connect them.
Who are your industry heroes? (Or if there are no heroes, who can you recommend others to follow).
I’m not the kind of person who indulges in hero worship, and I’m not influenced by hierarchy or authority. I do, however, admire those who accomplish their goals and maintain respect for others. From that perspective, I think that every person who chases a dream and makes the most out of their life is a hero. And I believe that that idea of ‘most’ is intensely personal. It’s what matters to the individual that counts.
If pushed, I would name Verne Harnish whose work has changed the world for scale-up entrepreneurs like me. His book, Scaling Up, is a great guide for those of us taking an organisation through the next stage of growth.