Dr. Richard Sykes – our friend and colleague

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You will have heard of Richard Sykes’s sudden passing last week at the too early age of 73. Richard suffered a sudden heart attack at home, and his wife Penny was with him at the end.

Dr. Richard Sykes started out as a chemist and had an illustrious 27-year career with ICI, where he was asked to move to the business side to take over their IT function, eventually ending his time at the company as Global Vice President of IT. By the way, he would often emphasise his Doctor title, not because of any sort of educational aggrandisement, but because it was an easy way of differentiating him from, as he considered, the more famous Sir Richard Sykes who is a biochemist. Ironically if you now go to the Sir Richard Sykes Wikipedia page, you will see a photograph of our own Richard Sykes – these mistakes happen!

Richard worked with Bloor as a research director and strategic advisor for over 10 years. He actually introduced me to the Bloor team when they wanted some additional cloud advisory expertise for a large project with a well-known brand in the real estate sector.

Over the years he has written papers on migrating to the Cloud and most recently collaborated with Paul Bevan on material around “Big Software” and the concept of ArchOps.

I first met Richard well over 10 years ago when I chaired the Software as a Service Group at the technology vendor member association called techUK (when it was then known as Intellect UK). Richard was a director of that organisation for a time, and then when a separate cloud specific organisation formed called EuroCloud UK, started by Phil Wainewright, we both became directors. Richard took a leading role in coordinating activities with the 26 other EuroCloud country organisations, and then when EuroCloud broke up as a pan European entity, Richard was instrumental in helping the UK members find a home in the Cloud Industry Forum. We both became directors there too, with him becoming the Chairman, and Frank Bennet and myself became his Deputy Chairs. Richard has chaired and attended almost every meeting, presenting a clarity of thought, and strategic direction that was invaluable to the members.

All of his colleagues at Bloor and at the Cloud Industry Forum are shocked at his sudden passing. The fact that we were in the throes of making new plans makes it even more painful. Notice of his death was posted on LinkedIn and the comments and sentiment highlight what a great advocate that Richard was for the technology industry. The most common word that comes up in the language used about him is the word “Gentleman” for there is no doubt – that was what he was. You just have to read the comments to see the warmth, and depth of feeling, and how many people saw him as their mentor. An elder statesman for our industry taken away from us too soon.

For those of you who don’t know him so well, here is an example of him speaking. It is taken from an event five years ago, run by an organisation called Source, titled 5×10 – five speakers, each with 10 minutes and no more, and no slides (in a totally white walled space). The topic is “Predicting the Future”. Turn the clock back five years and remember where we were in the development of the Cloud and digital technology in February 2014. Richard tells some of his stories, and makes seven predictions for the future:

Outside of business Richard and his wife Penny have been great patrons of the arts for many years. As well as the various organisations that they have helped manage and fund raise for, their lovely house in Islington feels a little like a modern art gallery.

Richard was a clear thinker, a pragmatic realist, and a great storyteller. He promoted the concept of storytelling as a vital skill that every leader and business person should have in their arsenal. His thinking was ahead of the curve, and he was very keen on the concept of reverse mentoring, so that we make sure we recognise the views and skills of millennials and the new generations coming through our industry. He leaves a large hole, and we will miss him.