The Agreement Cloud, AI and More: A Conversation with CTO Kamal Hathi

Kamal Hathi recently joined Docusign as our new chief technology officer to support expansion of the Docusign Agreement Cloud. We recently sat down with him to learn more about his perspective on his role in today’s business environment.

Over the course of your 25 years leading technology teams, you’ve experienced several pivotal shifts in the software industry and the Internet. What is top of mind for CTOs today? How has the role changed? 

The most fundamental shift in the CTO role has been moving from packaged software to an online services model. We are no longer delivering packaged software but running software on behalf of customers. So the role has become more and more customer centric, and the focus is ‘outside in,’ enabling technology to solve specific problems rather than just innovating with technology. It’s all about the customer experience, even if at times it means thinking ahead of where customers are focused today. Uptime, reliability, security and trust are central to the CTO responsibilities.

Docusign has evolved over the last several years from a stand-alone eSignature provider to offering more than a dozen applications covering the entire agreement process with the Docusign Agreement Cloud. What is your vision for the future of Docusign products?

Business runs on agreements and they define the working relationships between companies. These agreements are not just simple documents - many have legal implications with direct impact on business processes. The Agreement Cloud improves the process of preparing, signing, acting on and managing agreements. Agreements are becoming smart, dynamic and live in that they can drive contextual workflows across various systems to take action on the clauses of agreements.

The Agreement Cloud creates integrated value, surfacing capabilities such as AI, ID verification, and connected workflows across all parts of the agreement lifecycle. It also enables integrations with other systems where people already work like Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Google. As such, the Agreement Cloud allows Docusign to deliver integrated and innovative solutions by easily surfacing the capabilities that are part of our individual products. This also makes it possible for us to continue delivering value to customers from recent acquisitions including Seal Software and LiveOak.

We also want to help software developers to tap into the capabilities of the Agreement Cloud to easily create bespoke solutions that fit specific requirements of their business and industry. The platform is fully API driven, with well-documented formats and support both from Docusign and organically from the user community that makes creating solutions as easy and friction-free as possible.

What are your top priorities related to creating shared technology services and experiences across the Docusign Agreement Cloud?

It’s not as much about creating specific shared technologies, but allowing shared technologies to be easily plugged in and then used across the Agreement Cloud. Initially this would be for technologies and services internal to Docusign, ranging from ID, user model, and notifications to rapidly integrating key capabilities from acquisitions such as AI and machine learning from Seal Software. Looking ahead, one can imagine third-party services being easily plugged into the platform, infusing Docusign products with data-driven insights.

Most importantly, our priority is always making sure it all just works and really delights our users. We want to ensure that we have a perspective that is based on our customers and their needs, and that we are thinking truly outside in versus building technology from the inside out.

What are the top questions you hear from customers who trust Docusign to manage their important business agreements?

Trust is at the center of customer expectations - they need to be able to trust us in terms of security, availability and scalability. Customers also want specialized processes, related workflows and tools to manage the lifecycle of these agreements. Finally, they want to connect directly into the systems they use on a daily basis, which is why we provide over 350 pre-packaged integrations. The same is true for support from system integrators.

Electronic signature usage dramatically increased as businesses transitioned to remote work and local, state and federal governments worked to support citizens and emergency workers during COVID-19. How do you build an IT architecture that can adapt to a fast-moving environment?

Architecture is something that one has to have in place in advance of the problem such that when there is a need to scale beyond the normal; the architecture enables this. It’s the foundation that provides both the flexibility and scale.

Docusign invested early on in an architecture that was designed to scale well beyond anything that was seen in terms of customer demand at that time. It is this design philosophy to aim for demands that are well in the future that is central to how Docusign has been able to adapt to the unexpected. Docusign in general is always looking ahead and building for the future