Local: Mike O’Brien, CEO of Opencast Software

Mike O’Brien, CEO at Opencast Software, discusses the short and long-term plans for the firm, as well as his top tip for anyone with a business idea

Tell us about Opencast

Opencast is a corporate software development consultancy, founded in 2012 by business partners Mike O’Brien and Charlie Hoult. Its focus is on supporting the tech transformation of finance and public sector firms, with clients including JP Morgan, Sage, Morgan Stanley, NHS BSA, HMRC.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

Seeing the team grow to almost 100 has brought us a range of really talented individuals to the firm. It’s testament to the tech sector’s international outlook that we have some 15 nationalities in the business. We love to see the cross-fertilisation of expertise, but also the cultural exchange.

We also love that as a local, independent business we can win local and international business that used to be the preserve of the large multi-national consulting corporations. Supporting the local economy by bringing high value tech jobs to the region and providing our team the opportunities to work with huge global organisations is hugely satisfying.

And the most challenging?

Our biggest challenge is to continue to hire great talent in the numbers we need to keep up with demands for our services.

It’s also a challenge to be up against some of the world’s largest firms as direct competition. We have successfully changed the narrative when it comes to the quality of work and people rather than commodity and lowest pricing!

What are the short and long-term plans for the business?

In the short term we continue to help Government with COVID-19 related projects. Our long established remote operating model (we have more than 20 years of experience) is obviously looking more attractive to staff, prospective staff and clients during lockdown.

We have continued to recruit since the lockdown began and will continue to do so to meet the demands of our growth strategy and demands of clients.

We are hiring to bolster our HQ functions as well as senior consultants to build capacity to work with clients at higher strategic levels.

Longer term, we are planning to expand our offices in Scotland and London while continuing to grow in Newcastle. We’ve got the most amazing breadth of expertise within the business so we will continue to send our team to speak at conferences across the UK, as well as developing the North East’s tech conference, Build IT Right.

What advice would you give to anyone with a business idea?

Start now. There is no better time than in the teeth of a recession, because things can’t get any worse!

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

Demand for our services has increased significantly, and our established remote working models have made it easy for our teams to meet unprecedented turnaround times.  We set up from the outset to have all of our systems cloud based and our teams to be mobile.

Staff engagement has gone up, with events such as Friday beers at the ‘Opencask Inn’ and regular daily chat on Microsoft Teams channels.

We are fully focused on staff care as people are tending to work longer hours with fewer breaks and no holidays. We are mindful of the future impact, and our learning and culture department is heavily involved in the welfare of our teams.

Opencast Software