Belfast Telegraph

Novosco's succeeding where others have failed

By Paul Gosling

Novosco is the "plumber of IT infrastructure", explains managing director and co-founder, Patrick McAliskey.

Clients engage Novosco to get their IT systems to work and communicate properly, ensuring that the essential elements of IT - processing, storage and network - are all effective and aligned. "We are experts in all three fields," says Mr McAliskey.

In the past, large organisations would need massive mainframe computers to undertake all their processing and storage. But in recent years the technology and IT environment has moved on - and Novosco operates at the heart of this change. Clients no longer need to have all their application software or their stored date within their own systems.

This change of approach is termed 'virtualisation'. "This is the catalyst which created cloud computing," explains Mr McAliskey. "It's like creating a massive mainframe which is shared out between users."

Novosco is a recognised market leader. It has won a series of industry awards for excellence and has been in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list of high growth Irish IT companies every year since the awards were established 13 years ago. Only two other companies - Andor Technology and Texthelp - can share this accolade.

Constant membership of the Deloitte Fast 50 is proof that Novosco has expanded both rapidly and consistently - turnover has grown by about 25% every year for the last 13 years. "That is a difficult target to meet year on year - and it gets more difficult as every year goes by," says Mr McAliskey.

Novosco was founded in 1994 by Mr McAliskey and a business partner. "I always had a bit of entrepreneurial spirit," he says. "I joined the RAF when I was 16 years old. When I left I worked as an engineer. I met this guy and we said let's make money for ourselves rather than for other people.

"Our original plan was to sell software and we realised this was fraught because it needed more capital. So we went into IT infrastructure. I bought my partner's share out in 1998."

Novosco's fast growth trajectory means it is increasingly moving beyond its Belfast base. The headquarters remain in the city, where 50 people are employed, but it also has operations in Dublin and Birmingham, which each have another 10 staff.

"Birmingham is only a year old and that is where we see opportunities for growth," says Mr McAliskey. "Dublin has its challenges," he adds, in reference to the economic difficulties in the Republic.

The company's largest client is the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust - and this is opening up a potentially large and profitable new stream of business. Where there are five health trusts in Northern Ireland, there are more than 500 in England alone. And the UK Government has had a massive financial and contractual crisis in trying to arrange an effective IT infrastructure for the hospitals and other health trusts.

"The Government is now much keener to use smaller IT service companies," says Mr McAliskey. "We have significant opportunities in the public sector. We have won seven NHS trusts as customers in the time we have been in Birmingham."

The company has also won contracts with local authorities and further education colleges.

Novosco is convinced that it can succeed where some of the IT sector's very largest companies have failed. "That is our key selling point," explains Mr McAliskey. "They are the giants and we are nimble people running round their feet." As a smaller business, Novosco has less bureaucracy, more flexibility, yet may still have as many specialist engineers as their very largest competitors, says Mr McAliskey.

"We have about 45 technical staff, which may be more than some of the larger companies," he explains. "And [the big competitors] will sub-contract to us in some cases.

"We go out of our way to hire the very best guys. If you hire the best staff in the industry, that's how we will beat the opposition. We will do it better, cheaper and quicker than the opposition."

It is clearly a winning combination.