“Focus on the outcome and the income will look after itself” – CEO Q&A with Ray Ryan, The Noledge Group

By Business & Finance
06 March 2024
Portrait of Ray Ryan, founder and CEO of The Noledge Group, smiling in a business suit.
Pictured: Ray Ryan, founder and CEO of The Noledge Group

Ray Ryan is founder and CEO of software development and implementation company, The Noledge Group.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

One of my key priorities is keeping the business relevant from a technical perspective. We are committed to delivering solutions that streamline customer business operations and are implemented in a right-first-time fashion.

I am also very conscious of enhancing our teams’ technical and business skills, as well as their well-being. This has resulted in a 95% employee retention rate, which is something that our customers love.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

We are a people business and the hardest part is finding great people who not only possess the required technical and business expertise, but who also align with our culture.

We are also a technology-oriented company, and we are focused on delivering relevant software solutions that enable our customers maintain their competitiveness by helping them to find business advantage through automating inefficient business processes.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

We care deeply about our team’s well-being and making The Noledge Group a place our people want to stay long-term. We have very flexible working arrangements and we also organise external activities for giving back to the community, as well as exciting adventures to keep everyone engaged. Louise, one of our amazing team members, spends a lot of time coming up with creative challenges that energise and motivate the whole team.

As a technology company in a fast-changing industry, we are fortunate to have a team of very inquisitive people who are keen to learn new applications and new approaches to simplifying and automating processes. We encourage a culture of always learning and all our team members spend at least 80 hours a year developing new skills.

We urgently need in-depth research on what happens to society after AI becomes the norm.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

The industry faces several challenges. First, there’s an ongoing struggle to ensure that the workforce, has the right mix of skills. There’s a growing demand for people with skills and knowledge in ERP implementation, customisation, and maintenance, and this is leading to a talent crunch in some areas.

The rapid pace of technological innovation is a factor too. It means that financial software and ERP systems need regular updates to remain relevant, and this can provide both logistical and financial challenges for industry providers and customers alike.

We spend lots of time anticipating challenges and adapting accordingly, so that we and our clients can navigate them successfully.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Our industry is seeing some exciting trends that are fundamentally changing how we work. Firstly, a significant investment focus is on enhancing cloud platforms, making them more powerful and adaptable by connecting them seamlessly with other platforms. This momentum is underscored by industry giants like Microsoft and Oracle, who are setting the pace for collaboration and improvement by allowing their financial applications to run on either platform.

There’s also a significant rise in the need for regulatory compliance and corporate responsibility. This includes how we safeguard data, adhere to regulations, and prioritise the well-being of our staff, the environment and society at large.

We are very focussed on embracing green practices, and diligently addressing technical and reporting concerns. Notably, carbon accounting and energy efficiency management will play a vital role in the years to come as companies strive to meet carbon emissions targets and manage energy costs. This will become a big factor for our customers too and we will be developing solutions in this key area.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

Absolutely. Firstly, I believe it’s essential for government to meaningfully support industries to make urgent digital transformations. This support could come in the form of grants for training or assistance to help businesses stay competitive and evolve with industry trends, especially in using cloud-based platforms.

It’s also crucial for the government to continue to invest in basic things like better internet, transportation, and sustainable energy production. This would help our talented workforce reach their full potential.

Additionally, we urgently need in-depth research on what happens to society after AI becomes the norm. We know so little about how AI will change things and given its potential to automate many occupations, this may lead to significant job shifts. However, we’re not making adequate preparations for these potential changes. It’s vital to educate professionals about the expected shifts and difficulties. AI is evolving rapidly, and it’s crucial to comprehend its potential and prepare us for what lies ahead.

Moreover, different technologies like photonics, web3, and AI and cryptographic databases on cloud platforms are ready to align. This convergence could revolutionise and significantly help our industry in the coming years, in a similar way to how Wi-Fi transformed internet usage. These technologies offer exciting potential for unleashing new waves of innovation. For now, we’re uncertain about the full scope of these advancements, so we are planning for several scenarios.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

Yes, we are observing significant skill gaps. While there’s an influx of young, skilled individuals entering the industry with expertise in new technologies, they often lack practical experience. On the other hand, some experienced professionals find it challenging to learn and adapt to these new emerging development environments. Balancing the need to blend cutting-edge skills with experience can be quite challenging.

From a technology perspective there is massive change on the way and there needs to be more investment into change management capabilities and skills which are vital in assisting businesses to navigate their future.

There is also a shortage of finance graduates and with many of them choosing to work in the major consulting companies, leaving wider industry facing a shortage of graduate accounting and business talent.

By making customer satisfaction your top priority, solving their problems, and consistently giving excellent service, your business will not only make a profit but also build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

Our plan was simple: stick around until it’s over. We knew that eventually, things would get better, and we wanted to be there when the recovery happened. Staying relevant was key, and we focussed a lot of our time on developing new ways of embracing cloud technologies which were fast emerging at this time.

During this challenging period, we had to make some tough decisions, including reducing salaries. However, what mattered most at that moment, was preserving jobs and keeping the company afloat. We were determined to endure the tough times, even if it meant not turning a profit to ensure we were still standing once it was all behind us.

How has Brexit affected you?

So far, we’ve been able to navigate Brexit without any major hiccups. However, since we operate in the UK as well as Ireland, we’re keeping a close eye on things.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

COVID-19 was an extremely difficult time for many people and businesses. The shift to online and remote work happened so quickly. Interestingly, this drove growth for us, as our technology is all about making life and business simpler.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Anything that enhances life or business is an investment worth making. For me, success is the perpetual pursuit of improvement and constantly seeking better ways to do things and making business more straightforward.

We also need to serve our employees and customers alike and ensure that they feel valued and cared for. When we prioritise both, progress follows. If we show our staff that we genuinely care, they, in turn, care for our customers.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Focus on the outcome and the income will look after itself. By making customer satisfaction your top priority, solving their problems, and consistently giving excellent service, your business will not only make a profit but also build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers. Our customers love that we invest upfront to get it right first time and our sustained 20% annual growth underscores the value for us in delivering the best outcome for the customer.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Over the last 12 months, our business has grown strongly and made a great impact. In 2015, our turnover was €1.6 million, with a team of 12. As of this year, we’ve expanded to over 40 team members and achieved a turnover of €5 million, establishing ourselves as a more sustainable and profitable business.

Notably, our Irish enterprise software company, Envisage, announced a €1 million investment, allowing us to create 12 new jobs within the next three years with a focus in implementing new Sage and Oracle technology solutions.

We achieved another significant milestone by becoming the first Irish Sage partner to become accredited to sell and implement their latest cloud financial software Sage Intacct.

What’s next for your company?

Exciting times lie ahead at The Noledge Group. We are looking to continue to align ourselves with pioneering businesses and are determined to push our company forward, focusing on several key objectives.

Firstly, we’re preparing to launch a new business in the upcoming year. Historically, our focus has been on providing software solutions for managing finances (ERP), rather than being seen as a broader technology company. Our expertise has primarily been in solving accounting and business process-related challenges. Our new venture will complement our existing businesses, focusing on delivering further cutting-edge technologies to address areas such as ESG and Triple Bottom Line reporting.

Secondly, we aim to grow our business and attract a wider audience while effectively navigating new competition.

Additionally, we are committed to expanding our presence in the UK market.

Lastly, we’re working on delivering tailored software solutions to specific industries like construction, field service, project management, manufacturing, and distribution, meeting their unique requirements and enhancing their operations.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Whether it’s streamlining business processes, reducing costs, or accelerating growth, we want to continue to grow our reputation for our total focus on making customer businesses easier to manage through process automation.


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