OLM@25: 25 years of innovation and growth

In 1991 the landscape of health and social care looked very different to what it does today. The Children’s Act of 1991, alongside the Community Care Act of 1993 were beginning to be implemented across the country and social workers had begun adapting to a new way of working. These new acts marked the start of the move away from the Government being responsible for organising social care services to becoming the enabler of these services.

Humble beginnings

This change in service came on the back of broad political consensus and demanded a major rethink in the way that social care was managed. Peter O’Hara, Chief Executive at OLM, saw this as an opportunity and formed OLM Systems on 30th May 1991. 25 years later and the Group now employs nearly 300 employees covering six different UK offices, has taken customers through three different technology upgrades, with a fourth on the horizon and has completed more than 90 system integration projects for customers. It is a mark of continued success that the company does not tire in its quest to innovate and grow, but the future did not look as bright when the doors first opened in 1991. Peter explains:

“Back in 1991 most people, including myself expected me to fail but with £1,000 in my pocket and a passion to make a difference, I created something that has so far withstood the test of time and continues to innovate and grow each year.

We’ve continued to expand each year because I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with talented individuals who dedicate themselves to the task at hand. Individuals who in many cases stay with the company for more than 10 years.”

A recent look into the employment history of staff revealed that of the near 300 employees, more than 30% of them have been with the company for more than 10 years.

Growing the Business

We have built long-lasting relationships with clients. An important component to building a successful business and one that has continued to flow through OLM since day one.

OLM has remained independent, never made a loss or taken out any loans, leaving the company free to make its own decisions. A major achievement which has enabled us to create the culture that attracts and retains the best team members and has enabled the business to make the right long term strategic decisions and investments.

Since 1991, 11 acquisitions have been made, with each being designed to strengthen the business. The purchase of Pavilion Publishing for example was due to the business looking to expand its knowledge in the creation of learning materials for health and social care professionals.

Learning about the different publications and events that appeal to professionals helped expand the knowledge base of OLM and subsequently led to the creation of the Care Knowledge network. CareKnowledge is a knowledge management portal that provides social workers with access to the latest industry articles and policies. It was the first portal of its type to be launched, soon copied but never matched, the CareKnowledge portal receives thousands of visitors and high levels of engagement each month.

This increasing knowledge base is testament to the core ethos of OLM, to make a difference to the lives of health and social care professionals, through the use of intelligent software and platforms. The key word here being, ‘intelligent’. Without proper market knowledge and experience, OLM could not effectively adhere to this ethos. You cannot make a difference without full market knowledge. Peter expands on this:

“At a personal level, when I’m faced with a ‘big decision’, I always revert back to asking myself what the difference is between doing what’s right and doing the right thing. There’s a subtle difference between the two and I’ve always wanted to ensure that our investments and activities as a company are what’s right.”

Investing in innovation

As well as acquisitions, OLM Group has continued to develop innovative ideas and create new start-up businesses such as Nalanda whose search and discovery technology is already making waves and being used by leading companies such as Buzzfeed to mine data for their investigations.

The success of OLM Group’s culture of ideas and innovations can be seen with Peppermint Technology.  Developed as a start-up between Peter O’Hara and Arlene Adams, Peppermint Technology was the first new major entrant to the UK legal technology market in over a decade. Peppermint took the concept of a technology platform and developed a new solution that has helped law firms succeed and grow in the volatile legal services market.

OLM Group recently sold their down their stake in Peppermint Technology to invest in new opportunities, but still remain stakeholders.

Never leaving a customer behind

Peter continues: “We are extremely loyal to our customers and believe in long lasting relationships.

We’ve taken customers through three different technology changes, with our fourth, Eclipse currently being implemented. Throughout all of these changes and upgrades, we have never left a customer behind, we have always allowed customers the opportunity to upgrade at a time that is suitable to them. With our extensive market knowledge and experience, we always try to look at not only where the market is, but where it will be in five years’ time. We have developed our latest upgrade using open source technology, focusing on ease of use, so that Eclipse will be as relevant today as it will be in ten years’ time.”

The Secret of OLM’s success

“OLM is not here because of me, it is here because of the customers and the people that work and that have previously worked here at OLM. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the hard work, dedication and loyalty that people show and have shown to this company is humbling and is one of the reasons why I look forward to coming to work each day.”