Meet the Insiders: Tony Lackey

Having secured an apprenticeship at Vickers Shipyard at the tender age of 16, little did Tony Lackey know this would lay the foundations for a lifetime inextricably linked to our oceans. His journey has led to him starting his own business, SRO Solutions, and becoming an IBM partner, which allows him to work with some of the biggest brands in the world. SRO was responsible for bringing IBM’s Asset Management Maximo software to the marine industry.

How did you get into the industry?

I circumnavigated the world a few times before I took the plunge and set up a technology company. My first job was an apprenticeship at Vickers Shipyard in Barrow-In-Furness up in Cumbria. It was a thriving industry at that time, and a great start to my career. I worked my way up to ‘Nuclear Fitter’ which meant working as a team assembling nuclear reactors in the submarines. But as the industry started to decline, I put a lot of thought into what my options were. So, I set myself up as a contractor, which quickly led to me working for a shipping company in the Merchant Navy as a Junior Engineering Officer. I spent seven years at sea, working my way up the ranks to Third Engineer, at which point I moved to a role on the cruise ships as a Special Service Engineer which really stretched my skillset and pushed me… It was in this job that I first came across the Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) by SpecTec called AMOS, which would ultimately lead me to set up SRO.

 

When and why did you make the decision to come back onto dry land and start SRO?

I knew that I didn’t want a lifetime at sea. When I met my wife and started a family, I wanted to find a way to be at home. I started a job initially as a database engineer, then progressing to a Project Manager at SpecTec, the firm that developed AMOS. After several years with extensive global travel and building on my knowledge within the maritime industry, I soon found myself planning how I could build a business for myself. In 2005, myself and Steve Driver, also a marine engineer working at SpecTec, founded SRO Solutions, with pretty much nothing other than immense passion to help marine businesses by drawing on our combined engineering expertise. We were responsible for taking IBM’s Maximo to the maritime industry and quickly picked up some big clients including Chevron Shipping, Boskalis and DPW Southampton.

 

How has SRO grown over the past 15 years and moved with the times?

Our mantra is to ‘put the client first’ which has meant that we have always delivered, resulting in happy clients that stick with us. We have evolved and honed what we are good at. We are very niche, focusing on maritime, shipping and offshore oil and gas companies. We worked quickly to develop and launch a couple of proprietary solutions, including a Maximo data replication tool, SDR (2007) and a Maximo data upgrade tool (2008). We acquired DataXtendRE (DXRE) from Progress Software (2013) specifically to bring the code base for the replication solution into our suite of services and capabilities allowing us to develop the capabilities of SDR. Then in 2018 we launched our IoT innovation division.

 

How do you see this evolving? Do you have new products/solutions in the pipeline?

We are always looking ahead as technology never stands still. What we have learnt along the way is that this is an area you can’t go it alone (building customer solutions). It needs an ecosystem of specialist players, and we are delighted to work with Arrow Electronics which gives us a platform to be able to reach all the specialist businesses we need to work with to build client solutions. We will continue to maintain our area of expertise in the marine, oil and gas sector – we have such strong credentials and a bunch of really bright people with serious maritime engineering expertise which means we understand the complex challenges these organisations face and how to develop solutions to overcome them.

 

What has been your biggest achievement?

I am obviously very proud of how we have built SRO, growing headcount and revenues year on year. But I have to say my proudest achievement is my family… Working at sea and then founding a business are not always conducive to family life, and I am so proud that we have stuck together and thrived!

 

If you could give one piece of advice to someone getting into the industry, what would it be?

Don’t do it… No, but seriously, I would say it’s about being clear about who and what you are, getting the right people involved and in the right positions – our business is nothing without our people – and employing grit, determination and hard work. Our business has been built on a basis of expertise and trust; putting our customers’ needs up front and centre in our thinking. Your clients need to be able to trust you to deliver. Being an IBM Gold Partner, the support provided by them and our other partners, has gone a long way to help us with this.