Meet the Insiders: Stephen Swann, Madigan Solutions

In this new interview, we’ve spoken to Stephen Swann, director of vision and strategy at Madigan Solutions, an identity and access management consultancy that was incorporated with his four co-directors on January 1, 2021 during the UK’s virus-lockdown. We asked Stephen about his route to working with his colleagues and their vision for the future.

How did you get into the industry?

I’ve been working in IT for over thirty years having started my career in a bank as a trainee programmer. I’d written a programme for the Football Pools in the 1980’s for my grandad and it was enough to get me a job! I was heading for university but took up the job opportunity instead, and I think it was the right decision. University isn’t the right choice for everyone and I’d very much like Madigan to give other 18-year olds the same opportunities I was given when I was in their shoes.

In 2002-3, I was working on mainframe technology for the bank and we were just about to embark on the Identity and Access Management (IAM) programme. The bank cherry-picked its team from within internal departments to help roll out the solutions and I was lucky enough to be part of that team, allowing me to work on the new technology and with new partners. After I left the bank, I became a contractor until this year when Madigan Solutions was created.

Tell me about yourself and Madigan Solutions

So much has changed in the time since the pandemic hit us – not least that start-up costs are minimal – we didn’t need an office, no one is travelling at the moment and it just felt like the right time to do something we’d been talking about for years. Add to that, three out of five of us were contractors, and with potential imminent changes to IR35 legislation, that was another good reason to create something more formal.

It’s also really important to us that we can build something that delivers a legacy – helps young trainees and plays a part in regenerating Northern Ireland. I’m based outside Belfast where there are some really excellent universities and lots of focus on technology – but my colleagues are based in the South of England too. Whatever we create will have an international focus – we’re already working in the Nordic region with some exciting customers.

Madigan simplifies highly complex identity management, identity governance and access management challenges - and we’re an IBM partner so the systems are underpinned by world-leading technology. Traditionally, IAM solutions help in highly regulated markets like financial, pharmaceutical, energy etc, but ultimately, they provide access and governance to systems, so there is widespread application more generally in other markets like retail for example. Any business that has to control the access of employees or contractors in and out of systems based upon their job role and identity can put IAM to excellent use.

What are your plans for the future?

Our main focus is to establish the business and then look to hire new talent as we go. In reality, this will probably be next year, but we’re excited about what’s to come, and want to grow the team and provide opportunities for others to learn about IAM. I’m definitely keen to pursue business outside of the UK and Ireland – even as far afield as New Zealand or Australia, but also other territories. GDPR and compliance make the EU a strong potential market for us.

What’s your biggest achievement?

I think the fact that we’re all still working together after 15 years – and we’re still talking is probably the biggest achievement for us all as a team! Our relationships go back to previous job roles and companies and have strong foundations.

Where do you think growth will come from in the next few years?

I’d say that retail as a sector is a growth area for us. The banks and financial services industries have been way ahead of the IAM curve and to some degree we already have great knowledge and traction in this sector. Working with the banks means that our experience has been working with companies that are incredibly complex – they have over 100,000 employees. Now, we’re working with smaller organisations that have 10,000 employees and here we can simplify things for them quickly. We take a very complex issue and make it very simple, very quickly – so that size of company is also a growth area for us.

What would be your advice for anyone just starting out in business

It sounds a cliché, but “just do it’. There is no reason for trepidation – it’s been a liberating experience for me to know that I’m in charge of my own destiny. My stress levels have decreased. You’ll make lots of bad decisions but being decisive is also a good trait to have – if you’re decisive you can change a bad decision into a good one quickly.

Just one last thing, what is the background behind Madigan Solution’s logo?

Everyone thinks that because we’re based in Northern Ireland, it’s the Giant’s Causeway – but it isn’t. That isn’t’ helped by the photo I took of the Causeway, which is on our home page, but actually Madigan was a King of Ulster over 1000 years ago and Ben Madigan hill overlooks Belfast. It’s known these days as The Cave Hill because someone thought there was gold in it and blew a hole inside it to see – creating a cave. The logo with the gold in the middle is Cave Hill.


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