Sentient Software

Providing solutions to keep business on track

  • Sentient

    Sentient Software's Steve O'Neill's exciting journey keeps others on track.

Sentient is a private cloud service provider that helps to make organising business easier for corporate enterprises.

Sentient Portfolio Programme Management (PPM) provides software that is configured specifically for a particular business and is designed to manage a diverse range of projects and programmes.

CEO, Steve O’Neill started Sentient PPM in 2005. “It’s been a really exciting journey,” he says.  “Our focus is on corporate business enterprise customers because that is my background.  People told me I was mad starting out on my own trying to tackle the big guys, but that’s where I feel comfortable.  Over the years you build up networks of people and places but at the end of the day, your personal track record and credibility is a brand in its own right.”

Sentient’s list of client companies is impressive and includes Telecom, Christchurch City Council, Air New Zealand, The Warehouse Group, New Zealand Police, SKYCITY and Vodafone.

The Sentient PPM solution was founded in response to a need Steve identified to better organise his own workload; having to manage around 700 staff reporting to him was a challenge.

“I realised I didn’t have a clue what was going on at the coalface or what our people were working on day-to-day.  I knew there had to be a better way, so I put in systems, that while people were doing their work, the information was readily available and visible. The result was it saved enormous amounts of time on administration and meant the grunt work was being done using systems, rather than manual labour.”

Sentient PPM helps organisations manage all of the key activities across their projects and programmes, from consistently assessing and prioritising the most important initiatives, the successful delivery of these, through to reporting on completed projects to see whether they were achieving the maximum return on investment.

“The companies we deal with have large capital programmes – they spend millions per annum and any business wants to make sure they are getting the best return on their investment,” says Steve.

In Sydney in 2012, Sentient won the Consensus Software Award for the most innovative software in Australia and New Zealand.  Steve meets with his Moore Stephens Markhams’ partners Rob Hargrave, John Teague and Kiran Bhikha every couple of months. “I have a track record with Rob from the mid ’90s and he really knows what I am about. We regularly call each other out,” he laughs.

“Moore Stephens Markhams has especially helped us around tax and company structure in Australia as our first market, and also set up structures and constructs that have helped us with our next big effort into Asia.

“It’s a fantastic relationship because they bring in their expertise: if we don’t know something, they point us to an expert in their field.”  Although he’s a very busy person, Steve makes time for a few non-business activities.  “I love off-road motorcycling, both two wheel and quads. That’s my way of relaxing and if I’m lucky I’ll throw in a bit of fishing and diving.  I also enjoy skiing, which I’ve been fortunate to do in the Northern Hemisphere as well as in New Zealand.  Getting back to nature keeps me grounded.”

Sentient is committed to giving back to the community and contributes to the Angels for Children Charitable Trust, the Epilepsy Foundation of New Zealand and the Rotary Club of Henderson.  Steve is also involved in other philanthropic work in the field of education.

“We are doing a drive to get academia and business aligned more closely.  I’ve worked with a number of graduates over the years and my perception is that they had fantastic qualifications but very few practical skills.  Someone at the Auckland University Business School called my bluff and said, ‘Why don’t you work to improve it?’  So we now sponsor business projects for students.”

Published Autumn 2014.

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