Computa profile

By The Drum | Administrator

December 12, 2002 | 3 min read

Interactive Tayside is not just about new starts. Having been established 20 years ago, Computa’s story is one of re-invention, diversification and changing to meet market pressures.

In 1982 Computa was founded as a three-strong software development company. Throughout the early 80s the company developed bespoke software for large companies that, at that time, did not have IT departments. “That’s all we did for the first few years,” says Brian Morton, the company’s MD. “Then came the downsizing.” But the recession was coupled with a boom in computer technology and hardware always seemed to be up-dated faster than the software at that time, says Morton.

By 1987 Computa had branched into distribution for NCR, providing a new line of development for the company – the days of bespoke software development were diminishing.

The 90s saw big changes with the increased dominance of Microsoft, the shift online and a worldwide recession. Adding to this, a number of Computa’s top clients were bought over.

“The 90s saw big changes for us – everything became Intel-based, which meant we had to change the way we did things. The recession in the 90s had a major effect on us and saw the development side of the company reduce dramatically as the emphasis changed to support and installation.

“But we are not box-shifters, we never have been. Leave that to PC World. They are good at shifting boxes, but they won’t support you. We provide everything in-house. A one-stop shop, if you like.”

But as Computa has grown and shrunk, diversified and focused, troubles have, of course been encountered: “A problem for companies our size is that, in the eyes of the banks, we need to be generating money. They don’t want to support us. My assets are my people and their technical skills. That’s invaluable for me. However, for the bank, it’s nothing. I’m the computer man, but I have a 54-year-old operating system, so you can see why my technical staff are so important.”

Furthermore, the Government’s recent strategy to attract inward investment has troubled Morton: “Scottish Enterprise want to attract new companies and new business to Dundee and, in the past, they may have been guilty of forgetting about the bread-and-butter companies. Perhaps they looked upon these companies more favourably than the companies that retain employment in the area. And we do as good a job as any.

“But really, to be front of mind in Scotland you have to be based off the M8 somewhere. Edinburgh and Glasgow can be quite parochial. Still, Dundee is a good base. For a start, it’s equal distances to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Also, Dundee has witnessed an astounding growth in IT and that growth has been coupled with support in the form of Interactive Tayside. “But we need to get more people to know who we really are. They always saw us as the big guys – the people you go to if you have some money to spend or you need a special job done. We can be, but we are not always. It’s taking a long time to change these perceptions.”


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