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Public Sector: A Digital Transformation 16 Clair Gheel The State of Play for Women in IT

Latest technology and business news, jobs, and events from Northern Ireland

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Welcome to the Spring edition of the Sync NI magazine Bob McClean

Business Development Director, Digital Solutions at Civica


Spring is in the air, the sun has put in the odd appearance, and everyone is looking forward to those long hot summer months that see us basking outdoors. Ok, not really – this is Northern Ireland after all. However, spring and early summer are growth times in our region and as more inward investment jobs and expansions in the private sector are announced, the “rebalancing of our economy” seems to be teetering in the right direction, albeit slowly. This shift from public sector jobs and spend, towards private sector employment and revenue generation has been at the heart of the NI Assembly’s plan for some years now. Anyone involved in business recognises it’s a cornerstone of creating a healthy, vibrant and affluent economy. Specific to Northern Ireland, this rebalancing will create some interesting challenges for the public sector and their ability to service the needs of citizens. As jobs are moved from the public to the private sector, the number of civil servants decreases. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and indigenous growth underpinned with an attractive corporation tax regime have the potential to actually drive up the population by limiting emigration and making immigration more likely.

So more citizens and fewer civil servants to meet their growing needs – sounds more like a winter of discontent than a summer of love. When looked at carefully, it’s clear that the public sector in Northern Ireland needs to do just three things really well to be able to deliver to more with less: q Capture the needs and requests of citizens as they access public services in a manner which takes as little time and effort as possible – and let’s be clear here, we’re talking mostly


ABOUT SYNC NI Sync NI is the leading media outlet for Northern Ireland’s Technology and Business Industries. The Sync NI website and magazine keeps readers informed on the latest technology and business news, jobs, and events from Northern Ireland, and abroad.

about self-service. What takes less effort than having the citizen create the request themselves? Of course we can’t exclude those that are not digitally enabled, so a true multichannel solution is the way forward.

CONTENT & EDITORIAL Natalie Gray Phone: 02890820944 Email:

q Deliver services to citizens in the most


efficient manner possible, taking every opportunity to redesign and re-engineer processes and procedures. This agility needs to be baked in – both in terms of how the civil servants operate, but how the applications and systems they use to support them are designed and delivered.

q Communicate with their citizens to not just inform them of what’s available, but to update them about what’s been done to prevent those pesky “when will I get my..?” calls that can make up 40% of traffic to a public sector contact centre.

Roisin Mooney Phone: 02890820944 Email: Caoimhe Caldwell Phone: 02890820942 Email: SUBSCRIPTIONS Email: GENERAL ENQUIRIES Sync NI 28 Adelaide street Rochester Building Belfast BT28GD Phone: 028 90820944 Email: Website:

As the venerable Professor Farnsworth would say “Good news everybody, we’ve found a solution!” Programmes like NI Direct have been leading the way across the whole of the UK in creating effective online platforms for citizen interaction coupled with re-engineered and optimised back office operations. As an example, AccessNI receives around 10,000 applications per month all of which used to be on paper. With integration and re-engineering, the turnaround time on these applications has been reduced from weeks to days. Now, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or has the sun finally come out? Bob McClean Business Development Director, Digital Solutions, Civica

COPYRIGHT No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyholder and publisher. SyncNi accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of contributed articles or statements appearing in this magazine and any views or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of SyncNi , unless otherwise indicated. No responsibility for loss or distress associated to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of the material in this magazine can be accepted by the authors, contributors, editors or publishers. SyncNi does not endorse any goods or services advertised, nor any claims or representations made in any advertisement in this magazine. The recruitment agencies listed are acting as employment agencies on behalf of their clients.




Contents 03 Foreword 06 The Future of the Creative Industries 07 Q&A with Cathy McCann 08 IT Giant Opens New Development Lab 09 The Latest Information Security Trends 10 Civica Expo 2016 12 Q&A with Bob McClean 14 Q&A with Caron Alexander

16 17 18 19 20 21 22

The State of Play for Women in IT 5 Top Social Media Marketing Tips Start-up Feature: FoodCloud PathXL Granted Patent Start-up Feature: Elemental Software Events Focus Sync NI Logging Off

Public Sector Features

Civica Expo 2016 Mind over Chatter

Q&A with Bob McClean, Civica Digital Solutions

Q&A with Caron Alexander, Department of Finance & Personnel NI






Shaping the Future of the Creative Industries


lster University’s pioneering Honeycomb – Creatives Works programme is helping to transform the landscape of the Digital Content sector. The Honeycomb – Creative Works programme focuses on addressing the economic, educational, social and cultural needs of the Digital Content sector across a number of areas: Animation, Games, Music, Interactive media and Film & TV. The Ulster University initiative followed a comprehensive programme of activity and research to identify specific factors that were inhibiting growth and put in place measures to both complement existing activity, but also proactively facilitate growth for the sector.

A series of research reports from the comprehensive review have been produced and are now available to access at www. These reports identified a number of gaps in support, capability and technology that could impact on future growth, and make recommendations on how to support these areas and opportunities available. These reports include: q Sector Development/ Identifying Skill Gaps A number of sector development and skill gaps reports have been

produced for each of the five digital content sub-sectors (animation, games, music, interactive media and Film & TV) providing a detailed overview, the skill needs, best practice and economic forecasts for these areas.

q Creative Industries Future

Forecast Reports The future forecast reports provide insights into potential future growth opportunities and changes impacting creative industries. These include customer profile research identifying what markets customers are accessing and the sectors which could be more active.

q Potential for New Collaborations Studies have been conducted assessing new areas for potential digital content collaboration with other industries and disciplines. This research has looked at how existing strengths, academic expertise and industry expertise can be better exploited in areas such as Connected Health, Big Data and Marine Tourism Sectors. ONLINE LEARNING SUPPORT An extensive portfolio of e-learning resources has been developed to facilitate growth and knowledge transfer for the digital content sector. This includes: Speaker Videos showcasing some of the finest local, national and international talent working

Ulster University Chancellor James Nesbitt, Fiona McElroy and Dr Colm Murphy of Ulster University with a copy of the University’s Honeycomb - Creative Works Framing your Future report. Picture: Mark Marlow/Harrisons

in film, music, digital and visual communication. Speakers include Philip Bloom, Director & Filmmaker; Singer/Songwriter Andrew WK; and award winning Illustrator Oliver Jeffers. A range of free Online Courses including digital strategy, marketing and promotion; web design; Adobe tutorials; business skills; animation skills; music composition; and transmedia tools. Over 60 videos featuring Industry Experts and Researchers sharing their research findings and industry knowledge (available via https://vimeo. com/channels/honeycombcreativeworks)

q Shaping the Digital Future

Honeycomb delivered over 120 support events; hosted product/music development workshops/ conferences; secured over £380k contract work; developed skills development for over 3,000 participants; 82 e-learning courses and 48 CPD courses. The programme has provided unparalleled opportunities for promising and established digital content practitioners and is instrumental in assisting small digital media enterprises develop their strategies. On a macro level this research will help inform policy and shape the environment and infrastructure required to develop the digital creative industries. Honeycomb - Creative Works is part financed by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Programme and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Visit online Honeycomb



Q&A Cathy McCann

Service Director Global Hybrid IT Services, Fujitsu q Hi Cathy, tell us about the company you work for and

your role. I work with Fujitsu, the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company, provider of technology products, solutions and services. From enabling banking transactions to processing UK passports – Fujitsu has been providing ICT solutions across the public and private sector for over 50 years with its services touching the lives of 99% of the population every day. I’m Fujitsu’s Service Director for Global Hybrid IT Services. Hybrid IT provides companies with an integrated IT environment, designed to help maximise cloud based and onpremise IT services – while still enabling innovation, improved productivity and business growth. I work closely with the headquarters of our business units across the world to ensure our strategy reflects the needs of businesses regionally.

q How did you get into ICT?

I began working for Siemens in a communications capacity before securing my first management role overseeing the engineering team. I then went on to manage Stream Global Services, an international service centre. My passion has always been customer relations and given ICT plays a pivotal role in providing customers with improved services, the sector was a natural fit for me. I joined Fujitsu’s service delivery team before moving into a global delivery role.

q What do you enjoy most about your job?

As Service Director for Global Hybrid IT Services, I work with cutting edge technology that is shaping our future. I enjoy being part of a company that is constantly innovating and problem solving to create solutions, like Hybrid IT, for people and businesses. As part of my job, I work with customers and clients across the globe and so have the pleasure of meeting and embracing difference cultures of our customers

and colleagues. Being able to develop Fujitsu’s global presence and reputation is also a very rewarding part of my role developing existing relationships gives me great job satisfaction.

q What are the biggest changes you have noticed in the ICT sector since you started your career? IT is now everywhere and has helped the world become a smaller and connected place. The upshot of this is that organisations are expected to behave globally at all times and deliver consistently, 24 hours a day. People too are expected to be contactable at all times. The speed at which services can be delivered has changed dramatically since I started. What used to take weeks or months can now be achieved in days or even hours with today’s technology and the cloud enabled digital world.

q What ICT products do you think businesses should avail

of more? Businesses should look at how a cloud enabled environment could benefit them. Service providers can help businesses make the transition away from traditional IT, and offer advice and support on how to navigate this process of digitalisation.

q What advice would you give to someone starting out in

their career? I would say bear in mind that opportunities often come disguised as hard work. Regardless of your experience or skills, you need to work hard to succeed and this includes getting the grades and qualification necessary to work in the industry. I would also say don’t be afraid to ask for help. By building friendships and strong networks, you can develop opportunities. Companies benefit from having diverse workforces – a diverse workforce deliveries innovative ideas – so be yourself, the best version of yourself that is willing to learn.



IT Giant Opens New Extreme Agile Software Development Lab N

orthern Ireland’s largest IT company, Allstate Northern Ireland, opens a world class Extreme Agile software development lab and learning space in its Belfast headquarters. Allstate NI’s new purpose built ‘CompoZed Lab’ will see Software Engineers, Product Managers and User Experience Designers work exclusively in Extreme Agile, which includes working in pairs and using cloud-native application architecture, a first for the company. The new office space will encourage teams to take calculated risks and push innovation at Allstate NI. It will also create opportunities in agile engineering, product management and design. Changing up the office and mindset The CompoZed Lab features a 30 person classroom, as well as lab space for over 100 developers to work together in their teams. The lab is open and bright. There are break out areas, whiteboards and a ping pong table for the teams to enjoy their down time. This change for Allstate NI goes beyond a new office layout, the new way of working is creating a culture of collaboration, innovation, production and communication. Opening CompoZed Lab

is a massive milestone for Allstate NI, says Managing Director John Healy.

into the main lab to work in tight-knit, self-empowered teams.

“This investment in training, facilities and tools represents a huge commitment to our staff and their careers at Allstate. It also marks an opportunity to build upon 16 years of success delivering software for Allstate customers. Our CompoZed Lab is a first for Allstate but also a first for Northern Ireland.”

“The Accelerator format is a tremendous advantage to us,” says Allstate’s Opal Perry. “As new initiatives and products are identified across our diverse business, we can quickly form new teams, teach everyone the tools and methods, and become productive in a matter of weeks.”

Opening CompoZed Labs marks a change for Allstate NI says Allstate Vice President Opal Perry. “Here at Allstate Northern Ireland we are changing how we work and how we deliver products. We are committed to delivering software that delights users and can be quickly deployed while also increasing quality in everything we do, in order to respond to the changing needs of customers. Our new world class agile development lab is enabling us meet these goals.”

The CompoZed Accelerator course is aimed at project managers, engineers, designers and architects, who come from across Allstate NI and international sites.

Allstate NI and Galvanize Allstate NI teamed up with the USbased software development educators Galvanize to produce an Extreme Agile training curriculum, called CompoZed Accelerator, for their engineers. Software Engineers go through the 12 week CompoZed Accelerator course, developing real projects, before moving

At the end of the 12 weeks the trainees are ready to start using the values, principles and practices of Extreme Agile Development to deliver high-quality, low-defect software faster. Lead Enterprise Instructor at Galvanize, Andreas Kavountzis, is working with Allstate NI in CompoZed Lab. “Partnering with Allstate is a great opportunity for Galvanize to expand our educational programming, it’s exciting to work with the CompoZed Labs team on delivering products to market at speed.” Follow CompoZed Labs NI Visit online Start Planet  @CompoZedlabs 





Ward Solutions Monitoring the Latest Information Security Trends in Northern Ireland A

s the largest information security provider on the island, Ward Solutions carefully monitors developing trends in the areas of IT security and cyber-crime. In an industry that demands rapid reaction and upto-date knowledge, standing still is not an option. Having expanded operations to Northern Ireland 18 months ago, Ward’s information security strategies which focus on protecting our customers’ information systems are heavily influenced by IT security trends in the market. Rise in high profile incidents “We see a number of key trends driving organisations’ information security needs in the Northern Irish market currently,” said Alan McVey, NI business development manager, Ward Solutions. “There has been a rapid increase in threats to organisations over the past few months. A number of high profile incidents with significant and measurable brand and financial impacts have resulted in information security attaining a much higher level of profile at board and governance levels within organisations. Top-level executives are now asking their IT departments about their security and risk mitigation strategies, something almost unheard of previously,” continued Alan. This year, Ward has seen a 300% increase in services provided to clients to combat ransomware attacks, when compared to the same period in 2015. As well as that, the team has also recorded

a spike in targeted C level attacks against companies. Outsourced managed security In order to tackle sophisticated cyber-attacks like these, many organisations are adopting an outsourced managed security approach, partnering with a specialist security provider like Ward Solutions, that can provide them with a much more cost effective and beneficial service than they could manage themselves. Pat Larkin, CEO, Ward Solutions, said: “Information security has become such a complex area that most organisations do not possess the required skillsets to address their total set of IT security needs. This is where Ward comes in. Last year we invested almost £1M in a state-of-the-art Security Operations Centre. In Q1 2016 so far we have invested £50K in training an additional 10 ISO27001 consultants alone, with a further £150K of training and R&D budgeted for. Companies who partner with Ward to manage their information security needs will be able to take full advantage of this state-of-the-art facility and the services of the best and most highly skilled Information Security professionals on the island.” “All of our core services, including managed firewall, digital forensics, eDiscovery, managed intrusion protection and detection systems, and our managed security event and incident management (SEIM) solution are delivered from this centre, something which allows

Alan McVey, NI business development manager, Ward Solutions

us to be extremely effective in the competitive Northern Irish market.” Supply chain assurance Another trend identified by Ward is the increased focus on supply chain assurance by public and private enterprises. “In light of recent high-profile data breaches many organisations are now making ISO 27001 accreditation a mandatory requirement to work with them as part of their supply chain assurance. As an Associate Constultant Partner of the British Standards Institution Ward can offer guidance toward accreditation, something that will help organisations to provide partners and customers with the peace of mind that they require,” said Alan McVey. “Cybercrime may be on the rise, but we’re constantly developing our expertise, processes and technologies to match it every step of the way,” he concluded. For more information, please visit the link below. Visit online Ward Solutions



special feature

Civica Expo 2016

Mind over Chatter- Creating a Digital Government in Northern Ireland. With Paul Wickens: Chief Executive Enterprise Shared Services, Northern Ireland Civil Service


ync NI attended the Civica Expo 2016, in Manchester’s Central Convention Complex to engage with Civica and learn more about Technology within the Public Sector. At the Expo we heard from Theresa Grant, Chief Executive at Trafford Council, who gave an insightful lowdown on ‘Revolution. Evolution. Devolution’ as well as a panel discussion that explored technology trends in the Public Sector. One of the talks we attended discussed that importance of Northern Ireland government and how it is becoming digital. Paul Wickens, Chief Executive for Enterprise Shared Services in the NI Civil Service, outlined how the public sector is adapting to changes in technology to drive Northern Ireland forward digitally. In what he calls ‘Mind over Chatter’, Paul asks how can we use our brain to build a digital government for the citizens of Northern Ireland. Whether it’s for taxing your car, we all use government services, even it’s just at that one time a year. Traditionally these services weren’t completed online, but that doesn’t mean citizens in Northern Ireland aren’t open to the idea. ‘Studies done by Deloitte in 2014 showed that the vast majority of citizens are openminded; in fact they’re keen to access government services digitally and online’. But the problem for the Northern Ireland government is that some services have not been traditionally

designed for that, and so one of the challenges is concerned with getting NI citizens online. However it might not be as big of a challenge as anticipated: Ofcom also did a study that showed the activities conducted online by internet users in Northern Ireland. From this study it was clear there are people using government services online, with the majority of those services being accessed via mobile devices, not through a desktop based device. So the challenge for the government is really how can they take that forward? Just three short years ago, the idea of building a digital government for the citizens of Northern Ireland came into place. From this, the ‘16 by 16’ Programme was presented. ‘We thought let’s do something differently, let’s turn it on its head and look at what we need to do to put digital first in terms of what we’re doing in

transforming government.’ You may be wondering what the ‘16 by 16’ programme is and why you might not have heard much about it to date, but there’s a reason and you’re not the only one- it’s not advertised: ‘We don’t go on and advertise the fact that something new is now available either in content or as a service, it just appears’. What it consists of The ‘16 by 16’ programme, involves the deliverance of ‘sixteen transformed services and 3.5 million new transactions by March 2016’. Although 16 services is the target, 30 services are currently in the works as part of this digital transformation programme. ‘What we decided to do was to deliver 16 fully transformed digitally transaction services online by the end of March 2016 and lets have 3.5 million new digital transactions on



special feature

those new services. Now those are pretty big numbers- we’ve a 1.7 million population.’ Key themes Quality, digital inclusion, digital first, and moving from traditional channels. ‘We put digital inclusion at the very heart of what we were doing, we recognised that it was important not to leave people behind, and there are those that are not yet ready able to or willing to use digital services’. This digital inclusion team’s sole task is to increase the uptake within the general population. ‘The key thing is we’re driving towards digital first. The first thing we did was develop a strategy- we’re going to put digital right at the heart of it’. In terms of channels- from those traditional channels towards the mobile, online, digital channels; NI Direct is in the middle being a portal and platform. That strategy which we call, ‘citizen contact strategy’ – because we wanted it to be citizen focused The importance of Agile With BT being appointed to help improve government services to the

citizens of Northern Ireland, agile had been introduced to Paul’s team and the organisations they were going to be working with. Agile was something new for the team, and as Wickens put it, ‘totally against the culture of what we were used to…we love big, heavy methodologies in the public sector. ‘Agile gets you something in line in weeks and months, and we’ve seen that’ but it’s still early days: ‘we’re still at an early stage of improving and convincing people this is what we’re trying to achieve.’ So where does the NI government stand today? Currently, NI Direct sees 28 million visits to its site, for content as well as services. Nine digital services are live today with 3.3 million transactions taking place, with 81% of NI citizens now online- with a year on year increase. Customer satisfaction has improved massively (93%). However, there is still a significant number of calls being handled in the call centre: ‘We still have the 2 million calls in the contact centre, which is too many, and that’s the challenge for us.’ With everything now centralised into one

switchboard that takes all the calls, calls are now being handled together in one place, however ‘how can this be transformed further?’ is a work in progress. Mind over Chatter ‘It’s all about coping with the challenges as far as I’m concerned, there’s too much data, we can’t cope with it. It really is too big for us to understand. It’s coming at us too fast.’ Paul admits they ‘don’t have enough expertise’ and struggle ‘on that senior digital capability in the public sector’. However this hasn’t stopped them. It’s all about moving forward. ‘It’s not easy; it is difficult but it really is worth doing, we’re seeing massive benefits come out of it and big customer satisfaction.’ ‘So I suppose the final thought on this is, is whatever you’re doing, don’t leave your brain behind and that’s why I’ve took the theme ‘Mind over Chatter’. We actually applied brain power and the way we think.’ - Wickens Follow Civica Visit online Start Planet NI  @CivicaUK 



featured interviews

Bob McClean

Business Development Director @ Civica Digital Solutions q It’s been over a year since Asidua were acquired by Civica, how has this transition been? Very good! We’ve completed out the integration work and it’s surprising how much effort is involved as the integration happens at different levels. At the office level, our employees have moved from Asidua’s office in Birmingham to Civica’s facilities. But more importantly we have transitioned the offerings that Asidua had, and blended them into Civica’s portfolio. It’s fair to say they acquired quite a lot of technology when they bought us, and customers. It’s not a summation of us; it’s been more of a blending. We’ve picked the best out of both portfolios and put them together into a new proposition which is called ‘Digital 360’. This has taken some of the technology we had in the form of our customer contact platform and its now being rebranded as ‘Contact 360’ to deliver that value proposition. This is just completing out now – it takes a lot of time. You need to do it right, if you rush it you will spoil what it is that you bought. There is an old expression about mergers and acquisitions, ‘how do you buy a small company? And the answer is you buy a big company and just wait for a while’. This is because most people would leave, but we have managed to retain most of our people, and it wasn’t because they had to, it was through choice.

q Civica holds 1/3 of the market

share when providing solutions to local governments – why do you think the percentage is so high? They have built up a special capability

and that’s partly been organic growth and partly acquisition. If you want to grow it’s almost impossible to do it without acquiring an organisation. Civica have a strong focus on local government and have had for a number of years. There is a critical mass theory that works, once you have gained a certain market share then your ability to gain more market share becomes easier because you already have some service with the customers. Providing to them is easier than someone coming in entirely out of left field. We’re quite large now, we’re up to 2,900 people but Civica stills has very much an SME culture and I think this fits well with what local authorities are looking for; Civica is much more agile than others out there.



featured interviews We have the local government knowledge built and paved into the organisation and that’s strong play! However the reality in the digital solutions business, which I represent as part of Civica, is that we are not only local government, we have a big play in larger government.

2025. Being able to give that feedback to a council and say ‘you shouldn’t be worried about this week you should be aiming for this point’ is what gets highlighted at these forums. Then there is the ‘best practice’ aspect, and not just best practice from a technology or service perspective, that inspiring story of dedication and focus is something everyone in business can get inspired by or can relate to. In addition it’s good to pinpoint what we’re bringing out in the future months, or here’s what we are trying to do in the next few weeks.

q What overall theme does the Civica Expo speakers highlight? It’s interesting, there is an expectation and set of messages that can be brought out at these Expos, and all the literature supports that, but the audience takes their own perspective on it. I believe the idea of ‘enablement messages’ has been brought out at Civica’s 2016 Expo; People are saying we need this technology and your services in order to enable us to do stuff. There is a real drive in local government to transform and change the way we operate. Citizens are demanding a better service and there is a lot more emphasis on technology being an enabler for that. Allowing them to deliver upon the guardianship role that they have for their citizens, which is really quite interesting, as a technology provider, we know our stuff is about enabling but it’s also about the driver. Economics and demographics are driving digital. If we don’t provide the right technology then we become a barrier.

When you are delivering agile developments you need to be close to the customer. Asidua had won that contract within Northern Ireland and you could assume that formed part of the reason Civica bought us, because that’s a very attractive play. Scottish council want to do that same thing, the Welsh council too, and now we are seeing devolution with the English council at a local level. So there are lots of reasons why we can re-use capability know how and technology. That’s what made Asidua attractive, and now makes Civica attractive.

q Why is it important for Civica to hold such Expos? It is to

highlight the idea of digital or is it for Civica customers to come together and network? All of that; There is a strong education at Civica Expos highlighting what is going to happen in the next year and also looking back. Civica have lead the way pretty impressively in terms of investing in thought leadership and education: look at the work we’ve done around changing landscapes which is a fantastic report that identifies what things will look like in

q What is your thought on Northern Ireland leading the digital way and being seen as the new digital hub? I think leading the way can be somewhat disingenuous; you need to be careful by what you mean by ‘leading’. If you mean having the most services online, then probably not. Do you mean having the highest level of transactions, probably not? Do you mean having the most complete offering? Well we are getting there; in fact the ‘changing landscapes 2025’ report independently and without any input from us identifies NI direct as leading the way above Now, with the implementation of the NI Direct programme, the search access NI was previously a paper based solution until March 2016. You went online, downloaded the form, posted it and your application was then processed. It’s amazing how many people need this certificate! It’s a very manual process that takes around seven weeks. We have transformed this, and it has gone from zero applications online to 90% of applications being online in four weeks. Linking this back to “Is Northern Ireland leading the way?” Well in some ways, yes, we have leaped forward compared to other countries.



featured interviews

Caron Alexander

Director of Digital Services @ Enterprise Shared Services, Department of Finance & Personnel NI q Can you tell us a little more

about your role as Director of Digital Services? In my role I am responsible for driving the Northern Ireland digital transformation programme across the public sector- it’s not just focused on the civil service and government departments – it goes wider than the Northern Ireland departments. I’m also responsible for Open Data, and was responsible for the strategy that was released last year, and also for the portal that we launched in November, the Northern Ireland Open Data Portal. I am also heavily involved with NI Direct; so the NI Direct Web Service and the NI Direct contact centre service. NI Direct is the single biggest web presence in Northern Ireland. At the minute we’re on target for around 30 million visits. That’s the Northern Ireland equivalent of in the UK. Every public facing service and every bit of information available to citizens should be through NI Direct- that’s the strategy, so I am responsible for delivering that as well. All of the transformation projects that are underway and all the new services they all be delivered through NI Directit’s the citizen’s way in to all of those things.

q With a ‘smarter state’ high on the

political agenda, what way do you think this will move towards a ‘futureproof’ delivery? The Northern Ireland Executive supports delivering our services in a better way, that’s the vision; it’s about delivering better services and how we’re going to do that is through transforming

and digital. Delivering the services in a different way is helping departments, minsters and every public sector part to deliver their business effectively. We don’t have enough money to continue to do it in the old way, so it’s about discovering how to do things differently. With the digital programme that is recognised as one of the key deliverables in terms of Northern Ireland government. So in the main, what we do is ‘digital first’. It’s not just about the front end pieces, it’s about all the manual processes and changing and the data sharing elements across organisational boundaries so all that design is in the background. How we deliver it to the citizens at that front end piece? Digital is our main channel; we wanted online to be the main channel. We have other forms of digital and look at all sorts of channels. It’s not just one channel of delivery. We look at all the different ways we need to deliver the service

without doing the manual.

q How does the public sector go about embracing smarter digital services? One of the biggest challenges is getting the public sector itself to change. People are by nature- creatures of habit, and that’s the reality. No matter what job you’re in, you like doing it that way and you’ve always done it that way. It’s difficult to get the buy in; through perseverance, showing there is a better way to do things, and showing what added value individuals will receive will help. So, yes the public sector has to change and embrace that change, there’s no alternative because actually, we can’t afford not to change and its better when you can bring them along and engage with them, and engage with them continually. That’s why we’ve had so many failures in the past in terms of IT Systems because they’re not



featured interviews

accepted, and things just don’t go the way they’re planned, so it’s just working with people in a different way.

q You’ve previously described the NI Direct’s 16 by 16 programme as putting citizens at the core, how have you seen this come along and being achieved now that we’re in 2016? We will make our target. The reason why I’m confident is because we’re working on so many projects, it’s not just 16, we’ve got about 28 that are all in the mix, and as long as we hit 16 of those, that’s our target met. It is a big programme, it doesn’t just finish, that’s just the first part of it, and it’s going to continue on. We’re focusing at the minute, very much on helping organisations to transform their delivery to citizens. We’re looking now at how we can further help citizens engage with government and this concept of ‘tell us once’. So a citizen should be able to go in and see their details, update their details and tell us once- that’s it. We will worry about the mechanics of how that information moves around in the

background. So that’s going to be one of our targets for this year coming 2016/17 and also getting rid of all the paperwork. It’s bizarre the amount of paperwork that moves around the system and it’s so wasteful, so we’re going to implement a secure messaging service. We will tell you by text or by email that there’s something for you. We will have authenticated you, you will have your log in, where you will be able to go in and look at your secure area, so you will be able to go in and see what results etc. are there. The majority of the population in Northern Ireland and Europe want to transact with government with their mobile and they want to do it easily.

q Finally, it would be great if you could tell us a bit more about Go ON NI that you’ve helped work on? I look after the digital inclusion agenda, so we work with the Go ON programme and Go ON NI. We do a lot of work with the community and voluntary sector and fund training. We do very specific things for example we’ve just finished a pilot, but it’s continuing on and we’ve called it

‘bridging the digital divide’. It’s a service called ‘Breezie’. We’re working with two housing schemes in Northern Ireland, both for older tenants- one for people in independent living and one for people with dementia. Using ‘Breezie’ on the tablets we worked with these groups of people and the results showed that we have increased their confidence levels by 100% in email; 100% will all search for information; 80% are very happy to take and share photographs; 80% will use Facebook and watch videos and 100% will play games. So we’ve had really good success, and that’s the type of thing we’re trying to grow. Everybody is fair game in terms of digital interaction. We all have a part to play. The Northern Ireland government doesn’t have huge amounts of money, but we have a part to play, so we’re working with other organisations to do our bit. Small steps is how we work. Follow Civica Visit online Start Planet NI  @CivicaUK 



The State of Play for Women in IT By Clair Gheel, Director @ IT3Sixty


According to a study by The Peterson Institute for International Economics, companies with female leaders make more profit, demonstrating just how much businesses could be missing out by not encouraging gender diversity in their workplace. With companies like Facebook and Google making very public efforts to address the gender imbalance in the tech sector, you might be forgiven for thinking that we are well down the road to dealing with the problem. But the reality is that there is still a long way to go.

despite significant growth in the number of women working in IT roles (up 19 percent between 2004 and 2014).

the future. Our members include Citi, Liberty IT, Allstate, Deloitte, Equinity ICS, TotalMobile, and others.

In terms of graduates, slightly fewer women graduated from UK universities in Computer Science in 2015 compared to 2014 (a 0.5 percent drop). These figures illustrate the scale of the challenge involved in addressing the IT gender imbalance. But it’s definitely not all bad news. For instance, there was a 35 percent increase in women ICT professionals in the UK between 2014 and 2015.

There are five key areas to the work that IT3Sixty will be spearheading in 2016 and beyond to help deal with the challenge: q Attracting Europe’s best IT professionals to Northern Ireland. q Supporting apprenticeships, which includes providing opportunities for learners and giving companies access to a pool of emerging talent. q Supporting talented professionals from other sectors to transfer their skills and retrain for careers in IT. q Working to build the pipeline of IT skills for the future. q Upskilling the existing IT sector workforce.

With International Women’s Day having taken place recently, we decided to take a look at the facts. According to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, just 17 percent of tech specialists working in the UK are women. And last year, just over 300 girls sat the Computing A-Level in the UK (8 percent of all entrants).

There is also a lot of activity happening to engage girls in IT. Locally, initiatives like Django Girls - a notfor-profit group that organises free workshops for women who want to get into programming and web development – are active. There’s also a Belfast chapter of the international organisation Women Who Code, organising tech talks, training, hack nights and more.

In Northern Ireland, 18 percent of IT specialists are women according to BCS, compared to 48 percent for the workforce as a whole. Indeed, female representation in the IT professions has changed little in the past 10 years,

At IT3Sixty, a big part of our focus is helping address the gender gap in IT. IT3Sixty is a government-backed community of leading companies working to ensure Northern Ireland has the IT skills it needs now and into

Addressing the gender imbalance in IT, and therefore accessing a huge untapped pool of talent for the sector, will run through all of this activity. Solving the problem won’t be easy, but we’re up for the challenge, and the benefits to the Northern Ireland sector or doing so will be huge. Visit online IT3Sixty



5 Top Social Media Marketing Tips By Andy Hill, MD @ Dokoo Digital

Digital marketing is a bit of a minefield; if you are a marketer in this day and age you need to know an awful lot of social networks. Below are 5 useful tips to help tackle the digital world: Tip #1

Facebook/ Twitter/ Linkedin/ Instagram et all want your advertising spend. This is no ground-breaking secret; online advertising has become a huge source of revenue for these social media sites. We feel that marketers need to retain an element of control of their user base. To get as much bang for your marketing buck as possible we recommend factoring in some data capture on your website. If you visit you will see a pop-up that offers you “Want to find out the tips that we used to make a client £250,000 in the last few months using Facebook Ads alone?” This one pop-up has increased our email database by hundreds of addresses over the last couple of months. We then use this data for our email marketing campaigns, this has also reduced our online advertising spend as once someone clicks on our website once we want to capture their data straight away.

Tip #2

Post content at a time when people will engage with it. At Dokoo we work with many eCommerce companies. By

simply changing the call to action on our content and ads we can increase click through rates dramatically. For example, “Pay Weekend Offers” is a headline that gets us a high click through rate if we post this on the Friday morning of the last weekend of the month.

Tip #3

Images are needed to make content stand out. Again, this is no secret but for us using good images is vitally important. We’ve worked with a number of companies in the travel sector and have asked our fans to send us in images of their travelling. With their consent we then use the images in our content strategy. Regardless of what industry you are in, get creative and think of ways to get good images.

Tip #4

Facebook reactions. At the end of February Facebook rolled out its version of emojis across the majority of its territories. Reactions give users more ways to express how they feel about your status updates. Snickers and Krispy Kreme have used Facebook Reactions to see how their user base reacts to certain products. These two brands are an exception though

as the majority of brands haven’t harnessed Facebook Reactions yet. The opportunity is huge; all you have to do is ask your visitors to “use Facebook Reactions to tell us how you feel about this picture.” The picture could be a product, plate of food, stunning view etc. Try and get creative.

Tip #5

Test all advertising products on social media. We have recently had huge success on Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads. For one client we have made them $22,450+ from a $321 ad spend, with over 450 website conversions. We have also had huge success on Facebook’s new Canvas ads. Start with a small budget and test your ads with these products. No more than $5 per ad per day.

Dokoo Digital is an award winning Marketing Company based in Holywood. For all SyncNi readers we are offering a FREE social media audit, all you have to do is email with the subject line ‘Sync NI’



Start-up feature

FoodCloud H

ere is a staggering statistic. Approximately 30% of food produced for human consumption is wasted across the food supply chain. At the same time, 795 million people around the world suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition. According to the UN, if the amount of food wasted around the world was reduced by 25% there would be enough food for all the people who are malnourished. Irish start up FoodCloud has a solution to this problem. FoodCloud is a social enterprise based in Dublin’s Silicon Docks, home to Global Tech Giants Google, Facebook and AirBnB. FoodCloud’s unique solution connects businesses with surplus food to charities that need it in their local communities through a technology platform. Food redistribution, which means diverting surplus food that is perfectly fit for human consumption to charitable groups, has been put forward as one of the best win-win solutions for reducing wasted food. It is a business-friendly, environmentally-sensitive, sociallyresponsible alternative to wasting good food. Internationally, many food businesses have been donating surplus food from distribution, production and

manufacturing levels for many decades. However, there was not a solution at store level. According to WRAP, store level surplus food posed a particular challenge as food tends to be perishable, in small quantities and of a higher frequency which does not suit the traditional food redistribution models. FoodCloud’s ground breaking technology platform provides retailers with an alternative to throwing out perfectly good food, saving millions of meals from going to waste. FoodCloud was founded by two young female social entrepreneurs in 2013. They quickly realised that technology was needed to make the food redistribution process scalable and sustainable. Tesco is FoodCloud’s first national partner in Ireland. FoodCloud recently launched in the UK in partnership with Tesco and FareShare to offer the UK’s first end to end solution for surplus food redistribution. 126 Tesco stores across the UK have joined the platform and more plan to come on board in 2016. The platform allows stores to upload details of their surplus food and send a text message to a local charity to inform them of the available food. The charity then collects and distributes it to partner charities that provide critical services in youth, childcare,

homelessness, addictions, domestic abuse, education and unemployment. The service is free for charities and the food allows many partner charities to reduce their food bills and redirect resource towards their core services. Together these organisations serve almost 90,000 people every week. FoodCloud is part of a movement of start-ups and innovators that are using technology to disrupt the food industry. FoodCloud’s technology is being developed by an in-house technology team to create a platform that can be scaled internationally. The platform is a reactive application that utilises accurate location, time and product information to make optimal usage of time sensitive donations. The latest iteration of the technology is the first platform for surplus food redistribution that is fully integrated with a retailer’s technology system. Iseult Ward, co-founder and CEO of FoodCloud, added ”The food industry is undergoing a necessary radical transformation and current practices have to change. Technology start-ups and innovators are leading the way and we are proud to be part of this community.” Visit online FoodCloud



PathXL Granted Patent for Automated Tumor Analysis on H&E Digital Slides Patent granted for ground-breaking H&E tumor analysis software designed to drive improvements in standardisation and consistency for molecular cancer diagnostics.

PathXL have been granted UK Patent 2513916. The patent is one of several patents filed that underpin PathXL’s groundbreaking TissueMark™ technology; powerful methods for the automated annotation of tumor boundaries in digital H&E tissue samples. This adds to the patent landscape within the digital pathology industry and PathXL’s growing patent portfolio. This patent describes how complex pattern recognition can be used to define tumor boundaries for macrodissection and improve pre-analytical annotation for molecular diagnostics and next generation sequencing in solid cancers. By recognising tumor patterns in stained tissue samples, heatmaps can be used to map the tissue and determine the most important regions for tumor cell enrichment. Using the heat-map, a tumor boundary is automatically generated which can be used as the guide for macrodissection and accurate tumor cell quantitation. This methodology is highly important to molecular pathology laboratories in driving quality and consistency in solid tumor molecular testing and precision medicine. This is vital in improving sample quality assessment prior to genomic profiling. Recent reports of high failure rates in the Obama precision medicine initiative (http://www.statnews. com/2016/01/22/precision-medicine-cancer-biopsies/ ) and other trials highlight the need to improve tumor identification, annotation and analysis. This patent and the TissueMark platform can provide those important level of objectivity, reproducibility and consistency necessary to deliver high quality solid tumor genomics and molecular diagnostics. PathXL are currently the leading company focussing on H&E imaging to support tissue-based research and future

diagnostic support in pathology. Dr Peter Hamilton, VP for Research & Development at PathXL said “We are delighted to be granted this patent on an important area of innovation. This is the first of a number of patents filed in the field of digital pathology and H&E analysis where PathXL are clearly leading the way.  Integrating these new methods with PathXL’s cool workflow software enables customers to effectively utilise powerful tissue recognition algorithms across an emerging range of important applications including improving the quality of molecular diagnostics and large scale genomics trials.   Des Speed, CEO added “PathXL exists to provide cuttingedge Digital Pathology software solutions that empower pathologists in cancer research.   The granting of this patent confirms the novel nature of this element in our “Tissue Recognition Engine” platform, and further reinforces the important outcomes from our strong focus on research and development in this distinctive area.” About PathXL PathXL are a growing software development company, with its European Headquarters based in Belfast, UK. Belfast’s PathXL is a global pioneer in the use of web-based solutions for digital pathology, and provides innovative software for use in drug discovery research, biomarker analysis and education. PathXL are constantly looking for new talent, if you are interested in joining the PathXL team please visit www.pathxl. com/careers or send your CV to Email PathXL




Start-up feature

Elemental Software Sync NI caught up with Leann Monk and Jennifer Neff, the brains behind the ‘’ of healthcare. q How does your software impact ICT Healthcare

solutions? Elemental Software is set to change the interaction between health and wellcare stakeholders. There is a demand to simplify the patient’s understanding of lifestyle related diseases and Elemental supports them to be control of managing their risk and/or their condition.

the results we have been approached by a number of Commissioning Groups across the UK who are looking to license our software for collaborative networks responsible for reducing health risks in cities suffering from Chronic Conditions. Locally we are working with a prominent community health network to use our technology to generate health risk prevention plans for communities across NI.

The impact of Elemental is best described by Dr Neil Black, a Lead Clinician in the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record and Western Health & Social Care Trust: “Elemental Software has provided us with simple and clear means of communicating powerful and valuable pieces of information in bites that are easy to retain. They have demonstrated their commitment to health promotion in the prevention of diabetes in our area and have made it much easier to reach people who are at risk”.

We recently validated the market in the United Arab Emirates and are setting up an office there after having been recognised as one of the top 5 female start up companies in Dubai in 2015. We are advising the Government Health Departments on a ‘more than medicine’ approach to health and wellcare and are in negotiations with a number of international companies who see Elemental as a way to reduce employee health risks and company insurance premiums.

q How did you find Mobile World Congress, Barcelona?

q What can we hope to see from you over the next year?

It was amazing. We were one of only two NI companies to pitch at the Digital Health Summit and we also flew the flag for female techies. The European Connected Health Alliance introduced us to digital health investors and they see our software playing a pivotal role in connecting the dots in health and wellcare. We could never have imagined the impact of entering and winning The Investor Challenge.

q Recently Ulster University published results proving your unique digital signposting and tracking system, combined with standard psycho-education, significantly reduced the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Wow! Where do you go from here? Thanks to TechstartNI and Invest Northern Ireland we were able to prove that the system worked. Since publishing

Winning the ECHAlliance Investor Challenge has catapulted Elemental across the UK, Ireland and Europe, gaining global recognition and a reputation as a game changer in patient community health. We have secured the longterm mentorship of 2 leading Northern Irish Entrepreneurs and have a strategy which will see Elemental gain local, national and international contracts in 2016. Northern Ireland is very important to us. The eco-system we have here has enabled us to test, develop, test and develop which is core to developing a successful business. Follow Elemental Software

 @its_elemental


Events focus  Digital DNA Awards 8th June - Life Church, Bruce Street, Belfast


Upcoming events Big Data Breakouts

WHEN 2nd June 2016 WHERE Titanic Building, Belfast  @Xperiencegroup

A Startup Guide to Accounting WHEN 27th April 2016 WHERE The Innovation Centre, Northern Ireland Science Park, Belfast  @nispconnect

Digital Storytelling – Content Strategy 101 with Dean Langasco


n 2016, we’re proud to present the Digital DNA Awards, recognising the best businesses, individuals and teams who are harnessing technology to help their business grow. The awards are the first of their kind and are taking place as

part of our legendary Digital DNA ‘After Party’ giving the awards sponsors and entrants the chance to showcase their businesses to the main conference sponsors and delegates.

WHEN 26th May 2016 WHERE The Point Boardroom, W5 at Odyssey Pavilion, 2 Queen’s Quay Belfast  @thewebbureau

UX Training by Fathom

10th & 11th May - The MAC, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast


n response to demand following the December 2015 course, Fathom will be delivering the UXTraining “UX Foundation” course in the MAC, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast on 10 and 11 May 2016. There will be five modules. Fathom CEO Gareth Dunlop will facilitate the interactive two day course. The price for the two

day course is £685 (€895). Further discounts are available for group bookings. Fathom has a small number of promotional codes available for clients on a first come first served basis. Get in touch with Fathom today for a promotional code.

Promote your event to NI’s technology & business community By featuring in our website & magazine your event will reach 10,000’s of local technology and business individuals. Email or call 02890 820 944 to find out more...



Logging Off There is always a lot of hype about the digital world with regards to start ups, mobile apps, IoT and social media; but do we ever pay attention to the public sector and how they use digital? With over a quarter of the NI workforce employed in the public sector, we thought it was about time to shine a light on this area.


fter attending Civica’s Expo 2016 our eyes were opened. We have to admit our knowledge on the public sector’s current digital transformation was limited, but after hearing from Caron Alexander and Paul Wickens, it is encouraging to hear that the public sector services are becoming more accessible and convenient for the citizens of Northern Ireland. It may be fair to assume the public sector hasn’t been as quick as the private sector when it comes to adapting technologies - but its perseverance and drive to provide citizens with the most efficient and easiest service shouldn’t be underestimated. It is getting there; NI Direct’s ’16 by 16’ programme proving this. IT3 Sixty points out that although the number of women working in IT roles has increased over the year’s we are still struggling to see an equal gender balance

within IT professions – both in the private and public sectors. Part of IT3 Sixty’s focus is to address this gender gap we’re still seeing: they fully support (as do Sync NI) local Northern Ireland events and workshops such as Django Girls, to get more females into IT and technology. With that in mind, it was great to catch up with female entrepreneurs Leann Monk and Jennifer Neff, from Elemental Software. This social prescription technology is changing how health and wellcare stakeholders are interacting to provide simple means of communication for the greater good. Elemental Software is an example of how investment and support of our local entrepreneurs is essential and worthwhile. Due to technological advancements, and the fast-paced environment we live in today, it’s no wonder the idea of security is on our minds to protect our personal data. If we fill in an online

form through the likes of NI Direct, then we need reassurance our data is safe; especially with the number of cybersecurity threats and attacks floating about in the media. That’s why we are grateful to have Ward Solutions feature in our magazine and regularly on our website. Ward Solutions have seen a 300% increase in combating such attacks, and always give useful tips on how you can take measures to protect your systems. Whether you’re dealing in the public sector, own your business, or you’re just two girls growing your start-up, cyber security should be high on your list.

Thank you for reading and check out for a daily roundup of the latest happenings in the Northern Irish Technology & Business Industries.

Join the conversation! Tweet @syncni with your tech & business news and you could feature on the Sync NI website! #syncni

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Contact Details: Wellington Professional Recruitment Rochester Building 28 Adelaide Street Belfast BT2 8GD +44(0) 28 90 312009 @WellingtonIT_NI


Sync NI Magazine - Spring 2016 Front Cover: Digital Public Sector  
Sync NI Magazine - Spring 2016 Front Cover: Digital Public Sector