Enterprise Ireland  spoke with Chris Ambler, Head of Asia Pacific at Arkphire, on the company’s plans to drive regional expansion from Singapore. This comes after the company announced an acquisition deal with Singapore-based Generic Technologies.

The full interview can be found here

Headquartered in Ireland, Arkphire is a world-leading managed services provider (MSP) delivering services across cloud, cybersecurity, networking and digital workspace technologies in addition to desktops, collaboration and data centre offerings. The company also provides IT procurement solutions to Multinational companies globally. Arkphire’s expansion into APAC is driven by demand from their multinational client base who want to set up operations in the region.

The company has seen significant growth in the past few years, from a modest €12 million in 2013 to €150 million in 2019 – a marker of its growing industry leadership as an established specialist in global IT procurement and tech services. As Arkphire continues on this growth trajectory, it was only a matter of time that the company expands its service offering and caters to rising demand for these services in the Asia Pacific region.

Responding to a question on Arkphire’s expansion plans for Asia Pacific, Chris Ambler shared, “The goal is to bring all of our solutions and partnerships that we provide in Europe, and offer them to our existing clients in the region. We also want to bring on new customers to expand our client base, and the real value is in our ability to share customers between Asia Pacific and EMEA and help support our clients’ growth across the globe.”

“Over the past few years, we have received a lot of requests from our clients to help with their challenges in Asia Pacific. So what we are bringing [to the region] is a lot of knowledge and experience, and the way I see it, we are going to grow our business to give our customers continuity globally across the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, and provide solutions  for all their IT procurement needs,” he added.

Generic Technologies quickly comes to the forefront as a strategic move for Arkphire. The Singapore-based business was built on the back of increased demand for Apple and Adobe technology and support services, with a specialist focus on digital and creative sector customers, in addition to local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Having grown to become a specialist authorised reseller of Apple, in addition to holding gold partner status with Adobe, Generic Technologies has recorded an annual turnover of €5.85m.

Singapore, one of the major business hubs in Asia Pacific, serves as a strategic launchpad for Arkphire’s regional plans. Often cited as a key gateway to Southeast Asia, Singapore is at the heart of Southeast Asia’s burgeoning tech and innovation landscape, one of the most vibrant and competitive innovation ecosystems in the world.

“It is important that we invest in the region to show that Arkphire is here to stay. If we’re going to do that, it is really key to identify a business that has pedigree and talent in the local market. The focus around this acquisition is to acquire the knowledge and expertise [that has been gained] over a long period of time to help us develop a solid foundation to grow the business locally, and [subsequently] expand across the region,” Ambler said.

Arkphire’s acquisition of Generic Technologies will deepen its ability to support a network of customers across Southeast Asia and help scale up service delivery model capabilities at a regional level. The acquisition is a landmark deal for Arkphire following the opening of its regional office in 2019 and will support the company’s expansion in the Asia Pacific market.

“We opened the Singapore office last year as the headquarters of the Asia Pacific business. We have since added Hong Kong and Japan as regional offices, and we are working on expanding those. Asia Pacific is a region where we see significant growth and opportunity for the business. We see the Asia Pacific market as a region where we can add significant value, and also where we can build a sustainable and long-term business to continue our growth,” said Ambler.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish state export agency, has played an important role in supporting Arkphire as the company navigates challenges in the region, according to Ambler. “Not only has Enterprise Ireland supported us through the initial stages of getting our business set up and running but the agency also linked us up with contacts that we needed to access to get things up and running in other countries, and help solve challenges that we face locally as well. Enterprise Ireland has been a significant help to us, and we look forward to what we can achieve as we continue to develop our business in the region,” he said.

Contemplating the unusual market circumstances that Asia Pacific and the world is currently in given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Ambler believes that technology will become a necessity to the survival and long-term resilience of businesses.

“Every business, no matter what they’re doing, has been disrupted in some way by the outbreak of Covid 19. Aside from the usual tele-conferencing technology that we’re seeing in these times, we foresee a big wave of new technology around digital workspace and office collaboration. Businesses also need to evolve and adopt technology so that their businesses can be more agile and survive business disruptions into the future .”

Arkphire is now positioned as the largest and fastest growing Irish headquartered IT procurement and IT managed services business. Arkphire Group has an unrivalled network of partnership accreditations with leading global IT vendors and is an Apple Authorised Enterprise Reseller (AAER), Check Point 4-Star, Cisco Gold, Citrix Platinum, Dell Titanium, HP Platinum, IBM Gold, Lenovo Platinum and Microsoft Gold Partner.

 

By Jack Callaghan, Senior Vice President (Digital Technology)

Digital Transformation of the modern workplace remains a crucial factor in preserving company culture, staying competitive, and enhancing customer connection.

The Covid-19 health crisis has resulted in extreme changes throughout the workplace which will have a lasting impact on various issues including how teams collaborate and interact, what tools and resources are available and what methods organisations engage to connect with customers.

And while there is no doubt that the pandemic posed many challenges across every sector, the mass transition to a more digital workplace has provided businesses with a taste of some of the productivity gains which can be achieved by the adoption of modern workplace applications and future workplace practices.

In this article, we will delve into the future of the workplace, the primary drivers of digital transformation and the advantages of becoming an intelligent enterprise by investing in digital modern workplace solutions.

What is a Digital Modern Workplace?

The Digital Modern Workplace consists of digital processes and platforms which address the way organisational teams interact, drive insights, automate business processes, and sell effectively.

Every company’s digital workplace is customised by a toolbox of solutions chosen to best support their employees’ work practices, to preserve company culture, and also to strengthen their connection to the customer.

And the four key pillars which must be considered when organisations first implement their internal digital strategy are as follows:

  1. Collaboration: This refers to the tools, software applications and systems designed to promote workplace collaboration, workflow productivity, and the sharing of project and task related information across teams
  2. Automation: The processes which reduce the amount of time spent handling mundane and repetitive tasks which will free employees up to work on more creative briefs. Automation includes artificial intelligence solutions, robotic process automation, bots, and virtual assistants
  3. Sales Enablement: These are the solutions which support sales and marketing teams to engage customers more efficiently, sell more effectively, and keep connected
  4. Security: This is a major consideration when it comes to digital modern workplace applications, so it is vital to have adequate controls to protect the business

The marketplace for digital modern workplace applications has also undergone significant change. Most notably, the Cloud continues to redefine the channels which connect digital modern workplace solutions to end users by making solutions more accessible (i.e. multi-cloud services & commercial cloud marketplaces) and enabling more functional integrations across applications.

This means that the process of deploying workplace software solutions has been made easier for organisations, allowing them to become more agile and flexible with the types of technologies they have in use while simultaneously saving significant expense and time – something which is necessary to onboard and scale new technologies as they become available.

Key Drivers of Digital Modern Workplace

While Covid-19 has had a severe impact on industry across all sectors globally, it is also true to say that even without it, we were heading into one of the most defining half decade periods for major changes to the workplace.

How businesses prioritise digital transformation after the current crisis will play a major role in their ability to compete in the not-so-distant future. And a long-existing driver of this transformation has come from how we are evolving socially. So while undoubtedly, digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic, it hasn’t actually been the primary driver.

Currently millennials make up less than 50% of the workplace, but by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up by this age bracket – the majority of whom believe in having the option to work from anywhere and also to focus on working intelligently rather than harder.

So as more and more millennials take over decision making roles, the direction of the workplace will change to favour digital tools and processes which facilitate remote working, improve communication, and increase both accessibility to information and digital task management for teams.

Also, the next wave of disruptive technology will be another impacting factor. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will not only improve business efficiency, it will also reduce the number of mundane tasks employees are currently having to perform, freeing them to focus on more meaningful and creative briefs, and further speeding up the innovation cycle.

We have already seen early examples of workplace AI including chatbots, virtual assistants, intelligent analytics, and robotic process automation. But over the next five years the reliance on solutions utilising AI will become much more instrumental in all competitive workplaces.

Lastly, as customer expectations continue to rise, so too does the need for businesses to embrace solutions which more effectively connect sales and marketing teams to meet the needs of the customers.

Digital workplace applications have opened more and more channels which connect organisations to customers, and they continue to transform how we approach sales, marketing, and customer experience. Commonly known examples may include Sales Force Automation (SFA) technology and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, which improve selling efficiency by allowing organisations to collect huge amounts of highly useful data which will continue to have an impact on future selling strategies.

Ireland as a Hub for Digital Modern Workplace Solutions

Irish companies are at the forefront of innovation in the digital workplace and are well-positioned to compete globally as companies seek new solutions to support employees digitally, preserve culture, automate process, and connect with their customer.

And below is a snapshot of some of the Irish innovators aligned to Collaboration Tech, Workplace AI Solutions, Sales Enablement and Customer Experience.

Collaboration & Workflow Management Solutions

Teamwork is a work and project management tool which helps both in-house and remote teams to improve collaboration, visibility, accountability and ultimately end results. Founded in Cork in 2007, Teamwork has continued to expand globally and currently they have seven offices worldwide, serving over 22,000 customers in 184 countries.

Workvivo is an internal communication and employee engagement platform which has been designed to connect employees with the goals and values of their organisation, build a strong culture of recognition, and promote collaboration across teams. Workvivo serves as the primary intranet for many of its customers, with companies ranging in size from 200 people to 85,000 people globally. In February 2020 it announced the opening of its first overseas office in San Francisco, and shortly afterwards closed its series A round with Tiger Global Management and Frontline Ventures.

Poppulo is a global leader in employee communications technology offering pioneering software and expert advisory services to enable organisations to plan, target, publish, and measure the impact of their communications across multiple digital channels, all in one place.

Workplace AI Solutions

Boxever is a personalisation platform which uses data and AI to help the world’s biggest brands make every customer interaction smarter and deliver game-changing customer experience. Boxever’s platform capabilities include omnichannel personalisation, customer segmentation, customer journey automation, optimisation and testing, and also analytics.

Webio, the Conversational Middleware Company, is on a mission to automate the worlds business to consumer conversations. Webio has built an interface platform which enables enterprises to automatically conduct all its existing customer interactions over any messaging platform. It is channel agnostic and is a fantastic solution which links information and services APIs to deliver the conversational interface.

Sales Enablement

Channel Mechanics transforms channel offerings through their Cloud based channel enablement PRM Platform, allowing vendors to rapidly deploy programmes with precision targeting and have real-time visibility into ROI. Ultimately this creates competitive advantage as it enables sales ideas to be quickly transformed into targeted and focused offers giving partners the offer they need, when they need them and eliminating the old ‘Spay and Pray’ approach.

Solgari is the enterprise solution for organizations with demanding, multi-channel needs, who are looking to increase efficiency and effectiveness, meet all related compliance requirements, and to delight customers. Their solution has made a global impact and is being used in over 40 countries to-date, serving customers across financial services, fintech, retail, e-commerce and many more, all on a per user per month SaaS model.

If you’d like to connect with innovative Irish companies, click here .

Based in its state-of-the-art distribution and training facility in Oswestry in Shropshire, Aico has been a market leader in domestic fire and carbon monoxide (CO) protection for the past three decades. Pioneering new technologies, the company offers high-quality alarms designed, developed and manufactured in its parent company’s factory in Shannon on Ireland’s western seaboard.

The partnership between Aico and EI Electronics, its parent, dates back to 1990 and between them they now employ 930 people across the UK, Ireland and Europe, with annual sales reaching €240 million in 2019. “Our success is built not only on producing the highest-quality alarms, but also through passionate people, continued innovation, exceptional service and unrivalled support,” says Aico National Sales Manager Steve Trafford.

EI Electronics was founded in Ireland in 1963 as a subsidiary of US multinational GE. When GE entered the fire alarm market in the early 1970s, EI Electronics was awarded the manufacturing and R&D mandates for the new product line. That was followed by a significant reorganisation at GE which saw three senior executives buy out the Irish subsidiary.

“That was the beginning of EI Electronics as a private Irish company,” comments EI Director Brendan Barry.

Demand for domestic fire protection products had surged in the UK following the tragic King’s Cross fire in 1987 and EI Electronics was selling into the market through a tie-in with Black & Decker. That company subsequently exited the fire alarm and security market, leaving EI Electronics with the task of developing its own consumer brand.

That’s when a newly established distribution company came calling. “Aico approached us in 1990 to supply our products to them,” Barry recalls. “It was an easy decision for us to make. We were hungry for business at the time, but we couldn’t have foreseen what this partnership would lead to.”

Another critical milestone on the Aico journey came in 1992 with a change to the UK Building Regulations which required mains-powered smoke alarms to be fitted in all new homes. That saw the beginning of a very strong relationship with local authorities and social landlords throughout the UK.

“I was working in the social housing sector in the late 1990s,” Steve Trafford points out. “The 1992 Building Regulations had been followed by the introduction of new standards for fire alarms in 1995. We fitted a lot of Aico detectors back then. We always used the specified brand and that tended to be Aico. We weren’t very comfortable with other brands, Aico was trusted and proven. The underlying technology may have changed and improved over the years, but nothing has changed in relation to quality. Nothing is batch tested. Every product is individually tested four times before it leaves the factory.”

The company was well placed to respond to these market changes, according to Barry. “We had the right products at the right time, and we grew very quickly in the social landlord and local authority market. Our success is built on having really good complementary operations in the UK and Shannon.”

Continuous improvement and product development are also central to Aico’s success. “We introduced Kaizen manufacturing methodology in the 1990s and we continuously improve our products and processes,” says Barry.

Innovation comes from both arms of the company. “It can be Aico-led in some cases, and if it’s under the cover, it is led from here,” Barry explains. “There is very strong creative cross-over. Aico works very closely with our customers and listens to them so that we can continue to fulfil their changing needs.”

So strong was the relationship between the two companies that EI Electronics acquired Aico in 2004. “When the owner wanted to sell the business, it was a natural move for us to acquire it. The partnership had worked so well for us up until then we wanted to continue with it. I can’t remember a year since then when we haven’t had double-digit growth.”

Aico works very closely with the contractors who install its products. “Education is critical to everything we do,” says Trafford. “Educating our own people, educating the market in terms of changing standards. We have trained more than 25,000 electrical contractors in the UK free of charge over the years. It’s part of their continuing professional development. When we change a product, we offer free training to update them on it. We have four mobile training facilities out on the road supported by our Centre of Excellence in Oswestry.”

Looking to the future, Trafford notes that advances in connected home technology will bring further benefits to customers. “We are incorporating IoT technologies into our products. This will enable customers to get a lot more information from sensors in homes and upload it to the cloud. For example, our biggest social landlord customers might have 100,000 properties, with four or five devices in each. If someone has had an alarm activation in London or tampered with a device in Edinburgh, they will know about it immediately if the devices are connected to our home gateway.”

That capability also has implications for social care. “Our ageing population means that a lot of tenants may require additional care,” Trafford adds. “If the landlord is able to get information about the temperature in the home, they will know if the tenant is heating it properly. And that’s just the beginning.”

Turnover has been doubling every five years. “We believe this will continue and that we will reach €400 million by 2023,” says Barry. “Our main markets at present are the UK, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia. We are selling into a number of other European markets, including Finland, Norway and France, and we are at the initial stages in North America.”

Listen to Episode 4 of the Enterprise Ireland Evolve UK Podcast with EI Electronics/AICO on how collaboration across the Irish Sea led to unprecedented growth for the Irish Company

Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences are finally becoming an integral part of our lives, with many Irish companies producing innovative solutions in several industries. These industries include education & training, manufacturing & industrial, and the original use case of AR/VR, gaming & entertainment.

 

Education and Training

The use of immersive technology for education and training is anticipated to be one of the largest areas of growth, with predictions stating that it has the potential to boost global GDP by $294 billion by 2030. Fortune 500 companies including UPS and Walmart have introduced immersive technologies for employee training and development with Walmart reporting an increase in user retention across their academies of between by 10-15%.

Irish technology companies have been responding to this trend, creating innovative and authentic training experiences to be consumed in an immersive environment. Irish VR production studio VRAI creates powerful VR training experiences with a focus on hazardous material training. Their platform Hazardous Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) uses both VR and artificial intelligence (AI) to make training more authentic and measurable, while reducing risk to the employee. HEAT allows employers to track and measure progress over time by using AI to generate reports and insights to track training effectiveness and identify predictive indicators of future performance

Branching out from their traditional broadcast and media focus, Digisoft is using digital twin technology to create training environments for life sciences labs. Their product CyberTwin creates a digital replicate of labs and facilities to ensure an efficient and safe working environment by eliminating unnecessary visitors. This allows for new recruits to be kept away from the production area until they are ready to enter, while also ensuring a deeper level of learning through interactive engagement.

 

Improving accuracy and efficiency

Immersive technologies are also being used across the manufacturing, energy and utilities sectors to improve efficiency and accuracy of workflows. For example, Boeing uses AR glasses to guide technicians as they wire aircraft, reducing production times by 25% and error rates to almost zero.

Irish company Utility AR creates AR solutions for sectors including manufacturing, pharmaceutical and utilities that allow the user to interact with the real world while accessing existing databases and software systems. Their Remote Advisor platform allows a more experienced technician use the forward-facing camera on a pair of AR smart glasses to see what the local technician is seeing. They can then provide feedback via audio or using onscreen markups. These technologies can prevent delays in getting crucial work completed while also helping to reduce the experience gap.

 

Immersive Gaming and Entertainment

AR/VR technologies originally had the most impact in the gaming industry, and this market still accounts for approximately 50% of total VR software sales. A well-known success in this space is Pokemon Go, an AR mobile app that garnered more than 500 million downloads and $470 million in revenue in its first 80 days.

Founded by Nikki Lannen in 2013, Irish game development studio War Ducks has released several best-selling VR games including Sneaky Bears and Rollercoaster Legends. The studio is now in the process of developing one of the industry’s most anticipated AR game for mobile, which will be released later this year.

In addition, holograms, 3D images created by photographic projections, have been steadily gaining momentum in the space. Volograms, a spin-out from Trinity College Dublin, has taken this technology to the next level. Their platform enables the capture of real people into volumetric holograms, volograms, which can be enjoyed within all kinds of AR & VR experiences, apps and social media.

Finally, not all immersive experiences need to be enjoyed in a headset or a through a screen, with immersive in-person events increasing in popularity as society demands more interactive experiences and brands work to create more engaging live content. Creative production studio Algorithm specialises in creating powerful immersive experiences using a variety of creative technologies including 3D mapping projections, LED arrays and holograms. Their focus on live experiences ensures the audience member watches the real world interact with the digital as part of artistic performances, festivals and events.

Immersive technologies are on their way to becoming significant parts of both our personal and professional lives. At Enterprise Ireland, we are committed to working closely with Irish companies that are becoming major global players in this exciting sector.

For more information, please get in touch with our San Francisco-based market advisor, Hannah Dobson – hannah.dobson@enterprise-ireland.com

 

 

 

With a huge leap in the number of people out of work around the world and some employers lacking the confidence to hire right now given wider macroeconomic uncertainties, it can seem like a bleak time for the jobs market.

It’s not all bad news, however, with many sectors temporarily stopped or slowed down rather than being in a long-term funk, meaning hiring plans are still active, if delayed in some cases. In some sectors hiring is continuing at pace, but recruitment teams can find themselves overwhelmed or frustrated by bottlenecks.

Two Irish talent tech companies offer solutions that not only enable companies to source their talent pipelines in a much more efficient, engaging and forward-thinking way, but also enable them to level up their entire candidate management process.

Rezoomo: future-focused talent acquisition

For companies anticipating increased workforce needs down the line, talent acquisition software firm Rezoomo has the answer. With its Future Roles feature, companies can post roles they expect to need to fill in three, six or 12 months’ time. Not only does this offer hope to candidates, but it also enables companies to build up talent pools.

“We have companies use it to build up a database of talent when they know they have an upcoming project or will be opening a new office or, in the case of hospitals, adding a new ward,” says Cathal Doorley, founder and CEO of Rezoomo.

This feature is just one element of Rezoomo’s recruitment software. “It includes an applicant tracking system, candidate relationship management, employer branding, candidate experience and candidate management into one intuitive all-inclusive solution with video at its core,” says Doorley. “Effectively, we take the offerings of four or five companies and roll them into one easy-to-use, intuitive platform.”

Video has become critical to companies seeking to recruit at scale, he says, pointing out that candidates are more likely to look at video first than any other information in a job ad. “We see job ads with video get 34% more applications,” he says.

Rezoomo comes with a built-in recording system, making it easy to create rich and engaging recruitment campaigns, but also to send video and audio messages to candidates during the hiring process.

“Every time you engage with a candidate, you can send a video or audio message instead of a text message. For example, you could make a video rejection or thank you. It creates a more personalised approach for candidates and allows recruiters to build a rapport with them.”

Furthermore, if someone applies for a job, they can update it any time they want, meaning the employer always has an updated version of that CV if they are reviewing their pipeline of potential candidates.

Set up seven years ago and used by hotel groups, retail groups and food service chains among others, Rezoomo also counts multiple hospitals and healthcare providers among its users. “It’s built to be used by any company of any size anywhere,” says Doorley.

vsource: boosting efficiency and diversity in hiring

When it comes to scaling recruitment efforts, companies can feel they have to choose between recruitment software companies that use machine learning to find candidates or recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firms that use people to recruit candidates. You can have the best of both worlds, however. vsource combines both approaches, using technology and human input.

A talent sourcing and engagement platform, vsource uses artificial intelligence, search algorithms and skilled human insights to find and engage with candidates, including passive candidates who are not actively seeking a new role. Household name global tech companies, including Amazon, Cisco, Google, McAfee and Pandora, use it to hire for open positions, scale projects and expand the talent pool in their pipelines.

“It’s about transforming the recruitment process from a relationship-based activity based on gut feel to a data-informed broader system,” says James Galvin, founder and CEO of vsource. Furthermore, he says, it can reduce bottlenecks and make hiring fairer, especially as remote work is commonplace now, says Galvin.

“Up to now, recruiters have often ended up hiring people they already know, but if you want to really scale and be fair to people from different backgrounds, you need to know who is out there and the skills they have.”

As recruiters reimagine how they work, it’s also an ideal time to shift to hiring based on potential rather than seeking candidates who are an exact fit based on current needs. vsource offers that talent pipeline and also enables recruiters to build networks of candidates for the future.

“They might think, ‘Well, in three years we expect we will be hiring a lot of people similar to this candidate’, so they can start talking to and getting to know people in the pipeline. Instead of looking at the same small group of candidates, they can cast the net much wider. It is much fairer from a diversity perspective — it’s all about the pond you’re fishing in.”

Despite the initial shock of Covid-19, many firms are now seeing this period of disruption as an opportunity to reassess and improve how they care for and develop employees, and ultimately build better organisations.

These three Irish talent tech firms are supporting HR teams and managers at global firms as they examine how a push for employee development, behavioural change and organisational transformation can help businesses build strong capability for the future, whatever it may bring.

Our Tandem: Helping to shape workplace culture

While companies have had many organisational challenges in adjusting to the ‘new normal’, the human side of remote working has been the most critical.

“We are all social beings,” says Jim O’Brien, one of the co-founders of Our Tandem, a performance management technology company based in Ireland, with offices in London, New York and Toronto. “We have lost that time we used to have to interact with colleagues and build trust in the workplace, so organisations are looking for ways to replace it.”

Our Tandem re-imagines the world of work to provide a digital employee experience and engagement solution, designed to ignite and sustain a workplace culture that inspires all employees. With a new vision for performance management, Our Tandem delivers a toolkit in the form of a desktop site or an app, to develop the people in the organisation, break down barriers and deliver a rich and meaningful solution.

Initially, Our Tandem was more focused on being a feedback channel, but it has evolved, says O’Brien. “It is now a culture change tool, helping you to shift the culture from one of low feedback or judgmental feedback, to one where the entire employee experience – from feedback, to goals and check-ins and surveys are an everyday experience, with no surprise or fear involved.”

Our Tandem includes crowdsourced real time feedback, regular check-ins and goals (which accelerates the capability of managers to coach), pulse surveys, structured 360s and insightful analytics, meaning the entire employee experience can be measured at every touchpoint. It integrates with existing HR and comms tools, and Our Tandem has also partnered with Willis Towers Watson to provide change management services and training.

“There is always an element of change management with the rollout of an Our Tandem implementation and is something that is very important to us as an organisation,” says O’Brien. “The tech itself isn’t a silver bullet, but the platform encourages this culture change.”

These include nudge functionality, which encourages managers to share feedback with team members, and prompts to push feedback recipients to engage with those who send feedback — which helps to foster supportive employee relationships.

Founded in 2016, Our Tandem has built a large client base across Europe, mostly comprising enterprise customers. Among others, these include financial firms such as Swiss Re, Abn Amro, Axa, and Société Générale and luxury brands such as Cartier and Mont Blanc.

PulseLearning: caring for employees, caring for business

In these challenging times, it’s vital for employers to have a culture of safety and care, says Pa Fealy, CEO of PulseLearning, an award-winning, global learning company founded in 1999.

“People often have a deep desire to help each other but they’re not sure what to do. On the flipside, we all need help sometimes, but we are not sure how to ask for it PulseLearning seeks to bridge the gap between someone who has a willingness to help and someone who needs help.”

PulseLearning created the I Am Here employee mental health and wellbeing programme with clinical experts to facilitate cultural change within organisations. It promotes an environment where asking for help is encouraged and facilitated. It has already been launched to more than 850,000 people.

As part of theI Am Here programme, all team members begin to understand the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Some choose to become more actively involved by becoming Tribe Members or Ambassadors. This affords them the opportunity to take a lead role to ensure I Am Here is embraced within the organisation.. “With support including scenario-based training, we give teams the courage, confidence and skills to show they care, ask the question and call for help,” says Fealy.

PulseLearning’s I Am Here programme is demonstrating that clients using I Am Here, see an increase in the use of employee assistance programmes and a significant, sustained reduction in sick days and workers’ compensation claims for clients.

“We believe an evidence-based mental health programmes is a unique differentiator for businesses and shows measurable financial impact,” says Fealy, pointing to a recent Deloitte study which found one-sixth of workers in the UK have a mental health problem at any one time, with stress, anxiety and depression causing almost half of all working days lost.

“I Am Here fundamentally creates a behavioural and cultural change in an organisation. Mental health and wellbeing supports are not just a nice-to-have, they are a need-to-have. Loss of time in the business by a Team Member has a business impact as well as a human impact.”

Beyond mental health and wellbeing, PulseLearning also provides learning solutions on topics as diverse as induction and onboarding, sales enablement, compliance and more to clients globally. It has subsidiaries in Australia, Canada and the US. Its clients include Adobe, Ericsson, Nissan, Roche, Sage and many other global names across multiple sectors.
Register for I Am Here at www.iamheretribe.com

Code Institute: upskilling for digital transformation

Upskilling is a real concern for any company engaged in digital transformation, especially as it can leave experienced employees doing their best with outmoded skills.

Time and again, however, the Code Institute has seen large firms being able to take their seasoned employees and help them adapt, thereby benefitting both the workers and their employers.

“Take BT, which is a huge telecoms giant,” says Jane Gormley, Director of Employer Engagement at the Code Institute. “It had a really large network of hardware engineers who understood the mechanics of the business and the industry, but whose skills were becoming outdated as BT moved to a digital network.

“Our talent assessment tool can be rolled out to 10,000 people at once. BT used it to find the people were interested in and suited to becoming a developer, and put them through a training programme.”

Both companies and workers are increasingly realising, she adds, that training is an ongoing process. “Giving existing staff new skills is vital to successful digital transformation and also supports internal mobility for employees. We all know there is a massive digital skills shortage, but it is really positive to be able to retain your existing experienced staff. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Code Institute’s core product is a university-accredited diploma in full stack web development. Its content is reviewed quarterly under the auspices of an industry council, which includes representatives from Accenture, Intercom, Microsoft and PayPal, among others. While individuals can sign up to study, the Code Institute also works closely with HR and learning and development teams within corporate clients.

The online learning environment includes 24/7 student chat support, a personal tutor and the learning management system itself, which is primarily video-based and which tracks students so they can be contacted and supported if they are falling behind. Each student is also assigned a developer working in industry to act as their mentor.

In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

From boosting physical and psychological health to enabling better employee communications and performance management, Irish talent tech companies are leading the way.

The five companies showcased below provide companies around the world with cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees.

Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments.

Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

“We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.

“Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture. People need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.”

Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

Woodies, an Irish chain of DIY stores, found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform, including NETGEAR. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, and with Eric Yuan of Zoom as an existing investor, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.

Frankli: automating continuous performance management

While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

“Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli, which is headquartered in Sligo. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition.

“People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

“Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.

Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

“If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

“They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

With users in Ireland and India, including ABP, one of the biggest media houses in India and Kingston Technologies a multinational hardware manufacturer, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK.
So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them to make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.

“The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.”

Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars, including , Michelle Fogarty, former Head of HR in EMEA for Twitter — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

“We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

“We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has a global user base in over 10 countries, including PayPal, AIB and Northern Trust. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”

Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed

Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

“POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources and offers tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journalling,” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

“The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

“POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During Covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard”.

Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

“All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

Enterprise Ireland client companies have helped put Ireland into the top echelon of countries whose innovative solutions are helping to reduce the impact of Covid-19.

A global survey ranks Ireland among the top countries in the world for producing innovative solutions to the current crisis.  Ireland has come sixth in a global ranking of those responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic.

Inventive solutions coming out of Ireland span everything from med tech devices to diagnostics solutions and contact tracing software, and place the country just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.

The survey is compiled by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, in association with the UN-backed Health Innovation Index (HIEx) and partners such as Crunchbase, a US business information platform.

Ireland’s top ranking position reflects the fact that within weeks of the World Health Organisation declaring the pandemic, on 11th March, more than 100 Enterprise Ireland client companies had responded with innovative solutions.

As a result Ireland is one of just a few in the Top 20 country ranking which is singled out by the report’s authors for “over-performing in Covid-related innovation”.

The rankings consider the number of innovations in each country, giving extra points for those which it selects as ‘outstanding’ in the fight against the virus.

The scale and scope of Ireland’s innovation response to the pandemic is immense. It includes examples such as nutraceuticals firm Mervue Labs in Cork partnering with iconic drinks maker Irish Distillers to create hand sanitisers.

Similar initiatives are to be seen among human and animal health companies such as Univet, Chanelle and Ovelle.

Irish mask maker Irema, a contract manufacturer to US conglomerate 3M and other medical device suppliers, has expanded its workforce and built a new production line to ramp up production of reusable respirator-grade masks.

Ireland’s engineering sector stepped up to the plate quickly too. Long established companies such as Automatic Plastics and Key Plastics, whose clients range from pharmaceutical and food packaging to telecoms and aerospace, pivoted to manufacture face shields for use by health service workers.

High potential start ups are responding fast too, with CALT Dynamics, a 3-D printing company backed by Stanley Black & Decker, making protective visors.

Software companies have risen to the challenge with alacrity.  Clinical practice management solutions company Wellola launched a secure patient communication portal for general practitioners in Ireland’s national health service, the HSE. By providing treatment remotely, it is helping to keep queues and wait times down, while at the same time protecting both doctor and patient from the spread of Covid-19.

Scheduling software company Swiftqueue is optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres.

Irish medical devices innovators are coming to the rescue too. PMD Solutions, creator of pioneering patient monitoring devices, is trialling a new respiratory monitoring solution in one of Dublin’s biggest hospitals.

Jinga Life allows people to securely record, store and share their own medical information. By providing for the digital transfer of things such as CT scans, MRIs and x-rays, it reduces the risk of infection from handling current technologies such as CDs.

Digital healthcare company PatientMpower provides tech solutions for people living with long term illnesses. Its remote monitoring enables clinicians to provide continued high quality care to vulnerable patients without the need for hospital visits during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the world’s leading digital mental health providers, SilverCloud Health, is opening up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the impact of Covid-19.

The Irish company has offices in Boston, Dublin and London and clients such as Ireland’s HSE and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and Canadian retail pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart. It is providing programmes on stress, sleep and resilience for free to its clients’ 150 million customers.

Tracking and tracing is an effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19 and Waterford based software development company NearForm is working with Ireland’s HSE to develop a mobile tracing app for the disease.

The potentially life-saving app will facilitate the rapid notification of people who have been in contact with someone who is subsequently been found have tested positive for the virus.

Irish artificial intelligence start up Oblivious AI has developed a Covid19 contact tracing solution that provides accurate information at speed while at the same time protecting people’s privacy. It is being piloted in India.

Internet of Things specialist Taoglas is helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Augmented reality hand washing app SureWash, which is already used by healthcare workers globally to ensure proper hand hygiene, has been made available by the company to the general public, to stem the spread of the virus in the community.

Dublin based HiberGene Diagnostics, a developer of molecular diagnostics tests for human infectious diseases, is developing a new and rapid test for the novel coronavirus, based on non-invasive human samples such as swabs.

Because it is a “near patient test”, samples will be taken and tested on location, without needing to be sent offsite to a laboratory. It could produce a positive COVID 19 result many times faster than the fastest existing molecular diagnostic tests.

Fellow Irish biotech company Aalto Bio Reagents has launched a new protein with the power to fight the Covid-19 on three fronts – diagnosis, vaccines and research.

Irish med tech company Aerogen has pioneered new ways to help people in respiratory distress using aerosol drug delivery technology.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, Aerogen has an in-line circuit design, which means the ventilation circuit does not need to be broken for drug delivery. Its management team believes it could therefore be a viable option to help deliver industry-leading care to patients infected with Covid-19.

Finally, innovative plasma technology developed by Irish company Novaerus is helping to close the infection control loop of hands, surfaces and now air. It uses a patented technology that kills airborne viruses by sucking air from a room and passing it through patented plasma coils which destroy them, reducing the risk of cross-infection.

Irish companies are continuing to respond to the pandemic challenge with resourcefulness and creativity, says Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s divisional manager for innovation and competitiveness. “We are seeing companies innovating, adapting and creating new solutions.”

An Enterprise Ireland-hosted conversation with industry thought leaders hears why airline and hospitality brands are looking to the tech industry as a painful rebuilding process is set to begin:

“Every crisis requires innovation,” is Henry Harteveldt’s parting shot. It’s a good way to finish, a welcome note of optimism but also a rallying cry to purveyors of bright ideas in the tech sector and elsewhere. Deep in crisis, the travel industry needs creativity and innovative solutions like never before.

One of the leading voices in the US travel industry, analyst and researcher Harteveldt has been in conversation with marketing and customer loyalty expert Dave Canty as part of an Enterprise Ireland-hosted conversation examining the impact of Covid-19 on the travel sector.

It’s been a sobering 60-minute discussion led by Enterprise Ireland for its travel technology companies. Of all global sectors affected by the spread of the virus, arguably none have been hit harder than the travel industry. For airline and hospitality brands that have withstood a succession of natural and man-made disasters in recent years, will Covid-19 prove to be the final straw?

Emotional v financial impact

“Well, we’re on an odyssey that nobody could have expected,” says Henry Harteveldt at the outset. “The financial impact of this is going to be extraordinary on a worldwide basis but I think the emotional impact is going to be even greater, and that’s something travel companies really have to think about.

“We have to ask the question ‘What are we going to be like after this?’ because there is going to be a lot of lingering psychological impact and nervousness,” he says. “How are we going to feel about being in a busy neighbourhood restaurant, never mind a crowded convention centre or even an airplane?

“So, there are all these unusual things to consider, even before we talk about the rebuilding of the industry,” adds Harteveldt. “Unlike a recession where things get bad and then things get better, the recovery from this is going to be uneven. It’s probably going to be slow and steady. We hope it will be steady, but it will certainly be slow.”

Rebound likely “by mid-2021”

“We’re in the jaws of this right now but you would hope that the containment efforts are going to bring some positive trends in the second half of the year,” says Dave Canty. “By next spring, maybe summer 2021, I would expect to see things starting to climb back.

“When confidence does start to return, I think leisure will rebound a lot faster than anything on the business side,” he says. “But even on that point, confidence may be a generational thing – it will certainly be subjective – and it may be a while before older generations feel comfortable travelling again, if ever again.

“Business travel will phase back in, but you’ll definitely see organisations re-assessing their travel budgets,” says Canty, pointing to the success of platforms like Zoom and WebEx in keeping people connected during the crisis. “Last to recover may be those hotels that have made big investments in events and conferences. They may suffer for longer.”

“It goes back to the psychology,” agrees Henry Harteveldt. “Organizations may not be sure they want their employees being in a large gathering of people. But we’ll also take our cue from public health officials. The challenge is that there’s a kind of patchwork of restrictions so it might be easier for some businesses to get back quicker than others.”

Both agree that travel companies will need help to ride out the storm.

“A lot of travel firms have gotten rid of contractors and outside resources to reduce expenses, and that’s had a massive impact on IT departments,” says Harteveldt. “In terms of technology investment, neither hotels nor airlines have been doing as good a job as they could have been doing or needed to be doing. That’s maybe an opportunity.

“Ancillaries are going to be hugely important, for hotels especially,” he goes on. “The challenge for hotels, unlike airlines, is that each hotel may have a different selection of products and those products are more likely to be at a property level rather than at a corporate or brand level. So, selling them may not be as easy.

Ancillary, subscriber-based products

“I think there’s going to be a big scramble for hotels to work on their ancillary retail, but their ability to sell these products is largely dependent on personalization,” says Harteveldt. “This is an opportunity for companies to sell subscription-based products into hotels.

“It may be easier if you’re able to bear more of the risk and tell clients that you’re willing to take it on the return,” he adds. “Also, the easier it is to implement any kind of technology solution, the more work you can take on for the company, the better.

“What sort of innovation do travel companies need? Anything that can improve their data insights and their personalization,” he says. “Tools that can help brands improve their retail, more targeted content. Any form of innovation that can help travel companies to be more effective and sell their products.”

“It’s delicate because you’ve got a lot of brands that are literally trying to survive,” says Dave Canty. “I’d suggest that if you are approaching travel companies, tread carefully and make it clear that you’re trying help. Can we help you connect better with your customers? Is there a way we can help you engage more deeply with your loyalty base?

“That might be a content offering that you can provide to travel brands, even on a free basis for a period of time, that they in turn can offer to their subscribers,” he says. “A crisis situation is when your loyalty programme should shine, so companies that haven’t invested in loyalty fundamentals are falling behind. They need to start making those investments now.”

David Canty is a partner with New World Loyalty, a partnership and loyalty advisory firm based in Atlanta. Henry Harteveldt is President of Atmosphere Research, a San Francisco-based market research firm serving the global travel industry. He recently authored Enterprise Ireland’s white paper on Maximizing Revenue across the traveler’s journey

Irish digital technology is taking up the fight against Covid-19

All over Ireland digital technology companies are taking up the fight against coronavirus. Innovation is rapidly emerging in response to the global pandemic.  A number of critical solutions are already in the fray, with many more set for rapid deployment.

Tech for tracking

We know from the World Health Organisation that tracking and tracing is an effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19.

In Ireland, Waterford based software development company NearForm is working with Ireland’s Health Service Executive, the country’s national health service, to develop a mobile tracing app for the disease.

The potentially life-saving app will facilitate the rapid notification of people who have been in contact with someone who is subsequently been found have tested positive for the virus.

Ireland’s HSE is just one of a number of major clients the company has worked with. Others include internationally known organisations such as the New York Times, US retailer Walmart, and ridesharing platform Uber.

NearForm was recently invited to participate in IBM’s Call For Code in Geneva, a worldwide developer initiative that seeks technology solutions for natural disaster preparedness, response and, crucially, recovery.

The new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app will curtail the spread of the virus and help eliminate the growth of clusters. As such it will be a vital part of Ireland’s national response to Covid-19.

Keeping a safe distance

Social distancing is a key protection against infection.

A new solution from Irish Internet of Things (IOT) specialist Taoglas is helping both public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes and social distancing, as part of the fight against Covid-19.

Called CROWD Insights, it supports the urgent public health need countries are experiencing globally to manage group sizes and, where people do come together, to keep them at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart.

Taoglas’ cloud-based analytics platform can measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify public gathering and social distancing breaches. It works in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

The company is currently working with one of Ireland’s leading hospitals and in time will offer the solution to municipalities, governments and enterprises, as well as healthcare systems.

The solution is quick and easy to deploy. It uses existing Wifi systems and collects anonymised data via smartphones. It can be up and running – remotely – in just one day.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again,” says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive and founder of Taoglas.

“With a cost-effective tool to measure, monitor and manage people movement, we’re looking to help to expedite getting life – and businesses – back to normal.”

Taking the isolation out of self isolation

Keeping in touch can be a matter of life and death right now.

International mobile phone top-up provider Ding is helping people around the world to do just that, despite the challenges of Covid-19.

Since the international mobile phone top-up company was established in 2006, its users have sent more than 300 million top-ups globally. In fact, Ding delivers a top-up every second, via 600 mobile phone carriers across 140 countries.

Pre-paid mobile phones account for three quarters of the world’s five billion mobile phones but fully one quarter of them are estimated to be off-line and in need of top-up at any given time. Right now, a topped-up mobile phone is more important than ever.

In March Ding, which is headquartered in Dublin, launched a week long free fees initiative to help people keep in touch during a particularly critical phase in the disease’s progress.

Now Ding is focusing on its Access For Good charity programme, partnering with Medecins Sans Frontiere (Doctors Without Borders) so that every time someone uses the platform, Ding makes a donation to support doctors fighting against Covid-19.

 

Getting in a lather about hygiene

Hand hygiene is important to public health.

Irish healthcare technology company SureWash has been working to ensure people all around the globe are keeping their hands squeaky clean. Washing hands is known to be one of the most effective weapons we have at our fingertips. It helps to keep ourselves, and others, safe.

Research shows that correct hand hygiene can be over 90% effective in preventing the spread of harmful germs. But it only works if it is done properly.

SureWash is an augmented reality hand washing app which was developed in Ireland to provide proper hand hygiene training to healthcare workers, patients and visitors worldwide.

It was developed by health professionals, in conjunction with technologists, so the the app ensures compliance in hand hygiene to World Health Organisation protocol standards.

What makes it even more effective is that it delivers its life saving information in a fun way, using gamefication to improve engagement. It provides users with real-time feedback too, to help them improve their hand washing technique.

The software system behind it also provides infection control personnel with the data necessary to monitor hand hygiene progress and to guarantee positive results.

In response to the pandemic SureWash made its app to the general public in one clean sweep, so that everyone can play their part in stemming transmission of Covid-19.

 

Giving news organisations the whip hand

Finally NewsWhip, the Irish news analytics platform, has quickly become the ‘go to’ resource for media organisations around the world as they look to tackle Covid-19.

A pandemic is by its nature global, which presents its own challenges in terms of managing news. But Covid-19 is also the fastest paced rolling news story this generation of media has ever seen. Keeping on top of it is hard, which is why NewsWhip helps.

The corporate sector is also turning to the news analytics platform, to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the virus on their brands. They rely on it to see what kind of responses – positive or negative – their Covid-19 communications are eliciting.

It’s why use of its real-time product has gone up by more than 25%.

As authorities around the world struggle cut through all the misinformation spreading online, it’s good for all our health to know that NewsWhip is also being used by anti-misinformation groups, to monitor fake news and debunk myths about Covid-19 as they emerge. No one should die of ignorance.

 

One of the most immediate consequences of Covid-19 has been the rapid global shift towards working from home where possible.

This move to digital remote working gives rise to countless questions and challenges, many centring on employee and device safety and security. According to EY, 77% of organisations want to move beyond having basic cybersecurity protections.

“Cybersecurity has therefore become a board-level issue for businesses,” says Sarah McNabb, Market Advisor, Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland UK.

“Once a reactive issue, this is rapidly becoming a proactive concern, as companies race to ensure devices are safe and home WiFi connections are secure, while employees are well trained and understand the risks of phishing and cyber-attacks.”

During these uncertain times, Irish cybersecurity companies can offer innovative solutions to the challenge of managing a remote workforce. Many are free or open to all, including:

Read on to discover best practices and advice from some of the Irish companies that can help your employees work from home safely and securely.

  1. Edgescan: continuously monitoring threats

Remote working must happen over a VPN or similar solution to help ensure secure, encrypted communications, says Eoin Keary, CEO and founder of Edgescan, an award-winning vulnerability management service (SaaS) and one of Ireland’s largest cybersecurity exporters.

“Access to network systems in the office should be on a least-privilege basis and if your organisation has a Network Authentication Server (NAS), make sure it’s configured and enabled appropriately,” he says.

Appropriate patching and anti-virus measures should also be enabled on employees’ computers, he adds, to prevent viruses spreading into the office network once people return to the office.

Edgescan helps its clients worldwide to understand, prioritise and mitigate cyber security risks on a continuous basis, including when offices are closed and employees are working remotely.

  1. CWSI: ensuring secure enterprise mobility

The rules governing data security and cybersecurity don’t go away just because people have to change how they work, says Philip Harrison, CTO and co-founder of CWSI, which specialises in secure mobile and workforce solutions and works with many large organisations from its offices in Dublin and London.

“The cyber-criminals and hackers certainly aren’t taking a break to let us all adjust, so more businesses are more vulnerable than ever,” he says.

A core tenet of any information security management system is that your security or compliance is not weakened during a business continuity or disaster recovery scenario.”

Two-factor authentication, he adds, is critical to protect corporate data. Businesses should also ensure mobile devices are secured with a mobile thread defence (MTD) solution.

Employees should be encouraged to report security incidents to IT while they’re working from home and to be vigilant about keeping data secure at home, even through simple steps such as locking their screen when they walk away.

  1. Cyber Risk Aware: training on cyber security in real time

Using VPNs and patched applications on encrypted up-to-date devices is critical to security for remote workforces, agrees Cyber Risk Aware’s CEO and founder Stephen Burke, himself a former chief information security officer (CISO).

These devices should be company-issued, with password-protected and encrypted files and data, he says. “I know what it’s like being on the inside defending a network. Personal accounts and devices can really leave a business insecure and vulnerable to cyber attacks,” he says.

Clear, secure lines of communication are also critical, he adds, advising companies to avoid channels such as social media and Whatsapp when working with sensitive data. Likewise, businesses should avoid ‘shadow IT’ or the unauthorised downloading and use of software and systems.

Cyber Risk Aware is the only company in the world to offer a real time cybersecurity awareness training platform. It helps companies worldwide assess and mitigate human cyber risks, the root cause in over 90% of security incidents, by running simulated phishing attacks, assessing cyber knowledge to locate risks within a business and providing security awareness training content when needed.

  1. Sytorus: specialising in data and privacy management

Companies and organisations around the world have been urgently seeking information on minimising the risk of data breaches or employees getting hacked while working from home. So says John Ghent, CEO of Sytorus, which offers a SaaS privacy management platform and is a global market leader in data protection and privacy management.

“Many people newly working from home are likely to have smart TVs, gaming platforms, and wireless routers, with some also having Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed,” he says.

“All these can add complexity to the security challenge and vulnerabilities to the network, and home networks are not usually sufficiently protected.

Ghent advises organisations to update their remote access policy or develop one if none is in place, and to ensure all staff complete a full cyber security awareness programme (covering topics such as malware, acceptable use and device security) and understand the high risk of Covid-19 related phishing emails.

  1. TitanHQ: protecting higher education and business

Along with businesses that must suddenly enable remote working, universities and colleges that now have to facilitate remote lectures and study must also be mindful of coronavirus-related cyberthreats, says Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ, a multi-award-winning web filtering, email security and email archiving SaaS business.

“We have seen massive demand so far this year for two products in particular that can be rolled out seamlessly to remote devices,” he says.

“These are SpamTitan cloud-based email security, which protects students and staff from the newest iterations of phishing attacks, and our AI-drive DNS security product, WebTitan. Combined, these create an umbrella layer over all students and staff protecting their devices.”

While the way we work has been evolving significantly in recent years, the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the need for many people to work remotely. And during this seismic global shift, Irish talent technology is helping thousands of employees and employers to transition from working at their office desks to their kitchen tables.

Ireland’s progressive, globalised tech sector has cultivated a particularly innovative group of talent technology companies. Their smart, disruptive products and services are enabling companies around the world to attract, engage, manage, and retain their workforce in these uncertain times.

Supporting employees

While remote working had become common in certain sectors, especially those in which skilled talent is in high demand, it’s new for many companies. They need to quickly implement new technology to ensure their employees can adapt and continue to be productive while working from home.

Talent tech is enabling home-based employees to engage with colleagues, maintain their wellbeing while in a new routine, and upskill at home through online courses.

Benefitting employers

Meanwhile, employers can use Irish-built tech stay in operation, keep their workforce engaged, and manage, schedule, and pay their employees while the latter work remotely.

While some industries will see temporary workforce reductions, those such as health, retail and other frontline industries will need to hire more people fast. Talent tech can provide them with remote technology for sourcing and interviewing potential employees.

How Irish talent tech firms can help

These nine Irish companies offer disruptive technologies businesses can use to manage how employees work as they navigate these turbulent times.

  1. Wellola

With healthcare systems under huge pressure due to coronavirus, optimising care capacity is crucial. Wellola has collaborated with the Irish public health services provider, the Health Service Executive (HSE), to launch a new online portal that enables GP and healthcare providers to treat people remotely so as to protect themselves from Covid-19.

  1. Abodoo

As the world turns to remote working, Abodoo is there to connect global citizens with remote jobs. With 23,000 members across more than 60 countries, Abodoo’s SaaS platform uses smart matching technology powered by data analytics to match people to roles. This means companies can build highly scalable distributed teams quickly and cost-effectively.

  1. Sonru

With in-person interviews on hold for now, recruiters must turn to virtual solutions. Sonru is an award-winning global leader in asynchronous video interviewing, which gives both candidates and interviewers flexibility. Importantly, it also removes pain points such as interview scheduling, time zone restrictions, dispersed hiring teams, and time lost on no shows.

  1. Peptalk

To thrive and survive, companies need to promote a high performance culture. PepTalk is a workplace wellbeing platform that drives team engagement, productivity and connection across organisations in a fun way. Peptalk’s ‘whole person performance’ approach unlocks employee potential, helps companies to reimagine their work cultures and delivers bottom-line results.

  1. Workvivo

During times of crisis, internal communications are critical for engaging and reassuring employees. With the Workvivo internal comms platform, employees can read and post content to an activity feed, and like, share and comment as they would on non-work social media. They can also recognise others through shoutouts, link posts to company goals and values, create community spaces, and publish articles and events.

  1. FlexTime

Especially now, employers need to be able to manage flexible working arrangements and the changing needs of their employees. FlexTime offers flexible working, time and attendance, and scheduling solutions. Its products, which eliminate the need for manual tracking, are used by over 400 customers, in more than 5,000 implementations for over 200,000 users.

  1. PulseLearning

Now more than ever, it’s vital to protect employee mental health and wellbeing, and promote self-care. PulseLearning, an award-winning, global top 10 learning company founded in 1999, developed the I Am Here programme to facilitate a cultural change within organisations so team members know it’s absolutely OK to ask for help and how they can.

  1. Flexiwage

Managing finances can be challenging at the best of times. Flexiwage, which integrates with existing payroll packages, empowers employees and employers to make smarter financial decisions. Employees gain a fully flexible pay schedule, getting paid when it’s best for them, while employers can consolidate payroll, reduce costs and promote financial responsibility.

  1. LearnUpon

It’s still vital for employees to learn and train while they work remotely. LearnUpon is a powerful learning management system (LMS) platform with a practical approach. Organisations can use it to manage, track, and achieve their learning goals. Trusted by over 1,000 customers worldwide, LearnUpon is one of the fastest growing LMSs in the world.