New Managing Director of Civica Ireland, Mark Owens, discusses his ambitions to build upon the digital advances taking place in Northern Ireland, foster the impressive skill capability and grow the business across the island.
“Digital is on the agenda of every company but a lot of companies don’t know how to realise their potential or to make it work for their business,” states Owens. “The digital capability in Northern Ireland has been growing rapidly in recent years and with that capability comes greater potential to transform services and change lives. My remit is to heighten awareness of the valuable role Civica Digital can play in making digital relevant and useful, within both the public and private sector across Ireland.”
After almost 13 years, Owens, a Northern Ireland native, returned from London to take up the post with Civica Digital. The business is a division within the Civica Group, which helps organisations that deliver essential everyday services to transform customer experience, improve operational efficiency and enhance performance through deeper business intelligence. In London, he most recently acted as the vice president of global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services Capgemini UK and Head of SAP.
It was a role that included managing over 500 SAP consultants in functional and technology services, developing strategy for the SAP practice, and responsibility for the delivery of all of SAP programmes. It was in this role that he honed the skills to maximise efficiency in a business and help it grow, skills that he believes are directly transferable to his new position, providing a complete end-to-end digital transformation capability as a trusted digital partner for more than 500 organisations across both public and private sectors.
He highlights two key drivers for his return to Northern Ireland. Firstly, that there is an evident hunger for more digital services and secondly, that the skills and capability existing in Northern Ireland are unmatched.
Discussing the successful track record Civica Digital already holds in Northern Ireland, he points to the digitisation of AccessNI, where there has been an impressive 99.6 per cent uptake in digital usage and a massive decrease in waiting time. He says: “We’re working with a broad range of customers across regional and national government, health and social care, housing, front-line policing and the fire service. Helping public services in particular to deliver better services and greater efficiency through digital technology and automation,” he adds.
Owens is keen to highlight that while Civica Digital can list recent successes, its ambition to facilitate digital transformation in both the private and public sector going forward is limitless. However, he is aware that Northern Ireland is currently at a tipping point for digital, with opportunities being frustrated by political barriers.
These frustrations were recently aired during Civica’s hosting of senior public sector figures and business leaders to discuss Northern Ireland’s Digital Transformation Strategy, a discussion forum titled ‘Changing Landscape N.I.’
The forum was brought about following a citizen survey conducted by Civica, which highlighted that 52 per cent of Northern Ireland’s citizens believe that public service providers could make better use of digital technology. Appetite for more digital in the public and private sector became clear during the event, but there was also a frustration at the lack of devolved government holding Northern Ireland back.
“We have the capability to deliver and there is an eagerness to facilitate this delivery across the sectors but organisations must be supported to look beyond one-year budgets and develop longer-term strategies.”
A key example of the type of transformative and life changing services Civica Digital is facilitating is shown by the recent appointment by the PSNI to supply a new Criminal Justice Data Sharing platform, allowing better structured and controlled information flow between the police, the Public Prosecution Service, prison and forensic science services, speeding up day-to-day processes and reducing errors.
Owens says: “Our thorough understanding of the technology required to deliver this truly digital service means we have designed a very detailed solution from the ground up to address all issues of functionality, efficiency and security. It is a further endorsement of our strong digital credentials and presence in the region.”
In particular, we are helping public sector organisations to deliver better services and improved efficiency through digital technology and automation,” he adds. He explains: “This will not only provide speedy proof of concept for the client, ensuring that a product is directly relevant to their organisation but it will also help improve the capability of our designers, ensuring that they have access to new technology at the earliest stage.”
As well as ensuring that, Civica Digital is positioned to use the potential of 5G WiFi for tailored client solutions. Owens also predicts greater demand for Civica Digital’s expertise around insights and data. He explains that the technology currently exists for organisations to benefit greatly from these themes and Civica Digital is in a prime position to facilitate the extraction of intelligence for better decision-making.
Emphasising his short-term goals, Owens says that he not only wants to facilitate more digital transformation in the public sector in Northern Ireland but to also transcend those services further into the private sector. At the same time, he sees a massive growth potential for Civica Digital in the Republic of Ireland market, home to some of the world’s biggest companies. For this, he aims to use the strength of the 4,500-people strong global expertise of Civica to be a leader in the local market.
“I think the biggest challenge we have in terms of growth is helping people to realise that digital is not a fad, it can transform services, to improve efficiency and cost-saving, and genuinely change lives. That’s not just a strapline, we have proven the potential of digital here in Northern Ireland and are enthusiastic about providing those services across the island,” he states.
“Another key challenge is the perception around security when digitisation takes place. At Civica Digital, we place security at the front end of all our services. Again, we have an excellent track record through the likes of our work with the PSNI and AccessNI in ensuring that data is safe when offering our services.”
Mark Owens took up the position as Managing Director of Civica Ireland in July 2018. He describes corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the ambition to give back as a major passion, particularly around early education intervention with young people, ensuring that children are fostered and nurtured to better understand technology from an early age.