The balance between business and IT is shifting. And with today’s focus on mass digitalisation, being a digital leader means so much more than having access to modern technologies.
IT has become the foundation of business and its power to enable and accelerate is far more than what it once was.
And as we enter a new decade, it’s clear we need not just the power of technology behind us, but the people to drive it.
In December 2018, a digital transformation index report revealed that only 7% of Irish businesses consider themselves to be digital leaders.
In addition, the report highlighted one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation was lack of the right skillsets and expertise.
One group, however, has been working tirelessly to turn this around as well as have a positive impact on Ireland’s future generations.
Sharon O’Reilly, Director of itContracting at Evros Technology Group, teamed up with St. Kilian’s Community School in Bray, County Wicklow, to help Transition Year students design and market their very own app, with a focus on inspiring young people to become the new, digital leaders of tomorrow.
Firstly, came a series of introductory sessions which were delivered with the help of Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI) – a charity whose focus is to encourage young people to remain in education.
“We’re very experienced at running volunteer-led workshops,” says Yvonne Skelly, Project Manager at JAI. “So, we worked closely with Evros to deliver a series of workshops – firstly at the school and then onsite at Evros,” she says.
At the launch day, there was a series of mini stations that embraced the different elements of Evros including project management as well as VR. This initial workshop was to help get the students interacting with the business as well as start developing their own ideas.
“I’ve worked with many companies over the years but the buy-in from Evros was phenomenal,” says Yvonne.
60 students were whittled down to four groups of five who then worked in teams, each with their own individual job title such as project manager and software developer.
Evros then ran a subsequent four sessions with the students, focusing on:
- Project planning
- Technical capability
- Presentation skills
Each time, the students would return to Evros and learn the next stage of putting together their app. They covered each stage from putting together ideas and performing research, right through to the development, marketing and implementation.
The groups and their apps were named as follows:
- Mind Thought (app name ‘Mind Mental’)
- Nerds (app name ‘Eureka’)
- Study Junior (app name ‘Smart Study’)
- The Entrepreneur (app name ‘Study Pro’)
The students then presented their apps to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel made up of four judges: Yvonne Skelly (Project Manager at JAI) Ray Kenny (Service Desk Manager at Evros) Emer Duffy (Technology Evangelist at Microsoft) and Denis Meade (Partner Development Lead for Microsoft Ireland).
After much deliberation, Denis announced the winning team: Nerds with their app, Eureka, which was all about encouraging young people to help clean up and take care of their local environment.
Everyone received a medal and the winning team received a trophy and will have a baseline version of their app realised and built by Evros. The students will also have an opportunity to spend some time in Microsoft’s DreamSpace as well as demo their app to the team at Microsoft.
“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more by utilising technology to build platforms and resources to help make a lasting positive impact,” says Microsoft’s Emer.
“We believe technology is a powerful force for good and are working to foster a sustainable future where everyone has access to the benefits and opportunities created by technology.
I was honoured to support Evros and St Kilian’s with this great initiative, enabling students to think about technology, how it can assist in creating solutions to challenges they are passionate about, whilst also giving some insights into their potential career choices and enjoying the power of technology and teamwork,” she says.
Principal John Murphy explained the impact the project had had on the pupils: “Transition Year provides students with opportunities to work outside of the regular curriculum. This project was about them stepping off the exam-focused treadmill, building skills and exploring subjects with a completely different set of eyes,” he says.
“They were given a huge amount of responsibility, but they felt like they are working in a tech environment – and they loved it.
“St. Kilian’s is a DEIS school, which means that it is based in an area with some socio-economic disadvantage. I don’t come in to work every morning and think ‘this is a DEIS school’, I just think ‘this is my school, and these are my students’. But I am conscious that our school has a responsibility to provide our students with learning opportunities and experiences that will build skills, improve their confidence and go some way towards providing a level playing field for them. The partnership with Evros has been a wonderful example of this”.
“Even going into the Evros building has been a huge experience – young people don’t have opportunities to go into buildings like that. They carry out a lot of their business online and they may go into a shop or a hospital – but to stand in an office and soak all of that in – that’s a huge education. It allows them to visualise what they might be and what a career in tech might look like. That ‘normalising’ of professional careers is huge for these students.”
Sharon O’Reilly, who led the project, continues: “A big part of this project was to give the students at St Kilian’s an opportunity to channel their creativity so that they felt really passionate about what they were doing. And it doesn’t matter which element they were the most interested in – whether it was around the app development, marketing or project management – if we have helped to ignite that passion to go further, then we’ve been successful in what we set out to do,” she says.
An ex-St. Kilian’s pupil, Sharon was keen to give something back to the school, as well as highlight the importance of putting your staff first.
“Although technology is at the heart of everything we do, it’s the people we employ who are our true drivers. They’re our source of innovation, they take care of our customers and they engineer our success.
“As a business, if you’re looking to be a digital leader, you need to invest in your staff, just as much as your technologies.”
The power behind it all
Without Power Apps, as well as our dedicated development team, this project wouldn’t have been possible. And low code adoption isn’t just benefiting our communities, it’s benefiting businesses – both large and small – allowing them to focus their time on doing what matters the most.
Find out more about the Power Platform as well as how it is helping businesses drive creativity and innovation, in our interview with Microsoft’s Niall Fitzmaurice.