Wednesday, 21 September 2011

UCC, BIS Graduation Breakfast speech – September 09th 2011

This is the celebration of your graduation and the start of a very exciting career ahead for all of you. I am CEO of SouthWestern Business Process Services and I want to tell you three short stories from my career, as to how the link of Business and Technology has played a major role in my career and continues to do so to this day:

Story 1. I have been involved in the IT industry since the mid 1980’s and worked for Unisys Corporation for 17 years in the UK, Holland, France and the United States. I returned to Ireland in 2003. I am an accountant and graduate with Masters in Science.  In the course of my time in Unisys I came across many massive trends. One we got totally wrong was the PC market. Unisys was a $10bn global leader in mainframe and Financial services and Government systems. We decided to enter the PC market in 1987, at the start of that market. We invested in the right technology for sure. Look at the success of Dell and HP. However we didn’t understand the business model. Moore’s law meant that the PC doubled in capacity every 6 months. Over the next 5 years Unisys built a $ 1bn stock of outdated PCs, simply because new models came to market before we sold the old stock. It nearly broke the company. We literally had to bail out of the market to avoid bankruptcy. We never thought you could build such small items to Order. That was Michael Dell’s idea. Same technology, different business model and he cleaned up.

Story 2. We are coming up to the Anniversary of September 11th. At that time I worked in North America and we had the IT services contract for the New York Port of Authority. We took care of their Data centres and ran also their back-up data centre. Data centre 1 was in Tower 1. The backup systems were in Tower 2…..
 Obviously the only concern for anyone was the woeful and tragic loss of life. Everyone pulled together. Nobody talked about the technology issues. In business, as in life, people are always the most important factor. I will never forget that.
Since then Business Continuity Plans or Back-up plans for all major companies have been changed such that back up systems are far away.

The third story is about a Bull station company in West Cork, that has developed one of the largest wind farm inventories in the country and is now the largest Irish owned technology based Business Process Outsourcing companies. The BPO idea arose from, as a first step, the linking of Bull station to technology. (The EU required food source, and therefore Animal databases). SWS acquired the technology expertise (From UCC as it happens). Secondly it required the vision of people, like your own Professor Ciaran Murphy, Mr. Kieran Calnan (former CEO of SWS) and former Minister Joe Walsh, to build a Technology Park in Clonakilty, with broadband links (fibre) that gave it same capability as metropolitan Cork or Dublin and thirdly we applied the basic principles of Business Process management through technology to sell these services to Irish banks, Public Sector and commercial companies.
We have expanded into the UK market and built operations in Poland. From 34 people in 2004, today we employ 700 people and growing fast.
 We deliver business processes more efficiently than anyone else through the clever application of technology and business know-how.

I hope all of you go on to the career you wish to follow. For me it has taken me abroad and back to Ireland. I met my wife on the way and we have had a child in each of France, UK and America. They are all in school here in Cork now, with good thick Cork accents.

Whether you travel, or if you stay in Ireland, enjoy it, like I am, and grab the great opportunity that BIS has given to you. We would love to see some of you working in SouthWestern some day. Enjoy your day and congratulations.