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Data sharing: Laying the right foundation for digital transformation –

by Leigh Mc Gowran
2 hours ago
BT Ireland head of network propositions Steve Coakley. Image: Iain White/Fennell Photography
BT Ireland’s Steve Coakley spoke to about the importance of ‘keeping all stakeholders aligned’ when applying new technology.
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From the start of his college education to his current role as BT Ireland’s head of network propositions, Steve Coakley has been interested in how technology can connect us.
Coakley has more than 20 years’ experience in the global telecoms industry across product marketing, management, development and network design. In his current role, he helps businesses “articulate the value of transformative technologies across their global businesses”.
Speaking to, Coakley said the connections technology provides can be both good or bad, but understanding their application and implications means we can “direct their use for good”.
“I’m passionate about the potential use of data insights to drive a more sustainable future,” Coakley said.
Coakley said that for businesses, digital transformation is about using technologies “to better compete, be more resilient, optimise costs, thrill your customers and tread lightly in our world”.
He added that the term shouldn’t make people think that it’s done “at the flick of a switch”, as transformation “is the key word”.
“If transformation is positive, it’s hard to see it being taken too far,” Coakley said. “However, if it happens in silos, leaving the rest of an organisation out of step it can have serious consequences.”
Coakley gave the example of an IT team moving an organisation’s enterprise resource planning system to the cloud without considering the security and reliability the new IT infrastructure would require.
“It’s far better to get all stakeholders on board with transformation from the start,” Coakley said. “Consistent communications throughout might sound like change management 101, but for our own digital transformation programme here in BT we continue to see the benefits of keeping all stakeholders aligned.
“Shared data amongst the wider team gets the foundations right and allows us to build better from there,” Coakley said.
In terms of networking, Coakley has noticed a shift from global enterprises being statically connected to the internet through a data centre, to embracing “multicloud-enabled, software-defined technologies”.
He said it’s a “really exciting time” as he gets to help more customers with their needs “across their business functions”.
“IT infrastructure has become application-aware and directly tied to business outcomes,” Coakley said. “Previously, we spoke only to IT leaders but more than ever heads of function are rightly having a say in their company’s digital future.”
The benefits of shared data apply beyond the networking sector, however. Coakley said data is a key component for industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing, where the gathered information is used for “actionable insight”.
“Whether that data supports predictive maintenance, energy savings or split-second decision making it’s at the heart of the promise of industry 4.0,” Coakley said.
The World Economic Forum refers to industry 4.0 as smart and “connected production systems designed to sense, predict, and interact with the physical world, so as to make decisions that support production in real-time”.
Coakley said BT Ireland is helping its manufacturing clients enhance their global infrastructure in 60 countries. This is being done through a “core platform” the company is building to enable robotics, internet of things and the use of “big data technologies” at production sites.
He added that a case study on this topic will be explored at the BT Robotics Festival on 23 November, at the company’s global R&D centre in the UK.
Recent years have caused a wave of problems for the global supply chain, with the continuing chip shortage combining with disruptions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Shutdowns at production facilities became the norm and geographic concentration of supply meant natural disasters had a disproportionate impact on global supply chains,” Coakley said.
To deal with these issues, Coakley said firms are turning to data to once again direct actions. He said this is being done through IT infrastructures built to enable visibility and agility.
“With visibility comes insight and, with agility, action,” Coakley said. “However, most enterprises are at the stage of what I call ‘what you don’t see won’t help you’.”
It is estimated that the potential value of manufacturing data sharing is around €83bn. In a state of the union speech in 2020, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the amount of industrial data in the world would quadruple over the next five years.
However, von der Leyen said 80pc of industrial data is collected and never used, calling this “pure waste”.
“A real data economy, on the other hand, would be a powerful engine for innovation and new jobs.” Von der Leyen said. “And this is why we need to secure this data for Europe and make it widely accessible.”
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In-Depth: Digital Transformation Week, More on BT Ireland
Related: manufacturing, technology, data, IT, BT, Brand Insights, big data, networks
Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic
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