A Belfast-based technology company has created a development centre in Fermanagh and has ambitious plans to grow jobs in the county.

Anaeko, a company which helps global technology companies build enterprise applications in hybrid cloud environments, decided to set up in Fermanagh because it had a number of talented employees who were working remotely or commuting to Belfast. It was felt that those employees could be more productive working from Enniskillen. In addition, the technology market-place in Belfast has become very competitive due to the number of indigenous technology companies, coupled with the technology companies that Invest NI has successfully encouraged to come to Northern Ireland through its inward investment programmes. As a result, Anaeko saw an opportunity to consider doing something “a little bit different to the norm” by setting up in a rural area.

Six Anaeko staff are now based at Fermanagh Enterprise’s business park at Killyhevlin Industrial Estate. The company hopes that, in time, it can offer more positions in software development working with Java and Python technologies and in software testing.

Barry Donnelly is the Chief People Officer of Anaeko. A native of Derrylin, he went to university in Belfast in the late eighties and has been living and working in Belfast since because of a lack of opportunity in Fermanagh.

“The primary reason people don’t go back to Fermanagh is there are no job opportunities for them,” Mr. Donnelly told The Impartial Reporter. “I have encountered many Fermanagh people working around Belfast, a lot of them in senior positions in the technology industry, many of whom still harbour the dream of going home, but not knowing how they can realistically achieve that while still earning money.”

Aneako co-founders Denis Murphy and Richard McConnell sat down with their management team to examine where they wanted the company to grow.

Mr. Donnelly continued: “We had a couple of people from Fermanagh who were travelling up and down the road, doing remote working. We talked about the option of having a shared facility in Enniskillen that might allow those guys to work together.

“We thought Enniskillen might actually provide us with a real opportunity. The technology market in Enniskillen is very restricted. We are talking historically about Quinn Insurance and, other than that, you are looking at back office support in other businesses. There’s not necessarily the software development role that many people aim for whenever they are going through their degree programme.
“We decided to do something a little bit different to the norm which is to grow in your current location or go offshore to a low-cost location like India.”

The company spoke to Fermanagh Enterprise Manager John Treacy and agreed that it would set up the facility in Enniskillen. 
“We hired more people who are Fermanagh based, plus one who was working in Belfast and living in Fermanagh. This gave them an opportunity to work at home,” said Mr. Donnelly.
“There are currently six staff in that facility and we have plans to grow it further in the sphere of software development and software testing,” he added.

Anaeko provides cloud integration services on behalf of global technology companies in the fields of mobile computing, social media, cloud computing, big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Explaining the world of ‘the cloud’ in more detail, Mr. Donnelly said: “Cloud is a really hot sector and there’s a lot of competition between cloud platform providers, the main one being Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Anaeko provides services which allow organisations or services to run across multiple cloud platforms: AWS, IBM, Microsoft and Zero Stack.
“There are heterogeneous/hybrid cloud solutions being built by businesses that Anaeko help support.
“Every technology company operates in the cloud, either deep within it or on the periphery by plugging in an API. 
“But increasingly you have other industry segments that need to have cloud offerings for either their customers or for their own storage systems. They are looking to the cloud for solutions, for example, factories using software for automation. They would use the cloud for transference of multiple, multiple lines of data.”

Mr. Donnelly explained that internal systems “often can’t deal with the level of data while allowing the business to run, so the way of dealing with that is to let the cloud suck it up and allow software to feed you back meaningful data.”

Many companies “have a one size fits all model that doesn’t actually fit all,” said Mr. Donnelly, continuing: “So there’s a lot of integration work that has to happen on the edge in order for these tech and non-tech companies to effectively use the cloud.”

Agreeing that this is an exciting development for Fermanagh, Mr. Donnelly stated: “You always need someone to start the revolution and I would hope that we can demonstrate a successful model here.

“There is an untapped market here. There are many people within the Fermanagh and Omagh district council area who are travelling to Belfast every day and a lot of them would prefer not to be doing that but they need the opportunities at home.”

Broadband is not available in some parts of Fermanagh, while other areas can tap into a very strong service. More companies like Aneaeko would be attracted to rural locations if there were more rural broadband initiatives, Mr. Donnelly contends.

Fermanagh Enterprise was recently successful in accessing a Rural Connection Voucher under the Rural Business Investment Scheme and 39 businesses on its Lackaghboy site are eligible for a connection voucher to the value of £3,000 which contributes to the installation of Superfast Broadband and will see internet speeds of up to 500mbit/s across the business. While the Killyhevlin site, where Anaeko is based, was deemed ineligible, the current connection meets Anaeko’s needs. 

“The joy of working in the cloud means all you need is the internet connection and you’re off. “But, to truly attract technology companies, the better the broadband connection, the more likely you are to attract them,” Mr. Donnelly said.

The Enniskillen office has been open since June and Mr. Donnelly reports: “The workers are very happy, as are management who recognise the challenges that exist around Belfast in terms of the labour market. Anything that we can do to help the company and potentially help the rural areas of Northern Ireland, that’s a good thing from their perspective.”

He concluded: “It’s a lifestyle choice between Belfast and Fermanagh and these employees are falling squarely on the Fermanagh side, as would many others if there were opportunities.”