Posted on Wednesday 22 January 2014 by Ulster Business
The organisation, which describes itself as Northern Ireland's corporate portal and online network, has been quietly building momentum and growing its membership over the past year. Now, it is ready to put itself out there and really make a difference to the region's businesses.
The portal is designed to work in partnership with existing business and media organisations to provide the Northern Ireland private sector with a regionally focused business portal. It is a private sector initiative for the private sector and facilitates networking using technology through a state-of-the-art website.
With business increasingly moving online, the portal aims to develop the corporate network within NI and on a global basis by supporting entrepreneurship, established businesses and corporate education in Northern Ireland. CNI also allows professionals to network and build their profile and encourages and promotes trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the world.
While it is tempting to think of Corporate NI as something akin to a LinkedIn specifically for Northern Ireland, Corporate NI is much more than that.
It also provides Northern Ireland businesses with a growing database of information within the local corporate environment. This is enhanced and tailored to individual companies requirements by focusing on specific sectors, trade and export areas.
The portal is also developing online business tools to assist and support local companies to compete and grow in the global market.
WHO IS CORPORATE NI FOR?
CNI was developed by a Steering Group of leaders from Industry, Business Organisations and Commerce within Northern Ireland.
This forward thinking group included Kenton Hilman (Ulster Bank), Frank Bryan (QUBIS), Ian Coulter (CBI & Tughans), Judith Totten (Keys Commercial Finance), Ken Roulston (CMI), Nigel Birney (Trade Credit Brokers), Gerry Patterson (Patterson Design), Alan McClure (Non-Executive Director), David Crawford (Deloitte) Julie Roulston (Think 80:20), and Craig Holmes (Horwood Neill Holmes).
Craig Holmes, the main driving forces behind CNI believes there has been a massive hole in the market for a local business portal for years but until now nobody has done anything about it.
Northern Ireland needs an innovative and outward looking private sector that is maximising ever-evolving technology, but he thinks many firms are either intimidated by digital technology because it is so global or they get lost in the confusion about how to make social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter work for them.
"The concept for CNI was borne out of a need to let Northern Irish companies utilise the web more effectively to connect, access and grow. Connect to other companies and people, access relevant information quickly and grow their business through online marketing and digital business tools," says Craig.
"The goal of CNI is create a world-class online network and database for stakeholders of the corporate Northern Ireland environment. The major USP is that it brings all the relevant organisations onto one place and is purely focused on Northern Ireland," he adds.
"Whilst we recognise that it is early days for CNI we believe that the potential is significant and hope corporate Northern Ireland will embrace it and utilise it. We expect 2014 to be a major year for the portal, ultimately providing NI companies with their own regional business portal."
Judith Totten, Managing Director of Keys Commercial Finance Limited says she too sees a real need for Corporate NI among locally based businesses.
"Having been involved in CNI since inception, I am absolutely certain that Northern Ireland needs and deserves a portal to facilitate open communication, trade and a knowledge sharing platform for business at all levels," she said.
"As an owner of an SME business myself I understand the needs and challenges in today's economy and an operating environment which encourages growth and success for indigenous NI business is not just a luxury, it is an essential for all › of our futures. CNI is run 'by the people, for the people' and is not just another faceless technology solution which promises everything but doesn't deliver."
Queen's University and the University of Ulster have also got involved in the project with the aim of better connecting business to education and research.
Frank Bryan is the CEO of QUBIS Ltd, the body which helps commercialise research at Queen's University Belfast and create spinout companies.
He described Corporate NI as an "excellent initiative facilitating the build-up of a professional, multi-disciplinary, cross-company eco-system in order to secure even better support for companies across Northern Ireland who identify opportunities and are ambitious for growth."
Gerry Patterson from Gerry Patterson Design Associates is leading the local development team behind Corporate NI. He says the team will be responsive to technology and trends that will help the business community and wants to hear feedback from users that will improve their experience of the portal.
"This is very much the start point," he says. "This is a portal for the business community and it will develop and expand as it gets used. We want feedback from the business community, we want them to take ownership of it. Their feedback will help it to shape it in a way that ensures they will use it."
Membership of CNI is growing fast, with both large and small business organisations already using it for a variety of functions. All the main business organisations, including CBI Northern Ireland, the Institute of Directors and Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce are backing the initiative, while Invest NI and industry bodies including Momentum are also members.
Anyone who wants to find out more about joining Corporate NI can do so at www.corporateni.com or you can follow them on @Corporate_NI.
• An initiaitive by the private sector for the private sector.
• Supports entrepreneurship, established businesses and corporate education in Northern Ireland.
• Facilitates quick and efficient networking and communication through the use of technology through a state-of-the-art website/portal.
• Develops the corporate network within Northern Ireland and on a global basis.
• Provides professionals to network and build their profile.
• Supports B2B sales and marketing.
• Provides platform for organisations to deliver technical information/knowledge database.
• Helps companies to understand their market better using digital technology