The back-to-school message Canada’s IT groups are giving to SMBs

Why ICTC, CATA and CIOCAN are working together on a Digital Adoption Roadmap for small business owners

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Digital adoption in Canada by SMEs

Sorry to look ahead to the end of summer already (cue the booing), but fall really isn’t all that far off. Students will be heading back to school in just a few weeks.

Canadian businesses – particularly smaller ones – still have a lot to learn too, at least when it comes to emerging technologies. That’s according to a report called “The Digital Roadmap.”

“In small enterprises that may not have a dedicated technical staff … there is often a lack of specific emerging technology expertise,” the study asserts. As a result, “Canadian enterprises, and especially SMEs, have not embraced emerging technologies to the degree necessary to fuel the economy to go full speed,” according to the joint report by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) and the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).

In short, the three groups say Canadian businesses (smaller ones in particular) aren’t fully adopting mobile, cloud, social and digital platforms – and that’s costing Canada productivity, competitiveness and jobs.

Although the report suggests the problem has various causes, it lists this lack of knowledge as one of the biggest: Canadian SMEs aren’t using newer technologies because they simply don’t know enough about them.

So the trio of IT groups is working on its own educational initiative this fall.

By late October, it’s aiming to launch what it calls the Digital Adoption Compass (DAC).

The DAC will be “a hub, a one-stop shop for enterprises of all sizes to learn about the benefits of technology adoption from a vendor-neutral source,” said Gary Davenport, president of CIOCAN and former VP of IT at Allstream.

He gave that explanation during a recent live-streamed video event. During the same event, CATA president John Reid asked viewers for their help in creating the DAC.

“Let’s have a conversation,” Reid said. “(We) call on everyone to help us in this mission.”

I’m taking that challenge literally. Based on my nearly two decades of reporting on both IT and small business, here are some thoughts on what Canadian SMEs need to know about newer technologies today.

the business case: many SMEs only view technology as a tool to cut costs, not a way to add value to their business

– the world beyond free apps: piecemeal use of ‘freemium’ apps like Twitter and Dropbox has its place but more robust solutions may offer greater opportunities for integration, upgrading and scalability over the longer term

– IT has changed: deploying cloud and mobile technologies is faster and easier than the old software-in-a-box system that many SMEs remember (and still dread)

– IT is now easier: Apple made consumer technology more accessible and intuitive to use; fortunately, enterprise IT has had to follow that lead

Some of those suggestions are already contained in the consortium’s report. I don’t know exactly what shape the DAC will take. But it’ll be interesting to check it out once ICTC, CATA and CIOCAN release it this fall – the perfect season to help businesses go ‘back to school’, so to speak, when it comes to IT.

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