Fall Canadian Community Meeting: “The Times They Are a Changin’”

CITBMeeting_Oct2016With news of Bob Dylan’s newly minted Nobel in the news, the CompTIA Canadian community met this month in Toronto to wrestle with growing a business in rapidly changing times – a level of change that was unfathomable even during the turbulent 6’0s when Dylan penned that famous song. Businesses managers of all kinds are looking to tech as a means of meeting their business goals. With technology embedded in almost everything we do, the options are dizzying for solution providers and business alike. Looking forward, the next few years will see advances in sensing technologies, AI, robotics, data analytics and revolutionary software that will pour gasoline on this bonfire of change. This is the industry challenge we are all facing, and one the Canadian community and the 80 business leaders in attendance resolutely sought to address.

Charlie Atkinson, managing director for HPE Canada, took meeting attendees on a tour of the past three industrial evolutions and explained how to survive and thrive in the fourth – data, sensors and resulting innovation, which is putting many of today’s company on the edge of survival. Charlie said today’s solution provider needs to focus on four actions to effectively compete; transition to hybrid IT (embrace managed services in addition to traditional product sales and break fix); protect the digital enterprise (meet your customer’s rapidly escalating cybersecurity needs); enable workplace productivity (help your customers leverage sensing and automation to build powerful operation efficiencies and capabilities); and

empower a data-driven organization (make sense of your customer’s growing data to drive powerful business outcomes).

Fariba Anderson, CEO of AcuteNet, hosted a session entitled “What you Never Asked a CIO but Always Wanted to!” in which she laid out the challenges and opportunities facing CIOs and Canadian business. Fariba boldly predicted that the role of CIO will disappear in the near term as technology is subsumed into the daily life blood of Canadian businesses, and speeds and feeds are relegated to more junior roles. Furthermore, she told the attendees that Canadian business must embrace innovation and the next generation of thought-leaders if they want to remain relevant. Gone are the days of abdicating IT responsibility to those who understand it and protecting the status quo; the successful business will be those that successfully connect new tech with business outcomes and move away from yesterday’s approach to IT. “We have the resources, technology and educated workforce – Canada should be on top of the tech world,” she said.

Leveraging the breadth of experience in the room, the meeting then broke into four discussion groups. The first two focused on ongoing community initiatives addressing industry change; the cloud adoption and readiness tool (a joint effort with the Mississauga Board of Trade to help businesses move to the cloud) and improving the customer experience through best practices. The second two groups focused on current industry challenges and how we can address them collectively; the changing channel (new indirect routes to market as a result of emerging tech) and future tech (new solutions that are creating opportunities for partners and customers alike).

We rounded out the day with Rick McCutchon, president, Full Contact Selling, who spoke about the changing customer buying behavior. More and more, millennials are driving technology purchasing decisions. Before approaching a partner or vendor, millennials arm themselves with a wealth of data leveraging social media, Google, websites and forums. When they want to engage with you, they prefer chat, social media or SMS (not phone!). If you do not represent well in any of these places, you will never see them. Furthermore, it is vital that you track all of this activity and nurture leads on an ongoing basis, underscoring the need for strong systems and processes.

Yes, change is scary as it causes disruption, but it also exciting as it brings opportunity. But, whether you embrace it or not, change is inevitable and, in these rapidly changing times, it is coming faster than ever. A winning strategy is to spend time with your ear to the ground understanding these new dynamics and networking with industry colleagues who are wrestling with the same challenges. We welcome you to join us in the Canadian IT Business community as we work together to thrive, not just survive, in times of great change.